Blogs

The final hit? Anorexia and addiction

Ilona Burton

Getting clean is much easier said than done. The term, usually used with reference to coming off drugs or alcohol, could also be used to describe recovery from an Eating Disorder – a process of leaving something so damaging behind, despite feeling as though you have nothing left without it. Although Anorexia is an illness, the behaviours that contribute to it are undoubtedly addictive, and so after years of living with such self-inflicted rules and restrictions, recovery is definitely similar in many ways to breaking any other form of addiction, be that alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, food… Anorexia, Bulimia and Compulsive Eating Disorder are continuously debated over in terms of whether or not they count as addictions, as that would obviously influence the course of treatment and even medication that would best suit the patient. Historically, the term ‘addiction’ was only used with regards to psychoactive substances, which possibly explains why many would not even entertain the idea of an Eating Disorder being addictive, but the illness comes under a long list of behavioural addictions and can be explained simply as an unconventional way of coping with life, stress, trauma etc – just as does alcohol addiction, drug addiction etc. Opinion will always be split, but seeing Anorexia as an addiction will allow me to write about where I stand at this moment in terms of recovery – so keep that in mind if you will.

First, a quote from ‘Trainspotting’:

Mark “Rent-boy” Renton: This was to be my final hit, but let’s be clear about this. There’s final hits and final hits. What kind was this to be?

Determination and doubt in equal measure, it’s never a good look when you take into account the power of addiction, but then when you are acutely aware that it is realistic to expect a relapse, how can you look upon it with 100% positivity? It isn’t a matter of having doubts creep up on you – they are there all along because it would be ridiculous to think otherwise. There is always a part of you that wants, even feels the need to cling on. Despite knowing all the risks to your health, even seeing those risks, being broke, seeing your life change around your addiction, being aware of the selfishness of it all, watching just how much you are worrying and hurting your loved ones – whatever it is you are addicted to is your safety blanket, it keeps you safe, it is what you need to make it through to the next day, week, month… You can want to ‘choose life’ as much as you want, but letting go of something that has become habit, that is central to your every waking thought and action, that is like trying to climb a mountain with something clutching at your ankles and dragging you back.

Looking at me now though, I would not say that I was still ill, but I am certainly far from recovered in terms of weight, thoughts around food and quite often becoming frustrated at myself for not allowing myself to just let go and eat what I want. I’ve been worse, much worse, but I still have to be checked up on, pursuaded to eat more, worried about and gazed at by poor 16 year olds in clubs who want to be that thin, unaware of the consequences. I describe myself as floating around in the space between illness and wellness, and damn it’s far too easy to become complacent with that.

Last week I found out that I have a short contract working at the BBC and also have been offered a place to start my MA Journalism in September. Amazingly, finally, things seem to be falling into place for me – I know this is the route I want to take and it just feels so ‘right’. Eating Disorder-wise though, I feel a little like Renton, I want one final hit before I launch myself into (hopefully) the path to success. I keep finding myself looking in the mirror wishing that certain bits could go that bit smaller, just so I could feel the way it feels to be that empty and small, concave and fragile. I don’t know if that description would seem appealing at all to anyone who has not felt it, but surely it must be worth something if I continue to be drawn in by it. Temptation, like addiction, is a powerful force. I admit that even after all the help and support I have recieved, I find it difficult not to just give in to Anorexia, say no to food and see the weight slowly dropping off. It almost feels romantic, it’s charms, they suck you in.

But then they spit you out in hospital. Another 3, 6, 9 months? I have to slap my face, realise the madness behind my thoughts. If I let go now I’ll no doubt be in hospital by christmas, have to pull out of my studies and have to waste yet another eternity with my life on hold. I’ve got a taste of a hit now, do I really need to go the full whammy? I’d be likely to lose a hell of a lot more this time round when I think about what is at stake. This is where I choose between life and existance.

I choose LIFE.

(I hope)

Tagged in: , , , , ,
  • http://www.facebook.com/andreeav Andreea Verdeata

    Hey…I have been spending my last two day searching up different informations on eating-disorders. Two reasons for that: I’m waiting for 2 books i ordered,so I may start studying for an exam.Yeah,I’ve decided to study Med School,Nutrition and Dietetics.(after trying some other stuff,like Journalism also). Finally, I stumbled across your post and it caught my attention. perhaps it was the way you wrote it,perhaps only the title,perhaps it was just one of those things you say :”I have a good feeling about this”, so after reading it thoroughly, I thought I should leave you this message rather long than a short comment. Anyways,I have been someone with eating-Disorders(mentioning would be irrelevant),and I realized my passion for nutrition and this area of life.I have chosen life and chosen to help others like me choose life, and choose to hope, choose to believe there is more.
    I loved the way you expressed in this post,so vividly I remember my own thoughts just months ago…I’m a writer,a painter,and a musician,but I’m also…a dreamer. I love making dreams and plans for my life according to my personality,hobbies,likes and dislikes,etc,and they all start like putting a puzzle all-together. I believe it’s a great start to plan your next steps,or to dream about what your heart desires and act accordingly. I believe it’s best,instead of remaining concentrated on the problem,which can be at times depressing or frustrating,even discouraging,rather than impulsing and energizing for a new leap in life.
    Choose life, my dear friend. Make big plans, for there is a great potential within you. Choose life and dream big. Sky is our limit. I’ve chosen to live and make the best of it. I’ve chosen a dream and now I’m moving forward,and nothing shall hold me back.
    Hope this was a little encouraging unto you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andreeav Andreea Verdeata

    Hey…I have been spending my last two day searching up different informations on eating-disorders. Two reasons for that: I’m waiting for 2 books i ordered,so I may start studying for an exam.Yeah,I’ve decided to study Med School,Nutrition and Dietetics.(after trying some other stuff,like Journalism also). Finally, I stumbled across your post and it caught my attention. perhaps it was the way you wrote it,perhaps only the title,perhaps it was just one of those things you say :”I have a good feeling about this”, so after reading it thoroughly, I thought I should leave you this message rather long than a short comment. Anyways,I have been someone with eating-Disorders(mentioning would be irrelevant),and I realized my passion for nutrition and this area of life.I have chosen life and chosen to help others like me choose life, and choose to hope, choose to believe there is more.
    I loved the way you expressed in this post,so vividly I remember my own thoughts just months ago…I’m a writer,a painter,and a musician,but I’m also…a dreamer. I love making dreams and plans for my life according to my personality,hobbies,likes and dislikes,etc,and they all start like putting a puzzle all-together. I believe it’s a great start to plan your next steps,or to dream about what your heart desires and act accordingly. I believe it’s best,instead of remaining concentrated on the problem,which can be at times depressing or frustrating,even discouraging,rather than impulsing and energizing for a new leap in life.
    Choose life, my dear friend. Make big plans, for there is a great potential within you. Choose life and dream big. Sky is our limit. I’ve chosen to live and make the best of it. I’ve chosen a dream and now I’m moving forward,and nothing shall hold me back.
    Hope this was a little encouraging unto you.

  • immiscibility

    “Anorexia, Bulimia and Compulsive Eating Disorder are continuously debated over in terms of whether or not they count as addictions”

    I have to say, there were tears in my eyes when I read this, if only for the fact that someone out there has recognised that Compulsive Eating Disorder is as much an eating disorder as anorexia and bulimia.

    I have suffered from CED since I was very young, a culmination of undiagnosed learning disorders throughout my entire school life as well as an unstable home life. Along with self-harming, CED became the focus of my life, near enough the only thing that kept me going but, of course, it dragged me into a downward spiral in that it was fuelled and, in turn, itself fuelled my self-harming causing me extreme mental health issues.

    By 15 I discovered alcohol, and by 17 drugs. By 21 I was unemployed, homeless and addicted. My parents had split up, I didn’t speak to my siblings, and I was alone. I have no doubt that the “thing” that led me to CED and self-harming was the same “thing” that drove me to drink and drugs. Whatever that it. I still don’t even know myself and I received no help from medical or social support services.

    Now, almost 10 years later, I have dragged myself through University, achieved a degree and working for the Top Cheese of a well-known organisation. I am self-supportive, have all but stopped my SI and am off my medication for the first time in years. However, I still have problems with CED and it is a struggle every day to turn myself from a Victim to a Victor.

    I’m not giving up though, and I know I will do it someday. I hope you’ll do it too Catherine :-)

  • CHill8

    Hi Catherine,
    I read your blog with interest as I am currently having psychology sessions to deal with having anorexia (on and off) for the last 13 years. I, too, wondered about the final fix thing and was just about holding off until a combination of circumstances triggered a restriction relapse. In short, please focus on the wonderful opportunities you now have available and hold these closer to your heart than the thoughts of final fix. I know from painful personal experience that this is far easier said than done and especially when you still have to wait a few weeks until starting your journalism course. Keep yourself intellectually busy in the meantime and I sincerely wish you all the best as you journey through life.
    CHill

  • CHill8

    Hi Catherine,
    I read your blog with interest as I am currently having psychology sessions to deal with having anorexia (on and off) for the last 13 years. I, too, wondered about the final fix thing and was just about holding off until a combination of circumstances triggered a restriction relapse. In short, please focus on the wonderful opportunities you now have available and hold these closer to your heart than the thoughts of final fix. I know from painful personal experience that this is far easier said than done and especially when you still have to wait a few weeks until starting your journalism course. Keep yourself intellectually busy in the meantime and I sincerely wish you all the best as you journey through life.
    CHill8

  • http://twitter.com/james__clayton James Clayton

    Excellent and insightful article (as always) and you are so right about eating disorders being an addiction. Anorexia grips you, it’s bad for you but it promises (false) hope and an escape. Just as people reach to substances for relief and abuse them, people turn to eating disordered behaviour. The carrying on despite what medical experts and loved ones say, despite the clear signs that you’re ill and so on are all addiction. The warped self-destructive romanticism and euphoria from what is a form of self-mutilation – all addiction.

    I know what you mean about the ‘final fix’ idea – things starting to look like they might come good or the inevitability of getting better and having to ‘give up’ make the eating disorder rage determined to have a last hurrah. Hang on in there – life is worth it and you’re choosing it by honestly holding up the mirror to the creep that wants to drag you down. Take care.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_D3A6CJQ2CQC7APX43ML453LVIE glendy

    Catherine, you are so overhwelmingly right about eating disorders being another form of addiction. The truth is, unfortunately (and speaking from experience), eating disorders aren’t as as glaringly, outwardly apparent as other addictions and can be so much easier to hide making them that bit more pervasive. I now (having really struggled with bipolar disorder and really plunged the depths of wellness (eating problems being a large part of this)), I feel, come face to face with existence and I truly believe that there’s hardly a person on the planet that does not experience an addiction of some sort, be it overt or covert. The biggest struggle, I believe, is purely just being alive and dealing with what being human actually puts us through and any sort of addiction is an escape or a diversion from the tricky business of getting on with life. Unfortunately, we live in a world where just to be human is very tricky and I think of all us just about get by, skirt round the problematic aspects of asserting who we really are and rarely truly deal with our issues or express what we really want. All I’m saying is, you’ve come so far and like Renton, there’ll always be that devlish little voice saying one last hit, probably won’t ever go away and the behaviours that you say became your way of being will always be there as a path to go down. However, you could just try dipping your toe in the water and do something different, give these awesome opportunities a shot.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_A2NFMJUKTCF3KB7NPW72SGH3PU Robyn Beresford

    Gosh, I know what you’re talking about with it’s temptations having a sort of romantic allure. Anorexia Nervosa is certainly an addiction, in my opinion/experience. But I’m so glad you’re able to see the rational side of it and not be taken in by the romanticised lies of the addiction/illness. You know what’s at stake – you know what you face to lose. Your job, your studies, your friends and family and your life. Perhaps write down all the reasons that you want to stay healthy and write down all the ways that giving in to the temptation will destroy your life, so that everytime you feel like sucumbing to the temptation you can remind yourself what’s at stake.
    I am so inspired by your insight and determination. You are so strong and brave. Keep it up. The world needs more honest, articulate, insightful and brave journalists like you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Fiona-Smailes/1609920026 Fiona Smailes

    your quote hit home for me – I was recently described by a treatment professional as ‘like Renton from Trainspotting’! (I’ve taken my ‘last hit’ so to speak and feel recovered but apparently he thinks it’s tenuous :P )
    anyway. recovering has highlighted for me the similarities between AN and addiction more than living with the illness ever did. there is certainly an element of withdrawal from it which I never anticipated. and although it has shifted for me from wanting that ‘high’ again to being sickeningly certain the suffering isn’t worth it, and the thought scaring me…there’s still an emptiness…a feeling of ‘what now’.
    still, that’s a bleak picture. AN sufferers have a tendency to get black and white about things, but there’s a world of hell between dead and recovered. I hope you can move out of it, cause recovery isn’t something that happens to you, it’s something you DO…so it’s very possible :)
    x


Property search
Browse by area

Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter