Eating Disorders, Alcoholism, and Addiction

February 6, 2012 Angela E. Gambrel

According to The National Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse, up to one half of those with eating disorders — including anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder — abuse alcohol and/or drugs. (see Eating Disorders and Addictions) This is a dangerous combination.

I didn't believe it would happen to me — until it did. As many of you know, I checked myself into an area hospital for re-feeding and substance abuse treatment. I wasn't sure that I had a problem even though I had started attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in mid-December.

However, I was not able to admit I was an alcoholic until Christmas Day, when I felt as if I had fallen into a black hole that I couldn't climb out of without help.

Eating Disorders, Alcoholism, and AA

I started looking for an eating disorders support group several years ago until I realized that there was very little help in my area. I wanted support, and I definitely needed it.

If only I had known about AA.

I first started attending AA to help with my drinking. I was restricting my food and substituting alcohol, and thus not getting sufficient calories or nutrition. However, I struggled, as I imagine many other do, with seeing myself as an alcoholic.

What was surprising is how many others in AA also were struggling with an anorexia and alcoholism, and how AA and its steps can be applied to recovery from eating disorders, too.

"Hi, My Name is Angela and I'm an Alcoholic"

Saying those words was the first step toward recovery from alcoholism and anorexia.

At first, I would only say my name. Then I would describe what I was doing: not eating and drinking six to eight glasses of wine each day. Drinking in the morning. Drinking all day. Drinking to relieve stress. Drinking and crying and passing out.

One member said to me after I talked that I may not be able to say I was an alcoholic, but my behaviors certainly sounded like those of an alcoholic.

Next, I had to face my addiction to prescription drugs. That was even harder because I did not like thinking of myself as a drug addict. However, I had to face it after I was hospitalized and my psychiatrist discontinued my tranquilizers after I admitted I had been taking more and mixing them with alcohol — a deadly combination.

Becoming Clearer

I felt as if I needed both the alcohol and prescription medications in order to function. I was afraid of stopping them, and I did have some withdrawal symptoms.

However, now that I am thinking clearer, I realize that I don't need either the alcohol or the prescription medications.

I am finally becoming free.

Do you struggle with an eating disorder and alcoholism or another substance abuse problem? What have you done to work toward recovery? Feel free to share either after this post or on the Eating Disorders Forum. You may use your name or post anonymously.

Find Angela E. Gambrel on Facebook and Google+, and @angelaegambrel on Twitter.

APA Reference
Gambrel, A. (2012, February 6). Eating Disorders, Alcoholism, and Addiction, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 17 from

Author: Angela E. Gambrel

Alison Smela
February, 6 2012 at 11:50 am

I too struggled with alcoholism and anorexia for well over 30 years. I surrendered to alcoholism over 10 years ago and to anorexia almost 4 years ago. Living with such obsession of body and mind is horrific, yet soothing to those engulfed in them. Even though I was sober from alcohol, I still had this insatiable need to control which fueled my anorexia to a life-threatening level. The foundation of a 12-Step program is profound and life changing. I salute one and all who find their way there as it saved my life and continues to each and every day.

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