Food Addicts’ Drunk and Impaired Driving

by Kay Sheppard, LMHC

Sounds strange at first — drunk driving by food addicts. Early in my recovery, my sponsor talked about “walking around drunk on sugar.” She never mentioned driving around drunk on sugar, but over the years I have met many food addicts who talk about drunk and impaired driving experiences associated with food addiction.

One of my friends in recovery was stopped for drunk driving when she was having a hypoglycemic attack. Of course, she was never convicted, but she related that she knew she was drunk on her “drug of choice,” which was refined carbohydrates. When she went into withdrawal, her blood glucose level dropped and she suffered symptoms of dizziness and disorientation which affected her driving, leading to being stopped by the police. Since this was considered a medical problem rather than an addiction problem, she didn’t have to appear in court.

Another food addict told me of an extreme injury related to eating ice cream in her car. She dropped her sundae on the passenger side. Leaning over to retrieve it resulted in an accident which put her in the hospital for many months. She paid a high price for her food addiction, including many months of pain and rehabilitation.

A laxative-abusing addict tells of driving home in distress, exceeding the speed limit, turning corners on two wheels and screeching to a halt — all because she had to rush to get to the bathroom in time. This happened over and over until she found recovery. Another purging food addict, who used ipecac to induce vomiting before work in the morning, drove with a bowl under her chin to catch the vomit because she wanted to get to work on time. These are certainly cases of distracted and drug-influenced driving.

I recently heard a food addict describe her drunk driving experiences under the influence of food substances. She always hated to drive her car for any long distance trips. After getting into recovery, she experienced new insights about her driving. She came to realize that she hated to drive because she had been falling asleep and passing out under the influence of binge food substances. She would fight to stay awake in order to keep her car on the road. In abstinence from binge foods, she was clear-headed and focused on her driving. She no longer hated driving; only drunk driving.

Binge foods can also make us angry, irritated and aggressive, which affect driving and result in permanent injury to ourselves and others. A woman who was active in her food addiction made an aggressive move in her company automobile which resulted in suspension from her job. She was lucky — such situations might lead to death and permanent injury as well.

Let our new slogan be “Drive abstinent! Drive safe!”