As we all know, attending college can be a pain, but attending college with an eating disorder? Don’t even get me started. I struggled with anorexia and bulimia for years and went through treatment. I thought my journey through treatment would be the hardest thing I’d ever go through, but boy was I wrong.
I spent the summer after treatment living the life I always wished I could live during the darkest days of anorexia. I went out, drank, partied, and allowed myself to eat whatever I wanted. Bottom line: alcohol equaled eating without thinking. During the day, though I was making great progress in my recovery, disordered thoughts surrounded me when it came to each meal.
At night, when I was out with my friends and alcohol was in the mix, there was no limit to what I could eat. During this time, I had no idea I had a problem; I was just doing what everyone else around me was doing: sipping and having fun. Because of my experience with alcohol in the summer, I thought I was an expert when it came time to drinking in college. This is when it all went spiraling downhill.
Think about the stress that comes with being in college and multiply that by infinity. That’s what I felt. I had to figure out how to adjust to a completely new life while also adjusting to the still lingering eating disorder. My first night out at school, I blacked out. I thought this would be a one time thing thanks to my excitement around beginning a new chapter.
Once again, I was utterly wrong. Drunk nights turned into days and days turned into weeks. Any opportunity I had, I would drink. In the back of my mind I knew that my consumption was because I could finally eat without guilt but I convinced myself it was because I was in college and that’s what everyone did.
Each morning after a blackout, I would promise myself and those around me that I would try to never black out again. I lied. The hardest part about this was that although the vodka may have kicked anxiety’s butt, it was one hundred times worse the next morning when I realized what I had consumed before. Knowing the damage the eating disorder and I had done, I wouldn’t allow myself to eat all day until it was time to drink again the next night. I couldn’t afford to eat anything when I was sober because I wasn’t sure what would be consumed when drunk.
The vicious cycle continued for months. Not only were my friends getting tired of playing mom and waking up to texts asking what happened the night before, but I was getting tired of feeling like I was hit by a bus of guilt. My grades suffered, my relationships suffered, and my body suffered.
The number one issue that came with this was the fact that I had no idea I had a problem. I had no time to realize there was an issue because the second I was sober again I would drink. Any opportunity I had to fill my void and to allow my mind to be free, I would use alcohol to do it. A food truck at school? Let’s drink for it. A talent show with food at it? Let’s drink for it. A night in on a Wednesday? Let’s drink for it.
Before I knew it, I looked in the mirror and saw someone I didn’t recognize. My body had suffered enough while struggling with anorexia; alcohol only made it worse. The purging didn’t stop, either. When I wasn’t able to become drunk enough to forget what I ate, my good friend bulimia would ease my mind. No one knew that I was thinking this. Yes, people saw my actions while drunk, but only I was aware of the deeper issue.
I had learned the hard way. I went to college without being fully recovered. I used alcohol as a new form of control because I no longer could control my eating. I was still starving and the only thing that would cure my starvation was alcohol. It took an entire year for me to take a step back and look at my reflection and realize what I had done. How could I let a year go and end it to only remember the hangovers?
I remembered what I went through to get from my lowest weight to where I was before entering college. The effort I put into recovery. I needed to find that strong person again and fight two times harder. It took time, a lot of time. I can’t say exactly what helped me stop relying on alcohol to eat each meal, but I believe in balance. Everything happens for a reason and I know now, that I am sober, that what I struggled with was a test of God that I failed before I passed.
Each person likes to have control in a different way, and I used alcohol to feel control when the eating disorder could no longer enable these feelings. I know now that I don’t need to drink to feel comfortable with myself, I know now that I can still drink without having to black out and be able to eat, and I know now that although recovery is hard, it is worth it. I’ll never get back the year of college I lost to alcohol, but I know that getting better allowed me to live the next few years to the best of my ability.
Alex Kroudis is a Psychology major at Sacred Heart university in Connecticut. She has a passion for learning about eating disorders, writing, running, and singing. She is involved in a sorority on her campus and writes articles for The Odyssey Online. Alex also loves traveling and is 100% Greek, hoping to move to Europe at some point in her life. Alex was born and raised in New Jersey with her younger brother and two parents, both born in Greece.