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Addictions And Decisions - A Million Little Pieces

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Old 12-31-2005, 09:46 PM   #1
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Default Addictions And Decisions - A Million Little Pieces

I just finished reading A Million Little Pieces by James Frey – a real life memoir of alcohol and drug addiction and rehab. At various points in the book, the author muses about the nature of addictions – be they smoking, caffeine, shopping, gambling, alcohol, drugs or whatever – which caused me to evaluate my relationship to food. Could it validly be classified as an addiction? I’m still thinking on it.

Anyway, one paragraph in particular jumped out at me and I though it worth posting for discussion. It’s quite raw and opinionated, but it touches on many of the issues that have cropped up here in Maintainers. I’d love to hear everyone’s reactions and thoughts.

Quote:
Although genetics and a genetic link may be undeniable, everything about us is genetic, and everything about our physical selves is predetermined by a genetic link. If an individual is fat but wants to be thin, it’s not a genetic disease. If someone is stupid, but wants to be smart, it’s not a genetic disease. If a drunk is a drunk, but doesn’t want to be a drunk any more, it’s not a genetic disease. Addiction is a decision. An individual wants something, whatever that something is, and makes a decision to get it. Once they have it, they make a decision to take it. If they take it too often, that process of decision making gets out of control, and if it gets too far out of control, it becomes an addiction. At that point, the decision is a difficult one to make, but it is still a decision. Do I or don’t I. Am I going to take or am I not going to take. Am I going to be a pathetic dumbs**t Addict and continue to waste my life or am I going to say no and try to stay sober and be a decent Person. It is a decision. Each and every time. A decision. String enough of those decisions together and you set a course and you set a standard of living. Addict or human. Genetics do not make that call. They are just an excuse. They allow People to say it wasn’t my fault I am genetically predisposed. It wasn’t my fault I was preprogrammed from day one. It wasn’t my fault I didn’t have any say in the matter. Bulls**t. F**k that bulls**t. There is always a decision. Take responsibility for it. Addict or human. It’s a f**king decision. Each and every time.
pp 291-292

This paragraph hit me like a punch in the gut. What’s your reaction? Are we just another kind of addict? Is it genetics? Or is it a choice? Talk to me!
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Old 12-31-2005, 10:10 PM   #2
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I think it's a choice. I don't believe in blaming everything on genetics either. However, letting everyone know, this is just my personal opinion.

When someone says, "I'm overweight because it's in my genetics," I too say, "that's a bunch of crap."

Yes, maybe it *IS* within their 'genetics' to be overweight. But that doesn't mean they have to STAY overweight. Being overweight, like most things in life, is a choice. You either choose to bite the bullet and get off your a$$ and lose the weight or you choose to just remain that way. I chose to NOT remain that way. And after years of dieting and topping myself off at 220 pounds, I finally made the decision to change my life (and my lifestyle) forever.

I'm no longer 220 pounds.

I couldn't admit then that I was FAT. But now I can. Then, just to hear the word "FAT" would upset me. Now I can look in the mirror and say, "You were fat," and I can even handle someone else telling me, "you were fat." Then it would have hurt my feelings. Now I can say, "Yes, I know."

I think everything in life is a choice. We choose whether or not to drink, or smoke, or do drugs - or eat. The lesson I've taught myself (and have learned the hard way) is that NO food is worth hating myself for. None, nada, not one. Not anymore.

Perhaps some people feel they have a true addiction to the substances of life. But look deep within yourself. If you truly want to overcome these 'addictions', then you can. And never let anyone tell you any different. It's like a smoker or a drinker who flat out says, "I can't stop."

Yes you can. But you have to WANT to.

The mind is more powerful than the body. And how you allow your mind to change your body is totally up to you.

Great post
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Old 12-31-2005, 10:17 PM   #3
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And to add, I perfectly understand that the body CAN become dependent on things like alcohol, nicotine and drugs. That much is true. But dependent on food? Of course we're dependent on food, we need it to survive. But how MUCH you eat is a choice.
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Old 12-31-2005, 11:03 PM   #4
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Thank you. I just put the peanutbutter cups in the garbage. Why was I keeping them?
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Old 12-31-2005, 11:38 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SusanB
Thank you. I just put the peanutbutter cups in the garbage. Why was I keeping them?
Because you like occasional sweet treats?

I have them too. I don't believe in deprivation. I believe in moderation. There's nothing wrong with having the occasional treat, just don't overdo it is all.

If I want chocolate now and then, I eat it. I just make sure it's counted in with my calories for the day
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Old 01-01-2006, 07:40 AM   #6
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I couldn't agree more. I'm actually half way through that very book as I type this, and the sole purpose of my picking it up in the first place was because I am interested in the idea of a distinct correlation between the way Mr. Frey addresses his substance addictions and how I address my food addiction. I've believed for some time now that they were one in the same, but as I read this raw, dark, deeply personal insight into a desperate addict's mind, I am certain that there is no difference between him and I, except that my drug of choice was more socially acceptable than his, but potentially just as destructive. I believe that we have the choice in absolutely everything we do. Even the things we are incessantly driven to do, we must still own responsibility for the ultimate action we choose to take, along with the consequences of those actions. I realized that I lived my whole miserably obese life making one excuse after another as to why it was too hard or why it wasn't my fault, but that's bulls**t. Yes, I was cursed with crappy genes and an addictive personality, aaaaand??? And nothing, I either had to accept it for what it is and learn to make the best of what I have, or wallow in my own self-imposed victomhood, and know that nothing would ever change, ever. Now I choose to be the driving force behind my own life, not my addictions. It's just that simple, IMO. As always, my two cents...

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Old 01-01-2006, 08:24 AM   #7
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I've thrown out all kinds of left-over Christmas food. I was looking for something else when I realised that the peanutbutter cups were still there. My heart actually did a little happy flip, I felt my eyes grow wide. And I didn't have just one. After everyone went to bed, I got out the bag!
They had to go.
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Old 01-01-2006, 10:00 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boiaby
too hard or why it wasn't my fault, but that's bulls**t. Yes, I was cursed with crappy genes and an addictive personality, aaaaand??? And nothing, I either had to accept it for what it is and learn to make the best of what I have, or wallow in my own self-imposed victomhood, and know that nothing would ever change, ever. Now I choose to be the driving force behind my own life, not my addictions. It's just that simple, IMO. As always, my two cents...
Yay you!

Hearing someone else say that makes me happy. Why? Because I hear so many people say things like, "I can't lose weight, I have terrible metabolism," or, "I can't lose weight, I was born fat and I'll ALWAYS be fat."

I used the metabolism excuse for so long I can't even believe how funny it is. "Oh, I must have poor metabolism is all, it's pointless for me to try and lose weight. I guess I'm just genetically predisposed to stay this way the rest of my life. And I'm sure the older I get, the slower my metabolism goes, so there's really no point in wasting my time, I'll just have to get used to being fat for the rest of my life."

Bah! What a load of crap
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Old 01-01-2006, 10:01 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SusanB
I've thrown out all kinds of left-over Christmas food. I was looking for something else when I realised that the peanutbutter cups were still there. My heart actually did a little happy flip, I felt my eyes grow wide. And I didn't have just one. After everyone went to bed, I got out the bag!
They had to go.
Ahh, well see, that's a good thing, because you've recognized a problem area and a weakness and did for yourself what you had to do to take care of it.

Yay you too!
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Old 01-01-2006, 11:24 AM   #10
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I wholeheartedly believe that addiction is a choice.

I believe that certain behaviors are hereditary and do play a part in how easily a person can BECOME addicted - but inheriting these behaviors isn't necessarily a predisposition to BEING addicted (alcohol, drugs, food, whatever). And, of course, there are always outside forces that have an impact on whether or not a person chooses to give in but at some point they still have to make the choice to do so.

I have quite a bit of alcoholism in my family so I know first hand that saying "it is a choice" is an oversimplified explanation. There are a TON of factors that determine how difficult it is for any person to make the right choices, genetics being one of them. But, when it is all said and done, it is still a choice.

Social and economic factors play a role as does a person's family and upbringing. Still, if you strip away all of those things you are left with a person deciding how to best handle a particular situation and they make the decision that drinking, or drugs, or food (whatever) is their best bet.
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Old 01-02-2006, 10:56 AM   #11
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From what I learned in a neuroscience class, I am inclined to say that some people may have a genetic predisposition toward addictive behaviors or obesity (though these are not governed by the same systems in your brain). HOWEVER, just because you are "predisposed" toward something does not mean you are "destined" to it. For example, someone who comes from a family of alcoholics might be predisposed to alcoholism, but if they are aware of this and they are careful with their decisions, they can avoid ever becoming an alcoholic.

Food I think is a slightly different issue because I think it has a lot to do with culture. I don't think that there are so many overweight families (where the parents are overweight and the small children are too) because they are genetically inclined to be overweight, I think it's because the parents maybe have poor control of their food choices and end up feeding their kids the same unhealthy foods they eat themselves, or encouraging them not to exercise, etc.

That said, there are genetic differences that we can't totally ignore. In some cases of pathological obesity (I mean the people who end up weighing like 900lbs, not just morbid obesity in general), the hormones that regulate feeding cycles may be unbalanced (like leptin, which I think has been covered here before). That's not to say that happens to most overweight people, but it is a factor in a small percentage of cases. Also, I have personally known very thin people who have tried everything imaginable to gain weight and failed, which suggests that those people and I have a genetic difference in our metabolism or something.

About addiction, let me look up this section in my neuroscience book (in case anyone wants a reference, it is "Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain" by Bear, Connors, and Paradiso). In cases of eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, and though the book doesn't explicitly mention it I would assume compulsive overeating as well) there is a link to hormone levels in the brain:

Quote:
Abnormalities in brain serotonin regulation are believed to be one factor that contributes to eating disorders. The defining characteristic of anorexia nervosa is the voluntary maintenance of body weight at an abnormally low level, while bulimia nervosa is characterized by frequent eating binges, often compensated for by forced vomiting. These disorders are also commonly accompanied by depression, a severe disturbance of mood that has been linked to lowered brain serotonin levels. The serotonin connection is clearest in the case of bulimia. In addition to depressing mood, lowered serotonin levels reduce satiety. Indeed, antidepressant drugs that act to elevate brain serotonin levels, such as fluoxetine (Prozac), are also an effective treatment for the majority of bulimia nervosa patients.
I guess what I am saying is that there are genetic factors involved in some cases of obesity, but by no means most or all cases. I think the percentage of overweight people who are actually compulsive overeaters is small though I have no sources to back that up. I know personally that my obesity was a result of my upbringing and poor food choices, although I do believe that it is easier for me to gain weight than some other people I know. This is probably also partially due to the fact that I was out of shape my whole life, and we all know building muscle helps burn more calories.

Anyway, I am kind of blathering now, so that's all for me. Time for breakfast!
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