I have a pretty serious addiction. It may be arguable but it’s actually in the Top 10 Most Common Addictions in America.
I find myself constantly thinking about one of the things that gives me a high, which is food. Whether I’m happy, sad, complacent, or bored, I’m always thinking about my next “fix”. Moreover, it’s usually unhealthy sugar or carbo loaded food that I know is poison to my body and will make me feel physically and mentally horrible afterwards. It may also be an urge to eat any food (healthy or not) and feel that extremely full where it’s almost painful food coma, also known as overeating. Both of these acts to be followed by shame and disgust. I also find in trying to control my addiction to food, I tend to fill my “need hole” with a behavioral addiction in the form of exercise or shopping.. The only downfall is that exercise is work, shopping can cost too much money, and eating food is cheap & easy. I am the type of person that likes cheap & easy!
So why do I still feel this urge to eat such horrible foods when it’s been proven from experience and SCIENCE that eating healthier not only makes you feel better but live longer? Is it the taboo? Is it depression? Or is it addiction?
I recently read a short article about how impulsive personalities are linked to food addiction, stating that while their “study shows that impulsive behavior was not necessarily associated with obesity, impulsive behaviors can lead to food addiction.” It made me wonder if I have this type of personality or if I have an addictive personality, or if all of them are rolled up into one! In doing some self analyzing I concluded that I just might have an impulsive personality but I struggle to contain it in accordance with social norms. I do things that make me feel good, even if it may be defined as “unhealthy”, as long as it does seem to be hurting another person. I’m not stealing from or attacking people because of my addiction. This is how I justify my actions. But in doing this I fail to take into account myself, and how my demise may effect those who love and care about me. This is something I’ve been trying to figure out in therapy for the past year. Addicts don’t realize how their decisions effect other people emotionally, because the need of getting that next high is too powerful. So we see addiction as selfish and stupid. This is why the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman struck a cord with me as people ridiculed him for overdosing on heroin while he had 3 children and a lucrative career. I may not have an illegal drug addiction or an alcohol addiction, but food is my drug of choice. And food is available almost anywhere and at any age so I don’t have to walk into a dark alleyway to buy a loaf of delicious crispy Italian bread for $50.
I strangely identified with this tragedy, which I thought was crazy since I’ve never been around any sort of illegal drug activity in my life. Then I read that a study suggests “in some people’s brains high calorie foods can elicit cravings and trigger responses similar to those caused by addictive drugs,” and I felt compassion and sadness that his addiction got the best of him. It must be great that some of those who spoke out angrily against Mr. Hoffman don’t have an addiction, good for you! But for those of us who constantly have that feeling of needing something we know may kill us or make us unhealthy, whether now or over time, it’s not as simple as “he just didn’t care about anyone but himself.” It is more than that. Addiction is a complex disease that changes brain chemistry in the user.
Addiction also comes in many forms aside from illegal substances & food, including the internet/technology, caffeine, pornography, sex, prescription drugs, gambling, smoking, alcohol, video games, hoarding and yes even shopping! The list does not stop there either. There is that fine line between having a healthy relationship with these things and having a problem, and personally I feel no one should be judged for how their addiction controls them. Addiction may be difficult for those who don’t understand, I get that, I just hope people can find compassion in themselves for those who may not be as strong or as disciplined as they are. I’m constantly wrestling with my addictions and though I feel I’m in a much better place than previous years, I will always struggle with unhealthy impulses.
All I can do is try to live better each day, work on being emotionally stronger, and ask for help.
Never be afraid to ask for help. Please take time to read this compelling article by actor Russel Brand about his own struggle with addiction. No words can describe the thoughtfulness and rawness of his words.