Going on a binge of some kind isn’t unusual. You may already have done so.
Extremes of experience often lead to extremes of behaviour. And that’s quite normal. When under stress we are likely to reach for those things that bring us any kind of relief. Usually, the quicker the better.
This is a time when being self-aware, or having people you trust around you can be extra helpful. Whether your normal ‘quick fix’ is alcohol, nicotine, drugs, chocolate, running or sex – you may have to monitor yourself for some time while navigating grief to stay safe.
Does it Matter?
Well…this is such a personal topic isn’t it? I’m not here to tell you how to live, I’ve had my own binge battles, not all of which I’m winning. This post is not to preach at you, but to offer ideas and support if wanted.
Our overall health will often take a dive during deep grief. We may not eat well or often, may use the stimulants above more often, and probably find it hard to get much quality sleep. Any small ways we can eek out something healthy for our body and soul is good.
Consider foods you can have easily available that are healthy, how you can include fresh air or going outside regularly and how to monitor the binge for less-great times. We have three daily planners that might prove useful. They are free downloads and factor in Sunny, Cloudy and Stormy Days.
Short Term vs Long Term
In the heat of the moment, short term wins will always be our first desire. It makes perfect sense. When we are managing grief, our self-control and self-awareness is likely to be far lower than normal. You may even consciously decide to allow yourself the momentary oblivion of bingeing. We are all just human.
These short-term moments of satisfaction have a place, but their short term nature means they are sticking plasters, rather than helping in the broadest sense. As our grief continues, we may be able to reduce times of binge, and add in longer term support.
Some types of binge have a more immediate health concern than others. If you are worried about your choices please ask for help, book a visit to the GP, call the Samaritans 116 123 (24hrs) or a specialist grief support line that will help you talk it out there and then.
None of this stuff is easy, and becoming reliant on your ‘win’ of choice can be part of any life. Grief is likely to highlight that reliance, and potentially increase it for a while too. Acknowledging what we are doing is Phase One. Then it’s time to do something about it.
Phase Two then, can only happen when we’re ready. Not when others think we are, or when they are.
It may be a fairly simple need to reduce our intake or frequency. This should be done carefully and with professional support if necessary. A planned process that’s slow but effective is better than going ‘cold turkey’ every morning and failing every night.
For example, you might just have one less cigarette/vodka/chocolate bar a day. Do that for a week, or until it becomes the new normal, then drop one more. Undoubtedly this takes time, but every step is forward.
Buying a smaller version may be possible, the can of cider instead of the two litre bottle. Limiting what’s available in the house works for some people, others couldn’t trust themselves with any size at all. That’s the self awareness bit that we need to tap into.
A small minority of people can do the cold turkey thing. Good luck to them, if it works for you then get it done.
Some people can see a problem ahead and are able to use prevention instead of cure. My husband boxed up all the booze in our house (we are not big drinkers) and put it in my parents loft. He knew if he got drunk one night, he’d get drunk every night. Such self-awareness and ability to stick to a choice (for over a year) is impressive and unusual. Most of us see things in the rear view mirror, after we’ve done them.
When a binge becomes an addiction is a tough call. Usually the line would be around ‘daily life’ or ‘functioning’. Can you function without that thing? Has your binge become a habit? How often do you binge, or for how long?
Only you can really, honestly, answer these questions. If a good person you trust raises concerns, then it’s probably worth a bit of attention. You may need professional help. Medical support is available for many substances and health concerns. Financial guidance is also available if your binge is shopping.
Managing difficult days
You may move beyond the binge, but find that certain days or dates send you back there. Again, it will be a call on how serious the binge is to your wellbeing, or those around you. Perhaps eating a whole cheesecake on a special occasion is just something you are going to accept for now. Perhaps not.
Distraction can be a helpful interruption to bingeing. If you only binge at a certain time of day, can you arrange other things to happen at that time? If you only binge when you’re alone, can you have a rota of good friends who call you at certain times? Maybe you need to take up a new hobby, or revisit an old one.
Having others around you can also be helpful, there is a support group for pretty much everything. Finding people you feel safe and comfortable around can help in lots of ways. It may be grief related, or something completely different.
Can you move from an unhealthy binge to a healthier option? Anything that takes over the ability to moderate our own behaviour isn’t good, but binging on watermelon is better than crisps. Breadsticks over vapes. Mocktails over cocktails. You get the picture.