Shame and Chardonnay: Using food and drink to cope.

So. Today is national wine day or something, because my newsfeed is filled, more than usual, with memes like this:

Memes about wine are so funny and not overdone at all. Said the therapist flatly.

Here is a FAR TOO COMMON NOT TO WRITE ABOUT scenario:
Woman (yes, usually female, but occasionally male) comes into therapy and talks for a couple sessions about coping with depression and relationship insecurities.

Around the third session, once she feels that I am not a person who would gasp, giggle, or eye-roll at a person’s deepest vulnerabilities, the woman hesitantly drops the following bomb shell:

“I eat when I’m depressed, and then I get more depressed when I eat…. I’m starting to even do the same with alcohol.” The woman usually looks at the floor and holds back the tears of both shame and relief.

The hypothetical woman in front of me, sitting in my office chair, feels insecure in a world where the last remaining acceptable prejudice is for overweight people. She feels like nothing in a world of weight loss ads and social media body obsession and constant comparing and constant noticing that she isn’t one of the “acceptable” ones. She feels like CRAWLING OUT OF HER UNLOVABLE BODY AND KILLING HER WORTHLESS SELF because she eats a freaking order of French fries, and in her emotional writhing, she turns to more eating (and sometimes drinking) for momentary comfort. She’s probably in a relationship that reflects back to her, in the form of neglect or even abuse, her own sense of undeserving.

We are a warped society when it comes to this subject. We debate whether or not overweight people can be healthy, about how many calories a person should or shouldn’t be consuming, or how many drinks or hours of exercise one should work into a given week.  We argue whether marijuana and even alcohol  should be legally contolled. We discuss drinking and food and drugs in terms of simple choices lacking in context and emotional trappings. We elevate new diets and shakes and detox plans and exercise programs as the answers to wellness. We throw out words like “will power” and “self control” and “health” all over these discussions.

And we ignore the more relevant realities of emotional well-being and one’s relationship with food and drink and even one’s self.

Eating to not feel, eating to feel, eating for comfort, drinking to quell inadequacy, drinking to numb shame, eating to not feel empty, drinking to drown tension and emotional pain ….. Eating or drinking in secret because you’re numbing the shame of just having EATEN or BECOME INTOXICATED, and then eating and drinking MORe to numb the crushing inadequacy that follows from THAT…. THIS is the stuff that only comes up behind the closed doors of a therapy office, after three sessions have proven it a safe place.

But it’s the most important stuff.

The relationships we have with food and drink, and whether they are used as a source of enjoyment and nourishment or used to offer comfort and escape, (Or, alternatively, whether we relate to food as evil and a source of shame; There is a thin line, rooted in the relationship between food and self, between binging and restricting.): THIS is the stuff worth considering.

And the relationships we have with our own lives and our own selves and our own willingness to accept-without-judgement and ride-out even the regrettable stuff and the crappy emotions without shame and drowning it out? THIS is the stuff worth examining.

Just something to think about as usual. From, the therapist who thinks the place to start with any addiction or compulsion, whether it be food or wine or spending or even a relationship, is What Emotional Realities are You Seeking or Avoiding With This Behavior?

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2 thoughts on “Shame and Chardonnay: Using food and drink to cope.

  1. Thank you so much for posting this. This is such a common and important issue to bring out of the darkness and into the light. Self medicating doesn’t heal you or fix the problem. I’m so glad that you are able to create a safe space for women (and others!) to explore this part of their experience.

  2. What a great post! I so agree – too many of us fall into this at any point when our lives are not going the way we would like them to. It doesn’t matter if its menopause, loneliness, an unhappy family life, abuse, etc. We all have our own demons. Having a safe place to find support is so helpful. Thanks for addressing this. We need to pull it out in the open.

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