Digging to Roam

Drinking as Self-Harm

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash
Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

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

1 Comment

  1. ROSE LEFEBVRE on December 27, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    Drinking in abundance is just not good for anyone and also for those who love the drinker. My husband, deceased, grew up with an alcoholic mother who always picked abusive alcoholic men to be in their lives. His stories were horrible. It would make me cry. Not good for anyone.

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