I started drinking when I was 14; my parents threw me into a luxury alcohol and drug rehab when I was 17. Only the best for their darling daughter, they assured me. The only problem was that I wasn’t in need of a luxury alcohol and drug rehab program. Sure, I stole their alcohol on occasion. Doesn’t every teenager do that at one point? There was plenty of opportunity. My parents would go away for the weekend and there was any given number of social gatherings that I could show up to if I had a few liquor bottles in tow. Friends would flock to me, the girl with the endless liquor supply and the nonexistent parents. I would not have to find the parties. The parties would find me. I enjoyed the attention from my peers. I enjoyed the parties. But I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy with my looks. I wasn’t happy with my body. I drank because it was the cool thing to do; the way to be accepted. I was never comfortable in any of my clothes. It didn’t matter what I ate. I was so self-conscious. I’d go days without eating. If I did eat, I’d regret it. Soon enough, I realized that drinking at those parties would be an easy way to purge. I wouldn’t have to sneak off to a bathroom and run the water to hide the sound. I would just pretend to be drunk enough that I had to vomit. It was genius. No one questioned it.
Finally, my parents started noticing their depleting supply of alcohol. At first, they just stayed home more often, monitoring me. Then they caught me stumble home drunk one night. A few other times, someone called them to come and take me home because I was a mess. I didn’t think this was very unusual behavior for a teenager; I wasn’t the only one at the high school who drank. But my parents overreacted a bit and they put me in a 30 day program. That wasn’t hard to complete. I didn’t need the alcohol to survive like my fellow rehabbers. I just treated that like a vacation. It was a beautiful facility and everyone there just talked to me like I was an alcoholic. The therapists never questioned my diet. It was obvious they were not trained to treat patients with eating disorders. I didn’t feel connected to any of the staff there, not enough to explain why I was really drinking or why I was truly unhappy.
After 30 days, I came home and went right back to school like nothing happened. I kept going to parties. I kept drinking the alcohol as a disguise to purge. I was ashamed of my body and my inability to lose weight on command. I felt overweight. I exercised endlessly. I never felt like I could measure up to the other girls. I was just so much more pudgy, more curvy, more everything.
After graduation, my parents sent me to a different luxury drug and alcohol rehab. But I was in luck; this rehab had an eating disorders track. At Seaside Palm Beach, they recognized that I had underlying issues with my physical appearance. They understood me as a whole and didn’t slap on the “under-age alcoholic” label right away, despite knowing I’d already had one go at rehab. I could trust my therapist enough to finally open up.
That was 6 years ago. In recovery now, I can look at pictures of myself and recognize that I was not overweight back then. I did abuse alcohol but I was not an alcoholic. I did have the addictive behavior indicative of alcoholism, I suppose. But my addictive behavior was centered around my eating disorder.
There are the typical addictions, the expected substances, situations and scenarios in which a person is “addicted” and there are the others. Addiction is more than just substance abuse. It’s more than weekly meetings and it’s more than peer groups. It’s a lifestyle, a habit, a crutch, a passion. I had a passion to be thin. At Seaside, they recognized this. They recognized me. They saw me for who I was. They saw me for the treatment I needed. And now, thanks to the luxury drug and alcohol rehab, I’ve finally been saved.