Posted by: innerpilgrimage | March 5, 2017

Dry Food Drunk

So I am a fiction writer. Published author, actually, though I strongly doubt you’ve even heard of my pseudonym. No, I’m not here to sell books, I’m here because I drafted a novel manuscript while I was having issues in program a few years ago. I recently found that manuscript and read through it, absorbing the healing power of the fellowship and of program in my life even during an intense period of struggle to surrender.

I wrote it to work a serious program issue I couldn’t resolve because I was too close to the problem. Working recovery through a fictional character helped then. In dusting that manuscript off, I realized it also helps now.

In this manuscript, the main character goes through much of what I did–especially starting out as a compulsive binger who becomes anorectic when her stress levels get so high that she starts controlling her abstinence instead of surrendering–despite lots of Serenity Prayers, outreach calls, and ‘Acceptance is the Answer’. She treats OA like a diet instead of a spiritual path to whole living. She got some of what I resented never getting, like a sponsor and an anorectic OA member to really wake her up to being a binge-arexic. It’s not unknown to have ABCers (anorexic-bulimic-compulsive eaters) in program, but straight anorexics are much rarer to see in the rooms than bulimics and bingers. After all, our society still approves of and applauds suicidal slimness and condemns and shames suicidal food compulsion.

As I read the fictionalized recovery journey I had written years ago, I got some wake-ups of my own. How I practice abstinence already tells me I want to be thin, not healthy, again. Okay, not thin. I want to be grossly underweight, because there is a high to hit behind the offended anger at being told, “Eat a sandwich!” I personally know the price of sustained anorexia: hair loss, unhealthy and sallow skin, easy bruising when bone meets bone under a threadbare sheet of skin, susceptibility to illness, emotional hypersensitivity and rage-fueled outbursts, severe disquiet over bad body image, exhaustion despite sleeping all of the time. I was fortunate not to land in the emergency room with failing organs. But that power . . . the ego strokes of people approving of me and of deceiving myself that I possess willpower enough to control my food even as I’m a temperamental wreck . . . that is a very alluring drug.

So what does it have to do with being a dry food drunk?

Well, in AA, a dry drunk is a recovering alcoholic who’s not using the substance and not using program. It’s abstinence from the addictive substance even as one lives spiritually and mentally as an addict. Considered a sign of impending and inevitable relapse if not acknowledged, dry drunk syndrome is actually easy to spot. Program solutions can rescue on-the-edge dry drunks and return them to living fully in recovery.

I’m not sure if I coined it or heard it, but dry food drunk syndrome is as much part of the OA program as dry drunk syndrome is for the AA program. It is, in essence, making OA a diet program once the practice of food abstinence is made a habit. The action plan is wonderful, as well, but it has its mirrored addiction in exercise addiction, which apparently is not an uncommon add-on addiction for bulimics and anorexics. So even when it looks like a compulsive binger is recovering, that individual could be playing with the tools of recovery and turn a healthy physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual journey. Slowly and insidiously, what looks like recovery develops into the flip-side addiction of one’s original addiction behaviors.

Which I have done. Again.

So what have I done as a dry food drunk who’s not going to meeting for fear that what’s supposed to be ESH (experience, strength, and hope) turns into power struggles, personal politics, or crosstalk gossiping and grousing?  I have settled right into my anorectic behaviors–physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Yesterday, I ate less than a thousand calories of my 2,000 calorie plan. I am showing signs of malnutrition associated with anorexia, and I am showing the mental signs of obsession over sizes and weight loss instead of acceptance and hope over returning to health.

Worrisome, yes, but those years in program (and the kick-in-the-pants reminder in that recovery novel) already are working their miracle. I know what to do–get to a meeting. Any meeting. It’s the fellowship that I am lacking. Yes, it’s a danger to me. In the past three years, every time I walked into a weak meeting (as opposed to a strong meeting) I gained twenty pounds after lamenting or crying about it. Yes, it was partially my fault. I didn’t put out into group what I needed from the fellowship every time. A few times, yes, but not every time. Since I suffer from social anorexia and had stopped working it in another program (which I also need to start again, since I’m hours closer to a meeting), and I was (okay, I am) addicted to avoidance patterns in CoDA, there was a wall between me and those OA members. They probably were reaching out more than I gave them credit for. I just wanted the empathy I received from that first tearful crawl to my original home group. Maybe that’s what it will take, a tearful crawl back into the rooms. All of them, because (as I wrote in that novel) sex is food is love for me. Let me write that again, so I can get it through my addiction-addled brain:

Sex is food is love to me.

And yes, I know it is, since I am still deeply ashamed to admit I was overly attentive to a fellow in my home group after I started to lose weight–hungry for his approval so that I could get an “I’m still desirable” high. Which was utter bullshit on my part, since I had then and still have a spouse who is attentive and loving-kind. And I knew it, I think, which is how the trifecta of anorexias (OA, SLAA, CoDA) ended up ruling my life and driving me to food relapse. I peeled away SLAA then CoDA first. Then OA fell. With it fell five years of chained abstinence, though I was a dry food drunk long before my first binge.

Cunning. Baffling. Powerful. And persistent. Oh so persistent.

So, here’s the hope, since that’s probably some scary shit I just lay down: Recovery works, even in relapse. The lessons I gained in the rooms (even as I became a 12-Step Group addict, since I was searching for any sponsor to get me to Step 12) weren’t forgotten. Those 5 years don’t matter, just like these 30+ days don’t. It’s this 24 hours, and this 24 hours means I adopt a food plan floor and stop mucking about. It means I go looking for groups and attend one this week–be it OA or SLAA or CoDA. If it’s not a strong meeting, then I surrender. I journal. I read literature. I read the ESH of other program bloggers. I reach out, and I keep seeking a home group. I accept that maybe I’m meant for a program buddy instead of a sponsor.

And I work it.

I work it because it works and because I am worth it.



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