Why we binge

29 Mar

1:16 pm

So, it’s been almost two whole weeks since my sober “birthday,” and while I felt (feel) proud and capable and free, the usual stuff continues to come up: worrying about my motivation levels crapping out on me and then, not being able to earn a living; worrying about the wedding in May, where I’m going to have to see my brother and his girlfriend; wanting to drink, surprisingly, out of boredom, out of a general sense of, OK, Now what? The usual stuff is still there, and while I feel much more balanced and able to deal with it, I still do want to drink. More like, I want to have ONE glass of red wine after a hot shower–like, a bubble bath for my insides. But then I remember the million reasons not to, and I let the fantasy go.

Maybe I simply need to set a new goal. Another year? Le sigh. I’ll say it: this “sobriety” thing is getting boring. In quotes because, sometimes, I just don’t think I NEED to be sober. I don’t think I “am an alcoholic.” I used to binge, but…that was out of hand, circumstances sucked, it was a bad time in my life, right? The problem is, I know in my heart that a sacrifice will have to be made on my part if I decide to start drinking again: if I start USING (yes, using) alcohol as reward, as fix, as “bubble bath for my insides,” eventually it will morph into needing it–or at least, feeling disappointed when I can’t have it. And, that’s a prison of the mind. One which I never want to be sentenced to again.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately–more clearly, indeed–about why we binge.

Most of us understand what we mean when we say, “a case of the fuck-it’s.” Fuck it. FUCK IT! I can’t hold back; I can’t hold on; I can’t hold up; I can’t repress, restrict, be good, be appropriate, care. I DON’T WANT TO.

I don’t want to…ANYMORE.

We drink because of this self-imposed “anymore.” We need a break from all that…holding in, holding on, holding above; out; away.

All this time, I’ve been telling myself the story of me: I can’t control myself, I am a binge eater, a binge drinker. I have no self-control.

What was really happening was the opposite. I was CONSTANTLY controlling myself, holding myself back, doing what I hated, not saying or doing or feeling what I believed was “too much,” or “too revealing.” I was repressing feelings, restricting emotions. I was, literally, not allowing myself to eat during the day–of course, I binged when it got too exhausting, or irritating, or I got just plain hungry. I was dabbling in that by the time I was in middle school; it ramped up to full-on bulimia by the time I went to college. I fixed that…only to have it come back in the form of binge drinking.

I think when we binge drink, we feel that particular remorse of “letting go” when we “really should have kept our drinking in order” more intensely than others. And that serves to feed the mentality that makes us want to binge in the first place–oh, hey, I’m flawed, I fucked up again, I can’t control myself, I suck. It seems that there are a lot of drinkers who never berate themselves for “over-drinking.” I think we feel such deep remorse not because we are overindulgent, but because our ideas of indulgence are off. Yes, we are “over-indulging.” However, why is that, in and of itself, such a terrible thing?

It’s a bad thing if you’re always monitoring yourself, and worrying about what others are thinking.

Why would loving someone–or being loved by someone–be a form of self-indulgence? Why would having sex with whomever I want be indulgent? Why would working a job that doesn’t make my brain hurt, eating enough food, walking instead of running–why is that considered by me to be indulgent? We restrict, and we repress–I was afraid to be expressive and therefore, I had to hold myself in all day. Of course it feels good to finally say, I’m just going to fucking DRINK now and not stop until I feel like it!

I think this is learned behavior that can, fortunately, be un-learned. It’s like, we act like children and throw tantrums. The problem is, there is no adult in the room, let alone a parent. Most of the time, we are very lucky when anyone helps us out of our drunken mess.

Back when I first got sober, my counselor hit that nail on the head during one of our sessions when she asked me, What do you like about your day? Uh, nothing. And, could it be that you are rebelling at night, when you drink? Uh, yeah. Maybe. Duh. Of course. And, going a little deeper, I saw that I am not an overindulgent, selfish slug, but someone who is the opposite in her daily life–to a fault, exhausting my resources trying to “carry the weight of the world” when no one asked me to, when no one wanted to be forced to feel grateful. I know that my behavior was learned, and dysfunctional. But, it wasn’t because I lacked self-control. What I lacked was self-respect, and, well, balance. And treats. And love.

During a food or drink binge, my most basic goals seem to be this: releasing (of emotion, of personality that I have been holding in); soothing (the irritability of having to “keep it sucked in all day”); erasing (zoning out, not having to pay attention, not having to “be on,” not having to work or parse information or create). I’ve said it before, but I used to drink so that I couldn’t work–write in my free time, basically. I was afraid of not only failing, but also, having to confront that maybe I didn’t want to write in my free time, that maybe I wasn’t good enough, that maybe I would have to accept that taking a break was necessary, not a waste of time.

So, why we binge? It’s complicated. And, the more we do binge, the more we compromise our innate capacity to put it into perspective. In other words, don’t get down on yourself, and, find other ways to narrow in on that much-needed releasing, self-soothing, and zoning out. Easier said than done.

Happy Saturday, all!

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16 Responses to “Why we binge”

  1. Lynda Otvos March 29, 2014 at 3:31 pm #

    Damn, DDG, you have hit it square on here, you know that ?~! It’s a superb essay and I will read it again b4 I click away but I want you to know that your journey is so fun to be a spectator of. Your growth is phenomenal to observe, thanks for sharing.

  2. momma bee March 29, 2014 at 3:45 pm #

    Reblogged this on momma bee and commented:
    This is an incredible post today- I had yo share b/c it’s been my recent thinking on dhow I see myself. Thank you DDG!

  3. sobermagpie March 29, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    I love this post. That’s how it feels alright….sucking it all in, responsibility for the world, giving way to the fuck-its! You think you will let go,relax, that somehow binging is a panacea for all that ails you. You want to zone out…..forget, let go. But the next day the demons are back again, stronger than ever, cos you feel frail, beaten, overwhelmed, deflated and like shit. You are an inspiration to me. I don’t say much or reply but I read all of your posts xx

  4. earlysobriety March 29, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

    A great post – everything you have said here really resonates with me. I have a really hard time “relaxing.” I used to drink when I was with my friends, not because I wanted to drink, but because I didn’t feel justified in hanging out with my friends when I should be doing my writing, so I needed to shut out the guilt complex.

  5. fern March 29, 2014 at 4:39 pm #

    I used wine to numb out and not think. It most definitely was a coping tool which I have yet to find a replacement because I think it didn’t work as a way to cope it just made me forget my problems. I like your post’s ending, finding other ways is easier said than done.

  6. justanewme March 29, 2014 at 4:41 pm #

    Love this post.

  7. Chris Haugen March 29, 2014 at 5:15 pm #

    This is amazing.

  8. mishedup March 29, 2014 at 5:44 pm #

    I have a couple of sure fire self soothers. I meditate (badly, really!) and l listen to meditation tapes or dharma talks. Tara Brach has a bunch of them on her website and she’s my favorite right now. Her dharma talks are usually about an hour long, and I turn them up and stretch, or sometimes even mindlessly (or mindfully!) clean, pay bills…whatever. I’m always better after. I also do yoga, but that can be replaced by a walk, or exercise, whatever physical thing you like to do.
    My other one which never fails is getting out of myself…service to others. It can be a phone call or an email, it can be going to a meeting and talking to a newcomer, it can be doing a friendly, helpful something for a neighbor or a bigger commitment to a volunteer position …doing for others can get me out of my head faster than anything else. If I sit around and start that whole fuck-it train, self pity sets in and pretty soon that drink sounds really good.
    Service to others makes it impossible for me to stay in my self-imposed prison of my head and my thoughts.
    I know that if I pick up that first drink I’m done, because I have NEVER wanted one drink, ever. So I don’t do it and mostly don’t even consider it.
    But when I do…my best route to is service to someone else and then to myself

  9. learningtolive March 29, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

    DDG, this is so right-on, thank you! My bulimia turned to drunk-bulimia, then drunk, and now 58 days af.
    I agree that healing is about allowing enjoyment, downtime and treats into daily life, so the fuck it! /need to escape life & being “on” can settle down. How to do that being on a low income is tricky! Letting go of guilt and shame about things most other people seem unaffected by, too. I’m working on it day by day. Your blog helps me do this work I avoided with food and drink for too many years. A big thanks for being out here and sharing so candidly! Lindsey

  10. UltraViolet March 29, 2014 at 5:55 pm #

    There’s definitely an element of truth in what you say for me.

    When I have relapsed in the past, it’s definitely been with a sense of childish foot-stomping, and I’ve found myself thinking along the lines of, “I don’t have anything good/fun in my life, AND NOW I DON’T EVEN HAVE ALCOHOL!!!”

    Alcohol has been my reward for doing all the things I have to do, because I’ve been so busy doing all this crap for other people that there was nothing left for me. The problem is, of course, that I drink rather too much of it.

  11. erics1100paces March 29, 2014 at 8:15 pm #

    Really good stuff. I’m trying to figure all this out right now. I’ve been unable to live with myself unadulterated for so many years. Just push through the day so I can get home and make myself go away. That’s what alcohol did for me. It made myself go away. More will be revealed, as they say. For now, I’m still just happy to be sober, and OK with not really understanding why it’s been so difficult for me to be happy to be sober for such a long time.

  12. Maureen March 29, 2014 at 9:14 pm #

    Thank you for putting into words what I have not. Yes, this is me. In control, helpful, agreeable, put others first- all the fucking way. You’ve given me something to think about.

  13. moretomethanthis March 30, 2014 at 3:55 am #

    I found this such an interesting post. There were so many parts of it where it not so much resonated with me as explained me to myself. Food for thought. Thank you 🙂

  14. sobermalarky April 2, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

    Reblogged this on Sober Out And Proud and commented:
    Really great post, I identify a lot.

  15. Barbara April 7, 2014 at 5:53 pm #

    I find I only think about drink (escape from reality/binge/diet/self harm) when I am not happy. If I can work on what I am not happy about in me, then I will love myself and not need to ‘use’ anything.

    Boredom is a real problem, that’s one of the reasons groups like AA can be amazingly helpful in early years (yes, I mean YEARS, not days!). Go when you want to go, go when you don’t want to go, but go! Helping others stay sober keeps me sober. Helps me remember exactly why I don’t drink!!

    It’s nearly 15 years since I had a drink, and sometimes it has been bloody hard, other times it has flown by… But if I forget WHY I don’t drink, then I Will drink again, sooner or later.

    When you remember why, exactly why you don’t drink… Write a list & keep it safe and keep it close. These memories fade. Take it out and read it when you feel shaky. Remembering ‘that morning’…. ‘That fight’… ‘That embarrassing humiliation’…. All those times I cost you more than money.

    Reading that will help you with the resolve to stay sober….

    As for goals, I find that ‘just for today’ works brilliantly for me

    Wishing you more than you could possibly imagine

    Xxx

  16. 3 little Sugarplums April 17, 2014 at 11:31 am #

    Thank you for this bit of wisdom. I am an alcaholic. I have been struggling for a very long time. This describes me to a T. No wonder I need to get fucked up. I don’t allow myself to be human (well, that’s at least one of the reasons). I am sending loads of gratitude your way.

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