Transfer Addiction After WLS: Are You Likely To Trade One Bad Habit For Another?

June 27, 2014

Addiction is like a whack-a-mole game: just as you clobber one, another one seems to pop up!

If you struggled with food addiction prior to WLS, than you are at greater risk of developing a substitute, or transfer addiction after WLS, because addiction is the ultimate shape-shifter.

"There's a popular misconception that people choose one substance, one compulsion, one vice and stick with it for life, or at least until they find their way into recovery. More commonly, people find what works at the time and then move onto the next thing.

One compulsive behavior morphs into the next one, a phenomenon sometimes called cross-addiction or addiction transfer, and the cycle continues because the underlying issues haven't been addressed, just the coping mechanism has." (Sack, 2013)

So, WLS will treat the symptom of obesity, but not the underlying issues that caused the over-consumption of food in the first place.

The definition that captures the true essence of addiction is:

The state of being enslaved to a habit or practice that is psychologically or physically detrimental to your health and well-being.  Addiction is a physiological state where the body and brain crave and adapt to the substance being used in a way that gradually requires increased amounts of that substance to achieve the same results.

Does this sound familiar?

Addiction Can Be Successfully Managed

Addiction doesn't have to be a life sentence. In fact, you can use the same laser sharp, single-minded focus that you once used to find ice-cream in the middle of the night, to get what you genuinely want instead such as weight loss, health, and the freedom to enjoy your new life.

Addiction can't be cured, but it can be successfully and creatively managed.

"Addiction is more than a disease, it's a lifestyle. Lasting change only happens when you address the core issues driving you to seek comfort or pleasure from a destructive source outside yourself."

"Whatever the cause, figuring out your triggers, monitoring your emotions and taking action at the first signs of addictive thinking or behavior are necessary to prevent cross-addiction and relapse. A social network of (like-minded) supporters, often in the form of friends, family, a therapist or a support group, can help you recognize budding problems and intervene when necessary." (Sack, 2013)

You can choose to reframe addiction and its compulsive urges as an indication that you are longing for some need to be met, and get the help you need to learn how to actually identify and meet your needs in a new and more satisfying way.

Remember, addiction is most powerful, when you allow it to isolate you from others. Addiction thrives on being alone with you, whispering in your ear and blocking everything and everyone else out. If you seek out the help you need to transform your addiction into something that serves you, instead of something that demands you serve it, you will be free to experience the real pleasure that's out there waiting for you.

With the proper support, you can overcome any obstacles and accomplish anything you put your mind to. You already have the laser sharp focus; you just need to change the lens. Get the support you need to overcome the physiological and psychological challenges posed by addiction. Addiction is just a system of urges and thoughts that can be met with creativity, instead of shame, if you understand how to make that shift.

When triggered by an addictive impulse, your body is simply seeking the release of endorphins, and reminding you what you can do to get that release NOW. It's reminding you to do what it knows has delivered that pleasure in the past. It's your job to say "good-bye" to that old familiar (unhealthy) strategy, while saying "I'm going to go for it" to doing what it takes to develop new (healthy) strategies to deliver the endorphins that will still give you pleasure, without the regret afterwards.

Wanting pleasure is human nature.  Finding a new way to give it to yourself is the next step in your weight loss journey.


Source: Sack, David (2013, January 11). The Below-the-Radar Addict. Retrieved from Psychology Today: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/where-science-meets-the-steps/201301/the-below-the-radar-addict

jill temkin

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jill Temkin, founder, Living Thin Within: has an MA in Psychology and is a Registered Addiction Specialist, with 30 years of experience working in the mental health and addiction fields. Jill established Living Thin Within in response to her own journey for support after WLS. Her mission is to help women thrive in their new bodies by learning how to sustain health and happiness from within.

Read more articles by Jill Temkin!