Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The contempt and judgment of addicts

I am still reflecting on the TED Talk - a wee bit, but more of a jumping off part on how we show a lot of contempt in our society for those we feel don't have control over themselves. We are extremely judgmental.

We judge alcoholics who go back to drinking. Drug addicts who go back to drugs. Overweight people for overeating. Compulsive gamblers for gambling, etc. We, as a society as a whole, say, "you know you can't drink, smoke, gamble, etc, so WHY DID YOU???"

When Phillip Seymour Hoffman died, I felt tremendous sadness for him and his family. Not contempt. In my past, I would have felt contempt. I would have felt and said to myself, "Man... you KNOW you are addicted to that stuff! HOW and WHY did you go back to it? Seriously? How dumb can you be?"  And more, I would have thought, "Why in the heck do people try drugs when there is a risk of addiction?"

I remember when Robert Downey, Jr. was strung out. I liked him as an actor, but then lost all respect for him once I found out he was a drug user and addict. I was young and stupid and judgmental. Now... I have so much respect for him for cleaning up his act and getting clean. That is NOT easy and I do worry that at some point something will tip the balance and he will start using again and I won't feel contempt if he does. I will feel sadness for him and hope he can come out again, drug free.

With drugs though, you can at least ask, "why even start taking them?" We all know that they have potential for becoming addictive. We all know they can do bad things, so why start?  But see, we have a line in the sand that is artificial.  We say that about cocaine and heroine, but what about alcohol, cigarettes, coffee.

Don't we all know that alcohol can be addictive? Yet how many of us abstain from it? Don't we all know that caffeine can be addictive, but do we abstain? Why do we think it's OK to use one and not the other? Are we so meanly judgmental for someone admitting they are addicted to caffeine as we are to someone who says they are addicted to cocaine? Yet addiction is addiction. No one PLANS on becoming an addict. Just some forms of addiction are more harmful than others.

Then there is the contempt for the obese. No obese person wants to be obese. Ok, never say never, but very few people want to be obese! Just like no addict wants to be an addict. If it were so easy to eat less and move more, would we have the obesity epidemic we are having? You can't exactly tell a person, "You know food makes you fat, so stop eating!!!!" Hmmm...

Now, people get fat for a million reasons. Some of it is using food for comfort. Some is just not caring and eating whatever because it tastes good and some of it is just not being able to stop - like an addict is unable to stop.

A lot of people fall into that last category - myself included. Something is compelling us to eat.

For me it was the insulin in my body from the carbs in my diet that were telling me to eat. I cannot describe to you have strongly they "speak". Or how convincing those messages are to the brain are. I am convinced those voices are similar to a drug addict's voices. My brain is tricked into believing it 'needs' it. It says it's hungry. It says I need that cookie. At the same time there is another, weaker voice that is saying, "you've had enough cookies." "Do you know how many calories are in Oreos?"

But the other voice wins. It says, "Eh, eat that bag of Kettle popcorn. It's not that sweet and you can just not eat lunch to make up for it." Or, "OK, you can have as many oreos as you want. You just skip dinner." Yes, sure. Come dinner time I'm starving and eat a huge dinner. By then I'm also mentally worn out with fighting my brain all day to eat right, so I grab more crap in the evening just because I don't want to fight the mental battle any more. Those DAILY mental battles are exhausting. They are there. Every. Single. Day.

And that is why I have empathy for addicts where I used to feel contempt. I am sure that every time that life gets especially hard, that a quick hit is awfully appealing. And I'm sure every, single day they have to tell themselves, "No!" But once... they get weak and give in... and thus starts the downward spiral they might not ever get out from again.

Fortunately, I've found a way of eating that works for me that shuts down those awful voices - for the most part. Or, I should say, makes them the weaker voice - they never go away.  I just need to keep the insulin levels low in my bloodstream so that I don't hear those voices loudly to eat more sugar/carbs. And, to help with that, I need to get enough sleep, manage my stress, and manage my depression... Though... I'm not totally sure what causes what - does the bad eating cause depression or does the depression cause the bad eating? It's hard to tease out!

But with that said, I still need to eat. And like with addicts, those temptations will always be around. There will always be birthdays and holidays and snack tables, etc. And even with the voices muted with better eating, they are still there. They are there for everyone. "Oh, I guess a small piece of cake won't hurt." Says the typical person. "I'll just run a bit more today." And it will be just that - the one piece of cake and the run later. With someone who has sugar/insulin issues? That might be the plan, but eating that piece of cake could lead to a whole meltdown.

And that is why I cannot have contempt for the overweight and why I didn't even when I was at my thinnest 2 summers ago. Because I knew I was one cake away from being right back to where I started. That the only thing that separated me being thinner from me being fatter was how strong those voices got to be.

So, sure, you could say to me or any other person with insulin resistance, "Well, you know what sugar does to you, just don't eat sugar!" Really?" We aren't just talking about cake people. We are talking about bread. Like no more sandwiches with bread ever again. We are talking about pasta - no more spaghetti ever again. We are talking about potatoes and rice and such. Now, imagine going out to eat, or having a family holiday dinner without those things? Now do you get it a bit more?

Sure, some people aren't THAT sensitive, but for most of us, we don't know how much is too much to get us into a relapse - temporary or long term. Sometimes we can nip it in the bud after a day or a week or a month. It depends on a lot of other factors. Sometimes we never nip it in the bud again.

And relapse we do. No one had more eyes on her than Oprah Winfrey, but how many times have we seen her go up and down on the scale? How about Kirstie Alley? Or Jessica Simpson? These are people who have the biggest motivation in the WORLD to stay thin and all the money in the world to help them get and stay thin... and they STILL fell to their demons. They aren't weak. Their demons are just very loud and convincing and hard to keep at bay.

So, that means I know. KNOW that this will be a life long battle for me. I knew that 2 years ago. I knew that all the year I was battling the small up and down gains. But then, I gave in because I didn't have the mental stamina to keep fighting the daily choices of eating. And even then, every. single. day. I would say, "Today I'm going to eat better." And again, like the last time, it took a slap in the face from something outside of me to WAKE UP. Like an addict getting arrested - only then does he/she seek help when they had probably been meaning to quit/stop for months.

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