Thursday, December 12, 2013

Part 1 - What Celiacs and Addicts Have in Common


Yes, I think I made up a word for the title "Allergeniacs" meaning: one who has an allergy/health condition/intolerance of some sort. If you like it/don't like it, comment and I'll try to make up a new one. This is the negative portion, part 1 of 2. If you have anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, I urge you to wait to read this until tomorrow, when the positive portion, part 2 of 2 is posted.

I was recently at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, supporting people I know. At this particular meeting, a gentleman was up at the front of the room and talking about his journey from a child, to a teenager, to an adult, to a father and how his alcoholism affected him. What struck me is that I've had and seen many of the same examples in the celiac/gluten allergic/gluten intolerant community and we have a lot more in common than I would bet most people would think. We really should start to band together and support each other!

Here are some of the issues that struck me. I'll probably write more about them again as I encounter them myself:

1. Allergeniacs and Alcoholics are surrounded by danger and temptation. There are liquor stores, grocery stores, restaurants, friends houses, and even gas stations with booze available in them. The Allergeniac suffers a similar woe - practically anywhere you step has something associated with food. Even the freaking library often has cookies. The waiting room of the car dealerships often have flavored coffees and cookies or doughnuts that the allergeniac likely can't eat. Both the alcoholic and allergeniac has to remake their life in order to work around these temptations and deal with going to these facilities without the substance.

2. There is a "seed of denial" that exists once you get better. If you are seeing no symptoms of addiction or side effects of your disease/allergen, you begin to have thoughts that say "You'll be fine if you have one drink" or "You'll be fine if you have one slice of pizza". The next day, you have to face yourself in the mirror and if everything goes okay, one drink or one slice becomes 2. 6. 20. And then you wake up and realize that you hate yourself, the world is awful and that the universe hates you. And you need help to get back to even get to "okay" again. Or just as bad, things go okay, but you have this nagging feeling that things aren't right or your health isn't a-ok and you start to think that is reality, that things will never quite be right for you.

3. The paranoia of the situation starts to eat at your soul. For alcoholics, its always wondering - did they get the wrong drink at a restaurant? What if you accidentally drink from the wrong glass? Will my friends accidentally use alcohol in my food? What if my friends accidentally get booze in my drink? For allergeniacs, its always wondering - did they use exactly what they said to make this food? did they change their gloves? what if my friend drops crumbs on my food, can I still eat it? what if that family member didn't believe me about my allergen and snuck some of it into my food? You begin to realize that eating and drinking anything becomes an operation worthy of D-Day, and full scale wars when you start to have multiple intolerances, allergies, and health conditions.

4. When you make this change to not include the substance in your life, the people you know and love place their food and drink above including you. That's right - they get mad at you for your "food issues". They tell you that you don't love them if you don't eat or drink with them. They hold important things like meetings and social hours at places you cannot go.

Both the alcoholic and the allergeniac have the same problem. We can't go there. Then they force us into re-evaluating friendships and relationships and thinking we've lost our sanity for placing health over eating food that makes us sick or drink what destroys lives.

What's sad is that this makes us sad, feel like we're 5 again and not picked for Red Rover, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it, because these folks will always value their own happiness over ours. Their booze or their fried tortillas or their cream based soups are more important to them because it triggers a chemical reaction in their brain that they associate with positive feelings, and they have less of a "buzz" when they help others achieve this same chemical reaction and make them feel good.

5. The last issue, and by far the hardest issue, is dealing with people in denial or not willing to accept the situation. Many family members and friends just don't believe that their alcoholic has a problem. Or they think "Their dad was alcoholic, and he was fine". Or they think "they just need to drink less" and everything will be fine.

On the flip side of things, family members and friends treat allergeniacs similarly. Many family members and friends just don't believe that their allergeniac is "really" allergic. They sneak the substance into the allergeniacs food and "test" their allergy. They believe that removing a substance from the allergeniacs diet is a "fad" and a little dairy or gluten won't hurt them. Or they think they are self-diagnosing and they really don't have a problem. Or that maybe if they ate less McDonalds, everything would be fine and no one would have to change how they do things.

Both the alcoholics family and the allergeniacs family are in denial about the major change in the life of their addict/allergeniac. They don't have the mental capacity to sift through the information at their disposal and figure out that this person is really suffering and that the fix is simply to remove the substance from their life. They don't realize that what the addict and the allergeniac needs are the same: support.

Unfortunately, the problem with these issues are that they are ongoing. Family and Friends can be in denial forever - it may never end. And the alcoholic and the allergeniac both have to learn to deal with this, and it again will eat away at their soul - some of these folks will never again be able to enter your life, or you have to put such constraints on them that it makes the relationship strained.

But there is a positive side to this. There are SOME ways to help deal with these situations. Stay tuned for Part 2.

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