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My experience with disordered eating, alcohol and substance use was of the binge-purge, and then restrict kind. I rarely used any substance or behavior daily. I would overeat, over drink, overuse, then purge, and then in a frenzy of guilt and clean-up, I would restrict. In many ways this particular pattern, kept me stuck because I thought I could stop. All of it, every bit, was about not feeling comfortable in my body, my emotions and my life.

Now, five years into this journey called sobriety, I am uncovering the very creative ways I am still playing out this pattern. Funny, how this stuff can be right there, and we are not even aware.

Where do I binge?

This stuff is sneaky. I figured since I don’t actually binge (eat enormous amounts of food) and then purge (throw it all up) anymore, that most of it was over. Not true, I’ve just begun to play out the pattern in some interesting ways.

I bought a bunch of books, to further my knowledge and my therapist, said, “There’s the binge.” “What do you mean the binge?? I wasn’t going to read them all at once.” I watch Netflix and eat a bunch of popcorn (the binge) and the next day, won’t eat much at all (the purge and restriction).

Where do I binge, purge and then restrict?

Relationships – All or nothing. Let’s spend days together because it feels so good in the beginning (binge) and now I’m irritated and need loads of space (purge) to come back to myself.

Education – I’ll take an intense training, build a business, and write a book, take another training (binge) and then, “no trainings this year! I need to do work.” (purge/restrict)

Money – Receive a bunch, spend it (binge) then panic and don’t spend any (purge/restrict).

Exercise – Gym, running and yoga, all in one day (binge) then feel injured and tired and don’t go at all (restrict/purge).

And so on…

I am being a bit dramatic here to make a point. I have more balance then ever in my life. I don’t do all the exercise in one day, and I am quite aware of self-care for my body. I have savings and a nice plan for paying off debt. It took me 35 years to get sober so I was quite a slow learner for that one. This process of discovering where I practice the old patterns is much more accelerated and enjoyable. And, I am learning to give myself the connection, warmth, security, sweetness and love that I am looking for in my “binge” of choice. It’s pretty cool to notice that I want sweets and instead go to a gathering of like-minded humans and give and receive loads of sweetness and connection.

Where do you binge, purge and restrict? Shopping, cigarettes, sex, food, social media, the latest 30-day challenge, education, work?

What qualities does your substance or behavior have that you are not able to give to yourself? Getting quiet and asking yourself these questions is very enlightening. Practice with compassion. Everything you reach for contains a message for you to unfold. What does your soul hunger for and how can you give that to yourself?

Remember, as you inquire and observe yourself, things may not change immediately. It’s okay. Your patterns serve a purpose, a safety net that you aren’t quite ready to let go of all at once. As feelings arise, just notice and gently ask, “Is this a physical need or hunger, or is it a soul hunger?” Then, you can ask, “What am I hungry for?” Connection, time, space, warmth, sweetness, hugs, movement, softness, action, blankets, laughter, friendship, quiet, beauty…the possibilities are unique to each of you. Enjoy the journey.

I’d love to hear how this goes for you and what comes up. Please feel free to be in contact and let me know. Also, please share this with whomever you feel could use the insight. Let’s grow our compassionate, wise community.

Layne Linebaugh

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