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. 🙁