All roads lead to…

Working from home is a busy time, everything takes a little longer and checking on staff wellbeing requires extra effort, but I also have a lot of time to think. I was in Auckland two weeks ago and visited two locations of interest so needed COVID tests at days 5 and 12 and had to totally self isolate. Both tests have come back negative and, after 14 days, I can do Level 4 like anyone else. Yay!

Once I got the negative test result I went up town and dropped some stuff outside Tony’s ranch slider, then into Four Square to get a couple of things – hand sanitiser, mask and QR code of course. I saw some old friends while I was there, looking a bit overwhelmed. My instinct was to reach out to them. Yes, I’m one of “those” people; I’m a hugger. If someone is distressed I’m inclined to touch their hand or arm or, if I know them or have permission, give them a hug. Some of you might know “The 5 love languages” by Dr Gary Chapman. It’s no surprise my main love language is physical touch – it’s how I show love, concern and caring. Fortunately I’m sufficiently empathetic to recognise people who don’t want to be touched, and offer them support in other ways

For someone like me physical distancing is difficult. (media tend to call it social distancing but it’s not – we can be social without being physically close). Watching people struggle with lockdown, and all that comes with it, makes me want to, quite literally, reach out. Not being able to stresses me. And it’s there the road circles back, as it always does…

I’m a very addictive personality and my drug of choice is food, but I’ve also struggled with other addictions. Thank goodness I never tried drugs! Dr Gabor Mate believes the root of all addiction is a response to pain, and one of the primary triggers is maternal deprivation. Mum was 40 when they had me and very sick; I was a 2lb 13oz prem baby who stayed on in hospital after she came home. They lived an hour’s drive away and had a business to run – through no one’s fault I suffered maternal deprivation.

When I had my consultation for weight loss surgery Dr Dhabuwala asked about my birth weight. At the time I thought it was an odd question, but he explained about the impact of infant formulas used in the 50s & 60s to quickly get prem babies up to a standard weight. I suspect he also knew about the research.

Lockdown makes me want to hug people, and deprives me of the touch of others. My pain response is that of all addicts; I want to self-soothe with my drug of choice – food. And so the cycle continues. Thankfully 5 years on from weight loss surgery I understand so much more than I did then and can fight back. But it is a fight, and a tough one.

Addiction; myth vs reality

We all know what addicts are like, right? We see them on tv, in the movies etc all the time. If you asked people what they know about addicts you might hear things like: they have bad teeth, they’re unemployable, they don’t look after themselves. Think again.

I’ve talked before about the fact I have an addictive personality. It’s one of the things that lead to me having weight loss surgery, and being warned by the weight loss clinic’s psychologist to be careful about addiction transfer. A surprisingly high percentage of women who have weight loss surgery become alcoholics because they transfer from food to alcohol. For that reason, I don’t drink – I’ve had 3 weak alcoholic drinks in 4 years.

I had a total knee replacement three weeks ago and it’s going well. The surgeon prescribed panadol and codeine and, when I went back for a check up, they increased the codeine dose because I’ve got bursitis in my hip due to walking differently now.

I knew there was a risk of me becoming addicted to the codeine, as I’ve been addicted to pain relief before. So I’ve been careful, and watching myself. At 3am this morning I suddenly realised – yes, you guessed it – I’m addicted to the codeine. What am I going to do about it? Not much for now, except to make sure the amount I’m taking doesn’t increase.

Once my knee is fully healed I’ll go cold turkey. It’s easier on your system to wean yourself off but I’d just lie to myself about how much I was still taking because that’s what we do as addicts – we lie to ourselves, and to others. We hide the wrappers, the receipts, the bottles…

Why am I telling you this? Because as a society we need to be more honest about the costs of addiction, and change what we think we know about addicts. I’m re-reading “In the realm of hungry ghosts: close encounters with addiction” by Dr Gabor Mate. It’s not an easy read but it gets to the heart of addiction (emotional pain essentially) and has some useful advice for people like myself.