I am a strong supporter of weight loss
surgery, however, we all need to be aware of pitfalls that await
us in order to avoid them.
ďAt its most
basic level, addiction ó whether to nicotine, alcohol, drugs,
food, sex, shopping or gambling ó is an attempt to control and
fulfill the desire for happiness. An addict engages in a
relationship with a substance or an activity in order to produce
a desired mood change or a trancelike state." Craig Nakken,
author of "The Addictive Personality.Ē
I am very blessed. People will email me with their hearts wide open. They
will bear their souls to me. In all of this honesty, I have
been seeing a destructive trend start to emerge. The trend is
toward alcoholism. Some of us have replaced our food addiction
with an alcohol addiction and are not able to control it.
I asked for people to share
their struggles with alcohol with me.
I want to share with you
several of the many stories that I
It's time I wrote to you. You brought up the subject of
alcoholism after weight loss surgery. It happened to me. I began
with just a shot of tequila to get a little buzz now and then
when I was with friends.
I soon found out how much I liked that
buzz. It happened quickly and was quite a rush. I guess with our
new anatomy, it's like mainlining alcohol. It's almost as if it
were an IV dose.
In the beginning it was a couple of shots
and that was it for the night. It progressed quickly. In 10
months I accomplished what people who haven't had weigh loss
surgery take 10 years to accomplish. I became a raging
alcoholic. I was drinking daily and the amount had increased so
much it was scary. I withdrew from my friends and family. I did
things I never thought possible for me to do. I knew I was
headed for destruction. I couldn't wait to get home to drink. I
turned into a horrible person and traded my need to fill the
void in my life from food to alcohol.
Now, I attend my weight loss surgery
support group weekly. We introduce ourselves and say how much
weight we've lost and what type of surgery we had, etc. I even
got one of your century club ribbons! We all clap and cheer and
share in the excitement. Four or five other times during the
week, I introduce myself at meetings by saying, "Hi. My name is
Patty and I'm an alcoholic."
There is no going back, Barbara. Once a
cucumber becomes a pickle, it can never be a cucumber again. I
address this topic quite frequently in my weight loss
surgery support group because I see it happening to other
people. I've taken it to my surgeon's office and shared it with
the psychologist there. They don't seem very interested. I'm
scared for my friends.
I will be 4 years post-op from weight loss
surgery in August. In September I will have 2 years of sobriety.
Before surgery, I was a social drinker. I could drink one or two
drinks and that would be satisfying for a night. I usually only
had a drink every few months. It was not a part of my life.
After surgery, it took over. I tried to fill that same void,
that same pain that food used to attempt to fill with alcohol.
And after surgery it was fun... for awhile. But just like
everything we use to fill that void, it stopped working. That
void can only be filled by something within us. We cannot fill
an internal need with something external. It's just not
possible. We must learn to care about ourselves enough to trust
that still small voice that says, "You're ok... just like you
are." It's often very hard to hear because of all the other
things that have overshadowed it from our past and even our
present lives. They scream so loud it is all we hear.
People use many other addictions as a trade
off, but alcohol will kill us. We need to make people aware of
this. Thank you so much for bringing up this topic. If there is
anything I can do, answer, say... let me know. Feel free to use
anything I've said in your newsletter that you feel may help
others. I got my life back... again. I'm not sure how many other
chances I'll have.
Big time hugs!
Iím a 28 year old mother of 2 beautiful girls ages 5 and 1. I
started my weight loss surgery journey in January 2003. I
weighed 307 pounds the day of surgery. I lost 178 pounds in 15
months and went down 22 sizes going from 28/30ís down to 8/10ís
and some 12ís. I felt better than I had in years. All the things
I thought were just dreams were coming true. I prayed and told
God if heíd just see me through this journey that Iíd fly right
and always reach out to others and let them know they arenít
My desire to have another baby became my next chapter in my
weight loss surgery journey. We conceived our second child when
I was 18 months post-op. I gained 45 pounds with the pregnancy
and our daughter was born a healthy happy 6 pounds 11 ounces the
following April. I was very happy and content being a
stay-at-home mom of our girls and the wife and sister and
daughter and aunt etc. Well, I began to feel like is this all my
life is going to be? Day in and day out taking care of the kids
and doing all the housework, the bills and the little things
that go virtually unnoticed?
Four months later I started going out with friends and at
first it was meeting for dinner and chatting. It felt good
because I rarely went out unless it was with our girls, with
some friends or to family related functions. I was thankful for
these nights out and weekends away. I got a break and got to
spend it with good friends I really care about and could have
There were some in the group who were social drinkers and
others who drank a lot. I started having a drink here and there
which snow balled and I began drinking every time we went out.
One drink turned into two and three and before I knew it there
honestly wasnít a time when I didnít drink when we went out. It
was almost like I didnít know how to act without a drink in my
hand. It made me feel good and I didnít care about what I was
wearing and what others were saying and thinking. I was no
longer the ďstick in the mudĒ or the girl in the corner while
everyone else had fun. I started getting out on the dance floor
and dancing and it felt good. I was getting attention from all
types of people and it felt so nice. I began to blame things as
being a result of my drinking. I would spend insane amounts of
money and I would say this or that because of it and did this or
that because of it. I kept going out and drinking and dancing
and feeling like I fit in and was accepted by all those who
didnít accept me when I weighed more than 300 pounds. The
difference between then and now is all of my drinking and
partying nearly cost me my life last September.
A group of friends, my sister included, decided to go out and
have a few drinks and dance the night away. We started out at a
local club where I started out with a couple of Fuzzy Navels and
then 2 beers. Someone introduced me to Jager (hard liquor) shots
and Iíd had 2 of them then another Fuzzy Navel. It took quite a
bit of time before it honestly gave me a sensation of feeling
drunk. We left one club for another and I started feeling the
effects of the drinks Iíd had but the sensation was wearing off
quickly. I wanted to drink more. I knew that I didnít need to
but the urge was there. We arrived at the club. It was loud,
smoky and packed full of some of the best friends a gal could
We got a corner section of tables and start drinking almost
immediately. I remember having several more Fuzzy Navels and
shots of Jager, Buttery Nipples, Captain Morgan & Coke. Iíd
consumed more than 20 drinks between the 2 clubs.
Our night was about to turn really ugly not to mention scary
and almost deadly. I had these 20+ drinks in about a 3 hour
period. I remember at some point trying to stumble to the
bathroom. I somehow made it and remember throwing up but there
was nothing there. I hadnít had much of anything to eat that
whole day except for Ĺ a taco at dinner. I was dry heaving and
felt like the room was spinning and I had little or no control.
I donít even remember who it was who found me but it was clear
it was time for us to leave. I could barely walk and I felt
awful. I had to stop right outside the doors of the club to once
again try to throw up. Again, nothing came up as I continued dry
My friends had to physically carry me to a car. They put me
in it and I remember feeling the coolness of the breeze in my
face from the window being down. From this point on I remember
things but not clearly. I was going in and out of consciousness
and trying to figure out what was happening. I am told we
stopped several times on the way back to our friendís apartment
for someone to hold my hair while I tried to throw up. I was
carried into an apartment where at this point I blacked out
completely. I am told that my friends tried to wake me up
several times and get me to drink water and just to make sure I
was ok. It was obvious I was not. At one point, I stopped
breathing. I was told that my friends were very close to calling
911 and were crying and trying to get me to wake up. I
eventually started breathing and some of my friends stayed with
me most of the night and one the entire night.
I woke up the next morning not realizing why I was in someone
elseís home and just how Iíd gotten there. I remember feeling as
if I could barely move. I saw my friend sitting there and she
asked if I was ok and told me where my cell phone was and said
she was going to bed. I could tell she was upset. I called my
father to come and pick me up. It wasnít until the following
week that I realized all Iíd put my family and friends through
not to mention my body and myself. I scared them all.
I spent the next week trying to recover physically from that
night and from the embarrassment of my actions. I cannot imagine
how many times I apologized for my behavior. You would think Iíd
have learned my lesson but I kept drinking although not as much
and not as often. I have always been a people watcher and
started doing just that. I began observing how others reacted
and acted when they drank especially those of us post-op. I
quickly saw that drinking affects us much more quickly than
those whoíve not had weight loss sirgery.
In January 2006 I attended a group conference that was
supposed to be a weekend of celebration and recognition of our
successes with weight loss surgery. There were many people
drinking excessively. I had about 2 drinks and saw the effects
on my fellow WLSíers and friends. It seemed more like a drink
fest than a celebration. I found myself upset, embarrassed,
angry, scared and most of all I felt like we failed to succeed
in the purpose of the conference.
I realized from that point on drinking has become a major
issue not just for me, but for others in our group. I have cut
back considerably in my drinking and as a result of my situation
and others in my circle of friends I look at drinking once again
as something that should be done completely in moderation or not
at all. It is trading one addiction (food) for another. We have
had a major life saving surgery and are getting our weight under
control and cannot use food any longer as our ďfriend.Ē
Turning to drinking gives us that temporary feeling of fitting
in, belonging, feeling good and more. However, the effects on
our health and well being are compromised. In some cases some
have not been as lucky as I have to still be sitting here able
to share my story.
This is becoming a trend among many weight loss surgery
post-ops and there is a real lack of information and education
regarding alcohol and weight loss surgery. We have spent
thousands upon thousands of dollars to become healthier but the
effects of weight loss surgery in the following years post-op
arenít widely discussed and studied.
Thank you for your wonderful book which led me to my Doctor back
in 2001. My family on both sides has had a problem with alcohol
for generations. I never drank because I was afraid that I was
so habitual with "oral" gratifications. I was a smoker for 25
years, but I quit 10 years ago. I was an eater, and now I have
found that in the last year and a half that I am drinking, and
the drinking is adding to my weight.
initially lost 150 pounds and was feeling really good. But in
the last 5 years I have crept up 50 pounds, and am feeling it.
My Doctor was a wonderful surgeon, but he was a general surgeon
and had no program in place to support post -op patients. I am
the one who introduced your book to him, and even helped the
hospital dietitian get her act together for bypass patients. I
am joining your "back-on-track" program -- because I need HELP!
I would have my bypass surgery again in a "New York minute", but
I need support and have problems with alcohol. Please do not use
my name just my initials. I am too embarrassed to be recognized.
Anyone else out there having the "alcohol" problem too? What are
you doing for help?
Thank you for bringing up this topic. I had the Lap band in July
2005. I have lost 60 pounds. I think about drinking all the
time. I have started AA. I have never had a drink before but it
does run deep in my family. The cravings are intense. I have
traded one addiction for another. What can be done? It is scary
I have definitely found myself in this situation. Prior to
surgery, I couldn't stand the taste of wine. I found it too
dry! After surgery, with the change in my taste buds and my
inability to like sweet things, somehow wine became tolerable.
I now find myself drinking more than 2 glasses per day and I
know that the calories are not helping my weight maintenance. I
am 3 1/2 years post op and am finding myself unable to maintain
my weight the way I used to be able to. I contribute it all to
I came from an alcoholic family. My father was an alcoholic
and I never believed that I would fall into the same trap. But
I question every day if I am substituting my love for food for
love of drink. I had no idea that it could be related to the
weight loss surgery so I was very surprised to see your
newsletter! Please tell me that there are others out there that
are substituting food for drink!
Wow! I didn't really put this together. I have been drinking
wine daily, and never did before surgery. I don't always drink
to get drunk but I am pretty upset if I don't at least have a
glass before I go to bed. I have made the excuse that it helps
me sleep. But I have read numerous articles stating it will
help you fall asleep, but not get you into the proper REM stages
you need for sleep. I do think since I have picked up this habit
it has inhibited my weight loss. I have just been blaming it on
I had weight loss surgery in May 2004 and have lost 120
pounds. I would still like to lose an
additional 60 pounds, but maybe the wine has affected this
because of the calories and the time of night I drink. I may
start drinking about 8pm and continue until I go to bed at
10pm. I am so interested if others have picked up this habit
I have not shared my concern about drinking too much wine
because I was afraid of being labeled an alcoholic. I am not
inclined to over eat as much as I truly enjoy a glass of Merlot
in the evening, maybe two or three glasses. I don't feel out of
control but I do feel guilty that it could be the reason I'm not
losing weight. Is there something I should know as to why I
enjoy wine vs/ food? Thank you.
I have pondered that same question: Have I traded food for
alcohol? I am 15 months post op. My starting weight was 331
pounds and I am 5'6." My current weight is 168, so I am down 163
Out with the girls on Friday night has become mainstream for
me for almost a year now. Alcohol is always involved. I love to
drink gin and tonic. I have a high tolerance and can drink an
average of 5 drinks over a 5 hour period. Currently however, my
alcohol intake is just not on Friday nights. I have wine
everyday around 5-5:30 and average one glass a night. I have
been known to stop at a bar for a margarita on the way home by
myself, something I never did before surgery. In fact my alcohol
consumption before surgery was 2 to 3 drinks a month, if that!
Is it really a trade of behaviors or is it that my life is
more social, and with that social scene alcohol is part of it?
My circle of friends is also weight loss surgery patients and
they agree that their consumption of alcohol has increased. I
have tried sobriety just last week. I only lasted 36 hours. I
take this seriously and have curtailed my consumption to 2
drinks then I switch to water and lime.
I look forward to your publication on this topic.
I do feel that I have traded a food obsession for an alcohol
obsession. I have always been a social drinker; however I could
go many months without a drink before. Now since the surgery, I
feel I would rather have a drink instead of a snack. I probably
drink four out of seven days of the week, and I may have 2
drinks in the evening on weekdays, and up to 4 drinks on the
That was never the case with me before the surgery. It does
cross my mind sometimes that I may be drinking too often, and my
weight loss has come to a halt. I would like to lose 25 more
pounds to reach my goal weight, and I have been told that if I
cut out the alcohol that it would probably come off much faster.
I however get a weird pleasure from a drink. It feels as if I am
filling some type of void.
I am very glad that I am not alone, I didn't want to tell
anyone about it, and sometimes I laugh about it, but I didn't
realize it may be a problem.
Thank you for your concern.
Your question about
trading food addiction to alcohol addiction slapped me in the
face. I have been suffering with this for almost three years.
I abused alcohol in the past, but not like this. It
doesn't take much to drink into a black out. But, I don't even
stop there. I have had problems with my marriage and my
children. I am mostly a binge drinker. I hide my alcohol because
my husband and children don't want me to drink anymore.
My drink of choice is vodka and a diet energy drink. They go
down smooth and fast. I try to just drink one, but I can drink
up to a fifth of vodka in one night. I make a fool of my self
have had one DWI.
The last time I drank, which was two weeks ago, I got very
aggressive and could have been arrested for breaking and
entering. I don't want to go to AA. I have gone through
treatment for alcohol abuse after a rape in 1986 and have done
I think the reason I didn't get to my goal weight is because
of the drinking. I weighed 319 pounds, got down to 286 pounds
the day of surgery which was February 2003
and am 190 pounds now at 5'3. I have maintained my weight the
entire time. I just
messed up during my 18 months to lose.
I would like to hear more on other people having the same
I had my surgery on October 27, 2003 and picked up alcohol
and other substances shortly thereafter, after 18 years of
"sobriety." I also misused pain medication and began to smoke
pot again. Though I had stopped those substances many years
before, I left the rooms of recovery because I was able to
maintain my sense of isolation and my destructive thinking
through the use of food. I spent several years in OA also, but
always returned to food, not other substances, as my primary
addiction. When I had surgery, I could no longer hide behind
food and I could not handle the sense of desperation I felt.
However, I had nurtured resentment about the 12-step programs
and did not think to return there to address my problems. So it
was inevitable that I would need to pick up something to deaden
the pain and emptiness I felt inside.
I currently have just over 30 days of sobriety, and have
found the support in the rooms of recovery to be just what I
needed. I am learning that I cannot live a happy life until I
work on the problems I create in my own head. The program helps
me find the serenity I need and challenges me to look at my
behavior and how it affects my thinking and my relationships
I have dropped the defensiveness that food always allowed me
to maintain, and I have learned that I can no longer view myself
as separate from others. I am an addictive person and still
sometimes seek solace in food. But, since the surgery, I am not
able to consume the quantities that made the "food solution"
work for me before. It has taken awhile, but I am growing
spiritually and emotionally in a way I never thought possible
before surgery. And I know I would never have returned to the
rooms of recovery when I was imprisoned by the shame of excess
Surgery was the best thing I ever did for myself. But we need
to continue to grow beyond the physical changes or we will
deteriorate and find something else to fill the void. Thanks for
letting me share my experience.
This has definitely become a problem for me. I love to drink,
I love the affect, and I love my euphoria. It has also caused
weight gain, and compulsive eating. When I totally abstain I
feel better. I am on a cycle of drinking too much and eating,
and then totally abstaining. I haven't traded one addiction for
another. I just added another.
What a strange coincidence that I received your newsletter when
I was just recently rushed by ambulance to the emergency room in
severe pain. Apparently my "partying" in Houston and Lafayette
had finally caught up with me.
have been consuming an enormous amount of alcohol. March 18th at
3:00 am it all came crashing down on me. My pancreas was
was not drinking every day but when I did drink, I made up for
not drinking every day! My doctor has since informed me that I
cannot have any alcohol at all, positively no alcohol ever
When people ask me why I was drinking so much, all I could tell
them was that I liked the feeling and it was fun drinking and
having a grand ole time. Since I wasn't hungry, I had lots of
room for alcohol! This was a big mistake.
will be 3 years post-op on May 9, 2006. I've lost 246 pounds
and my weight has finally stabilized at around 125-130 pounds.
most valuable lesson I've learned since my surgery is that
having gastric bypass surgery gave me a second chance for a
richer and fuller life and I almost destroyed it by my behavior.
I had not dealt with or even considered changing my behavior
until now. So I can only tell all you out there to think twice
even three times before picking up that drink. It's not worth
I am one who had weight loss surgery and can relate to this.
In October, 2003, I had my surgery and was very successful. I
followed my doctorís advice exactly.
I went on vacation in December. My friends were having
drinks while I was drinking water. Following my vacation I went
for my third checkup with my surgeon and asked him if I could
drink alcoholic beverages. He suggested that I could but in
I used to drink beer before the surgery and tried my first
beer and couldn't stand it. It tasted awful, plus I felt it
bloated my small pouch too much. I started drinking wine and
found that a couple of glasses of wine made me tipsy in no
time. I have had some many instances that my parents or my wife
had to come and pick me up at different places because I was not
in any way capable of driving my car after 2 glasses of wine.
This kept going on for a while until I decided to quit. I
started exercising and riding my bike with my wife and
everything was great for a couple of months.
Stress started in my job and I needed some relief. I went
back to wine which was a big mistake. I have been drinking wine
for about 2 years. My safety on the road and the way I was
waking up in morning made me realize that I couldn't go through
with it anymore.
I didn't ask for any outside help, but tried to limit my
intake to two to four glasses a week. My first week, was good.
My second week was even better. I was feeling alive again.
There are some times that I don't even drink wine. I have
substituted water for flavored water, just to replace the wine.
It has been difficult, but I think I have it under control now.
I have been in control for about 4 months, and still trying to
control it. It doesn't seem to be that difficult.
People who have had gastric bypass surgery need to know that
having alcoholic beverages will expand their pouches. I know,
because I have noticed that my intake had been more in those
instances. I don't want to get to the same size I was before
and have noticed that. I am doing my best to eat the right
foods and just feel satisfied without any liquids, including
alcohol. I decided to stop drinking because it was affecting my
marriage, work, and family interaction.
I know that people who used to drink a lot just like myself
have to make a life adjustment. Just like you have your stomach
reduced and are starting a new life, you need to adjust to
everything else, it is going to be hard, but you must try to
My regards to everyone
When I read that on the last news
letter I almost fell off my chair. Iím 2 years post-op and have
lost 120 pounds and feel worse now than ever. Four months after
my surgery I was so tired and felt so bad I thought something
was really wrong.
I had my blood work done and a full
check up and found out I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and
Fibromyalga, not just one but both. I hurt all over and when a
really bad flare up hits Iím in bed for days. This is not what I
envisioned when I had this surgery. I wanted to be able to walk
again for more than a few steps without hurting and not being
able to breathe. So thatís my reason for drinking. I beat myself
up all the time for so many things then just get so depressed
about everything. I could care less about eating but let me
start drinking and I donít stop until I know I will sleep for
days. Then I wonít have to think about anything or deal with
Thereís so much more to it which
Iím sure you realize but if anyone has traded food for alcohol
it has to be me. And they said you canít drink after this
surgery! I wish that were true. I can drink just about anyone I
know under the table and still go for more. Lately Iíve been
thinking about talking to my doctor about all this but he
doesnít even know I drink, and I donít know how to start with
Anonymous in Atlanta,
It's funny, I was always the one in
my family that didn't need or want a drink, not even a glass of
wine. I have siblings that are alcoholics, our father was too.
Since my surgery, it started with a glass of wine with dinner,
now I'm drinking 3 glasses a night!! I'm not happy about it and
I am scared I can't go without it. I'm a lupus patient, on many
meds, and have liver problems. So, you would think I would know
not to drink at all any more! I want to be the person I was a
year ago, when I didn't need or want alcohol.
I feel that maybe I am becoming an alcoholic since my surgery. I
had my surgery 3 years ago and I now weigh 110pounds. My surgeon
wants me to weigh130pounds. I eat full meals and graze when I am
hungry. I enjoy 2 to 3 glasses of wine every night. If I drink
harder liquor, after one drink I don't remember the night
before. I have tried not to drink but I really enjoy the wine
and I feel that I have given up everything else. Could this
making my weight stay so low?