Have you noticed since you weight loss surgery that you’re maybe just a little too involved in a certain behavior? Are you drinking a little more then usual? Are you shopping non stop even though you’re low on money? Did you pick up smoking again? If you answered yes, or even maybe, to any of these questions you might want to keep reading this article.
What Even Is Transfer Addiction?
Transfer addiction is an addiction that has crossed from one substance to another. “Addiction transfer, or cross addiction, after bariatric surgery occurs when individuals trade compulsive eating for other compulsive behaviors.” (obesityaction.org)
Is Transfer Addiction Bad?
Traditionally we think of addiction as a negative thing. Some would argue maybe not all addictions are bad: like being addicted to working out or to work. That’s fine and dandy as long as you’re not neglecting your health or life outside of work respectively. If you look u the definition of addiction, it states that it is continuous behavior even when it hurts yourself or others. In every sense of this, I think it’s easy to agree it’s a negative behavior.
Who Can Get Transfer Addiction?
The simple truth to this is anyone. Even if you don’t feel that you have an addictive personality, You can still develop a transfer addiction. This can be influenced by two key factors.: addictive substances plus unresolved feesings or issues about something that creates unwanted or negative feelings for you.
Types of transfer addiction
There are many different types of addiction. Technically there can be an addiction to anything so long as it’s hurting the person doing it. But for simplicity purposes we are going to Name the obvious: shopping, drugs, alchohol, gambling, sex, internet, porn, video game, exercise, food, work
Transfer addiction for WLS patients
So, transfer addiction among the weight loss surgery community is actually pretty common. A lot of obese patients struggled with food addiction or some sort of disordered eating. Full disclaimer to anyone reading: I am totally aware this is not every wls patient. According to obesityaction.org, 30% of bariatric surgery patients have a cross addiction.
When you have weight loss surgery, you are no longer able to eat your feelings. If you are a person that has dealt with depression, anxiety, used drugs or alcohol previously to deal with life you are more likely to be at risk for a transfer addiction. Overeating or using food to deal with emotions is restricted because…well…..that’s what weight loss surgery does. It restrictions the amount of food y9ou can eat.
This subject is actually very near and dear to my heart as it’s something I struggled with myself. I am part of the immensly huge Instagram Weight Loss Surgery community and see many women complain of a new shopping addiction. If only that would have been my cross addiction. I had some pretty life rocking theings happen from about 7 months post op to about 1.5 years post op. Since I could no longer binge my emotions with food, I relied on wine and cigarettes. Both of which I had used in my past for stressful situations but this time seemed a little different…a little harder….a little more necessary to quit.
<excerpt from my book>
I’m just tired, I’m just fat, I have no career, I failed my weight loss surgery and I ’m just a failure at 37.” I said in an exasperated tone flailing my arms around. These are the words I just said to my therapist. It wasn’t tired like I hadn’t slept well, it was tired of spinning my wheels and getting nowhere. I had weight loss surgery and completely failed that! I had no career to speak of at 37 and my girls were teens and I still hadn’t given them the life I always wanted to. “
“Stop Heather!” My brain was screaming as I paused to assess what I just said. But I didn’t stop. Some part of me, the stronger part, wanted me to acknowledge it.
I kept seeing “555” for like three days straight. I didn’t realize it till the 3rd day in a row and it pinged hard in my head that I was literally seeing the numbers 555 in a multitude of places for the past 3 days. I saw it on receipts, I saw it on clocks at home, cars, businesses. My Lunch at McDonalds cost $5.55 exactly, I watched a TikTok about sequences of numbers including 555, it was 5:55 when I clicked off my zoom meeting on the second evening, and even more!
I’m not typically into numerology, only because I’ve never studied it before, but I am a very spiritual person and know of it and believe in signs from higher powers or past loved ones. A thought came over me to google the meaning of 555. I had seen a TikTok the other day about what the number 111 meant. I remembered in the bottom description were the hashtags, #111, #333, #555, #777. It didn’t register to me at the time I was watching it, but today, this third day of seeing this sequence of numbers it did.
I googled “555 meaning” and this is what I found “The truth is that your state of being creates your circumstances, and not the other way around” BAM! If that doesn’t hit you like a ton of bricks I don’t know what will! I repeated it out loud to myself a few times. I believe so strongly in the saying “nothing changes if nothing changes” This meaning of 555 was an even more powerful version of that.
BAM, it hit me again: I had been having so many problems the past year and half, and mourned it all letting myself become a victim. And with that victim mentality came destructive behavior. Embarrassing behavior. Behavior that kept me stuck in the sadness of it all. But what I realized in that moment is that as rough or sad as the circumstances around me were, I too had a part in how my life was going, by the way I was reacting to it. By the way I was neglecting myself through it. By the way I lost my power through it.
Then another meaning of 555 came to mind….Dad. He had died 3 years ago on May 5th, and was buried in the 55th sector at the Arlington cemetery. My dad was talking to me. My dad was trying to help me. He never could help much when he was alive because his poor soul was so entrapped in his own terrible childhood and young adult circumstances which undoubtedly led him to being an alcoholic. He died of alcoholism at 55 years old. He didn’t want me to live in whatever pain I was feeling and lose myself to it like he did.
555….this number spoke to me on so many levels. He wants to help me change my circumstances or destructive behavior like he was never able to do for himself when he was alive despite his many whole hearted attempts. He just could nover get the success of it. But you could always tell he wanted to so badly. He loved me so much, and I see that so much now. Sadly, I didn’t when he was alive.
History of compulsive behavior?
Do you have a history of compulsive behavior? Maybe you do, or maybe you don’t. Maybe you dobut you never realized it to be on anything that real detrimental to your life. Most people fall into addiction for two reasons. They have unresolved feelings about something or someone in there life coupled with their need to numb those feelings. Now if you say your cross addiction is shopping, you’re probably wondering how in the world that numbs feelings. Well my friends, that’s just it. the addiction can be any behavior that somehow give you that rush that makes you forget about your problems.
There are some signs that can and probably should draw your attention to them if they happen:
-If you become dependent on the behavior as a way to cope with emotions
-If you continue the behavior even if it is doing you physical or mental harm
-If you have trouble cutting back even though you want to
-If the behavior aids in you neglecting work, family, school, etc in order to keep doing it
-If you experience symptoms of withdraw such as irritability, depression, anxiety
-If you minimize the extent of the problem or hide it
-If you spend the majority of your time engaging in this behavior, thinking about engaging in it, or recovering from it’s affects
What to do if you develop transfer addiction?
First I want to make it clear, that if you feel you will have any kind of serious physical withdrawal symptoms from quitting any addiction, please seek professional medical help.
If this is something you feel like you can handle by yourself, then there are a number of ways to go about this.
Therapy can be a wonderful way of working out your problems with someone privately and guilt free. I attribute a big part of my recovery to my therapy.
Support groups are another life saver! Having other people to talk to and support you who have been exactly where you are is an asset that cannot be replaced.
Podcasts and books are another huge self help method. This gives you even more opportunities to listen to other peoples journey’s and advice.
All three of these suggestions are EXACTLY what I used to conquer my transfer addiction. The thing is, that I have a few different options of replacement positive behavior. No matter where I am or what I am doing, if I am having a weak moment, I have multiple ways to reach positive replacement influences to help train my brain out of the negative addiction.
Do you have struggles with transfer addictions since weight loss surgery?
What other methods have you used to help deal with this?