Weight loss surgeries have quadrupled in recent years and gastric bypass alone is up 600 percent. Many think it's the magic pill for weight loss, but some experts are now estimating that as many as 30 percent of those people who have the surgery will struggle with new addictions like alcoholism, gambling, compulsive shopping and sex addiction.
Drinking alcohol can be especially dangerous for post-surgery patients because any alcohol consumed bypasses the old stomach and is rapidly absorbed right into the bloodstream, which makes their blood alcohol level spike. Because gastric bypass patients can't eat as much food, there's very little in the stomach to slow the absorption of the alcohol down. Many patients say they start to feel drunk almost instantly.
Despite many late nights partying in bars, blackouts and two stays in rehab, Lori says she could stop drinking at any time. "I know my family takes issue with this—I don't believe that I'm an alcoholic," says Lori. "I do believe that my drinking is situational and that I am making a choice to drink."
Lori's oldest daughter, Shannon, says she feels "orphaned" because of her mother's drinking and feels like she's raising her siblings because of her mother's alcohol abuse. "I'm not a normal 20-year-old, I don't have as much fun as other people my age because I'm constantly worried about what my brother and sister are doing," says Shannon.
By abusing alcohol, Dr. Robin says Lori is ultimately transferring her childhood wounds to her own children. "This is what happens when people were injured and they don't heal the wound," says Dr. Robin. "They then become the perpetrator, and then they harm other people as well as themselves."
Dr. Robin says Pat needs to acknowledge the toll that Lori's drinking is taking on the family. "You [need to] get really clear that you and your children are not living with this woman—not that you're not going to live with Lori whole and healed—but not the addict, no way," says Dr. Robin. "Not one more day will you or your children be subjected to someone who is unable to see that they're suffering."
At age 18, Carnie joined singing group Wilson Phillips. She turned to food to deal with the mounting pressure. Carnie eventually reached more than 300 pounds, and her struggle with obesity made headlines when she announced she would undergo a live gastric bypass surgery online. "I was very scared. I knew in my heart that that was the answer for me," Carnie says. "It had to be done. I didn't have a choice."
About 2.5 million people watched Carnie's surgery live on the Internet in 1999. After shedding 150 pounds, Carnie then underwent several plastic surgeries. A slimmer, sexier Carnie even posed for Playboy.
Carnie believes many overweight people have addictive personalities, herself included. She admits she also had an addiction to marijuana before undergoing surgery. "The weight loss surgery didn't cause me to be an alcoholic," Carnie says. "I'm a born addict."
The stress of being known as "the poster child for weight loss surgery" only contributed to her problem. "I didn't want to be a failure," Carnie says. "And that gave me anxiety. And that made me drink."
Carnie soon began waking up every day wondering how she was going to stop drinking. "The drinking progressed more and more and more and more and I found I was getting drunk very fast and I was getting sober very fast," Carnie says. "It was frightening because I saw myself going down a spiral very quickly."
"We were five years into our marriage at that point and she was really kind of in the whole alcoholic stage," Rob says. "And I said, 'You're either gonna sober up and be sober for a little while before we start trying to have a baby or I don't really see us going anywhere.' If you're not healthy with yourself, how are you gonna be a good mom?"
Carnie says she stopped drinking right away. Three weeks later, she was pregnant. "That's why I'm clean," Carnie says. "I'm clean for my daughter."
After two years of sobriety, Carnie has decided to finally share her secret to help others realize surgery isn't a cure-all. "I'm here to get the message out that after you have a gastric bypass surgery, you need to focus on what's in your head," Carnie says. "Before the surgery, you focus on it. During the surgery, you focus on it. After the surgery...it is ongoing forever."
Dr. Robin cautions to make sure that you are around people who won't feed your addiction—especially family members. "Part of that healing is partnering with people who are invested in you being whole," Dr. Robin says.
After surgery, Linda lost 200 pounds and hoped her new look would help her improve her marriage. "I thought that the reason that my husband was not in love with me, had never been in love with me, was because of the way that I looked," Linda says.
Linda's transformation did not save her crumbling marriage. She says her husband withdrew even more. "Becoming thin was supposed to be the answer to all of my problems," Linda says. "And then you finally achieve that goal and everything's not all better. It comes as such a shock."
No longer able to turn to food for comfort, Linda developed a dangerous set of addictions that would turn her world upside-down.
She confesses to having 14 affairs in all—including seven one-night stands, five of those with perfect strangers. "I was completely destroyed by guilt," Linda says. "I hated myself. I hated what I'd done to myself, to my kids, to their father, to everyone that mattered in my life."
It's no surprise, Dr. Robin says, that once Linda's waistline shrunk, the pain increased and new addictions formed. "It's not about the food—the food is symbolic of all the other stuff," Dr. Robin says. "Addictions are symbols. They are in our life to say, 'You are in trouble.'"
Linda sees a therapist and has completed an outpatient program for her drinking, but continues to struggle with knowing who she is. "I knew who the fat girl was. I don't know who this girl is. And it's all part of figuring that out," Linda says.
Dr. Robin says it's an illusion to think she knew who she was when she was heavy "because that person also was in hiding. And it's better to know that you're actually starting from scratch than to think that you did know, and lost [yourself]," Dr. Robin says.