Survivor’s Guilt & That TV Show
Have you ever watched INTERVENTION on A&E? It’s a program where addicts, who are (ostensibly) unaware that they will soon be facing an intervention with their family and loved ones, are given the chance to go to inpatient rehabilitation to learn how to treat their disease. The ultimate goal is for the addict and loved ones to enter recovery together, but that doesn’t always happen. In the majority of episodes, the family doesn’t go to treatment themselves, even when they are offered a chance to attend the Betty Ford Clinic. Of course, this decision doesn’t help the addict, who often returns from their 90-day program to the same, unhealthy system they left.
As a viewer, it’s incredibly frustrating.
As a food addict, it’s downright frightening.
I don’t know about you, but when I watch that show, it all seems so clear…and so easy. I mean, you watch the addict and you think, “STOP THAT. JUST STOP IT.” And then you watch the family, and you think, “STOP THAT. JUST STOP IT.”
Meanwhile, the addict continues to abuse the substance while the family continues to enable the addict to do so, and the whole thing just makes you throw your hands up and yell, “WHY CAN’T YOU SEE WHAT I SEE???”
I can’t tell you how many times we’ve sat there (MexiKen, Hannah and I), talking to the television. We say things as if the people on the show can actually hear us: “C’mon! How could you possibly think you’re not an addict? Look at yourself! You need help! You can get better! Just say ‘Yes.’” And then we talk to the enablers, and say, “Can’t you see what you’re doing? Isn’t it obvious? You’re not helping! You’re part of the problem! Stop that!”
And then, at the end of the show, we learn whether the addict chooses rehab or not, and…we cry. We hear that music, and we just cry, because we hope that they will make it. Now, since we have a DVR, we always pause to take a round robin of everyone on the couch.
“So…did they make it, or not? What do you think?”
So often, we are wrong. And that’s great – as long as we thought they didn’t make it and learn that they did. It’s those times where we absolutely thought they’d make it, but learn that they didn’t…those are the times that make us really sad.
You know…it’s those words that scroll across the screen at the end of the show…with the sad music. “Jane left recovery after 15 days and has begun using again.” Or, “John was asked to leave the program after 29-days. He has returned to life on the streets. His mom continues to pay his cell phone bill.” Ugh.
It is tragic and frustrating to watch, because IT SEEMS SO EASY ON TV.
But then…I think about my own life. I think about the challenges of being in recovery from obesity. I think about my food addiction, and I realize that I will fight my disease for the rest of my life. I hope it will become easier over time, but for now, it is a daily job, just to stay in recovery…to stay on track.
I know that my own family and friends are willing me to succeed; silently yelling at me like we yell at the TV: “C’mon, Cari! You can do this! Just don’t eat too much of that, work out over here, stay on track, you look great!”
And, you know what? I don’t disagree. I CAN do this. I AM worth it. I DO look (and feel) great. However, it’s not that easy, as anyone who shares my struggle will affirm. There is a huge community of people who battle the same demons. Some battle obesity; others battle both obesity and addiction; most have chosen to treat their obesity through surgery, but many choose to ignore their addiction…
Why? Why not complete the treatment? Why not FIX the problem, instead of ignoring it??? Do they think that since no one can “see” their disease anymore, they don’t have to worry about anything else? I can’t say for sure, and won’t venture to guess, but I know this: Sometimes, I have Survivor’s Guilt.
I think the weight loss surgery community is cyclical, like the Lion King and the Circle Of Life. With each passing year, I see people disappear…evaporate…leave the community. The old king goes away to die. BUT, I see others join (a new baby is born!)
And everything is okay. For awhile.
People lose weight.
People regain weight.
People maintain weight.
People re-lose what they regain.
People develop addictions.
People get sick.
It feels like…INTERVENTION. I’m watching that show, and I’m screaming at my computer when someone doesn’t “make it.” I’m screaming that they can do it…not to give up…to be strong. I’m thinking…that could be me – There’s a reason, in recovery circles, they say, “There, but for the Grace of God go I.” There’s a reason they say “Easy does it,” and “One day at a time.”
It’s too hard to think 90-days down the road.
Heck, it’s too hard to think about tomorrow.
But, that Survivor’s Guilt. That’s how it feels to be the lone survivor in a plane crash. Obesity is my plane crash…it’s devastating and deadly. I look to the left, and I look to the right, and I think to myself, “That could have been me. If I’d done X, I’d have set the wheels in motion to regain my weight. If I’d done Y, I’d have jump-started my food addiction…” And then, of course, I realize this is not healthy thinking, so I set it aside in favor of better throughts. I think about what I’m doing well. I think about how grateful I am that I have stayed the course (for today) and am working my program; trusting the process. I am thankful for my growth and the peace that comes with it.
But, that doesn’t stop my heart from aching for those whom I know are suffering and feeling like failures. I realize that our community is a lot like…well…just about any other community. Whether it’s an AA meeting, with people coming and going, newly recovered, and newly relapsed…or a circle of friends who are newly married, newly divorced, newly single – whatever. People make choices, things happen, and we do our best to survive and thrive.
I know that I can’t change what other people do with their lives, and I know I can’t make them think the way I think, but that doesn’t stop me from WANTING to.
I think my message for today is this: We must never lose hope for ourselves, and others who are on this journey. We must always believe that recovery is not only possible, it’s happening – all around us. I know, I know…I used the “must” word…BUT, I feel strongly about this, so that’s why I’m saying it.
It’s like the 80’s band, Journey said: Don’t Stop Believin’.
I’ll leave you with this: If you’ve relapsed in your Bariatric After Life™, consider this your personal intervention. It’s never too late to do the next best thing. Happy Recovery, guys…