When My Eating Disorder Met Alcohol


Lindsey Tyne Johnson

date published

July 27, 2022, noon



TW: Discussions of alcohol dependency, disordered thoughts and behaviors, and loss

Few things in this world made me feel as capable, strong, or free as my eating disorder. It made me feel like a captain of an unsinkable ship.

My eating disorder tried its darndest to protect me from feeling unwanted emotions or dealing with long-suppressed memories. As a child and young adult, I endured a fair share of pesky unwanted life experiences that my therapists called trauma. For a long time, I felt like this trauma could never affect my impenetrable "magic" ability to stay young and beautiful forever! No matter what life threw at me, I had my eating disorder as a shield (even though I didn't know it was an eating disorder yet). I held onto comments from others like, "Wow, you're so _______!" (fill the blank with words about my size or perceived youth) and would feel invincible. I had found the secret to avoiding my problems and trauma. But my unsinkable ship (as I would soon find out) had some manufacturing defects, and the foundation was pretty flimsy.

There were a few holes in my hull, but my ship was only sinking slightly.

I was confronted with a new job in quarantine, requiring a full-time and untraumatized individual to solve complex problems and develop meaningful solutions. I kept telling myself I couldn't do it. I was too stupid. I wasn't hardworking. But I felt desperate to survive the scary and uncertain world we were facing with COVID-19, so I sought something to help me be more competent, stronger, and more hardworking. Alcohol temporarily allowed me to keep pushing. It relaxed my anxieties around food and attempted to steer me in the direction of hard work. 

Alcohol was a bandaid that only worked temporarily. When the bandaid broke, even more water filled my ship.

Months after finding alcohol, my eating disorder relapsed to a degree I had never experienced before. I was suddenly incredibly aware of the calories in my favourite drinks and desperately attempted to compensate by way of my eating disorder. The combination of alcohol and malnutrition caused me to faint without warning. Every day I was growing closer to rock bottom. It was also around this time that I received news that my eldest brother had been hospitalized, and I began to spiral further out of control.

The pesky trauma I was desperately trying to ignore bubbled to the surface of an already sinking ship.

I called my local eating disorder program and was put on a six-month waitlist. My brother passed away a few months in, and life became unbearable. It was everything I could do to survive while I waited for treatment. 

My ship was wholly underwater, and the only thing left visible was a single, shaking hand. 

I cried the entire day on the day of my initial intake to the program. I admitted to my problem with alcohol for the first time. But slowly, surely, and with a lot of help, I am allowing myself to feel and process all of that pesky trauma I had buried for years. Education and therapy have helped me realize there is a better ship for me to captain, one that will not sink. And every day I am growing closer to climbing aboard.

Today, I am sober, and I have a team of incredibly caring and passionate professionals (shout out to the Kamloops Eating Disorder Program) who are in the process of helping me "unsink" my ship and build it a better foundation. 

To anyone struggling:

It's possible to feel strong, capable, and even powerful without using temporary bandaids like alcohol or controlling food. Don't feel ashamed of your attempts to fill the holes in your ship. It takes chutzpah to make it this far. Just know that there's a better ship out there for you to captain. One that won't crack under pressure. It's okay to ask for help to get there.

Author's Bio

Lindsey Tyne Johnson (she/her) is a survivor/victims advocate currently completing her bachelor's in Criminology at Thompson Rivers University. Lindsey has lived as far north as Dawson City, YT, and as far east as Brooklyn, NY. Her visual art is shown sporadically across BC and her blog is written for just as often.

Instagram: @lindseytynejohnson

Website: lindseytynejohnson.com

Email: yrbird@hotmail.ca

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