Bingeing must be relieved carefully
Bingeing is typically understood in terms of either alcohol or eating. In fact there are differences between the two. For binge drinking, the setting is typically in public and so there is a social dimension. Eating disorders by contrast are normally a solitary pursuit. And while eating disorders can be hidden from public scrutiny (for a time at least), binge drinking is often fuelled by social anxieties.
Of course, alcohol is a little different from most addictions in that alcohol is legal and used widely and alcohol plays an important facilitating role in social lives and group activities. And alcohol supplies can be easily and cheaply acquired. For many also, drinking is moderate and under their control and in no way is addictive. And the shame that can attach to excessive social drinking can be hidden beneath the self-indulgence of others who also drink. Though of course, the shame is there – and though many will hide their addiction to binge drinking or will find that their behaviour when drunk (boorish, loud and unpleasant or quiet and uncommunicative and alone) will have its effect and be noticed by those around them.
My experience also is that the great common motivation for each binge activity is powerful anxiety that just cannot be assuaged let alone carefully heard and acted upon. And then the unravelling. For binge drinking, the pattern matching and connections to conviviality and friendship and fun and human connection mean that it can be harder to envisage meeting these essential human needs successfully and appropriately when sober and without a drink in ones hand. While for binge eating and other eating disorders there is the separation from human contact behind the barrier of the eating problems and their secrecy.
Steps to helping bingeing addictions
What is the secret to busting this dependence on drinking socially to excess or the spiralling downward into bulimia and binge eating? It is to change the emotions and emotional triggers. And not even to pretend that your rational brain or your will alone can do it on its own.
More than anything – take it slowly. See relapses as temporary. See what might have been the triggers and facilitating events. Perhaps you need Rewind. Look for molar memories.
Checking your addiction timeline
Take a piece of paper and draw a straight line across it horizontally. Then write out on that line year that comprise your life to date – in decades if you are quite old or in five-year slices or less if you are still young. And then draw a wavy line on the paper which denotes your relationship with your binge drinking (or eating problems or any long-standing addiction/obsession) over your lifetime.
When the addiction was absent – for sure in the first decade of your life. And when it was there but quite weak and when it was stronger – when the line moves to the top of the page. What do you notice as you look at this line and think about your life at the times when the line was low on the page? Was there any addiction or giving up any of your power to addiction then or it was very weak? And when the line shifted to rising or falling and also when it was high on the page (the addiction was powerful there). Like it is now? You will find that your life was working better – in terms of getting those essential needs met – for security, relationships and satisfying work – when the line is low and that when the line is high on the page – well then needs were not being met very well and indeed the alcohol and binge drinking was probably squeezing out your capacity to get those needs met.
With bingeing, this is very important to realise clearly
Consider those times in your life when that line shifts to rising and falling. What changed at that time for you? And at the time in your life when the line is rising can you recall the stress and pressures you were under and why you were under that pressure and how the alcohol or eating and the association with social activities found a fruitful place to grow then. And you might spot an association in your life at one those times when the line began to rise that can explain to you why that addiction to really losing it in that particular setting seemed to provide the answer. Perhaps then, the eating or drinking (or whatever it is) did seem to give you relief because there was a sense of control or social connection that you lacked at that time. Addictions can only flourish if lives are not working and needs are not being met.
The US army found that when they followed the lives of the drug-addicted Vietnam vets as they returned to their previous lives. Those who returned to families and jobs and balanced lives just stopped the drug – just like that. Bulimia – a special kind of Addiction.