Yesterday I mentioned my efforts to lose weight, and how successful they had been. I have, in fact, succeeded in losing weight on numerous occasions. I lost two stone after having my second baby (sponsored, and I raised almost £500 for LawCare’s Welfare Fund), a stone after having my third baby, and half a stone for my wedding. So if I’ve now lost a total of 3½ stone, why do I need to rejoin a slimming club?
I put it down to denial. I lose the weight, and then somehow I believe that all those rules no longer apply, that I can eat cheese, chocolate and crisps to my heart’s content without compromising my newly svelte figure. Our honeymoon to Florida was a typical case in point. My favourite jeans, which had fitted perfectly on the flight out, would no longer do up the day we went home and I was genuinely surprised. To my astonishment, having several trips to an all-you-can-eat buffet and four Krispy Kreme doughnuts each day had caused me to put weight on. Who knew?
Working for LawCare means I get to speak to a lot of alcoholics. Their firm denial of the problem used to amaze me. Lawyers regularly phone our helpline saying that their senior partner, wife or friend had insisted they call about their alcohol problem. What they are expecting to hear is “Only eight pints a night? No, you’re fine, tell your senior partner/wife/friend to stop wasting our time.”
Instead we are not shy about telling them that their pattern of drinking is harmful and might be called alcoholic, that we believe they have a problem which needs to be addressed, and that we would like to suggest ways they might be helped. They are often very surprised, defensive, and usually, in denial. They will offer excuses, in much the same way I do when dieting (“Carrot cake has no calories because it’s a vegetable”) and seem to really believe their ridiculous claims. One caller, for example, claimed that she only drank as much as she did because she had recurring problems with her throat, and alcohol was the only thing that soothed it. And had soothed it to the tune of two bottles of wine a day for the last six years. No, of course she hadn’t seen a doctor about her throat problem. She hadn’t even seen a packet of Strepsils. But she really believed that she needed to drink because of her throat.
Another example of denial came from a man who had recurring night sweats. He had looked up the symptom in a home diagnosis book and discovered that only three problems accounted for it – alcoholism, menopause and tuberculosis. He drank alcohol from noon, when the pub opened, until closing time, but told me, in all seriousness, that his night sweats were due to his undiagnosed TB.
It may seem blindingly obvious to us that these people have a problem, but I can sympathise. I am in denial too. When I finish the children’s leftovers, it somehow “doesn’t count”, and everyone knows that broken biscuits have no calories. Denial is a curious thing. When something is important to us – be it chocolate chip cookies or booze – we will happily distort reality rather than go without it.
LawCare’s free and confidential helpline is available 9-7.30 Monday-Friday, 10-4 weekends, on:
0800 279 6888 (Solicitors, Law Students and Legal Executives in England and Wales)
0800 279 6869 (Solicitors, Advocates and Law Students in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man)
0800 018 4299 (Barristers, Clerks and Judges in England and Wales)
1800 991801 (Solicitors in the Republic of Ireland)