F.E.A.S.T's Around The Dinner Table forum

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tulrika

Hi all. This is a vent but also a warning for those of you on the path to recovery. Sorry if it's a bit rambling. 

Our daughter got ED at 16. After a year of struggling the lightbulb moment happened and she started being willing to try and recover herself. We did the whole triangle of professional help (doctor, psych, nutritionist) and with a lot of stop-starting she made big improvements. AN has been beaten for a long time now, bulimic and disordered eating and thinking behaviour still continues on and off but she is aware of it and can talk about it calmly now. She rates herself as 80% recovered and still clawing her way to 100%. 

But here is where the problems I didn't expect started. Addictive behaviours. The big one is alcohol (but for some parents I've heard drugs, gambling and sex - all the addictive traits - are problems too). In her road to recovery, at the age of 17, she said her then-nutritionist encouraged her not to be afraid of alcohol (usually cut out because of calories), but also to have a glass of wine with dinner occasionally to help relax and take away the fear of food! (In the UK the legal age is 16)

Over the course of her recovery, and as she got older and started to go out more, alcohol has seemed to become as much of a problem as the ED was. I would go so far as to say that now, I'm equally as concerned that she's alcohol dependent as she was ED dependent. 

Apparently this is very common. The traits which make them more prone to ED also make them more prone to any addictive behaviours. I now have a daughter who has stalled in her recovery (that last 20% is like a hurdle she just can't get over yet) AND now she's got to do something about alcohol too. We have talked about her addictive personality (she accepts that it is a problem) and she knows our concerns about alcohol. Medication is equally concerning for me - her psychiatrist has given her the equivalent of valium to manage her anxiety attacks (another common side effect of ED) and it's another potential addictive problem waiting to happen. 

The extra depressing thing - she's 22 now. ED has taken 6 years of her and my life and the road to recovery is certainly less acutely scary than when she was in the grip of AN, but still so bumpy. She can't keep a job, can't work out what to do with her life, can't keep friends... The only good news is her behaviour with us is calm and a lot better, she acknowledges her problems and says she wants to take control. She lives independently, and one of the best investments we've ever made - her pets (definitely get your ED recovering kids a pet!!)

It sounds terrible but after 6 years of supporting her, I have a lot of moments now when I just want to walk away. Hide my head in the sand and be selfish. I just feel like, when do we stop being supportive and say, grow up get up and sort yourself out!!!  If it were a normal resilient child you'd tell them that life owes them no favours, but then the text books tell me this isn't a normal child. 

So, for those on the way to recovery, keep in mind the potential for 'replacement' addictions. Be prepared for a very long a winding road. And keep educating the 'professionals', we can teach them as much as they can help us so that future sufferers get even better treatment. 🙁

 

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MKR
Hi @tulrika,

Sorry to hear about your current predicament and I wish you find a way out soon.

Yes, this is common. I personally know someone who moved on from bulimia to alcohol addiction because "it cost less". Back in our pre-ED blissful ignorance (blissful only for us!), I could not understand how this person would not just pull themselves together, so they couldget their career and their children back... hearbreaking for all.

I believe resilience building is the direction to follow.  Coping with life's little and big stresses. Learning to see the funny side. Easier said than done. 

I wish you lots of strength!
Mum's Kitchen

14-y-o "healthy living" led to AN in 2017 and WR at 16. Current muscle dysmorphia.
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Foodsupport_AUS
Sorry to hear that ED has gone from one thing to the next. Unfortunately yes this is well recognised with some struggling for years because of the overlap. We never stop being parents, even when they are grown and this sort of thing makes it all the harder. Thinking of you. 
D diagnosed restrictive AN June 2010 age 13. Initially weight restored 2012. Relapse and continuously edging towards recovery. Treatment: multiple hospitalisations and individual and family therapy.
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ValentinaGermania
tulrika wrote:
The extra depressing thing - she's 22 now. ED has taken 6 years of her and my life and the road to recovery is certainly less acutely scary than when she was in the grip of AN, but still so bumpy. She can't keep a job, can't work out what to do with her life, can't keep friends... The only good news is her behaviour with us is calm and a lot better, she acknowledges her problems and says she wants to take control. She lives independently, and one of the best investments we've ever made - her pets (definitely get your ED recovering kids a pet!!)


Is she living far away from you? Is she financially dependend? Can you set rules for alcohol abuse?
Keep feeding. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
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melstevUK
Hi Tulrika,

This is really tough and I appreciate your frustration and the desire to walk away. 

Firstly, I don't really believe in the idea of an addictive personality. I think those prone to addiction have a brain which probably is set at a higher level of anxiety than others may experience. I count myself in this category. If I could rewire my brain to set itself at the level it finds itself after one class of wine then I would gladly do it.   I am not an alcoholic but I drink too much and I know this. I never want to stop at that one glass of wine that calms the brain even though having more is not helpful.  So I sympathise with your d and know that it is not easy to keep desire or cravings under control. 

The good thing is that she has come through the ed enough to fight it. She is also still young. Her brain and body are still not fully developed and her brain in particular is not fully adult.

Where you can help her is discussing why she cannot hold down a job and also by helping her have dreams for the future and finding what she wants to do with her life. I believe it is important to develop a life worth living which is meaningful and useful as self destructive behaviours will prevent that happening. I am glad she had pets as I believe animals can bring a sense of well-being into life. 
But to learn to be adult she has to develop a sense of responsibility to herself and those around and that usually means earning a living in some way. Even the very rich probably need to find meaningful activity for happiness to be a part of it. 
Can you help her with her dreams? Also, fir any addiction or mental health problem, structure is important so ensuring she has structured days may also help. 
Look forward rather than back and think how you can now help her move into becoming a responsible adult and the other unwanted behaviours will dominate her life less .
You have all done well to get this far. 
Believe you can and you're halfway there.
Theodore Roosevelt.
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Torie
I'm really sorry to hear about your long, tough journey.  I hope you and your d will find a good solution.

I'm not sure about the relationship between ED and addiction.  Since addiction is quite common, it's a sure bet some will be hit with the double-whammy of ED + addiction.  But does experiencing one increase the chances of the other?  I'm not sure anyone knows. xx

-Torie
"We are angels of hope, of healing, and of light. Darkness flees from us." -YP 
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MKR
Torie wrote:
But does experiencing one increase the chances of the other?  I'm not sure anyone knows.


From what I have read on teenage brains and brains in general, addictions affect - in fact damage - nerve endings so they are left with cravings for whatever they received reward from most, like in our case exercise, alcohol etc. Now, regrowth (neuroplasticity) is possible so long as no further damage is done. 

https://americanaddictioncenters.org/health-complications-addiction/nervous-system
Mum's Kitchen

14-y-o "healthy living" led to AN in 2017 and WR at 16. Current muscle dysmorphia.
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Foodsupport_AUS
There is higher chance of substance use disorders in those with eating disorders. This article from NEDA suggests there is evidence of a strong two way relationship. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/substance-abuse-and-eating-disorders
D diagnosed restrictive AN June 2010 age 13. Initially weight restored 2012. Relapse and continuously edging towards recovery. Treatment: multiple hospitalisations and individual and family therapy.
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Torie
Thanks, Foodsupport.  What confuses me is that that article says, "Up to 50% of individuals with eating disorders abused alcohol or illicit drugs, a rate five times higher than the general population" but in my experience, a whole heck of a lot of college students "abuse alcohol"; much higher than 10%.  And that is just alcohol, before we add in drugs.  So I am still not convinced.  xx

-Torie 
"We are angels of hope, of healing, and of light. Darkness flees from us." -YP 
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tulrika

Hi everyone and thanks for your comments and support. 

Have just spent two days with a tearful girl. She acknowledges the problems and is trying to get the right help. It appears to be textbook stuff - ED became a comfort in a weird way because it numbs the pain of anxiety and raw emotions. With recovery from ED, a glass of wine or two became the new replacement crux. The ability to stop is as difficult as trying to break free from the grip of ED.

ED autobiographies that I've read have said much the same and parents in the support group I attended anecdotally said that the ED kids are much more likely to have problems. They abuse alcohol in a different way and for different reasons than young adults who Binge drink socially, for example. 

The next step is finding the best /right help. She's attending a psych, but I feel that there is a missing link for peer support or specific help? She's reluctant to go to alcohol help groups as she feels they are more generic and maybe lack the specific help she needs. She's downloaded an interactive app. A new way to get help I guess?

She's close enough for us to monitor. Yes she needs to build resilience etc. She knows this but while acknowledging is the first battle won, the next step is a huge hurdle too. 

Sigh. 

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ValentinaGermania
Can you help her to stop her buying this stuff in any way?
Keep feeding. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
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Scaredmom2019
So interesting. My 17 D has told me she is terrified to drink or do drugs as she says will be addicted. Although that may be a little anxiety speaking, I believe it is likely true.

Warm thoughts to your D. It's great she is not in denial. That's the first step. 
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Kali

Hi Tulrika,

So sorry the ED has morphed and grown into this new scenario. What you describe as bulimic behavior off and on as well as the alcohol issues are of concern and it is understandable that you are worried..

I'm wondering how she is making ends meet if she cannot hold a job. Who is supporting her financially?

Is there anyway to get her more interested in her future? Is there anything she is passionate about doing? Perhaps if she is not able to keep a job and is having these issues, she could come and live at home for awhile while she takes stock and figures out what her next steps could be, while she continues in treatment for the purging and drinking? That way you could keep a closer eye on how she is doing and try to prompt her to take some more positive steps for her future. I also think that there may be other medical options for anxiety which are less habit forming then valium but that is something to check in with a physician about. 

Just a few thoughts. I know there are others who have gone through similar things and can tell you a little bit about how they handled it.

warmly,

Kali

Food=Love
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