Sicker than I ever imagined

I talk a lot about my recovery from food addiction for a number of reasons: 1) It's the most prevailing, urgent issue in my life right now; 2) I feel that there isn't a whole lot of information available regarding recovery from food addiction, and certainly little documentation of someone's ups and downs while going through the process; 3) morbid obesity is only the outward symptom of a much deeper problem; yet health education programs and public information broadcasts focus on the symptom (There's too many fat people in America these days!) instead of the underlying cause; 4) this is my blog, and I made a committment to myself to show up and be as real as I possibly can, no matter what. Being real may take me down some pretty dark and dreary roads sometimes, but it's better than living a lie. As a food and fantasy addicted, morbidly obese adult child of an alcoholic family, I know all about lying. I've done it my entire life, and it's a pathetic waste of time and energy, not to mention a hazard to one's health.

Consider this example: It's July 2002, and I'm sitting in my surgeon's office at Kaiser South San Francisco, one week after gastric bypass surgery. He's telling me again about how the surgery went, and he mentioned a small hernia in my abdominal cavity that he repaired. Since he wasn't saying anything like "From now on, Angela, you will lose all of your excess weight and be happy and free for the rest of your life", I filed the hernia comment in my mental filing cabinet in the overflowing folder marked "stuff to ignore". I never gave it a second thought, until recently. Now, after being abstinent for while, I finally remembered the conversation. It's a shame that once again, I had to literally be brought to the brink of death before I could understand that this is no joke. This is my life, not a crap game. I've had several lucky rolls of the dice so far, but that can't last forever.

Last Thursday morning, I took a shower and got dressed. Then I got hit with what felt like a saber cutting through my stomach, and my legs started getting rubbery. I knew it was the hernia; my doctor told me to lay down flat and gently massage my intestines back into place. I tried doing that. The area around the hernia was hard, and I kept feeling like my guts were being used for a samurai's practice session. It meant one thing--my intestines were "incarcerated". They were in danger of having the blood supply cut off by being stuck in the hernia. I flashed on these informational items as I desperately tried to put my intestines back in place and called Kaiser's advice nurse. Apparently my efforts sounded painful because my daughter Chenelle, who had been helping me out around my place while I've been dealing with this hernia issue, heard me talking to the advice nurse and called my father on her cell phone. I don't think an ambulance could have gotten here faster. Before I knew it, I was at Kaiser South Sacramento's ER again. In fact, the ER doc who saw me before was there, and he remembered me. Great, I thought. You know you spend entirely too much time in emergency rooms when the doctors remember who you are.

So, I was put on a morphine drip (pain was 8 out of 10 and rising), put into one of those "butt open" hospital gowns and talked to the ER doc, the surgeon, and lots of extremely nice and helpful nurses. At some point in the afternoon, I went under the knife. An hour later, I woke up with an oxygen mask on my face, a sore throat from the breathing tube, and more pain. Luckily, the kind nurses gave me more morphine. "No complications," the surgeon told me. Yep. I always come through high drama as if it's kid's play. That's how I've done it my entire life--no big deal. I'm not hurt. I'll just get through this little setback and everything will be fine.

But is it? The reason why I had to have the hernia repaired is that I ate my way through my abdominal cavity. Just think about that--I literally busted a gut with my food addiction. And I didn't pay attention to my gastric bypass surgeon's warnings about having a hernia tear. I'm sure he said something about it not being a problem once I got to goal weight. But did I get to goal weight? No. I stopped losing when I got within sixty pounds of my goal, and put half of the weight I lost through gastric bypass back on. Again, food addiction. And to top it off, I was eating things that were CLEARLY very bad, like French bread. That stuff swells up like a steel plated balloon in a post-gastric bypass pouch. I was told to stay away from bread. Did I do it? No. Not even when the stuff had me throwing up for an hour. In fact, I've thrown up a lot in the past five years because I refused to stop eating the things that I "loved", like bagels, French bread, soft pretzels. And in the process of eating that stuff, then throwing it up ripped that hernia open again. And my surgeon had been kind enough to sew it up for me in the first place!

So here I am--stitched up again, dealing with the wreckage of my addictive eating past. I have no one to blame but my addict mind, which is finally started to recede, somewhat. Even today, sitting at home trying to balance out walking around my apartment to keep my circulation moving and taking it easy, I found myself thinking about food. More specifically, barbecue. Or fried fish with grits. never seems to stop. Even now, in recovery. But thank God I do have people that I can talk to, and a program that shows me how to get through situations like this.

Now I realize that I never would have made it to be one of those 400 pound plus people like the mom in the movie, "What's Eating Gilbert Grape". At one point, I thought that would be my fate--sitting on the couch, unable to move because I weigh about 600 pounds, yet I would still be stuffing myself. No way. My stomach was splitting open at 358 pounds, so obviously my body couldn't take much more. I would have died of incarcerated intestines before I even made it to the 400 pound mark.

I'm staying in recovery for today, and I'm praying for the willingness to do all over again tomorrow. There's a better life waiting for me, and I want to live it.
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