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Addiction After WLS: In the Crosshairs of Cross Addiction

Obesity is a Gun
Pointed at Your Head  

Don’t like guns? Don’t like that imagery? Good. You’re not supposed to – because there is nothing safe or pretty about obesity. It kills.

In case you haven’t guessed, this is going to be a very serious, but very necessary post. You see, I’m a straight shooter and I’m pretty fired up about a few things that I’m witnessing in the bariatric community. But don’t think that I’m taking aim at anyone in particular, because I’m not. I am simply calling the shots as I see them, and I absolutely know that anyone who ignores the truth will eventually have to face the charges.


If obesity is a loaded gun, then the caliber of the round in your gun is relative to the caliber of your obesity. Thus, if you are super-morbidly obese, you are looking down the metaphorical barrel of a .50 caliber, semi-automatic machine gun.

But it doesn’t end there. In addition to the “obesity” round loaded in the chamber, you might also have other rounds of ammunition – one for each co-morbidity. In other words, one bullet for diabetes, another for high blood pressure, another for physical limitations, and so on. Over time, some obese people will end up with a round in every available chamber, while others will end up with a single open chamber. Either way, the odds aren’t good because whatever that pre-op (or pre-weight loss) gun looks like, it’s pointed directly at your head.

I don’t know about you, but I spent my obese life hoping and praying that the gun “wouldn’t go off.” Every morning I squeezed the trigger and prayed for a misfire.

Am I on target with my description so far?

Finding Yourself in the Crosshairs

I know what you’re saying – what does this have to do with me? Well, keep your eye on the target because I’m going to make my point right now:

After gastric bypass surgery, I got to swap my high-caliber firearm for a smaller (less deadly) weapon…but I was forced to keep a single shot for obesity loaded in the chamber. In other words, though the odds of “survival” are much higher for me now, I (like every other post-op) will always be at risk for relapse. Which would be bad enough, except that…for many post-ops, the remaining chambers of the gun won’t stay empty; they will be reloaded with bullets like alcohol, smoking, promiscuity, gambling, or eating disorders; instead of someone else holding the gun, they’ll hold it to their own heads and bet they won’t pull the trigger. They’ll play the ultimate game of Russian roulette.

In other words, if you’re a post-op who drinks alcohol, makes poor food choices, indulges in unhealthy foods, doesn’t exercise, or generally ignores the program, then you’re fighting a duel between you and yourself – and that, my friend, is a duel to the death. Don’t tell me that alcohol isn’t a danger, because it is – especially for an altered body and an unaltered mind.

Knowing this, why would anyone rearm themselves with a loaded gun? I mean, knowing that we are truly given a second chance at life why would we be willing to throw it all away for a “good time”? It just blows me away to think about it.

Still confused?

If you’re wondering why I wrote about this today, I’ll tell you: This past weekend in Las Vegas, I saw a lot of post-ops with guns blazing. I saw people hoping they could keep dodging bullets – even as they squeezed the trigger on excess and addiction – and I saw new or insecure post-ops getting caught in the crossfire. There was a lot of drinking, gambling and overeating.

It was a bloodbath and there were casualties…which breaks my heart.

You see, I’m not bullet proof, and neither are you. Ironically, I will catch a lot of flak for daring to discuss a loaded subject like this, but I’d rather speak my peace and lose the battle, than be quiet and lose the war on obesity.

I had surgery to save my life; I didn’t have it so I could get drunk faster, or take a vacation from healthy eating, or pretend that good health will just happen. Unhealthy behaviors are unhealthy and trying to convince myself that “I’m entitled” or “I deserve it” or “I should and ought to” or that no one can tell me how to live”…are loaded ideas that will backfire on me. Every time.

Dodging that Bullet

If you have placed yourself squarely in the crosshairs by drinking, smoking, making poor food choices, hanging out with negative influences or pretending you’re wearing a bullet proof vest – it’s not too late to “unchamber” that round.

You and I bear the wounds of a common enemy. Obesity found its mark over and over in my life and I refuse to get picked off again. I hope you’ll join me and holster your gun.

Hitting the Mark

Not sure how? Stop shooting, take cover, and stop reloading your gun. If you are taking on shrapnel with cross addiction, depression, or even disillusionment, and can’t seem to hit that healthy target, please seek help from a professional, therapist/counselor, clergyman, family member or trusted friend. Stop self-inflicting your wounds.

We don’t need more casualties in the war on obesity. What we need is people on the front lines who aren’t afraid to stand their ground, so that those who fall in behind us will find shelter of their own.

Pulling the trigger

It’s your gun. Are you going to reload, retreat or recommit? That’s entirely up to you.



1 Nikkie { 05.25.12 at 2:29 pm }

Cari, you hit the bull’s eye! Good job! ~0:-D

2 Keith Downing { 05.25.12 at 2:31 pm }

Thanks for this post Cari. That was the BIG surprise after my WLS, was how addicted to eating I was. I just thought I ate too much (by choice). I was unaware, or unwilling to admit, that I was addicted to eating. Once that coping mechanism was taken from me by WLS, I found all kinds of other addictions were vying to take its place. One you mentioned took particular hold. I found it was more destructive in my life than my original addiction, and the scary part was (for a time) I didn't know that I wanted to get rid of it. The whole addiction thing was a real shock to me, because I never knew it had been a part of who I was.

Ultimately, I DECIDED to lighten up on myself about the eating addiction, take a few steps back and deal with the more destructive addiction, in order to keep my marriage, family and my life. When we say WLS isn't the "easy" way out, we really mean it. It has not been easy, but it's been worth it. I'm not where I want to be, but I'm certainly much better than I was. I also know I have SO much more work to do, but am reassured that I have to tools to help tackle that.

3 Betsy H. Kent { 05.25.12 at 2:43 pm }

Thank you Cari! I wasn't able to go to the Vegas gathering, but certainly saw enough of what you're talking about in Portland last fall. We need to always be on gard…cross addiction can sneak up on you without your awareness initially, and then for many the the denial sets in. There are times when we all need a swift kick. I'm grateful your shoes can do the job.
You are so loved by so many of us…keep it coming!!!

4 imcshe { 05.25.12 at 3:51 pm }

Great post. Interesting analogy, and certainly something to think about.

5 bariatricafterlife { 05.25.12 at 6:29 pm }

Thank you! Scary analogy for a scary topic. This really is “life and death” stuff…even though many won't agree.

6 Linda { 05.25.12 at 4:15 pm }

wow! thanks for a direct wake up call. It is so true about trading addictions and i can truly see where i battle daily. I posted on the first post about vegas and it has so helped me realize how i need to get back on track. Thank you!

7 bariatricafterlife { 05.25.12 at 6:28 pm }

I'm nothing if not direct — LOL. You know…the subject of transfer/cross addiction is really heavy and not fun, but it must be brought out of the shadows and into the light of discussion because people are dying — physically and emotionally — from the disease. i have watched people's lives RUINED from it and they always say the same thing: WHY WASN'T I WARNED? Well…I may not be able to help someone who has already made their decision about their choices, but I can certainly help someone who is unsure or hasn't “pulled the trigger” on it yet. That's my goal; to affect change for those who are open and ready — not to indict those who have already made their decision. I am glad you were inspired to get back on track — it's never too late to be healthy and in recovery from obesity!!! I believe that with my entire heart.

8 bariatricguru { 05.25.12 at 4:34 pm }


9 bariatricafterlife { 05.25.12 at 6:25 pm }

Thanks for the props, friend!

10 Karen Bribiesca { 05.25.12 at 5:08 pm }

Hi Cari! You are always spot on when these problems occur! You are so right about excess! It is never easy to see yourself as the one who is holding that gun. We must all face our demons at some point. Thank you again for your insightful, inspiring and so educational! Thank you for being you!

11 bariatricafterlife { 05.25.12 at 6:25 pm }

Thanks for reading and commenting my BBFF 🙂 It's a funny thing about this subject: When I talk about it, people accuse me of being judgmental and critical, but the reality of it is, what I said was NOT an indictment of anyone; it was clarification of the physical and psychological realities of life after weight loss surgery. Gastric bypass people are wired differently; we get drunk faster, sober up faster, and get DUIs faster than others. It is my job to call attention to this as dangerous behavior, not as “bad” behavior. I believe that many people are prickly about the subject of cross addictions in general (because they feel ashamed, judged, misunderstood, afraid), but it is such a destructive condition, I can't NOT talk about it…Anyway, hugs, hugs and more hugs!!!

12 Nanette { 05.25.12 at 8:49 pm }

Cari – It's unfortunate, but true. We wouldn't ignore someone saying they were going to commit suicide as we do seeing our friends and loved ones indulge in drugs and alcohol. This is a blog post worth sharing, repeating and talking about with every single person who chooses to have weight loss surgery. It's about getting serious about your health all around, every day, and without question making good decisions ALL THE TIME. If it's so hard for a person to make these changes, then they aren't truly ready to have surgery, but they are making the statement that they are ready to face death. I don't believe that to be truth. I believe so many people really haven't dealt with their demons and I truly believe that the ASMBS needs to seriously consider making mental health counseling a requirement for weight loss surgery. At least 12 hours, 6 hours prior and 6 hours post to help people really work through their issues. WLS is not a quick fix, it's a daily effort to stay consistent and healthy with your choices.

13 bariatricafterlife { 05.25.12 at 9:07 pm }

Amen, Sister Nanette! Amen!!! “The only thing necessary for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing…” (if I may butcher a famous quote). I will shout it from the rooftops and I will beat my drum and no one will ever be able to accuse me of fiddling while Rome burned. I will continue to firmly, but fairly share the information, and if it falls upon deaf ears, then I will fervently hope that others will still have ears to hear. Thanks for reading and commenting, and I would be honored for my words to be shared with other pre- and post-ops.

14 Frank { 05.25.12 at 9:22 pm }

I found this report from NYSNA (New York State Nurses Association)
talking about the increase in alcohol addiction in nurses after gastric
bypass surgery. The numbers are alarming….

15 Sine { 03.07.13 at 6:43 am }

Hey girl, this is great. So true. I've found myself craving things i haven't had in 12 years since getting WLS. It would be very easy for me to go back to other addictions since giving up food. It's a daily battle and one that we need to be aware of. Thanks 🙂

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