Since going public with my story, I’ve had the opportunity to network with individuals all over the world going through their own battles. Most recently, I’ve found myself interacting with a number of recovering alcoholics who are celebrating their sobriety. These folks inspire and empower me with every interaction.
As I’ve reflected on the last year or so of my journey, I’ve realized that I myself am recovering from an abusive relationship with alcohol. This is a reminder that my recovery is not simply from an eating disorder. It is from years of pain, insecurity, and anxiety. I am not just developing a healthy relationship with food, I am developing a healthy relationship with myself and the world.
Alcoholism runs on my mom’s side of the family. I’ve witnessed the effects first-hand with my uncle and several cousins. When I started drinking in high school, it was for fun. It was harmless, hmmm, that sounds a lot like my first diet too. But as time progressed, I found myself drinking more and more.
Alcohol became an escape from the hell that unfolded in the aftermath of Mom’s death. While the world might be crumbling around me, at least a cold beer or two could numb the pain, insecurity, and anxiety for a few hours.
I became the friend who was always up for another beer. Alcohol basically became my identity and a huge part of my routine. There were very few sober hours between Friday and Sunday. I could no longer watch certain TV shows or sporting events without getting trashed. Holidays and vacations were just an excuse to drink all day.
My relationship with alcohol took a new destructive element as my eating disorder intensified. I needed to be drunk in order to eat certain foods that were on my bad list. It seemed to numb the shame and guilt, that is until the next morning when I’d instantly regret my late-night binges of pizzas and burritos.
It’s no coincidence that alcohol consumed my life in late 2019 and early 2020, the same time my eating disorder reached its peak. The only way I could leave the house and interact socially was to be hammered. Otherwise, I felt like a loser with no identity.
I started drinking 12 or more beers on any given weekend night. Suddenly, I found myself making excuses to go out and drink on weekdays. I started blacking out and even worse, becoming an angry drunk. My drinking led to several heated arguments with my husband Matt.
I’d wake up in the morning shaking with withdrawal and regret. I hated myself for drinking so much, I hated breaking my food rules, and most of all, I hated hurting my husband, but yet I couldn’t break the cycle.
Then the pandemic hit and I committed myself to get as healthy, clean, and pure as possible. In other words, orthorexia took full hold. I also committed to being a better husband, because I could see my relationship with alcohol was taking a huge toll on Matt and our marriage.
With bars closed and friends off-limits, I decided to stop drinking for the initial 60-day shutdown. As the shutdown continued, I found myself going 1 month, then 2 months, then 3 months sober.
In July 2020, I entered treatment for my eating disorder. My open and honest conversations with my therapist brought healing. I no longer felt the urge to drink to escape. I also started connecting with my true self and realized that I am enough! I don’t need to drink to be confident or cool. I’m a pretty great guy on my own!
I used to think alcohol enhanced the experience but I now see that it numbed it. When I’m sober I feel like I am really living again. It’s like being a kid again and having pure, raw emotions and reactions. Best of all, I can be present and remember the new memories I’m creating.
As our social lives begin to return to normal, I’ve found myself fearful of situations that used to require alcohol, such as hanging out with friends, going out to a sporting event, or even just checking out one of Colorado’s many breweries. I’m realizing this fear comes from a place of awareness. I now know that alcohol is a dangerous weapon for me, and understanding this will help me refrain from falling back into old habits.
There will be no more nights of binge drinking. No more drinks to escape or find confidence. Because at the end of the day, I don’t want to spend my life wasted!