The Side Effect of Drug Addiction We Secretly Love

help for drug addiction

“I’m so fat now.”
“I hate when people look at my photos in recovery and tell me I look healthy. That’s just a nice way to say I’ve gained a ton of weight.”
“I was unwell, but I was size 2. It was amazing.”

After spending a good amount of time in rehab, you end up having a lot of different conversations with people. One, that stands out for me is the talk about weight gain during treatment. It seems like everyone is concerned about it, some are obsessed, and a few openly talk about missing the way they could keep weight off during active addiction.

These conversations weren’t limited to girls. I’ve talked to more than a few guys who were disgusted with their size now that they were clean and sober.

I remember going to the emergency room to get my medical clearance to enter treatment. Since the rehabilitation center I chose did not have a medically supervised detox center connected to it, detox had to be done either at home, in the hospital, or at a detox center. Since I chose the most frightening method (detox at home) I was asked to provide proof of medical clearance before making the trip to Port St. Lucie where I would be admitted to treatment. As I stood on the scale in the emergency room I saw my weight. 117. For just a second I was happy, and the thought occurred to me, “Wow. Good. I lost about seven pounds during this binge.” Crazy. I know. But I’m just being honest. This was part of my sick thought processes.

Of course, I figured I’d keep this unhealthy thought to myself…until I went to treatment and found carbon copies of all of my strangest thoughts sitting all around me. I soon found that these people were no different than me, and probably, for that matter, most of America could share in my way of thinking. After all, I do remember perfectly “normal” people talking about having the flu and how terrible it was, —except the perk of weight loss kind of made it worthwhile.

We are sick people surrounded by other sick people.

I’ve only been out of treatment for a little over a month, but I remember clearly what a relief it was to no longer hide the thoughts in my head. Letting them out allowed me to process them. There is empowerment and strength in confession. It also brings great comfort when another human being looks at you right in the eyes after you’ve confessed your most terrible thought and says, “Oh, yea. Me too.”

The Many Faces of Recovery

So, now that it’s out there on the table and we all realize there’s a little sick part of us that wants to reminisce about the good old days when we were thin and completely strung out, let’s talk about it. Here’s what I’ve discovered.

First off, to those of you who don’t relate to any of this because maybe you gained weight during your addiction, you may still find this next part interesting.

Okay, here it is.

I have found that recovery is about trust. It’s also about finding peace and inner contentment. Unfortunately, everything we know seems to either war against our contentment or it wants to provide an instant and temporary fix for the place of trust we want to arrive at. It’s like a path with a million vending machines along the journey, all of them screaming, “Pick me! Pick me!” Often, we choose them. First, it was drugs. We wanted that feeling of peace so we chose that lie. Okay, not so good. Then we replace that need for relief with food, sugar, caffeine, cigarettes, shopping, a new relationship, an argument, cutting, binge eating followed by purging, excessive body building, running….God, doesn’t anything satisfy us? Won’t anything fill this bottomless pit of just wanting to be content and happy? And then maybe, after all that, we realize that it actually might have been the drugs that offered hope. At least we wouldn’t have to feel anything, right? We wouldn’t have to wonder, or think, or long for anything.

Square one.

Can you relate? I know I can. I remember when I picked up smoking during rehab because I didn’t want to gain any more weight. In reality, I just needed something else to hold onto so I wouldn’t have to face my own inner restlessness. If I was going to drop the food I had to pick up something else. It makes sense, right?

The Longing for Love

I’m no expert on addiction recovery, but I do know this…Longing for love and self worth are the very basis of the human experience. We are here to love and to experience love. The problem lies in all of the twisted thinking we end up with as a result of circumstances or events that pile up inside us. For me, the very first time I turned to ‘something else’ was the direct result of feeling unloved and unaccepted at home. As soon as I started to realize and make sense out of the level of dysfunction and abuse I had piled up within me, I began my journey of reaching for relief. Sexual abuse at home left me vulnerable to reach for anything that promised the slightest relief.

It wasn’t until I experienced the loving therapy at rehab, the lifestyle of honesty and living in community, and working through the 12 steps that the mess in my head began to untangle. It all started to make sense and I could identify the vending machines for what they were.

Lies.

Plain and simple.

I think the lie of the ideal weight or body image is the worst of all. It promises fulfillment, much like financial success, and offers us a temporary full time self-centered addiction, but when we arrive we are no better than our peers. Our brains are still screwed up and our longing for love remains, except now we just imagine that we are more fortunate than others because at least we look good. Great.

So, I’ve said all of that to say this. I’m taking the one-minute-at-a-time path these days. When I feel empty or ‘longing for something’ I try to remember to ask God, “What’s still in me that I am feeling this level of discontentment, or anxiety, or hopelessness?” As soon as I feel a certain way I immediately see the counterfeit present itself. It might be a vending machine that says, “Here’s your solution. Go on a diet.” or it might be one that says, “You should find someone to date. You’re probably lonely.” In reality, I know these are lies. All of them. Sure, we might need diets or relationships. I love eating healthy, meditating, yoga… but be careful. Check your motives. You know in your heart whether your thinking is twisted or not. Trust your instincts. Don’t fall for another addiction.

Today I try to realize my longings are just distractions presenting themselves. The only true source of joy we really ever have is found in our relationship with God, our relationships with others, and having a life purpose. These bring contentment. All the other things are illusions filled with broken promises.

Why did I start this article talking about weight loss when it turned into so many other things? Because I feel like it’s one of our biggest lies. We want so desperately to base our self worth on our appearance because it’s really all society has taught us. Do you look good? Are you successful? Do you drive a nice car and live in a nice house? Perfect. You pass the humanity test.

If you’re relating to my words to any degree, I’m glad. Maybe you’re supposed to have a “Yea, me too.” moment. Now take a deep breath and tell yourself you’re beautiful, you’re enough, and you’re God’s greatest work of art…right now. Right in the middle of your messy thinking. Right in the middle of still wondering if you measure up…You do.

Trust Him.

Surrender.

God promises to complete the work He has started in you. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly…we are becoming. And we’re all in this together. xo

About Robin Bright

Hi. My name is Robin Bright. I'm a mom, author, part of The John Maxwell Team and a recovery advocate who struggled with the torment of addiction for over a decade. I still remember what it was like. I know the desperation and hollowness of addiction. The stories here are about our journey to the light. They are raw, authentic, vulnerable. We talk about getting free, staying free, and loving ourselves through the process. I used to believe I had become the worst version of myself. And then God introduced me to me —as only He can. It is my hope that you will use the resources found here to uncover your own true identity...the vision God had when He formed you. xo

4 Comments

  1. Danielle Buda

    Happy New Year Robin,
    It’s Danielle, I commented earlier this week on your “relapse is a process” writing. I just read this one about weight gain/loss in treatment and throughout recovery. I completely can identify with your thoughts and experiences, except I don’t have a sexual abuse history but my addictions certainty began when I was desperately seeking to fill a void and/or numb my feelings of hopelessness and discontent. Ironically, when I checked into detox then rehab this last time 9+ months ago I smiled to myself because I weighed 117, same as you. Almost immediately maintaining that weight became my next obsession. This theory of replacing one addiction with another runs ramp it in recovery and I’m no exception… I was always self seeking to get out of myself and avoid dealing with the real issue of low self-esteem, worthless, shame, guilt and denial that I was indeed an addict and alcoholic. Let’s not forget I’m a clinical social worker who never took any of my own advice….I justified, rationalized, manipulation and lied to everyone. Until I finally applied the AA principles to my own life in active addiction, I was simply reinforcing addict behavior in other self destructive forms. I got “high” off of trying to achieve perfection. I knew perfection was impossible but once again that didn’t apply to me. I was in this phase where all I did all day long was compare and contrast myself to other addicts. If I was going to be a sober woman I had to be the best sober woman. Therefore, appearance, looks, weight consumed my stinking thinking. Finally, the game changer for me happened when I stopped thinking about sobriety as this competition and I had to beat everybody else… and surrender to win. When I finally became honest, open and willing to turn my will and my life over to the care of God and let him be in control; my thinking slowly shifted from this ego driven, self centered addict to a humble sick human being just trying to get well like everyone else. The most amazing part happened when I accepted myself as an addict and alcoholic, admitted I didn’t have all the answers is when the process of healing started. Self seeking had to slip away or I was not going to change anything. This is where step 11, sought through prayer and meditation in addition to writing, reflection, moderate exercise and positive self talk helped me to establish that consciously contact with my higher power to help me achieve a balanced healthy lifestyle free from the bondage of substances. When these became routine practice the lies I told myself everyday were beginning to lose the power they had over me. Addiction is definite cunning, baffling and powerful in addition its multi faceted and manifests its symptoms layers upon layers deep within our soul. I live everyday trying to be a little better person than I was yesterday, simple in theory but quite complicated for this stubborn addict. Slowly but surely this simple program of action is changing my life in ways I never could even imagine a year ago. Your writing on this crucial aspect of addiction treatment needs to be broadcasted at all treatment centers. The cycle of addiction has to be broken and changed, not just replaced. “Nothing changes if nothing changes….Brilliant…
    Many thanks,
    Danielle Buda

    1. Robin Bright Post author

      Your words brought me to tears. Isn’t it always a relief to find others who say, “Me too!” We are on this journey together.
      I agree that it is an important topic that needs more attention. Your story and your profession are a great platform for that. We should talk! I’m sure we would have some great ideas together. ❤️

      1. Danielle Buda

        I would love to chat sometime…”Me Too” those words are powerful yet so comforting. I’m going to search you on FB and friend request? Thank you again Robin
        Danielle

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