Yeah. Because a binge is ALWAYS a binge, whatever that means for the individual doing the bingeing. I feel like I have to qualify that, right up front: there were times I ate thousands of calories at a sitting, but those days are gone. But there are still times when I eat too much, too fast, because I’m so frantic to shut off the anxiety gnawing at the back of my mind. Personally, I consider that a binge: anytime I’m eating mindlessly, frantically AND compulsively, and doing it when I’m not hungry. Those four factors have to be present (because hey, sometimes I eat ice cream when I’m not hungry, or snack in front of the TV, and those aren’t really BINGES, at least for me) in order for me to call it a binge. Calories have nothing to do with it. I have binged on as few as 300 calories and on as many as . . . well, I don’t know. I’d guess the worst one put me well into the 10,000 calorie range (at a conservative estimate), but even during my worst years that was an anomaly.
Recently I’ve been feeling pretty damn good about myself. I haven’t been bingeing, I’ve been journaling my food without going crazy (or at least catching it before it gets bad), getting regular exercise, all that good stuff. The only thing that I’ve been worried about is my drinking. I’ve been drinking a lot. Far more than I’m comfortable with.
I have to take a tangent here, back to this post on Names and Labels. I’ve grown up around alcoholics. I know what alcoholism looks like. I know what the warning signs are. I’ve been to the AA meetings and the Al-Anon meetings. I know the drill, ok? And I’ve been looking at my drinking, thinking, “I must be an alcoholic, because if it’s in front of me, I’ll drink it. I drink too much most nights, and wake up feeling slightly hungover. What is that if not alcoholism?” But the thing is – the thing that holds me up – is that I DON’T DRINK IT IF IT’S NOT IN FRONT OF ME. I won’t go to the store to buy a bottle if there isn’t one in the house. I won’t even open the cupboard and go looking for the vodka (and I have a fully stocked liquor cabinet because I have people over regularly). And the thing is, it’s not some Herculean act of will. If it’s not in front of me, I DON’T EVEN MISS IT. I brew a cup of tea, or sometimes a pot of decaf coffee. I drink hot apple cider. I drink water. I drink diet soda. It doesn’t even cross my mind to drink alcohol if I don’t see it.
Well, no, let me qualify that. If I’ve been drinking EVERY NIGHT, then for the first 2-3 nights I come home and think, “I want a drink.” And then I remember that I’m not drinking and go find something else. And after the third day or so, I don’t think about it anymore. I just head for the tea/soda/water/decaf/cider. It’s more like breaking a habit than breaking an addiction, if that makes sense.
So that “alcoholic” label isn’t one I’ve ever felt comfortable with. Well, I know NO ONE feels “comfortable” with it, but you know what I mean. It always seemed like one of those things that ALMOST fit, but somehow, it just wasn’t right. (Even when I factored in denial.)
So I started breaking it down one day, just noodling it around in my head. I was thinking that it was ironic that I was so worried about my levels of alcohol consumption, since I’d never been worried about bingeing on sugar, and recent research indicates that excessive sugar consumption also leads to liver cirrhosis. (I wish I could find my source for that. I swear I had one, but I just spent 10 minutes trying to Google it, which is 5 minutes over my Google limit.)
And the lightbulb went off in my head. Sugar binges. Alcohol. Alcohol hits your system like concentrated sugar. I knew that already, but for some reason the connection had eluded me: I’m not drinking like an alcoholic. I’m drinking like someone WHO BINGES. My bingeing hasn’t gone away (dammit). I’ve just switched from one substance (food) to another (alcohol). Same compulsion, same low-grade anxiety, same type of intake, really: straight sugar. Also the same type of reaction to not seeing it: little to no desire to consume it.
But this is where those labels from the last post don’t help. It was only after I started the process of purging the “Eating Disordered” label from my brain that I was able to make the alcohol connection. Because ED is by definition food-focused, it really didn’t occur to me to put the drinking in the SAME category as the bingeing. Not a similar category – the SAME one. Because in my head, it’s the SAME THING.
So, yeah. My personal definition of an ED just got a little broader. Because apparently my bingeing and my drinking are not two separate things after all. Not ED and Alcoholism. Nope. Just one. Just bingeing.
I can fix that.