Woman 'drank herself to death after swapping food addiction with alcohol'

A woman ‘drank herself to death’ after swapping her addiction to food with alcohol, her family has said.

Nicole Wilson, 44, suffered from a binge eating disorder since childhood, causing her to become obese.

To lose weight, she underwent a gastric bypass – where surgical staples are used to create a small pouch at the top of the stomach. 

As an adult, Nicole, who had a successful career in marketing, weighed more than 300 pounds.

After the procedure in 2013, she managed to lose 120 pounds. But her family said that about a year later, she started drinking ‘excessively’.

After being in and out of rehab for two and a half years, Nicole died from alcohol poisoning.

Her sister Amanda, from Indianapolis, Indiana, believes she suffered from transfer addiction – when people trade food addiction for another dependence.

‘I am angry patients are not being properly screened or educated,’ the 46-year-old said.

Weight loss surgery

There are several types of weight loss surgery available on the NHS.

The most common types are:

  • gastric band – a band is placed around your stomach, so you do not need to eat as much to feel full
  • gastric bypass – the top part of your stomach is joined to the small intestine, so you feel fuller sooner and do not absorb as many calories from food
  • sleeve gastrectomy – some of your stomach is removed, so you cannot eat as much as you could before and you’ll feel full sooner

All these operations can lead to significant weight loss within a few years, but each has advantages and disadvantages.

‘I know she was in a Facebook support group for transfer addiction but I did not know how many times she went but I know she was involved.

I believe there should have been counselling for Nicole. When you are obese your entire life the adjustment to how people treat you is huge.

‘You go from being told you are not good enough, to people fancying you and wanting to take you for a drink.

‘The mental health aspect and realising how differently you have been treated your whole life – there needs to be support for that.’

Before gastric bypass surgeries, patients are screened and receive a psychological assessment.

Amanda said her sister passed, and after having the surgery, she did not drink for a year at all. But it all changed in early 2015.

She recalled: ‘It wasn’t any excessive – probably one or two beers. When you have this surgery your stomach is smaller so it changes the way you absorb alcohol.

‘Nicole started dating, being social and going out to see friends. It started off with a beer here and there, then it moved onto mixed drinks and then she would drink vodka straight from the bottle.

‘I do believe in my sister’s case that she had a binge eating disorder and it was undiagnosed and untreated – yes I do.

‘When you can’t go to your usual comfort you replace it with something else, in this case it was alcohol.’

Amanda and her dad were so concerned with Nicole’s behaviour that they staged an intervention.

But the drinking continued until the fatal night in November 2018 when she got a call from Nicole’s boyfriend that she had died from alcohol poisoning.

Amanda described her sister as her best friend, adding that she was ‘quiet, but at the same time she used her words to let you know exactly what she was thinking’.

‘She was also funny, we loved travelling together – we would go travelling at least twice a year. She was outgoing, funny and enjoyed life,’ she added.

As a result of this tragic loss, Amanda is calling on more support for patients who have life-changing surgery.

Need help?

Drinkline is the national alcohol helpline. If you’re worried about your own or someone else’s drinking, you can call this free helpline in complete confidence.

Call 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am to 8pm, weekends 11am to 4pm).

More information about support groups is also available on the NHS website.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].

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