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The Uncoolest Addiction Of Them All

Have you ever noticed that some addictions are “cooler” than others?  I think this is really clear with cigarette smoking.  “Back in the day,” it was the thing to do if you wanted to be cool.  Watch any episode of “I Love Lucy” and you’ll see what I mean.

Drinking & Drugging?  To me they are similar to the above example of smoking in that both are constantly romanticized in movies, on TV, in books,…   While we’re at it, we might as well throw-in sex addiction here.  Somehow, over the years, all three of these have become intertwined with the stereotypical lifestyle of rock musicians and former child stars. Often tragic, yes, but still somehow appealing, in a media-tabloid sort of way.

Gambling?  Maybe not so romantic, but definitely exciting.  Ever see all the neat stuff you can do and buy at a casino?  It’s a money-spender’s paradise, the perfect destination for gamblers and shopaholics, alike!  And the allure of obtaining even MORE money is always just one pull away!  I can definitely see the appeal.

Then, of course, you have the “glamour” of anorexia/bulimia.  Can runway models be any thinner?!  With so many magazines berating stars whenever they gain a few pounds, it’s a wonder these eating disorders aren’t running rampant through the lives of the rich and famous.  (Personally, I think they are, but I believe that their “handlers” warn them against getting too thin.)  And in a society that defines beauty according to body size, who DOESN’T want to be labeled as “attractive?”  So you might have to destroy your insides in the process.  Small price to pay if you at least get the benefit of looking good on the OUTside, right?

So what do all these “cool” addictions have that compulsive overeating DOESN’T?

You can HIDE all the others.

You can’t hide a morbidly obese body.  (It’s impossible.  Believe me.  I’ve tried.)

Which is exactly the reason why it is the uncoolest addiction of them all.

In all the other cases, a person can “seem” normal much of the time, even to themselves.  If smokers aren’t smoking (and are not at the stage of hacking-up a lung), they would not stand-out as a nicotine fiend.  If drug addicts or alcoholics are sober, you might not know they have an addiction at all.  Nothing about gamblers or sex addicts (or even serial killers, for that matter) would make those people stand out in a crowd.  And controlled purging and exercise addiction may mask itself as a fitness addiction (which is actually seen as a positive in this country).  But when you’re carrying around 100, 200 or 300 pounds of extra “you” around, everyone sees it and knows exactly how you got that way.  You NEVER get a break from it!  Every time you look in a mirror or catch a glimpse of your reflection in a storefront window or go to the doctor or go clothes shopping…  There is just no way to escape the physical evidence of this disease.  Worse, you don’t even have the dignity of being able to hide it from others!  In this way, I think compulsive overeating and binge-eating cause their own peculiar type of psychological damage that none of the other addictions can come close to.

Sadly, Hollywood continues to use this unpleasant reality of the disease to perpetuate some of the worst stereotypes about people who are obese.  Even in this era of political correctness, you will still see cartoons, movies, music videos, and sitcoms portraying overweight people in the same old tired roles.  Here are a few of my least favorites:

The face-stuffing, gas-blowing, belching, offensive friend.

The lazy, desperate, ugly, reclusive sister/aunt (typically a single female).

The food-is-like-sex addict with an overly-confident view of her ability to attract men (which is supposed to be the funny part).

The painfully shy, bullied, depressed teen who commits suicide.

Only in recent years have we started to see obese characters with real depth.  Overweight people with real sex appeal.  “People Of Size” as the main character, not just some negative supporting role who’s only purpose is make the other person look more attractive.  But it’s still so sad that, even now, an overweight person still has to feel like they are being smacked back to the reality of their low status in society, even in the midst of seeking the same escape that everyone else is looking for in the entertainment industry.

Not surprisingly, I remember spending years of my youth wishing I had a “better” addiction.  I figured that if I could just get over my fear of embarrassing myself that I could at least forget about my weight problem for a while by getting drunk!  At one point I even considered doing cocaine, thinking it would make me thin (until a worldly friend told me that it was possible to do coke AND be fat).  But who was I kidding?  I was even too scared to even smoke a joint!  Then I heard about bulimia.  Now THAT made sense to me.  For, isn’t it the dream of every true food addict to be able to pig-out AND be thin – – AT THE SAME TIME?!?!  I was thinking about it so much that I even told my counselor about my secret desire to become bulimic.  She quickly told me all the horrible medical side-effects, and that stopped me in my tracks.  My fear of doctors and hospitals actually came in handy in that particular situation.  (Isn’t it funny how God works in our lives, even when we don’t even know He’s there at all?)

Just in case all of this is not proof enough for you of the “uncoolness” of being a food addict, here is the one thing that annoys me above all the others…

Compulsive overeating and binge-eating are even considered to be “uncool” by other addicts in recovery

Not by ALL of them, of course,…  But still.

At first I couldn’t believe it.

Don’t believe me?  I personally know of at least two people in AA who are very open with friends and family about their involvement with the 12 Step program with respect to alcohol, but who won’t even tell their own spouses that they also attend OA meetings!

Need more evidence?   I have actually had people come up to me IN MEETINGS and tell me that overeating is “easy” to fix – – that it is just a matter of discipline and willpower.  Really.  Couldn’t I, who has never gotten drunk or high in my life, say the same about alcohol and drugs?  I’ve even had AA’s come up to me after I’ve shared about my food addiction to offer me diet tips and suggestions about local diet clubs!  As if I had somehow lost my way and wondered into a 12 Step meeting by accident!  They weren’t being mean, but they weren’t able to grasp that my addiction was every bit as serious as theirs.  They were genuinely oblivious to our common “soul sickness.”

Another example?  I shared a short food story at an AA meeting one night (I was actually asked to because everyone else had already shared), and when I was finished, the next person who spoke actually cross-talked at me and started laughing out loud about how I didn’t know what real addiction was compared to his “bad” drug problem that landed him in jail!  I was mortified!  Luckily, an old-timer came to my rescue and yelled out, “No cross-talk!”

And yet, it is through experiences such as these that I have been able to find my niche within the open AA meetings I attend: I am a self-appointed OA ambassador.  I no longer take offense when people with other addictions don’t get the connection or understand why I am there.  Instead, if they approach me, I see it as an opportunity to talk to them and explain the similarities between food and alcohol addiction, and eventually most of them get it.  In fact, I now have many AA friends who have told me that after they stopped drinking, their eating started getting out of control.  Still others I talk to have shared that, when they really thought about it, they realized that they had been food addicts long before they had ever even tasted alcohol.  Best part of all?  I have succeeded in convincing a few of these people to check out OA, and some of them are starting to “stick!”

Addiction is addiction.

Only a Higher Power can save us, ALL of us (cool & uncool addicts alike), from ourselves.

July 3, 2012 This post was written by Categories: Leftovers Tagged with:
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