1994: I Went Feral, Hit Bottom, And Then Got Myself Together

We’d had lunch at Chili’s. I ate fish tacos. I had borrowed a dress from my sister. Black. Size 0. It was December 31, 1994, and I was acting the part of “normal.”

Only problem? I was a fucking disaster.

I planned to have only one drink. It had become clear that drinking wasn’t working out for me. I never did it right—I ended up puking, crying, and kissing boys that were handsy. Even if there was no genetic component to alcoholism, my behavior was proof enough that I was a person who should not drink. Plus, I was already in recovery for an eating disorder and alcohol was “strongly discouraged.”

I called my sponsor from Chili’s and mentioned my idea of having “one New Year’s drink.”

“Sometimes alcohol triggers bulimia,” she said.  I hung up quickly.

We got dressed in our hotel room. I loved that my dress was a size 0 and suspected – correctly—that my days of fitting into it were numbered. Before the curtain fell on my almost-emaciated figure, I wanted one more great night. 

I started with a single glass of White Zin. I flirted with a charming guy who had the sweetest smile.  He was wearing a black cowboy hat.

Like every other night I drank, I took that one sip too many. The sip that made me no longer care about the cute boy with the cowboy hat.  He was a stupid hick. Screw the stupid size 0 dress—it looked better on my sister anyway. Screw it all.

I wanted more wine. Then, I wanted more food.

When dinner was over, we  made our way to dance floor. As bodies moved to Whomp! (There it is), I snuck back into the dining room and started eating leftover food off strangers’ plates. If they’d left anything in their glasses, I downed that too. Furious consumption—there wasn’t enough food or drink in the world for me that night.

A waiter walked by—his arm over head with stacks of dirty dishes piled on a tray. “Can I have that tray?” I slurred.  Confused, he set the tray down and disappeared through a swinging door. I grabbed half-eaten dinner rolls with globs of butter jammed in their centers.  When he returned for the tray, the waiter asked, “May I get you a fresh plate?”

“No,” I said, vaguely aware that I’d gone feral. I was eating in public—in the middle of a party—the way I had only done in private before recovery 18 months ago.

My roommates found me—face smudged with gravy. “The cute cowboy is looking for you.” They urged me to the dance floor. “I’m too sick.”  They didn’t know I was talking about my soul.

I woke up in my hotel room the next morning, physically ill and emotionally wrecked. I called my sponsor from the lobby payphone. “I don’t think alcohol works for me,” I conceded. The receiver dangled as I ran to the bathroom to throw up.

“Is this the bottom?”

“Pray that it is,” she answered.

Thank God it was.


99 thoughts on “1994: I Went Feral, Hit Bottom, And Then Got Myself Together

  1. I’m glad it was your bottom, glad you recognized it. It is hard. I still have drinking issues. At damn near 40, I am shaking my head that I haven’t gotten this together yet. I’m proud of you for being able to handle the combo of liquor and bulimia and get to a point where neither controls you. I wish I could get there.

    • It was grace and honestly I still struggle. Not as much with alcohol, but with food. Having just survived a bout of the stomach flu, I am reminded of how violent and painful bulimia is. Yikes.

  2. Your words breathe life, freedom and hope. So very brave to bring light to that dark place. Praying that God fills every crevice in your being with healing and hope. I bet you will save lives with these words (not that your experience was meant for that). But we are all broken in some way. Big, big hugs to you. I am proud my son has your namesake!

    • I always do a double take when I see his name! Then I stare for a long time at what a great little guy he is and how wonderful you are for him and the world. For me. So thank you. I’ll take light and wishes for light and let them fill me up so I can leave that other stuff where it belongs: out of my hands.

  3. I’m in complete awe of your bravery. I’m also a little misty-eyed reading of your struggle (shocking, right?!). Thank God for the bottoms we hit. It’s hard to be grateful at the time, but they are life-saving. xoxo

    • Sometimes I take all this for granted. Getting recovery at 19– slipping around until 21 when the grace really hit me– and then I remember what it was like and I can’t imagine that I ever have a second when I am not filled with awe and gratitude. But I’m still pretty impatient and selfish and narrow-minded. It’s good to remember where I came from.

  4. Thank God for bottoms. Each and every one of them. You are one brave lady, Outlaw Mama. And I love you to pieces. I love the line “one more great night.” How often my brain whispered the same empty promise … grateful for grace and people like you today. Beautiful, moving post.

    • Empty promise indeed. They don’t get any emptier than those old lies about drinking and puking. Thanks for the love. I can feel it all the way from your vacation!

  5. I was wondering if the stomach flew brought this on. Haunting piece – your words and images leave such an impact. Brilliant writing. It’s not exactly on point, but did you happen to read any of the “drunkorexia” essays written last week?

  6. I know how drained I was writing my short story The Butterfly Wish and I was only infusing tough emotions, not actual experiences of my own. You are so brave to open yourself up this way. Beautifully written (as always) and brutally honest…not only with others, but with yourself. 🙂 Great job…again.

  7. Wow! That was so powerful Christy! Thank you so much for sharing. Don’t know if you know that I run an Ed recovery group. Would love to share this with my ladies today, with your permission. I know that only through having the courage to be honest and vulnerable does the shame lift and the healing begin. I have seen so much strength in my groups and am always awed and inspired! I just felt the same way now reading your blog.
    Thanks again!

    • Of course! I didn’t know you ran a group for that. How powerful! My healing definitely started when I joined a group. Took me a while to find my groove, but when I did, the healing took off. You are doing God’s work over there! It’s been over 20 years for me so hopefully your ladies can know that it’s possible– slow and steady, but possible.

  8. This had such a triumphant ring to it and I’m glad you’re in a healthier place. It disturbs me that to this day I still see anorexia as just one more thing I failed at.

  9. You. Are. Amazing. What a privilege and honor it is to be on the receiving end of your trust. Thank you for sharing with us and giving us yet another reason to love every bit of the beautiful, messy, awesome, imperfect that is you. And ourselves.

  10. I have chills from reading this. The pacing, the frenzy, the pain. The very poignant way that you describe your bottom. A haunting recount of a most difficult time in your life, for sure, with absolutely stellar writing.

  11. Oh Christie, I had no idea it all came to a head like that. What a terrible night. I’m glad that was it and that you are doing well now. You are brave for sharing all of this. And awesomely told, as usual. Hugs!

  12. Wow, I’m almost speechless. That must have been difficult to remember in such detail, but you sure did write it well. I’m glad that this is so very much past you.

  13. COT,
    What a journey you have had–I’m so happy you have found peace. Of course, I wonder what I could have done differently in those days to help but know I was lost myself. This was a powerful piece and very courageous. Hugs to you my dear friend.

    • Oh sweet friend! We would have had some fun until I went a little dark. Hugging you across the pond. Once we were lost and now we are found. Thank goodness.

  14. Hi old friend! I love your writings, but this one especially. I surrendered in 96 and am soooo grateful to be a friend of Bill’s. What a gift. Xo

  15. I’m glad to hear that you have gotten better. I had a close friend who went through this and it was not pleasant.

  16. So sorry that you went through this, but I’m so glad you overcame it and that you shared your experience with us. It’s great to bring awareness to eating disorders.

  17. Well, I never had an eating disorder, but “furious consumption” of alcohol was my best bud in 1994 too, so I guess I can partly relate to this. Very brave of you to share. . . very well written, emotional (but not melodramatic) piece. . . thanks for that!

    • Yeah, remind me not to do a piece like this for a long, long time. Too much internal drama and shame on the back end. And, thanks for relating. It helps with that shame hangover. There has to be something between the darkest of my nights and picking my kids’ boogers. I am still looking for that. Hence my muddled brand.

    • A few 24-hours of hindsight surely makes a difference. Now I only eat off my plate or my husband’s or my friends’ or my kids’. Well, I never eat off strangers’ plates.

  18. This was an amazing read. Thank you for your raw, well-written honesty. I bet it was difficult to re-live as you typed it, proofed it, and then hit that publish button. Brave and appreciated.

  19. I love you so hard.
    I love your honesty and I hope that this was somewhat therapeutic for you. I hope your stay at the bottom wasn’t very long and that you are enjoying every second at the top. 🙂

  20. “I was talking about my soul” wow…just wow. So glad you got over all this, but sad you had to go through it. The drinking part was me in college…a part of me I have only begun to open up about, a part of myself I have finally accepted and forgiven.

    This post of yours needs to make it beyond your blig, beyond yeahwrite as it is so poweeful, raw, real.

  21. Thanks for sharing your story. I struggled with heroin and anorexia in much the same way with 30 yrs clean this year. Congratulations and further success to us both. Thank God for each other (sponsors etc…)

  22. Oh, darling… What an amazing post about the chewy goodness in your middle. Thank you for the gift of you and for hitting bottom. And for hope and forgiveness and for being human. I love you for this.

  23. wow, the strength and courage to write that – I am so proud of you and I don’t even know you. I am glad you are recovering and able to share this – there may be a person out there who reads this and saves herself.

  24. Thanks for sharing this very private and difficult moment with us. I think that it shows how far away from this you are that you can write about it, and it is important for people to hear stories like this–real and raw. Lovely.

  25. What a story and I’m hugging you through the computer at the thought that you went through this. A brave tale so honestly and well conveyed. I’m glad you’re back at the top!

  26. This is such a brave story, and I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for you to write. Thank you for sharing this time of your life. I had no idea that you had gone through something as hard as this…sending lots of love your way.

  27. I meant to comment on this when I read it a couple of days ago. Ah maz zing. Thank you so much for sharing your personal experiences with us. So many people will be not only helped, but saved by your honesty and willingness to be vulnerable in such an open forum. Well one Outlaw Mama – you ROCK!

  28. Pingback: yeah write #103 weekly writing challenge winners: jury prize, crowd favorite, top row five and birthday gifts! |yeah write

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