In recovery, I have heard many stories about relapses that started because someone thought they could handle a drink at some joyous occasion. Turns out, they couldn't suddenly become a non-alcoholic, no matter how happy they got. Then there are others who found themselves craving a drink when their basic needs weren't met. Twelve steppers might know this warning as HALT: hungry, angry, lonely, tired. Falling into the trap of grabbing a drink to take the edge off, to loosen the tight feeling of social anxiety, or to get cozy in uncomfortable circumstances.
For me, I fear something different than any of those scenarios. I fear the manifestation of self-hatred. I fear my depression, my post-traumatic stress disorder. I fear the strong urge to harm myself when despair is the filter through which I see the world.
Drinking is a method of self-harm. It was a punishment I sentenced myself to. It joined the ranks of other self-harm methods I dabbled in. When I was a little girl, I would send myself to my room. Rarely did my parents need to put much effort into that punishment, I did it all by myself, even when circumstances didn’t require it. I would punish myself, the sensitive child I have always been could rarely handle interpersonal conflict. Certainly, not with grace, anyway. I was the one who set high standards for my own behavior and success.
I received my first B when I was in high school. It was in health, aka sex-ed. I lied to my classmates about my parents' reaction. They weren't upset at all but I was, so I had to do something to feel punished for my grade. I grounded myself for three days, for no reason other than I thought I should be in trouble.
Other manifestations of self-punishment were much more severe. I experimented with cutting when I was only 14. My feelings of sorrow and fear were all consuming. I cut my legs and it became a rare method I would engage with sporadically in the future. It brought the internal pain outside and punished me for being, what I thought of as, an awful person.
I starved myself, when my high school boyfriend and I broke up for the first time. I began purging early in my college career. I would binge to fill the empty spaces inside. I made myself feel unworthy of love by gaining weight in such an unhealthy way. I would get sick from eating too much and force myself to throw up. Each self-destructive action amplified the next.
This is just a snippet, read the rest of this article on The Fix, where it was originally published on May 15, 2017.
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26 December 2017
By Kristance Harlow