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Cross Addiction After Gastric Bypass: My Story
March 30, 2001 was the first day of the rest of my life. I feel as though Dr. Ren gave it back to me that day. I used to joke throughout my twenties and thirties that, if my drug of choice had been alcohol or drugs, instead of food, I would already be dead. I had no clue back then that I would ever face those other two demons. However, being the child of two alcoholics, who were the children of four alcoholics, who probably were the children of eight alcoholics, I knew that I already had a pre-existing genetic tendency in that area.
I adhered to the doctor's and nutritionist's recommendation not to consume any alcohol during the first twelve months after surgery. Losing weight so rapidly during that time, I was on a natural high anyway. After the first year, I began to have one or two drinks a night of approximately 6-8 oz. of hard liquor. I had been seeing a therapist for several years for depression, and a psychiatrist once a month for medication management. Approximately three years ago, I began to experience panic attacks. Unless you have experienced them, they are somewhat difficult to explain. You start to get sweaty, hyperventilate, feel totally out of control and that death is imminent. I was prescribed the drug clonazepam (brand name, klonepin) to treat these attacks. Looking back now, that was exactly the time my drinking began to increase. Every month my psychiatrist told me I should try to cut down, but she continued to prescribe the drug, which is in the benzodiazepine family.
How do I know come to have all this information? I have just spent twelve days in an inpatient alcoholism detox and treatment program. I learned a great many things there. I learned that klonepin is contraindicated for anyone using alcohol, and that it is also contraindicated for long term use. As a result of workshops and group and individual therapy, I also learned that I have an addictive personality. When I was active sexually in my youth it was to excess. When I gambled it was to excess. When I ate it was to excess. And, finally, when I drank alcohol also fueled by the addition of a very strong drug (that is also contraindicated for anyone with an addictive personality) I did it in excess.
Hindsight being 20/20 of course, I should have read everything available about all of the psychotropic and narcotic drugs being prescribed for me. The fact that my medication manager was the chief psychiatrist at a major hospital should not have been enough for me to unquestioningly keep taking medications that my family said were turning me into a zombie.
I am writing this in my journal; an exercise in getting feelings out in the open. But, if this helps even one other post gastric bypass patient avoid some very dangerous pitfalls, it was worth sharing it with you.