How I Found Recovery from an Eating Disorder and Substance Use Disorder

By Robyn Cruze

When I finally committed to my treatment plan I found recovery without using alcohol to numb everything (alcohol makes for blurriness). I could fully focus on getting to know myself and what I really wanted in life. I began to deal with all those feelings that I was hiding from; feelings that kept me spinning in the painful cycle of mental illness.

So many amazing people in this world find recovery from an eating disorder or addiction— only to face another illness.

Many of us have spent a lifetime numbing our pain with our eating disorder thoughts and behaviors. In early recovery, when our feelings start to surface, we find ourselves seeking out other behaviors that will continue to keep us numb. Substance use, including alcohol or drug use, can seem like a potential solution to dealing with these incredibly hard and undesirable emotions. 

As a recovery advocate, I’ve seen this heartbreaking scenario a thousand times. Most importantly, though, I saw it in myself.

Finding true empowerment

When I got really serious about my eating disorder recovery, I knew that I would have to give up my drinking. 

For starters, it wasn’t very compassionate to myself to find recovery from one illness — only to become imprisoned by another! Being willing to give up both my eating disorder and drinking was the first step for me to become whole. For me, giving up drinking has made all the difference in my eating disorder recovery, and in the quality of my life.

Do you have a substance use disorder?

If you believe you may also be experiencing a co-occurring eating and substance use disorder, you are so not alone!

  • Have you ever felt you should cut down on your substance use?
  • Have people annoyed you by criticizing your substance use?
  • Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your substance use?
  • Have you ever had a drink or drug first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?

These questions above are a good way to get a feel for your symptoms, but the best way to determine if you need professional help for drinking or drug use is to talk with your doctor or a mental health professional. 

You can learn more about the symptoms of substance use disorder here

Sobering facts about substance use 

50 percent of individuals with eating disorders also abuse substances.

Up to 35 percent of individuals who abuse or are dependent on alcohol/drugs also have an eating disorder, compared to up to 10 percent in the general population.

Approximately 57 percent of males with binge eating disorder (BED)will experience a substance use disorder (SUD). 

Individuals who undergo bariatric surgeryare at risk for developing substance use disorder.

Lifetime rates of substance use disorder in the various eating disorder subgroups are as follows: 

But here’s the good news: full recovery from both substance abuse and eating disorders is possible!

Finding truth and authenticity in recovery

Drinking and drug use can effectively numb our feelings. But at what cost? 

At some point in recovery, we must be willing to confront our feelings without numbing them. True strength and wholeness is found when we feel our emotions without any barriers. Yes, it can be painful and incredibly challenging, but we can take it one step at a time, showing up and facing all the parts of our illness that prevent us from living our life fully. By doing this, we can get to the life we were born to live.

The surprising things I learned when I found recovery

When I finally committed to my treatment plan — I found recovery— without using alcohol to numb everything (alcohol makes for blurriness), I could fully focus on getting to know myself, and what I really wanted in life. I began to deal with all those feelings that I was hiding from — feelings that kept me spinning in the painful cycle of mental illness.

Here’s how treatment saved my life.

Are you giving yourself the best chance at recovery? Is there anything standing in your way?

Robyn Cruze is National Binge Eating and Substance Use Advocate and online community manager for Eating Recovery Center.

April is Alcohol Awareness Month. We want you to know that a fulfilling, rich recovery is possible. We encourage you to call us to begin the healing process. For a free clinical assessment by a Master Level Clinician, please contact (877) 711-1878.


binge eating disorder
robyn cruze
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Robyn Cruze

Internationally-recognized author and speaker, Robyn Cruze published Making Peace with Your Plate (Central Recovery Press) with Espra Andrus, LCSW, which will enter its second edition in February…