An illusion and another face of cross addiction
Posted on 03/02/2011 by Yvonne McCarthy / 19 Comments / Leave a Comment »
Pictures tell stories yet sometimes the pictures are an illusion.
I love to be creative. The dress I was wearing was way too big and I just couldn’t bear to part with it so I played with the ways I could still use it in a photograph. To look at this image you can’t really tell the dress is huge. You also can’t tell that I haven’t had any reconstructive surgery yet. It is an illusion.
Women who are covering parts of their body can be very industrious. I remember thinking I was a master of disguise but that could have been delusional thinking because I probably wasn’t hiding how I was feeling under the layers of 4X shirts. As much as I tried to cover my obese body for thirty years my insides were screaming “I am ugly and everyone knows it!”. I was sure that every mean person treated me that way because of my size. (I was wrong about that…sometimes people are just mean.)
This picture was taken about a year and a half after surgery and I was ecstatic because I felt normal for the first time in my life. In those days “after care” didn’t exist and I was totally on my own. I assumed after I had surgery that I was supposed to lose the weight and be at goal forever. There was no one to say “way to go” but since I didn’t know any difference, I didn’t miss it. On the other hand I am so grateful I didn’t have anyone tell me that I would fail or that I had the wrong surgery or that I would gain it back so I followed all the rules and got the results I expected because I totally believed in the outcome. I didn’t even have to hear “*results not typical” even though they aren’t. I accepted my role, ignorance was bliss, and I didn’t consider it hard or easy…it just was what it was.
Part of the reason I have worked so hard to stay at goal was because I was afraid of what lengths I would go to if I were to regain my weight. My history of diets wasn’t pretty so why would it be any different this time around? I didn’t want to return to any of my previously mega unhealthy methods so I worked my program every single day.
Recently I got a message from someone who is at goal but has paid a terrible price. I have gotten several of these lately and there is no doubt that “regain messages” outnumber the ones I’m about to discuss. Like most actions that are associated with shame, this behavior hides in hush hush places and no one wants to talk about it openly.
We all know that many post-ops are set up to cross addict if we are not careful but the majority of stories are usually about those in the throes of chaos, the ones that have hit bottom….not the day to day present day functional addicts.
One email was from a woman that begged her bariatric doctor for diet pills to fight regain and now she has built up an immunity and it takes more and more of them to get the same affect. She didn’t want to go into detail about how she was getting more pills from another source. Another lady has turned into a full fledged bulimic and another has become anorexic. The last one talked about developing a $150-$200 a day cocaine habit.
This post is dedicated to awareness about the seemingly successful post-ops that have chosen something horribly unhealthy to stay at goal. Some of them are fighting monsters that no one knows about. It is never fair to assume things about anyone and I think through my blog and facebook page that many post-ops have figured out they can trust me so they share some of their darkest secrets. There are so many of us that need a safe place to fall…. where we aren’t afraid of being judged. Some of us are so busy pointing out what’s wrong with everyone else that few are willing to trust anyone long enough to ask for help. And for those that have no resources for therapy, I hope this opens the door for those that have written me and felt left out. Perhaps some of the professionals in the field will hear your voices and work to develop even more strategies to help those in need.
Regardless of who we are, all of us are doing the very best we can each day. Take a moment to reach out a helping hand because you never know who needs it the most… that seemingly healthy “at goal” post-op might just be an illusion. If you have access to therapy, use it. If you don’t, there are many good programs that are free of charge. Reach out to someone you can trust because together we are stronger. Remember to always pay it forward because it helps us in the long run and most importantly…. never forget where you came from.
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Who is Bariatric Girl?
Musician, Artist, Photographer,computer geek and weight loss surgery aficionado. On March 30th, 2001, I had weight loss surgery weighing in at 260 pounds. Since that day I have lost and maintained a 130 pound loss. Yoga and walking my dog were the only exercise I was getting until I started with an instructor and creator of "Body Juggling". Click on the picture on the bottom of this page and it will take you to the site. Read More »
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19 Comments on “An illusion and another face of cross addiction”
WOW. Leave it to you to bring light to a Veteran like me. My 7 yrs out I have seen so many stories that are all different. I never ever thought of it from the views you just wrote. One of the most profound views you gave, that never entered my mind was the WLS person that is at goal and doing whatever it takes to stay there and not go back to that hell they came from. Again, thanks for all you do to continue to help the countless people you do every single day. Love you
Kathy it was a bit of a surprise to me really and that’s why I wanted to post something. Those messages came really close together. It’s just a reminder that so many of us have demons and just because we got surgery doesn’t mean they are gone.
So true, most of us face things post-op that aren’t always shared when in fact it would probably do us well to share with others that get us.
I continue to go through things I never expected.
Yvonne thanks for being real and helping so many in so many ways.
This stuff needs to be talked about—it’s part of the whole thing nobody talks about it.Talking is healing for us—-we should have a video/skype live chat roundtable meeting just some of us gastric heros and talk–let people talk.Penny for your thoughts—-Mike
Incredible post! It’s so true that just because someone has met their goal weight may not mean they are doing well! I grew up in a house that looked good from the outside but on the inside, life was pretty chaotic. I then went on to repeat the same “everything looks good from the outside” life for myself as a young adult. I feel extremely blessed to have messed my life up enough through my own “invisible” addictions that I ended up in therapy and outpatient treatment. My life began then. Please continue to your readers to get help in whatever way they can! There are numerous free counseling services in every community. Take responsibility to get whatever help you need! As I learned, there is no shame in having problems… there IS shame in not doing anything about your problems! It’s scary to take the risks to get help – but when you get HELP – your chances of getting HAPPY are much better than simply arriving at a set point on a scale! Thanks, Yvonne for all you do!
I grew up in a family that was intensely private and until my brother’s mental illness forced us to open up we didn’t realize how many problems there were. I was given a test for co-dependency before I even knew what it was and the only reason I didn’t score 100% was because I probably lied on one question just to look good. I think we feel so much pressure to not return to our formerly obese selves that some of us will do anything to stay thin. It is not unlike the “normal” population that develops eating disorders for the same reasons. I think the difference with WLS’ers is that we know full well what it is like to live obese and it is not only scary enough at the thought of going back but there is the added shame that we will feel like we have yet again failed. It was only when I looked at how I expected outside things to make me happy (and they didn’t) that I was able to start to heal from within. If I learn to live in the moment I don’t have to reach for a coping mechanism to numb the feelings and pain. I am still learning to feel the feelings and work through it and most of all reach out to others so I can get out of my crazy head as much as possible. Thank you Connie for stopping by and thank you for what you do for the WLS community. If we could just clone you we’d have it made. For those that don’t know…Connie is Dr. Connie Stapleton. You can find her blog at: http://conniestapletonphd.blogspot.com/
Beautifully written Yvonne! You “know” how I feel about this issue as I just did my own youtuve video on it and it’s what brought “us” to communicating… xxoo~nicole
You are so right Nicole AND I got a beautifully painted canvas out of that communication. I will treasure it forever! (Nicole is a talented artist)
AWESOME blog from an AWESOME gal!
As usual, you and I are on the same page. I just reposted something I had written a year ago called “Bariatric B.A.S.E. Jumping” — in the article, I talk about the ways people take great risks in their Bariatric After Lives, just like people who stare death in the face in order to feel more alive. Let me know if you’re interested in reading it. I suspect you will see studies on the same theme. PS — Eloquent as always on your part; both photo AND blog :-*
I remember that post! And you are welcome to link it (or anything here) in the comment section. Thanks for the kind words! Muah!
I had my surgery 7 days ago. I’m home recuperating.
Thank you for your blog and your post. I’ve reading some blogs from people that have gone through bariatric surgery without identifying until I read your post. I understand now the principle of cross addiction. I’m a compulsive over eater and bulimic. All my life I battled my weight through diet and exercise until 4 years ago when i reached my highest weight at 248 pounds and had lap band surgery. I lost 130 pounds over 10 months but had an infection and the band twisted closing the valve and distending my esophagus and I had to have emergency surgery to remove it. I always enjoyed drinking alcohol socially, but once the lap band was in place, and I couldn’t eat lots of solid foods for comfort as I use to, i started drinking more and more alcohol. I would prefer the calories in red wine and avoid food altogether. When the lap band was removed i went up to a healthy weight (I was 20 pounds under the ideal weight for me at the time) and was able to maintain it for over a year. My alcohol intake increased however. It was my source of comfort then. I switched from food to alcohol. Maybe you can understand what the normal world can not, that I really wasn’t conscious of doing so at the time, as impossible as it sounds. I started exhibiting full fledged alcoholic behavior and gained another 20 pounds. About a year and half ago I hit bottom with the alcohol and after what turned out to be my last blackout my family forced me to go to and addiction therapist. I’ve been sober for 16 months and as an alcoholic in recovery i adhere to the total abstinence approach of AA, but now I reverted to food for comfort and have gained 40 pounds more through sobriety.
And thus I decided to have bariatric surgery to stop what seems to be inevitable weight gain. I had gastric sleeve surgery. I’m in the first week on this journey and I’m very vigilant and somewhat scared. Reading about other people that have switched their food addiction to diet pills, cocaine and bulimia in your post helps me immensely. I need to be aware of myself and my capacity for self destruction. Thank you so much for your post.
I can’t tell you how many times I have seen people in AA gain weight because they cross addicted to food and then had WLS. It will be indeed interesting to see if that succeeds in reducing their need to self medicate because they’ve worked through the root cause of addiction or will they cross addict again? I believe we do have a capacity to self destruct but I think it is more from the standpoint of using an external source to numb our pain, not feel our feelings and delve into therapy and our family of origin issues. My heart goes out to you but it seems you are going into this next phase with your eyes open regarding the addiction. It was not so many years ago that alcohol addiction was seen as weakness instead of a disease. There are still many that believe obesity is weakness too. Congratulations for every single day of your 16 months of sobriety. I believe in AA, OA and the twelve step approach in general. I’ve seen it change lives. I’d love to hear how you’re doing down the road and THANK YOU for your response. I do understand everything you said…more than you know. Many blessings Maria. Hugs, Y
Thank you Yvonne so much for your response. I’ll be checking this blog often and I’m reading the archived posts. Again thank you for creating and maintaining this blog. In the AA program a cornerstone of sobriety is working with other alcoholics. It keeps us sober to help others achieve sobriety. I thank you again for working with others, like me.
I’m a month out from my gastric sleeve procedure as of today. I don’t have any scales in the house because of my history of dieting nightmares, but I can tell my clothes are looser, and friends tell me my face looks thinner. It’s an odd feeling to finally be losing the weight after all these years of failed diets. I’m going to do everything in my power to maintain this weight loss.
It is truly by the grace of God I came across this site…I’m about2 mos. pre-op and I am in all of the following that only you and your readers would ‘get’: Isolation for over twelve years, missing the best parts of my own and my daughter’s (age 27 now.) At age 56, I live in a very nice low-income housing facility in a ‘good’ area…it’s all I can afford because I gave up a bright professional career of almost 20 years. You had to look like you stepped out of ‘Vogue’ ever day,which in those years I loved. But every single day was a struggle. My key addiction has always been food. in any and every marathon weight loss adventure, I alternately smoke, go to alcohol, go to every-single-second of needing an iced tea in hand once the crossover from alcohol kicks in. The hell of it, hell of it all is that I am a natural beauty. Even heavy, I still get second glances from strangers A blessing and a curse depending on what the scale says. I am going to return to OA since reading your blog the last few days. I will probably do the surgery as it is life-saving at this point. But I want you to know until I read up on this site, I was in total denial…no ‘chute packed, just eyes-wide-closed. It is astonishing to me that none of these weight loss shows, bariatric sites, ‘pop’ guys like Dr.Oz–NO ONE IN ANY PUBLIC ADDRESSING MORBID OBESITY brings up the addiction components. I congratulate you, Yvonne, for just keepin’ on and thank you all for talking it straight. jenny [email protected]
I so understand the isolation…I did it forever. By the way I’m 56 too! When I first started talking about addiction several years ago I was notably snobbed by many professionals and that’s OK because it was not what they were taught. I saw a lot of addiction in my lifetime and I recognized the classic symptoms. The medical field as well as the general public is slow on understanding food addiction. They didn’t even understand alcohol addiction until some 30 years ago. They all assumed the alcoholics/drug addicts and food addicts were weak. They are just starting to scratch the surface on some shows like “Heavy”. They at least understand how important a therapist is to someone in that position. The others like Dr. Oz etc still deal with the stigma of weight loss surgery like it’s some easy way out. I struggle every day but it is manageable because I work on what causes my addiction. I think it is an excellent idea for you to go back to OA. I hope your OA group will be one that supports WLS post-ops. That’s a whole ‘nother story. Let me say the surgery saved my life and returned me to a better than normal life. Yes I am a food addict but I would rather fight the demons at the size I am now than at 260 pounds. Doing this blog and showing up at events keeps me accountable….otherwise I might slip back into that isolation far to easily. Thank you for your kind words. I think you’re armed with some good starting information and if there’s anything else I can do please let me know. Going to OA will give you some insurance when you do the surgery. I’d love for you to actually read some more of my blog about eating and cravings. I don’t blog every day…mostly when something special happens or I find a need to share something important. Good luck Jenny…you deserve to have a life and mine started when I had surgery ten years ago. It’s never too late to decide to live.
Hi Yvonne.. just wondering what type of bariatric surgery you had done.
I had Open RNY (gastric bypass) because it was my only choice ten years ago. I have many friends that are great successes with every kind of surgery out there. I truly believe that I would have made it work no matter what kind of surgery I had because I was ready for my last chance to work.