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Addiction and Eating Disorders-What Feeds this Hunger?

Addiction anorexia bulimia co-morbidity Confessions Drugs eating eating disorders EDNOS Food neda oxy oxycontin violent

The definition of eating disorders is a broad term that encompasses the many types of eating disorders, including bulimia and anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, atypical anorexia and eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS). On their own eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illnesses and can result in serious health consequences, suicide, and death. That is to say, simply having only an eating disorder is extremely dangerous.  They are even more dangerous when co-occurring with other mental illnesses.

Courtesy of paradigmmalibu.com

Co-morbidity is defined as ‘the presence of one or more additional disorders (or diseases) co-occurring with a primary disease or disorder’. Eating disorders have a high co-morbidity rate with other severe mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Which means someone with an eating disorder is likely to suffer from other mental disorders along with whichever eating disorder they struggle with.

According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), substance abuse disorder has the highest co-morbidity rate along with eating disorders. NEDA states that nearly 50 percent of individuals with an eating disorder also abuse drugs and alcohol. This is a rate five times higher than the general population. This means that someone with an eating disorder of any type is five times more likely to develop an addiction than the average man or woman. Due to the fact that both eating disorders and addiction are correlated with higher instances of death, having both is extremely life threatening and needs to be treated as soon as possible.

For me, I had my eating disorder long before my addiction came into the picture. I developed depression and anxiety as well at a very young age. I can’t remember a time where I didn’t feel some sort of depression or anxious feeling. I believe this along with extremely low self-esteem and a higher than ‘normal?’ body weight, led to feelings of body dissatisfaction. This hatred for my body is the reason I went to extreme dieting to lose over 100 pounds in less than one year. This weight loss is also when my bulimia nervosa developed. It was so easy to fix any ‘mistakes’ I made in eating by purging anything I ate that was considered ‘forbidden’.  I no longer needed to worry about cheating on my diet because I had found this loophole in the system.  I felt like I had discovered some secret ingredient to a perfect body and I continued this behavior to this day, ignoring the negative effects it has had on my health.

That feeling of discovering something ‘incredible’ is almost the exact same feeling I had when I had my first line of Oxycontin. It was around five years after I developed bulimia that I started using opiates to numb any pain I felt. I dealt with a lot of death in a short span of time and drugs were my way to cope. I couldn’t bear losing my grandma, dog, and dad all in a few months. I promised myself I would finish school to make my dad proud, at any cost. My freedom was that cost.

I started using in December of 2011 around exam time. I needed to be up studying for most of the night. Having been dating someone who was involved in the drug lifestyle, I knew all about ‘Oxy’s’ and how dangerous they were. I had seen up close the toll they took on people’s lives. But for some reason, I didn’t care. Or maybe I did care but I thought I was intelligent enough to trick the system and be just fine. Regardless of what I thought would happen, I knew two things. One was that they would help me stay awake studying. I thought that if I did a line here or there, my grades would sky rocket. And two, I thought I’d feel much better than I did at the time. I felt so alone and depressed, I think I was willing to try anything, no matter how bad it was for me.

Only for a time using worked wonders in my life, while at the end it wasn’t so glamorous. At first, my grades improved immensely. The drugs would make me stay up all night studying and doing assignments and I actually enjoyed it, or so I thought. I would go to class feeling amazing; only to realize it was just drugs diluting reality. The drugs heightened everything and boring classes became these incredible lectures that I needed to hear. I no longer felt depressed, until the drugs did more damage than I thought was possible. I remember my brother making a comment to my mom about how well I was doing with my dad’s passing. I even recall laughing about that comment to myself in a sick way.

‘Ha! If only they knew my secret!’ I thought.

Not only did my mood and grades improve, my weight loss did too. Using pills made me feel somewhat full all the time. I felt absolutely no desire to eat anything. As long as I was high, I didn’t need anything else at all. Sometimes I would even do too much and would be too sick to eat. Those moments of what I considered sickness was only a hint at was coming my way.

The first time I felt withdrawal I didn’t know what it was. I woke up feeling sick, fidgety and sore. I couldn’t keep anything down and I could not stay still for the life of me. My legs jumped around, completely restless. I didn’t think anything of it because almost as soon as I got up, I was doing lines of Oxy. It took a while for me to connect the dots: if I use, that feeling goes away. If I were smart, I would have gotten out then before it was too late, but I didn’t.
My addiction fed into my eating disorder for another three to four years. I would wake up, use, not eat, study, binge, purge, use, and starve. Repeating this cycle. After a while though, the positive effects of using wore off. It took more and more to get high, more and more to feel normal. I had never felt anything like the sickness I felt when I didn’t have any drugs. But my weight was extremely low, so I didn’t care. I didn’t care about living or dying, as long as I was thin and somewhat high, life was okay. I started missing more and more school and spending more and more money on drugs. Things were starting to fall apart already. My grades went down to an all time low. I had to drop out of classes because I missed to many classes and had no idea what I was doing. My life was getting chaotic and out of control.

My dysfunctional relationship was getting more dysfunctional by the day. He was a drinker and my dealer (although he didn’t know it at the time) and the more we abused substances together, the more erratic our relationship got. I wouldn’t consider him abusive, but many would. I was okay with it though, because when I would get high, I would get mean. I’d even fight back when things got violent. And as much as I loved him, I needed him more. I completely started to use him because I knew no other way to get drugs. My eating disorder and addiction became more important than he and my family did. I didn’t care about anyone. Not even myself. I wanted to punish myself for all the horrible things I had been doing by doing more and more.

Eventually my mom and ex-boyfriend gave me an ultimatum: get help or get out. So I checked myself into detox, paid for by both my mom and ex. I stayed for the five days in excruciating pain; planning the day I’d get out so I could get some more drugs. Finally the day came when I was released. My first stop was to pick up two new friends who were addicts too. This is when I first stuck a needle in my arm. I had gone through the progression of using, from snorting to smoking to injecting. I knew that moment that there was no going back. I was a full-blown junkie and there was nothing that could change that. Or so I thought.

I hid my use for a month or so before being kicked out by first my mom and then my ex. I had no place to go except my car. I ended up homeless and couch surfing for about five months in 2014. At this time, any money I got went into my veins so I had no time or way of eating. My weight sank to a new all time low. I looked so sick, and part of me loved it. I loved the harsh look of my bones and track marks. I wore them with pride. But as time went on like this, I sank in to a lower depression. I started to hate my life and myself even more. I felt so hopeless that I wanted to die. All I wished for was an accidental overdose so I wouldn’t have to face my horrible life anymore.

Finally I got my wish. The ‘friends’ I was staying with assaulted me and threw me out. Broken, battered and alone, I sought help form my mom. I hadn’t spoken to her in months and just the sound of her voice made me cry. I realized then how much I missed my family, my friends.

I finally got help, went to treatment for my addiction and traumas, found a Women for Sobriety chapter in my city and never looked back. I knew that I had to get help for my eating disorder as well, however, otherwise I would relapse. They fed into each other immensely, so I needed to treat both or risk being back out on the streets. I am currently still in outpatient treatment for my bulimia and am almost 11 months sober. I honestly couldn’t be happier. I know there is a long way to go still, but I can truly say it is worth it.

One thing I know is that if someone is struggling with one of these mental illnesses, they need to seek help. And if someone is suffering from both, or has a different co-occurring disorder, your life is in serious jeopardy. I urge everyone to get help, it may be tough, but it’s treatment or death. The statistics prove that the choice isn’t thinness or fat, high or not. It is life or death.

Articles always inspiring and truthful from our blogger Jordyn D.

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