If ever there was a product of the 1970s era, I’m it. My dad was a rock star- a long-haired, guitar playing, hard-partying musician in leather pants who toured the country for gigs. And my mom was the pretty, soft-spoken bartender with feathered bangs and long legs that he set his sights on while performing in the bar she worked at. They fell in love, got married, and had kids (starting with me), or something like that. But while they settled down to raise their little family, they didn’t entirely leave their rock and roll lifestyle, or their hard-partying friends, behind. As a result, I’ve been exposed to drugs and alcohol, and people with hardcore addictions to both, my entire life.
I’ve watched more people than I care to admit battle addictions to various things over the years, from tobacco to alcohol to prescription pills to harder stuff. But even with all my up close and personal experience, I never really understood addiction. I’ve always prided myself on having common sense and self-control, and therefore could never comprehend how or why someone couldn’t simply STOP. Just stop. Cigarettes cause lung cancer, so don’t smoke them. Obviously. Alcohol is literally poison. Sure, a moderate amount can make for a fun night every now and then, but if you can’t control yourself and it’s costing you things like relationships, jobs, driving privileges- just don’t drink. Duh. Drugs- why? Just…why? Don’t start and you won’t have to spend years trying to stop. We all know that drugs are dangerous and highly addictive. Why risk it to begin with? Right?
Maybe it’s because I didn’t truly understand addiction that I wasn’t able to recognize it when it happened to me. Or maybe it’s because I did understand it, all too well, but chose to live in denial because it was easier. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink excessively, or even often. The only prescription drugs I’ve ever taken are ones that have been prescribed to me. And I don’t do drugs. But I am an addict. My drug of choice? Food.
I’ve been overweight my entire adult life. In my defense, I was pregnant when I legally became an adult, so I was already sort of set up for failure. But. Being that my youngest child is almost 11 years old, I can hardly continue to blame “baby weight” for my problem, now, can I? No, it’s absolutely, 100% my fault. Over the years, I’ve tried every fad diet on the market. I know which ones work and which ones don’t. But I also know, all too well, that every single one of them is a temporary fix. To lose weight and keep it off, you have to maintain a healthy lifestyle. That’s easy enough to do, right? Eat right and exercise. If those things were “easy” for everyone, we wouldn’t have an obesity problem in this country, now, would we?
Telling someone who’s addicted to food to “just start eating better” is like telling a smoker to “just get some of that Chantix stuff and quit smoking” or an alcoholic to “just go to AA and get over it.” It’s not that simple. I recently read a very well written article on militaryspouse.com that said it perfectly: “Imagine being addicted to heroin, and trying to quit…but still having to shoot up just a little bit of it every single day.” Think about it. I can’t just stop eating entirely. I can’t avoid food altogether. And I can’t expect my family to starve themselves because I’m on some new diet. I still have to pack school lunches and cook meals and bake birthday cakes. I still have to grocery shop and take the kids for ice cream after baseball games and let them have sleepover pizza parties with their friends. When you think of it that way, kicking a heroin addiction should be a piece of cake compared to kicking a food addiction (pun intended.) Heroin is expensive, illegal, and relatively hard to find. Food, though, especially unhealthy food, is EVERYWHERE. It’s unavoidable.
But I have to find a way to conquer my demon. I. HAVE. TO. It’s no longer about how I look, how I feel about myself, or wanting to set things on fire whenever someone calls me fat. It’s about getting healthy for my kids, and being around long enough to revel in the sweet irony that is being a grandparent. The other day, my doctor diagnosed me with high blood pressure. And within the next couple of weeks, she’s going to diagnose me with diabetes. I’m 99% sure. So is she, she’s just waiting on blood tests to confirm it. And I have no one to blame but myself.
Okay, that’s not entirely true. Genetically, I was already screwed. Diabetes runs on both sides of my family, even among those who aren’t overweight. So does high blood pressure. All the more reason for me to take better care of myself. But I haven’t been, and now I’m paying the price for it. The sickest part is, I think I always knew it was going to come to this. And I think this was the “rock bottom” it was going to take for me to start making changes. My wake up call, if you will. Like it often takes a drunk driving arrest to scare an alcoholic into sobriety, or a bout with pneumonia to inspire a smoker to quit, being diagnosed with possibly life-threatening illnesses that are directly related to my weight, which is directly related to my food addiction, is a game changer for me.
So….food rehab, here I come. I’m going to commit to food-free living in a food-free environment. I’m going to cut all of the people who eat food out of my life, I can’t be around that sort of temptation. Oh wait….those aren’t options? Well. Shit. Guess this might be harder than I thought…