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Up Binge Addiction Creek Without a Paddle

Being an addict is like drowning in a sea of…well..poop. Let’s just keep it “clean” because my mom reads my blog. Anyway, it’s like being up *that* creek without a paddle.

When I was actively participating in my binge addiction (read: feeding it), I was drowning in that familiar “geographical creek” we all know and hate…I was in way over my head. I wanted help, but knew that no one in their right mind could understand:

  1. why I was even IN this pooh-pool to begin with
  2. why anyone would willingly venture in to save me
  3. why I thought I couldn’t get out by myself
  4. why I thought I deserved to be there
  5. why it looked like I was “enjoying” myself (many believed I had obviously “chosen” to be there.)

That last one is tricky, but it’s unfortunately a common perception about addicts (that they choose to remain addicted, despite the consequences), and while that is true (on a primal level), perhaps they are there because they don’t BELIEVE they can get out of the muck (if they even deserve to).

I don’t presume to know the answer to that one, but stick with me because this is going to get a little DEEP…

That Geographical Creek We All Know

At some point along the journey toward recovery, every addict is faced with the truth of his or her circumstances and is forced to decide what to do about it. Many will choose to do “nothing” (in other words, keep drowning), but others will decide that they WANT to be saved, even if they aren’t sure how or IF they can do it.

In my case, the moment presented itself post-surgically, after the honeymoon, when my ghrelin (hunger hormone) returned with a vengeance. Up to that point, I was convinced that, thanks to my excellent new behaviors and habits, I had kicked my carb addiction to the curb and would never have to do battle with it again. Why would I? I had no cravings and just felt…great.

How wrong I was.

You see, my addiction was NOT strictly physiologically (chemically) based…nor was it strictly psychologically (behaviorally) based . It was environmentally, conditionally, reactively and habitually based…which meant that, to simply “fix” one aspect was not to address the full scope of the problem. Thus, *just* removing the physical craving wouldn’t eliminate my addiction, especially if I wanted to transfer to something else (like shopping or drinking). Ultimately, an addict is an addict is an addict and, as I like to say, you can be addicted to pocket lint if you want because it’s not the substance; it’s the behavior.

Meanwhile, back in the muck, with my old foe back in my face, I was struggling to remember to at least keep my mouth closed while drowning in my addiction — something I failed at much of the time. And then one day, I removed myself from the sludge and struggled to the shore.

There I stood..stinky, sad, weakened and afraid. Until something caught my attention: RECOVERY. Yes, recovery. It was a shining city…on the other side of poop creek. It was HEAVENLY and sparkly and there were lots of happy people there. I wanted to be one of them…but I wasn’t sure how to get there.

“There MUST be an easy way to cross,” I reasoned. “They must have crossed a bridge or flown in a helicopter,” I surmised. Obviously, they hadn’t waded through that body of filth to get there because…they all looked so clean!

So, I spent time studying the creek and the island of recovery on the opposite side. I looked at the creek, and I squinted at the land of recovery. I yelled to the people on the other side, “Can you help me cross?!” I asked. “How did you get there?” I called. Each of them answered the same way, “You can’t get here alone, but no one can do it for you.”

What in the world? Was I living some Buddhist Parable??? Were they telling me that salvation from my binge addiction would only be found in some imponderable mystery?

In a word, “Yes.”
In another word, “No.”

I hollered again, “Can I get to the other side of this creek?”

The answer was unanimous (and loving): “YES! You can do it in just 12 little steps…”

Ugh. Not THAT. Anything but THAT.

So, I tried it my way. I walked up and down the shoreline (wasting at least 1,000 steps)…looking for a narrow spot in the creek where I could wade across and not be swept away by the strong current of addiction.

It didn’t exist.

I fashioned a canoe of ignorance. But I lost my paddle, found myself in rough waters, overturned my boat, and found myself back in WAY over my head.

Eventually, I realized that there truly was only one way for me to cross the river of addiction and get to recovery isle: I would have to follow the steps…just like everyone else had.

I began with the ones I already knew and quickly found myself waist-deep in the goo. And then I decided that I didn’t need *all* of the remaining steps, so I tried to just dog-paddle the rest of the way. No luck. Nearly drowned. Again.

I tried again. This time, I closed my eyes, held my breath and waded in…I was there for what felt like an eternity. Until I got so scared I had to turn around and go back to the place I knew…sure, it was addiction, but it was comfortable. I was familiar with it. I knew what it felt like, and, even though it was yucky, I remembered the “good times…”

And then something strange happened…I came to the sickening realization that, before I’d given up on myself that last time, I‘d nearly made it to the other side. Did you hear me? I had ALMOST MADE IT, BUT HAD GIVEN UP. Why? Bbecause my eyes were closed and my nose was plugged and I couldn’t see how far I’d come. All I knew was, I was over my head and wasn’t sure if it would get deeper before it got better. So I cut and run. I was more than halfway there when I turned around and came back!!!

Exhausted (and disgusted with myself) I called out to my new friends, “HEY! Why didn’t you dive in and save me? Couldn’t you have dragged me to the other side with you?!”

They calmly whispered, “No. You must do this for yourself,”

This made me very cranky…so I pouted a bit and acted out (like a 5-year old) and drank stuff that I shouldn’t (cappuccino martini anyone?) and ate stuff I didn’t need (I’ll just have one…) and felt…miserable. What was wrong with me? Why weren’t the old ‘tricks” working? Why didn’t I feel BETTER (like I used to?)

Easy: I tasted recovery…I saw what it looked like and knew that I could never be truly happy unless I lived there.

Back into the brackish sludge I went. Taking the familiar steps. Plugging my nose. Closing my eyes. Shutting my mouth. One step at a time. And one day…I noticed that my head was above the muck and the grime. I was emerging on the OTHER SIDE OF THE CREEK. I was nearer than EVER to recovery.

And I stopped. Dead in my tracks.

What if I can’t make it? What if I get there and then fall back into my addiction? What if…? What if…? What if…?

There I stood. Muck up to my ankles, stinking to high heaven, shivering and weak…but then…I looked back over my shoulder at the life I’d lived in addiction. In that moment, I realized that I couldn’t go back. Oh, I don’t mean it wouldn’t be “possible,” I mean that, emotionally, logically, rationally…experientially…I couldn’t do that to myself again. I knew the pitfalls. I knew the stench, the sickness, the despair. If I attempted to do the “familiar old things,” the price tag would be even higher than before, because I now knew exactly how much it really cost. Ultimately, it would just be foolish on every level. Talk about burning a bridge! There was only one way out; FORWARD. I had to go through it…to get through it.

You know what? With a deep breath of accountability and commitment, I took that final step and reached the island of recovery. It felt good. Unbelievably good. Peaceful. I exhaled…and then I waited. At this point, I haven’t ventured far from the shore, and the temptations of addiction still lap at my feet…BUT, I am committed to being healthy…to being here…to living with others who have shared my journey. To living a LIFE IN RECOVERY.

As I look behind me, I see hundreds of people who are also drowning in addiction. I see hundreds who don’t know help and hope exist, and I see hundreds who are trying to convince me they are “just swimming.” But, for every hundred who won’t ask for help…I find one reaching out for the answers. Looking for hope. And that is why I do what I do.

I now know what the recovering addicts mean when they say “you can’t do it alone but no one can do it for you.” I also know what they mean by, “You can’t keep it if you don’t give it away.” To maintain my recovery, I must share my news with all who will listen — and even more who won’t. Not because I foolishly believe I can “save” them, but because I know that, eventually, some of them will realize they can save themselves.

The moral of the story is this: Addiction is crap and it stinks. BUT — recovery is there for the taking, if we are willing to trust the process, wade through the stench, and reach the promised land on the other shore.

Are you in over your head? Are you afraid you can’t make it? Trust the process and keep moving forward. You might surprise yourself.


1 Sine { 03.07.13 at 7:10 am }

Love Love LOVE this!!!! It totally sums up the whole process. Man that pooh-mud is THICK. And yep it gets right up your nose (and various other places). And i LOVE that you said making it to the island isn't about not being tempted anymore, but it IS about being committed. Cari – post this on FB where everyone can see it.

2 bariatricafterlife { 03.07.13 at 2:13 pm }

Thanks, doll 🙂 You can “Share the Love” at the bottom of the post…Feel free to do that!

3 Sine { 03.07.13 at 9:08 pm }

done, done DONE.

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