“But Red Wine Has Antioxidants”: Navigating Alcohol And Anorexia In Today’s World

Every time I sit down to write about eating disorders, I ask myself “what needs to be said, that most are unwilling to share?”

Sometimes, that leads me down a rabbit hole with an unclear end. Occasionally, a seed of perspective develops.

More frequently, a truth emerges (or reemerges) that I’m conveniently escaping.

This share is one of those, and took me two months to write.

{Also, conveniently as I write this, an aptly titled “Drunk And I Miss You” song is drifting thru my headphones.}

Oh, 2019 music. So deep. So lyrical.

Anyway, here I am – and I haven’t posted in a couple months.

Partly because I’ve got my head in 100 different places – a new {remote} job beginning soon, adapting to Boulder, CO, living with a partner, plans for a converted van, stuff at home –

And mostly because I’m experimenting (again) with alcohol, and finding that I’m intimidated to clank at the keys of this laptop, and share my truth.

Even just writing these first few sentences, I edited repeatedly (a writer’s addiction).

It’s one of those fears that feeds into itself when the articulations don’t form quickly. You wonder if maybe you lost the pathway to voice your shit. Or that you’ve voiced it all out and now you’re just dead inside and NOTHING WILL EVER COME AGAIN. I’M ALL WRITTEN OUT.

I WON’T SAY IT RIGHT AND PEOPLE WILL HATE ME AND GIVE ME SHIT ALL OVER THE INTERNET!

Dramatic?

It happens  – and as I sit here sober writing this in a coffee shop (for the THIRD attempt), I’m brought to attention (yet again) that I’ve spent a lot of my “writer life” drinking wine while pounding out my thoughts, which makes this even more difficult.

Something about that red wine – makes the emotions flow and causes me to feel more confident to hit ‘publish.’

Also makes me slightly erratic and unpredictably moody and edgy and impulsive –

But, it most certainly helps to get the words out, particularly the vulnerable ones.

So, here I am, stumbling over thoughts in what feels like a rigid format and currently having less confidence in my writing.

Alas, tis’ life – I bang on. And today, I forge ahead to talk about eating disorders, drinking, and “flexible sobriety.” (Yes, coined from the “flexible okay” and “flexible recovery” I like to blabber on about.)

In early October, I came home from one of many “mandatory” drinking events:

I promptly cried on the couch. And turned to yogurt covered pretzels.

I am sick of being tipsy, I said aloud – and then to Instagram. I am so bored by my life revolving around one long-stemmed (red) wine glass.

This realization hits me ever so often. Notably, back in 2015 when I gave up drinking in New York for a couple months.

But it doesn’t stick. Too many parties, too many social gatherings, too many bad days, too many this or that and this and this.

So, I pushed away the sober months, a “great learning experience that helped me ultimately make the decision to move to Colorado,” and slowly faded back into the norm of our culture.

Besides, Colorado is the capital of craft beer – and who wants to miss out on a hoppy IPA?

In the last three years, I’ve cared periodically about my daily consumption of Pinot Noir – but mostly not because 1.) I’m healthy physically and test results indicate no detection of my nighttime wine so WOO – I’m TOTES FINE.

2.) I stick to two and feel satisfied, which of course leads me to believe I don’t have a negative habit.

And 3.) I enjoy feeling moderately tipsy and didn’t want to try to quell it.

But, something hit me hard this time around.

How can I continue to write about eating disorder recovery – when I so clearly use alcohol as just another means to escape discomfort, grief, complacency, presence, or fear?

The very qualities that brought me to an eating disorder in the first place.

When I took a second to look at my life, all I could see was the reemerging existence of wine in every single activity I’d once said in rehab that I wanted to be present for.

Wine has long felt like the only true hobby I have, but I mask it as “socializing” and refer back to my extrovert personality. IT’S NOT THE WINE, I justify, IT’S ME I’M JUST SUPER SOCIAL AND WINE GOES ALONG WITH SOCIALIZING.

It’s been in my hand for every single memorable – joyful – event over the last 3 (okay like 10) years – from friends baby showers, to weddings, to dates, to long hikes, to camping, to office gatherings to eating disorder meetings with followers from Instagram.

Taking a step back, I also noticed it as a factor in every area of my life that I was not enjoying as well:

Namely, late night arguments with my partner, often me waking up not really sure why I was so emotionally charged 8 hours prior, before heading to sleep.

Or sitting on the couch on a Wednesday night tipsy and not doing an assignment for eating disorder advocacy because I’m too loopy to give a shit enough to do it.

Or leaving my crap on a plane (like a laptop, last year) and spending over 72 hours tracking it down via Frontier Airlines.

Or causing political argument mayhem with family because I’m wine-charged and despise Trump and couldn’t see that me babbling on about immigration policy isn’t going to do shit to change the mind of my conservative, agriculture, small business-minded extended family.

I also see it subtly creep into my eating disorder, still. In the way that I eat less when I’m out to dinner, and sip the wine instead. Drunkorexia, we call it – and again and again I write about it.

Drunkorexia. I have a glass of wine – I don’t care about the food as much.

Have a couple glasses – socialize freely, focus on the validation of socializing, forego eating enough.

I know that I do it. But, I have a way of putting a “eh – it’s not a big deal” spin on it because I’m a healthy weight and not actively engaging in the eating disorder cycle, so it hasn’t been enough to take a step back.

Until now.

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CBS Interview on Drunkorexia – circa 2016

Now, don’t get me wrong here.

Plot twist: but I’m not about to dive into an elaborate story about rock bottom and how I like burned my mother’s house down because I was drunk and left the stove on or left my kid in the car while I boozed at a bar and passed out on the table.

There is no rock bottom here. Nothing in particular “happened” that made me take a step back.

Truth is, no rock bottom would probably ever be rock bottom enough for me because I have that way of conveniently justifying everything, if I want. Like my DWI at 21. NOT MY FAULT, I WASN’T EVEN IN THE CAR DRIVING!!!!!!! I WAS BARELY OVER .08!!! THIS IS INJUSTICE!

(True story, but in 2011 “intent to drive under the influence” translates to a DWI charge in Arkansas – and naturally I had every indication of driving.)

Simply stated, I just know that there’s more to recovery than what I’m doing – and after four years, I wanted to try it on for size (again) – but without the “black and white” thinking that gets me in deep shit.

Hence, the idea of existing in a flexible sobriety state.

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DOESN’T #VANLIFE SUIT ME?!

Here’s the thing:

My life is headed in productive directions. But, I wasn’t seeing that so clearly when I was drinking two staple glasses of wine a night on the couch and crying at This Is Us re-runs.

I was feeling listless, restless, complacent, and stuck.

Four emotions that make my skin crawl, and there I was feeding all of them via a wine habit I was too absorbed in to see how it negatively contributed.

So, that night, I said “I’m going to change it – and I’m going to change it the same way I’ve evolved in my eating disorder – with flexibility.”

Part of me wants to asterisk that statement: this is NOT my recommendation for everyone.

The behaviors we associate with alcoholism are scary ass mother effing characteristics – and for a lot of people, stone cold sober is the only way to go.

If that’s what you wanna read today, find another blog.

For me, I don’t disagree with it – but that black and white lifestyle doesn’t work for me. And it didn’t work for me when I was in the depths of my 8-year eating disorder. Constantly ping-ponging between “I’LL NEVER BINGE AGAIN” to “I’M ONLY GOING TO X CALORIES PER DAY” to “I’M GOING TO BE IN RECOVERY AND PERFECT AT IT!”

I’m not going to spend a ton of time here justifying my approach, but here’s how it’s gone so far:

I made the commitment and I cut alcohol from home life. No more couch wines. No more wine while cooking dinner. No more dinner wine.

Two months in, that is becoming a new habit. I’ve realized I can’t stand drinking on the couch alone or with my partner, but I only understood how much I didn’t like it when I cut it.

I took it farther when I noticed how great I was feeling after a week or two sober, and experimented with socializing sober again. I went out the forth weekend with friends from Texas and stayed sober as a bird. I hated it for about four hours, but by midnight I was thankful for it as I watched friends take another scotch shot, and I was able to have real conversations that I remembered clearly the following day.

I went home for a weekend in Texas and stayed sober when I would typically drink wine past the 1-2 mark to avoid the grief I feel at home, the pain I can feel at memories, and the discomfort and insecurity I can feel when I see my friends settling down with kids and shit, and I’m just over here looking for vans online on Craigslist.

It was hard. But, I was thankful for it when I left for the airport Sunday and realized I hadn’t had one drunken emotionally-wrecked breakdown in my childhood closet. I felt clear-headed instead, and able to deal with the passing emotions as it came.

Slowly, I’ve incorporated sobriety as a bigger part of my lifestyle. I’m working to make it a habit.

I’m noticing when I want it – and for what purpose. Do I want to drink because I’m unhappy and restless?

Or do I want a glass of wine with a friend because it sounds good and won’t come with the terrible after-effect of emotional chaos?

In turn, I’m evolving.

I’ve noted lately, two months in, that there are a couple instances I’ve said “sure” to a beer, only to take one sip, look at my partner and ultimately be like “I dunno why I have this. I don’t want it.” And hand it over to him, or another friend.

I think about the cause and effect. Do I want to feel slightly hungover the next day? Do I want to test the waters and see if I’ll be calm or … emotionally chaotic?

Am I willing to risk the negative side effects that can ensue from wine?

It’s no longer becoming auto pilot to pour a glass after work.

For me, I’m a kid that wants another kids toy just because I don’t have it. And, in turn, I’m recognizing that in alcohol.

I don’t want to carry around the weight of “YOU CAN’T DO IT BUT EVERYONE ELSE CAN” or “YOU’LL BE OUT OF CONTROL IF YOU TAKE EVEN A SIP!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Instead, I started on this journey to evolve – take notice. Watch myself.

I don’t have any desire to look at one glass of wine as a relapse, or a failure. If I do, I’ll end up running down the failure road, and probably like go binge drink at a college frat bar – take shots with the bartender. FUCK IT, I’LL THINK. I’VE ALREADY FAILED!!!!!!!

I want to see how my life evolves with tweaks.

So far, it’s been pretty notable.

In the past two months, I’ve taken the steps to change my life circumstances because, hey, I have more time on the couch – and more presence – to actually bloody do it.

I pursued a remote position with a PR agency – and got it. I start January 2.

In turn, my dreams for a converted van have moved up the timeline. And because I’m saving money by not going to happy hour wine, it feels more attainable.

I reached out to a van company in Denver called Native Campervans. In exchange for content, they gave me a free trial on one of their converted vans, which was HEAVEN. If you’re interested in a discount on one, I can get it for you. Just email me.

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My partner and I have notably had less massive midnight blow out arguments – over seemingly NOTHING – that I get worked up about in the haze of wine. Instead, we’re discussing true relationship issues, which couples have, and we are finally acknowledging and working on.

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I feel better about eating than I have in years. I mean that. I’m eating more than I have in years, and I’m enjoying watching the alcohol bloat leave my face, and the desire to cook emerge.

I don’t mind eating fully. I trust my body.

I’m watching it react. I haven’t lost weight, and yet my body is changing form. I can feel it due to work outs (with weights – not just cardio finally!) and eating nourishing shit that I know my body needs.

Mostly, I’m calmer. Less erratic. Less emotionally ravaging. And have the energy to make connections and partnerships with other advocacy in the country (namely, Project Heal – have a meeting with their COO next week!)

I feel good, and I am not 100% black and white sober.

I’ve had two instances where I had one glass of wine, and later realized I didn’t want it and did it out of the habit.

I’ve had another instance where I drank half and threw it away.

I’ve had a glass of wine with a friend that lasted four hours, and another time where I had a glass of wine with my dad that I later pushed over to him to finish.

I recently had two glasses of wine and came home and felt emotional. I realized I drank to feel the shit that I could’ve felt sober, and hadn’t wanted to.

In total, I’ve had somewhere around 12 glasses of wine in two months and three days.

This is coming from – no joke – 12-14 glasses of wine a week.

It’s working for me, and if it stops – I’ll let you know.

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Van life breakfast!

At the end of the day, it’s a tough world to be sober in. Alcohol is a universally accepted activity, and part of many cultures. It’s a given at most events, published on our social media daily – and as staple as a Kurig in an office setting.

So ever since I started posting on Instagram about going sober, I get more and more direct messages doctoring me as “brave.”

What’s difficult to chew on is that I don’t feel brave for doing this. And I don’t particularly think it’s a brave feat. We use “brave” far too easily in this culture when what we really mean is “that’s uncomfortable and I wouldn’t do it, but it’s nice to see someone else willing to and maybe one day, not today, but one day, I’ll try too.”

To me, this was a given. It had to happen otherwise I was going to let another year pass where I was docile, half-lit, and not moving the chess pieces forward to get to where I want to be.

Which leads me, in dark moments, to question where we are as a whole society that self-improvement via the discomfort of showing up sober is “brave.” So many of us are stuck, whether we see it or not, but too used to being stuck and too scared of being uncomfortable or putting ourselves out there that we just sludge around in it. Pour another vodka shot.

Light another joint.

Fuck another person because we’re restless – or think there’s always someone better out there.

I refuse to stay in the belief of “stuck.” I’d rather feel discomfort than complacency, which shouldn’t necessarily be your motto, but it works as mine.

And in order to pull myself out of that self-fulfilling prophecy, I had to feel like I was doing something.

So, I did something.

And I know you can, too.

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One thought on ““But Red Wine Has Antioxidants”: Navigating Alcohol And Anorexia In Today’s World

  1. I love this, Lindsey! I, too, had no “rock bottom” with alcohol. With ED, yes. With alcohol, no. I stopped drinking entirely when I asked myself “why am I drinking?” instead of questioning the amount of alcohol or my physical state. Whether it was one glass of wine or two bottles (which, I’ve been there) I drank to manage my anxiety. So, I stopped drinking about a year ago. It really is amazing how much I don’t want it, either. It takes a lot of emotional insight to make that choice, I think. Thank you for writing this! I always relate to your posts so much!

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