In a single week, comedian Jamie Kilstein realized he was both an alcoholic and a food addict.
He has alcoholism in his family, and didn’t start drinking till he was legally allowed to. But then, he became a stand-up comic — a job that often pays in drinks.
“I was like, well, I gotta get paid somehow,” he tells NPR’s Rachel Martin. “I earned this.”
While alcoholism is a term most people understand, addiction to food can be a bit murkier. “After my first week of not drinking, I felt really proud of myself,” Kilstein says, “but I still felt like there was more.”
“I still felt that need to, like, self destruct,” he says. That’s when he realized he was dealing with a food addiction.
While human beings’ survival doesn’t depend on alcohol, it does depend on food. Kilstein says he could always find a reason to overeat, and it was more than just a love of food — he was using food as an emotional crutch.
“Literally, I’d just cooked a very filling, healthy dinner, and then an hour later, something happens,” he says. “And it can be something as little as some random dude on Twitter says, ‘You should go back to Russia because you’re a lefty commie,’ and then I go ‘What? I hate the Internet! I’m going to order Chinese food!’ “
Kilstein says his heart would race as he ordered food, and he’d end up ordering much more than he originally intended. After eating it all, he’d feel sick, but he’d talk himself into finishing because he thought feeling bad would remind him not to do it all over again the next day.
So far, Kilstein is managing his addictions on his own. He says there’s power in admitting his problems. “If you say, ‘I’m trying not to drink,’ your friend can still go, ‘Come on man, you can drink!’ And you go, ‘Yeah, alright, I am going to drink!’” he explains.
“But if you say ‘I’m an alcoholic,’ and your friend says, ‘Come on man,’ that friend is a horrible person. And that rarely happens.”