addict? alcoholic? both.

I’m home this weekend for a change. This time it’s different though, I’m not trying to figure out what I want out of treatment and I’m not neck deep in an eating disorder. I am home because I am doing well, I am recovering. And it’s strange, I feel heavy yet light. I feel like my hopes have been lifted, that my dreams are no longer muted.

I’ve been reading the Steps in hopes that I will begin working towards something more. I haven’t been able to say it in a meeting yet. I can’t even fathom saying it to my therapist but I can put it here. Something to look back on in a few years.

Back when I came home in November, my mother had gone through my room and searched for all the things that I had hidden. And when I came home, I found the items that she had not found; the blades and laxatives. So this time, she came to my room and I took it all out, I handed it all over. I surrendered to recovery, whole-heartedly. It was hard. So hard that I wanted to cry or scream a few times. It was when I found the last cigarette that her trust in me really crumbled. She was disappointed and worried; I understood. I had been smoking on and off since grade nine, I was relying on alcohol to get through some days since grade eleven, and I was using marijuana just to cope with the underlying chaos. All of this took a toll on me, all the missing memories, empty wallets. If you thought just having an eating disorder was bad, imagine restricting so hard and then getting high just to eat before coming down and purging just to light another cigarette to ease the empty feeling and drinking to forget it all again. This was my life for a while; on and off for years.

The worst is the justification: “I’m a responsible addict. I’m a responsible alcoholic.”

There is no way to be both responsible and an addict. There is no way to be responsible and an alcoholic. It’s not a lifestyle worth living. It’s fucking hell. It’s planning out your day just to use without being caught or needing to go home. It’s missing social outings because you’re too weak or hungover to move. It’s having to do more and more each time just to numb any feelings. It’s the pain you feel when you come down.

I was warned for years of the dangers behind addictions. I was first addicted to the pain, and then to the numbness. I was never able to believe that I was worthy of anything else but the pain. I still struggle to see that I am worth it on a day to day basis. I was told it was hereditary, and I replied that it “wouldn’t happen to me”. I was the good kid. I was the responsible kid.

Addiction and mental health walk hand in hand. Both are deadly. Both can be silent killers. But they are best friends. At some point, I forgot what it was like to actually feel anything. I’ve missed so much because I was just working to numb the pain; a full time job. Something I couldn’t quit, EVER.

Somedays I am ashamed of what I have done and the fact that I can never pick up a drink without falling down a rabbit hole. I’ve dug myself out as best I can by myself and now I surrender everything to a higher power and begin a journey to feeling. I know I can’t do it alone any longer, too many slips and relapses to point it out. I can only be me; unapologetically. I can’t reminisce for who I was in the past and I can’t worry about who I am going to be tomorrow but just for today, I can be myself.

I was 4 months sober last week. It’s going to a long and hard journey but here I am, doing it.

“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” – 1 John 1:9

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” – James 4:10

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decisions.

I have so many decisions to make and I have to make most of them by Friday….eeek…..to say I am anxious is probably an understatement. Honestly, these decisions will most likely decide how the next year and a half end up going. SCARY.

Let me preface this post with some background on what’s happened in the past 24hrs: 

  • I had my assessment with the main eating disorder program in my city
  • I had my original diagnosis change from anorexia or OSFED
  • I was given 2 options for day treatment programs in my city
  • I used some specific behaviours (binging) for the first time in weeks
  • I went home and laid everything out on the table with my mom
  • We discussed different treatment options and what I could potentially do in the fall
  • We discussed reaching out to a friends family about their experience in the system
  • We discussed going on the list for both treatment options but also looking into a residential program
  • We discussed my passive suicidal thoughts and what those mean
  • We discussed coping strategies and putting supports in place for the summer
  • I went to group and brought up a lot of my uncertainties with having options now
  • I talked to my group facilitator and based on what I’ve described, she thinks one of the programs would be most improving of my health

Honestly it was a lot and I haven’t fully processed a lot of things that were said. I need to work through it but in reality, I have until Friday to make my decision about what I want to do in terms of treatment. It’s no secret anymore that I am struggling and that I need the treatment. It’s the decision of taking time off of school for an entire year or semester and entering a day program where a lot of the control is still on me.

In reality, residential is not ideal because I’ll just be leaving my home environment and learning how to act in another environment which can be detrimental to my mental health because I will more likely come home after and relapse right away.

One of the day programs only runs 3 nights a week for 4 hours and includes a lot of meal prep however this would mean stepping up and taking responsibility for eating meals on my own — something I struggle with everyday.

The other program runs everyday from 12-6pm and includes 2 meals + 1 snack. More ideal. They also help transition back into the real world after a month or so and if I’m being honest, it seems scary but also includes what I most likely need. The waitlist for this program would most likely have me starting in the fall instead of going back to school and as much as not having the structure of school in my life, the stress would most likely be too much and cause me to relapse again (something I really don’t want).

Here’s some background on OSFED otherwise known as Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder. Defined in the DSM-5 as:

A person with who presents with many of the symptoms of other eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa or Binge Eating Disorder but will not meet the full criteria for diagnosis of these disorders.

Being diagnosed with this eating disorder made me feel like a fake because I didn’t feel that my eating disorder was serious enough to need treatment. I’m not underweight nor do I purge anymore or frequently take laxatives or diuretics. I am no longer as obsessively weighing myself or walking long distances for no reason other than to burn calories. So to hear that I need treatment was difficult. I was ready to be turned away and told that I don’t need the level of care any treatment facilities in Toronto offer.

Having OSFED kind of changed my perspective on my eating disorder. The fact that it is constantly shifting and metamorphosing the longer I progressed deeper into my eating disorder. Since the beginning of my struggle to have a relationship with food deemed /normal/, my symptoms and behaviours have changed each time that I relapse. And I usually relapse yearly….like clockwork. It’s exhausting yet even my eating disorder is structured lol can you believe that?

And to be honest, none of the rules that come along with each relapse make any sense. The things that I can and cannot eat change every time. Sometimes pasta is my only safety and other times it’s blueberry muffins. Sometimes I’m allowed to have liquids while I restrict and other times it’s full on restricting with nothing but a few cups of water.

Where is the compromising? Where do these decisions come from?

Honestly I wish I could pinpoint it in my mind but I am unable to do so. It’s so messy and entwined with my depression and anxiety. Having really bad depression days means I am less likely to leave the house and I can restrict in peace without worrying about most likely binging on my way home at night. Bad anxiety days mean I am more strict with what I eat and get increasingly anxious the longer I go into a fast because I am more likely to binge at the end to “ruin” everything. So I guess neither option is really an option because both ways end in negative reactions. Most days I have been stuck in a restrict/binge cycle that can only be broken at the end of a breakdown where I usually use other behaviours to counteract a binge like laxatives/purging/diuretics.

What am I actively doing to help myself cope as I make these decisions and face the outcomes?

Nothing. I know that I need to call one of the programs tomorrow and ask some questions. I also need to talk to my mom and really lay out the possibility of taking an entire year off of school – something that I have never done and really struggle to make happen. I need to make time to self care instead of relying on keeping myself as busy as possible because that makes me more likely to restrict and then end up binging. I am reaching out to my social worker and getting referred to a psychologist who works with eating disorders and anxiety/depression. I talked to my support group facilitator about private practice support as well (people she trusts and would recommend) and I am trying to be more open about my mental health with my mom.

I am so lost and calling out to God to help me through this difficult time. I don’t have much direction and I am not sure where to find it as I continue to struggle with who I am and what I want in life. I have so much that I want to accomplish but I know that I cannot do it while so wrapped up within my eating disorder. I am thinking that it might be time to take a step back from the music and photography communities and focus on self care in the simplest forms of sleep and other things that I used to do. I am neglecting so many things because my drive has me making last minute plans to shoot shows and then not being happy with the outcomes because my mood is fluctuating constantly. It would be a really tough decision and definitely not one made in haste but honestly it has been a long time coming. My heart might be there but my mind is not and I need to get back on my ‘A’ game. Honestly I need to take my energy, time and focus away from photography and put it towards my mental health.

I am not taking care of myself. I am coasting down a mountain side and the longer that I go, the faster I speed and eventually I am going to fall off.

This spiral has been going on for way too long and I really need to reassess the constants in my life.

For You are my rock and my fortress; For Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me. – Pslam 31:3

Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. – Pslam 119:105

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. – Proverbs 3:5-6

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. – 2 Corinthians 4:16

Some resources on OSFED and other eating disorders: