We watched an interesting movie last night on Netflix – ‘Thanks for Sharing”, starring Tim Robbins, Mark Ruffalo & Gwynneth Paltrow. It was about addiction in many forms – sex, drugs, and alcohol – and prominently featured a 12-step support group for sex addicts. It got me thinking about my food issues – both the similarities and differences to the addictions featured in the movie.
The biggest difference is that food is the only addictive substance that you truly cannot live without. It is possible to be sober, drug-free and celibate forever – but you have to eat, otherwise you will die. I remember an analogy from my first attempt with Weight Watchers 15 years ago, when someone compared food struggles to having a tiger living in your house that 3 or 4 times a day, you have to uncage and take out for a walk. You can go cold-turkey and avoid certain foods, for sure – but you cannot stop eating completely. It’s a situation that has to be managed, because it cannot be eliminated.
The strongest similarity was that consciousness that you are only ever one bad day or one bad decision away from slipping back to square one. Mark Ruffalo’s character had 5 years of sobriety under his belt, but after a breakup left him feeling emotionally exposed, he quickly found a prostitute to numb his pain. Tim Robbins’ character found himself at a convenience store checkout asking for a bottle of bourbon, after not drinking for 20 years. Only a timely check-in call from someone in his support group kept him from falling off the wagon.
When I first lost 90 lbs in 2000-2001, I was successful at keeping it off for a number of years. In my over-confidence, I was big on proclaiming that I would “ALWAYS track my points” and “would NEVER gain it back”. But life has a way of intervening – add in 2 jobs and 2 kids and their associated stressors, and before I knew it, I was back to where I had started. It is an illusion to think that we have ever really solved this problem. We can only manage it with a greater or lesser degree of success on any given day.