Ways they begin to imprison their captors

Once substance misuse and anorexia/bulimia have moved themselves into a person’s life the young women often begin to describe the voice changing from that of a ‘friend’ to that of a ‘captor’ that is relentless with its demands. The voice of substance misuse and disordered eating practices slowly begins to erode and override the young women’s voice. Substance misuse and disordered eating practices question their actions and shames them when they don’t follow the rules that they have laid out. These problems have been compared to that of an abusive partner, they start out nice and then they develop into something horrible.

So the voice of drugs wasn’t always a friendly voice then?

A: No. But it is in the beginning and then eventually it becomes the voice that you listen to because you haven't ever questioned it before. Like until that point usually.

C: In terms of the voices, are the voices of alcohol and drugs and disordered eating similar voices? For example, is one more caring than the other or do they take turns being caring?

A: No. Like at the beginning when you start not eating and you're happy, right, oh yeah, its like ‘oh my God you're so fat like just like stop eating already’, right. ‘Look at you, you're disgusting’ and everything like that. So both of them work over time. Like once they've got you, they've really got you and they think you know, ‘all right like now we can just lay it out just like it is.’

Did drugs and alcohol and disordered eating practices, did they talk to you in a voice of a friend? Were they mean friends?

A: Sometimes. Yeah, when you're looking in a mirror it's like ‘oh my gosh, what’s that, look at those thighs and what are you doing. Like you obviously haven't been exercising, you obviously have been eating way too much.’ Friends wouldn't say that but thoughts did. Then like if one day you are happy with what you see its like­–it's like the best friend you can imagine, ‘Like that's so good!

C: Yeah.

A: Or like if you were purging and afterwards ‘yeah, that looks better or you don't have to worry about that any more. That's gone.’


As a result of anorexia/bulimia and substance misuse people are removed people from their supportive/healthy connections and the voice of alcohol and drugs and anorexia can begin to take over their lives. They thrive in isolation because they have no one to contradict them. In isolation, they can tell her how she is alone because she is bad/worthless (leaving out the fact that the young woman is alone because of what the problems demands of her and the rules she has to follow). The problems can also offer consolation in that if the young woman follows the rules well enough, then maybe she will be good. Through tactics of isolation, the problems steal her away from the people and things she likes and loves and that sustain her. Soon, substance misuse and eating disorders become the loudest voice in her life.


Secrecy builds distance between the young women and her friends, family members and community and creates wedges between herself and her loved ones. Below Alexa describes how both problems began to talk to her in ways that pitted her against the people that had her best interests at heart. When this occurs, it can cause the young women to become further isolated from their communities of support and care and even more alone with the problems.

Were there ever tactics that disordered eating practices and substance misuse used to make you second-guess your decisions?

A: Like you’re not strong enough. The real you would be strong enough to be lying to these people. They’re taking over you, they’re changing you. You’re letting these people that think they know it all change you. They are taking away that special power you have over yourself.


The problems also use tactics of shame and embarrassment to further entrench and isolate the young women. Beth, Michelle, and Rachel speak about their experience with shame concerning their involvement with disordered eating practices and substance misuse below.

You can’t talk about it with anybody else because you’re so embarrassed and ashamed.

A lot of the times we're really ashamed of being addicted to drugs and having an eating disorder.

A: It spawns more and more of those things you want to cover up and you don't want to feel it anymore. Cause it’s so shameful and you feel so guilty and then your confidence is like ruined because you're like ‘Oh my God.’

This shame and embarrassment is a double-edged sword as disordered eating practices and substance misuse can use this experience to their advantage, promising to take away the discomforting feelings. They act as ‘saviours’ while trying to keep obscure how they have contributed to the development of these feelings of shame. Young women become trapped.