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.

World Obesity Day

world-obesity-day-2018

Today is World Obesity Day. I have been obese – my BMI was 48. Normal weight range for my height is 62-70kg approx. On many charts I am still slightly overweight, and that’s ok.

Weight loss surgery saved my life, but it is not a cure. I am an addict and always will be. Some people would argue I am a “recovering addict” but I am not so sure. The struggle is real, daily, and hard. Bloody hard.

I have tools I can use, including my tiny stomach, and a host of psychological tips and tricks. The harsh reality, though, is my head craves the dopamine hit food gives me. Food is my best friend & comfort, and my solution to everything – shame, anger, boredom, tiredness and so on. Some days I won, some days I lose – some days I chose the dopamine hit.

A drug addict can survive the rest of their life without another fix, an alcoholic can avoid ever tasting alcohol again. I have to face my drug of choice – food – multiple times a day in order to survive.

Next time you see someone who is obese, please don’t judge them. They might be mortally ashamed (yes, fat shame kills us because we avoid the medical system). They might have already lost 1, 10 or 100kgs. They might be booked in for weight loss surgery or trying to fund it. They might have had surgery, regained the weight and are wondering if suicide is the only way out.

Obesity is not just about the food we put in our mouths. It’s about our society, childhood deprivation (especially of maternal love), environmental factors, poverty, and much more. Please don’t judge. Please do support.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

No, it isn’t easy

Trigger warning: abuse, weight loss surgery.

I’m still recording the lyrics I love, this time it’s P!nk’s (Hey Why) Miss You Sometime. No doubt she was writing about a partner but, for me, this could easily be about food. Yes, food – chocolate, savouries, ice cream. OMG Sante Bars!

 

miss you 20190603.jpg

I had weight loss surgery, three years ago this September, and have lost over 70kg. It probably saved my life. But here’s the thing – I’m still a food addict. Surgery is a tool, not a cure. The line “thousand nights I’ve said goodbye, almost lost my mind”. That’s me and chocolate. Chocolate is my answer to grief, pain, shame, embarrassment, loss, fear, boredom, loneliness; anything and everything.

For me, food does two things. It smothers my emotions, and I’ll do anything to avoid feeling emotions. I’ve lived most of my life carefully flat. And, as an addict, certain food gives me a dopamine hit and my brain lights up with sheer joy. That’s the hard truth of it.

On book I’ve read on addiction suggests pain and shame is at the heart of all addictions. For me, the pain and shame stems from low-level but damaging abuse as a kid by a friend of my father, and an abusive first marriage. Now’s not the time to write more about it, just putting it out there and parking it for now.

Despite the weight loss surgery, and a lot of work on “fixing my head”, maintaining a healthy weight will be a lifelong journey for me. If you think weight loss surgery is an easy out, think again.

And, to finish. I love people, love people’s bodies and think all bodies should be honoured – including fat ones. I don’t hate fat bodies, far from it. My father died of a heart attack at 65, Mum died slowly over more than a decade – my decision to have surgery was to try and avoid what happened to them, and a recognition that I could never lose weight on my own. I have *no* judgment of other people’s bodies.

Broken bits

Still recording the lyrics I love. Pink’s songs really speak to the part of me that’s a bit broken – the food addict who now knows she used/uses food to smother her emotions. The spot on her chin is from my mucky fingers! (oops…) This was done using Dylusions products, which are some of my all time favs.

my attic 20190508

Inner thoughts

When I’m getting ‘stuff’ out of my head I often use this Dina Wakley journal – it has 4 different types of media in it and I really like it. The writing on this is about my weight loss, the ongoing struggle to be in the right head space, and the reasons I eat as an addict.

caged bird 20190505.jpg