Addiction…my bitch

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Sitting here listening to Red Table Talk, “Kelly Osbourne Comes Clean” episode, and “wow” what a great reminder of the power of addiction. There are so many great quotes that I could not help but share and re-numerate on the hold it has had in my life through her story.

In my life I have known addiction, personally, intimately, and compassionately. I come from a long line of drinkers, fairly stated more honestly, alcoholics. I was never going to be a drinker because I hated everything about it in my young life and still to this day the smell of beer takes me to a place that turns my stomach. However, my drug of choice was food and in that addiction, I managed to reach 274 pounds with more co-morbidities than I could count on two hands.

Addiction in my opinion, is a personality trait. Many people have addictive personalities that never spin out of control and the trait instead serves as direction and drive. For others, and what you hear most when the word “addiction” is used, the trail of destruction it leaves in its path ruins lives, theirs, and everyone around them. I can relate to both.

I love that the first thing Kelly Osbourne notes is that she “…made it all the way through the pandemic…” without alcohol, which speaks to survival. Daily survival without the addiction, rearing its ugly head, feels like success. This feeling breeds a sense of confidence that “…you are normal, and you are going to prove to everyone that you can do this…” thing that you have avoided, you are cured. You tell yourself one drink can’t hurt anything and then one becomes two, three, TEN. The lie that we tell ourselves that we can have one drink, one bite, or one of anything that we are addicted to, leads to a spiral down the rabbit hole of self-harm and hatred. You sober up and come to grips with your reality “I did it again” and “Now I have to start over” which then leads to “Well since I have already fallen “off the wagon” I might as well _______________ (fill in the blank).” “Normal” is not a thing for anyone with addiction relative to the substance that addicts them. The new “normal” is the process of avoidance of all that has control over you and in building a resolve that can never waver.

Kelly noted that she “let go of her tools” of those things that help her “stay clean every day”. This is always where it starts. We fool ourselves into believing something is more important. It takes work to work the tools that keep it all together every single day for the rest of your life. Staying in control of your addiction is paramount to your survival. It is knowing this that becomes your number one responsibility, to protect the place where self-care lives as your FIRST priority and put all else second.

Kelly notes that some of her “insane thinking” included the idea of getting “pregnant because then she would have to stop drinking”. It is where self-care is absent that we search for the “reason” to stop. That is when we are not reason enough. In my life I remember the same fucked up thinking where a diagnosis of diabetes or high blood pressure would now be the “reason” I would give myself to get serious about my food addiction because the threat of death would set me straight; until the drama of it all would wear off and I would live to eat again. It wasn’t enough to stop for myself or my family; it had to be life-threatening. It had to be dramatic. Addicts live in the drama. It is always life or death until it is death-defying.

Kelly notes “I make everything more difficult.” Yes, WE do. Nothing can be done without it being painful or wrought with effort. Addicts are people-pleasers trying to solve for everyone around them and as Kelly noted she “Drained herself (through helping others) and left nothing for herself.” It is through failed attempts to solve for everyone and everything around you that you finally realize and are forced to answer the question of “How are you going to help someone else when you are all messed up?” Addicts are addicted to everything and codependency is where we find our value. Tell me I am enough, tell me how much you love me, validate me for I am not worthy without your judgment.

The climb out of addiction is hard. “You have to get honest with someone” that can understand the power of addiction and is able to handle your vulnerability. The second part of that statement is profound because as Kelly stated “I tell too much truth” and “You cannot have a conversation with someone that understands…if they are not an alcoholic (or addict)”. I have experienced this so many times with those around me that would simply solve for me by telling me to “Just stop”. JUST stop eating. JUST stop thinking. JUST stop worrying. JUST stop doing. If it were only JUST that easy.

In true addictive personalities, there is no such thing as stopping. You don’t stop. You can’t stop. You learn to use tools to control, manage and live on the positive side of addiction. You also learn to be uncomfortable in the addiction as it is always there, looming in the background, pushing you to do the thing that feels right at the moment. And when we give in, after the instant gratification of that moment passes we are left stripped of our self-worth and confidence leaving us asking, “Am I good enough for help?” and doubting our strength because of the realization that “I have done this again.”

This interview was revealing. It was also a great reminder that addiction is “…so much more than not using.” If you are reading this you are not alone and if you are not addicted put this blog in your toolbox to serve as a resource for those addicted in your life.

I conclude with the final quote in the interview. The best gift you can give yourself is “The gift of giving yourself a chance.”

Life as I live it — L.

Eat Through It…

There was a time that everything could be solved with ice cream and cookies, macaroni and cheese if I needed something warm and the oh so wonderful and oxymoronic DIET Coke! Those days are 3.5 years behind me but the work is still in front of me as I continue to stave off cravings and the “want” that a pan of baked macaroni and cheese can elicit in me.

Food became a solace for me as a child as I would sneak cookies out of the house for my friends, as a teenager I would beg my mom to pick me up a Reeses Cup from the store and as an adult I would fill my own pantry with every single food I was not able to indulge in as a child. There are certain foods that bring me right back to my childhood, much the same way a song from my past can take me right back. Here are a few that you will NEVER find in my home today:

  • “The Rooster” for 15 years of my life the only cereal my mother ever bought was Corn Flakes (enter vomit emoji)!!! I can still see that box sitting on top of the fridge. Actually it might have been sitting there for years, they surely tasted like it!!
  • “Big 60” the horror!! Most kids grew up on Oreos, while we were lucky if my mom was feeling generous enough to buy my Dad and I a fresh pack of Big 60’s from Winn Dixie, the Beef People (enter eye roll emoji).
  • “Ice Milk” had me duped for years! Every night we would each get a bowl of ice milk. I savored every bite and would scrape the bowl to get every drop left…not knowing what I was really missing in not having Ice CREAM! Never fear Ben and Jerry and I made up for lost time!
  • Last but not least, 15 years of PB&J sandwiches for lunch every single day with a thermos of Kool-aid was my lunch box fare. I didn’t mind it except that she would put my pencils in my lunch box and therefore my pencils smelled of PB&J…it’s the small things people.

My mother was very health conscious long before it was trendy! She would not eat breakfast or lunch, only dinner and would exercise every single day. For this reason when she went shopping every week she would only buy dinners and for breakfast Corn Flakes and a loaf of bread for PB&J for lunches and that was it. I remember being hungry for much of my teenage years because by that time I could not stomach a bowl of corn flakes nor was I bringing PB&J to high school. When I would get home at the end of a long day, I was STARVING! The first time I remember shame surrounding food was after making a HUGE pot of white rice that I had heaped an enormous helping of in a bowl and then somehow managed to lock myself out of the house. Don’t ask why the heck I went outside after making my rice but I did. Needless to say I had to wait until my Mom or Dad got home to get back in because there were no cell phones and so I was stuck. When we entered the house and my mom saw the amount of rice I prepared she was floored. Who was that for? Why did I make so much? Who was going to eat all of that? YIKES! (Enter the onset of eating in private to hide what I was eating.)

As an adult eating became a centerpiece for everything I would do. I loved eating out and would as often as I could. I could eat amounts of food that to a “normal” person would make them sick; but not I. It was my happy place, my sad place, my desperate place and all places for my heart, soul and mind to resolve its matters. My weight started creeping up around 15 years old and that creep would continue for 30 years. At 45 years old I was 274 lbs on a 5’3″ frame. This was truth, this was my reality, this was my every day, this was life as I knew it.

The reality of this tale is that while I admittedly LOVE food this addiction (let’s call it what it was/is) was my way of coping with everything in my life. The good stuff was celebrated with food the bad stuff was resolved with food; there were foods for all occasions, emotions and stresses. What was eating me inside was consuming my life mentally, physically and spiritually. The problem is I could not point to what “it” was that was eating me inside out and so instead I would control the symptom rather than the cause. I would go on diet after diet after diet my entire life trying to solve the symptom of a problem that did not have a name. It was only in my final failure at Nutrisystem (a fantastic plan by the way!) that I realized I had to get to the bottom of this mystery and figure out what “it” was if I was ever going to STOP eating!

I found Randie, my second therapist in my life, just around the corner from work and so she became my lunch date a few times a week. I have blogged about Randie previously; she was the one that would call me out on my BS and finally get to the bottomless pit that was my gut. I remember going in to see her one day where she asked “how was the week” and what she was looking for was a recap of how my week went mentally, how I was handling the work at hand…but my reaction (because again everything revolved around food) was “well today I had a Slurpee and Doritos”, (enter angry emoji) I thought Randie was going to lose her mind…ha-ha! It makes me smile thinking about it. She said, “oh okay, so you want to talk about Slurpee’s and Doritos? Is that what this hour should be about…really Lori, it’s never been about a Slurpee or a bag of Doritos…it’s about you, so why don’t we start over”. That day, that interaction has never left me and you know what, we found “it” finally, we got down to the bottom of the pit and it was through this discovery and healing that I was ready to take on the final and last diet and forever be free of the weight!

You see with all addiction; food, alcohol, drugs, etc. it’s not about the substance; it’s about the root cause for the substance dependency. I remember watching the show Intervention on A&E and thinking to myself as I would listen to the journey of an alcoholic or drug addict that I felt the exact same way but my “drug of choice” was food. Socially acceptable, available around every corner…FOOD was the most dangerous substance anyone could abuse! It’s worth noting as well that you don’t need to be a food addict to abuse foods; every single one of us has stuffed our faces in a moment of stress, sadness, happiness, etc.

It’s fair to challenge you as I conclude to ask yourself “What is eating me?”. Is it work, home, children, past lives, self worth…what is “it”? You have to find the “it” to have resolve. You have to take your power back by controlling the cravings through doing what you KNOW how to do regardless of whether you want to or not.

OWN “IT” before it owns you! #Word