I think it was in 1993 that I began to play Tetris for hours and hours every day. I would play even though my thumb and hand ached from holding the controller. I strove for the highest score over and over again, and was sick to find that once past a certain score the little video celebration at the end of a good game never got any more elaborate. I played to the ultimate celebration level on game A and then game B, and then I sought over and over again to top my previous high scores.
Once A Food Addict, Always A Food Addict?
When have I ever been free of such addictions? I never got hooked on cigarettes or drugs, and moderating alcohol has never been a problem in my life. But I have been an addict all my life.
I have even stolen to support my addictions. Oh, nothing like a burglary to support a crack habit, but I have stolen candy. I have stolen money from the office “honor system” snack fund to buy Diet Cokes. I have eaten in secret and lied about it. No doubt about it, I am a food addict.
I am addicted to wheat and corn, potatoes and sugar. Low-carb eating, of course, treats these addictions very successfully. But even on low carb I have to admit I show every sign of addictions to cheese and diet drinks. So it’s no surprise that I am actually a happier person, healthier and thinner when I am off all of those.
Yes, I said happier.
But I am an addict. I do not seem to be able to be addiction free. So instead of getting rid of the food addictions and being set free, what happened? I became addicted to other things, starting with, are you ready for this?
Losing weight. For nearly two years my entire life was wrapped up in the low carb way of eating. New recipes, new foods, reading books about this theory or that miracle supplement were my recreation time. I entertained myself with trips to the grocery exploring labels, and trips to the mall trying on smaller sizes.
And, oh, the Internet. I read everything on the web, and I wrote so many posts on low carb lists that one list owner once posted a recognition of my 3,000th post, far and away a record for that list. I belonged to a low carb list, a paleo list, and advanced low carb list. And, of course, the free-wheeling and straight-shooting Texas Low carb list I moderated. I hosted parties for local list members. I developed cyber relationships all over the world based on our common food addictions and losing weight.
This was, after all, a relatively benign addiction. Sure, I spent hours every day on it, and it took away from my concentration on my profession, but still, I was regaining energy, health, and my figure. It was worth it.
If You Reach Your Goal, Are You Still An Addict?
Then I hit goal. Uh oh. Now what? I had been warned that it could be a real letdown to hit goal, and now I understand the admonitions. Because when I reached my goal weight one of my addictions was co-opted.
So, what next? What addiction should I substitute now? Well, the answer was in one case predictable and in the other obvious to those who knew me well.
Predictably, like many other previously ill and obese successful dieters, I hit the exercise route. I lifted weights; I walked 5 miles a day. I became, late in life, an athlete whose focus was on body fat percentages and high intensity versus low intensity workouts. For a short while, this was everything to me. I joined an exercise list. But I guess athleticism is not deep rooted in my psyche because I’ve lost interest in it. It’s not a sustainable addiction for me. Sure, it’s a healthy sustainable way to live, but it did not sustain its power over me as an addiction.
But, oh, the other addiction I chose did. Men. I was single, uninvolved, happy and trim. I had lots of choices, and for a year or so I enjoyed the game of choosing this man or that one, dating, flirting, and most of all analyzing with my girlfriends every little nuance of “he said this; he did that.” I spent hours on the web again, cyber chatting with girlfriends, trying out long distance flirtations and Internet matchmaking services. Then I picked one man, and he picked me, and I focused the entire addiction on him.
Surprise, surprise, there were problems between us. I think I became addicted to the problems in the relationship. I think that as long as that addiction was raging it was easy to stay free from other addictions. My weight stayed down, my exercise pattern settled into a normal healthy range. The Nintendo broke and I didn’t care. I was fine. I had a new addiction going.
But the problems in that relationship worked themselves out. Several months into a calm and satisfying period with him I found myself eating cookies and potato chips. Why? Well, one working theory is that I am an addict. I never really conquered my food addictions, I just substituted them. When I lost arguing and fighting and breaking up and getting back together I lost my working addiction. Then back I went, this time to all those legal treats that are simply not okay for me.
So how can we addicts ever become addiction-free?
The twelve step programs say that we must confront our inner demons, and that we must seek the help of a Higher Power. I am convinced that both of those statements are true. I need to change from within to break my cycle of addictions, and I can’t do that alone. But even at best, that cannot be an overnight project.
So in the meantime, what’s an addict to do?
The evidence shows that the answer, for me, at least, is to keep seeking increasingly benign addictions, while I work on the necessary inner changes.
So what’s next? Stir up troubles in my relationship? Not the best idea I ever had. Go back to battling my food addictions? I tried it for a few months. It wasn’t fun, and the way my clothes started fitting wasn’t pretty.
Become a workaholic? That just doesn’t call out to me. Heck, for a while I even have bribed myself to go to the office by only keeping diet drinks at work, not at home. Using an addiction to making myself work.
Gambling? Can’t afford it, and it’s illegal in my state anyway. Drugs are illegal everywhere and are expensive to boot. Alcohol makes me physically ill since I started low carbing. Cigarettes stink, although I actually considered them a few times too many in the last year. I never liked the taste of coffee, and if you don’t think that’s an addiction, just try to quit drinking it for a year. I’m too fiscally responsible and too poor to take up compulsive shopping.
There are a long list of things we addicts are capable of being addicted to. Sex. Arguing. Acquiring cats. Controlling other people. Some of us even develop religious addictions and allow our faith to become a destructive rather than a constructive part of our lives. There is some argument that twelve step groups themselves can serve as substitute addictions.
So, what should I do? Of course, I need to work on my inner demons. Of course, I need to develop healthy spiritual growth in my life. But in the meantime, what will I use to keep my most destructive addictions at bay?
I may need to go buy a new game platform for Tetris, I hear they have some new variations out.
More articles by Kathleen Lunson.