There’s a great song I remember from a long time ago called, “Not an Addict.” About drug addiction, (something I’ve never personally experienced) I cannot say how I relate to it really, other than I liked the melody and raw rush of emotions the band, K’s Choice, sang it with. After listening to the lyrics recently, they really did portray the struggle of denial. And even though I’ve not struggled with drugs, I have struggled with other things, and they’re not all that fun to admit to either.
It’s funny because it never feels like falling when you trip, but coming up from down can hurt a lot. In terms of addiction, I’ve seen a pattern humans follow. First, we do something because it’s fun, we like it or it makes us feel important in some way. Then, we do something because it is what we’ve been doing, so we’re used to it. Finally, we do what we do because we don’t recognize ourselves without, it; and by then we’ve gone to far. We need it. Our habit, dirty-little-secret or addiction has now become our crutch, and we’ve forgotten how to walk through life on our own.
A quote from Ellen Burnstyn’s recently hit home to me. It said, “She goes from one addiction to another. All are ways for her to not feel her feelings.” When I first read this I thought, Oh, so sad. Whoever “she” is must really have some terrible struggles to “not feel.” Then I got off my high horse and realized I do this too. Sure my addictions aren’t drugs or alcohol, but what about my commitments, my endless string of, “yes, I can do it” replies that feed my sense of achievement or purpose? I have, in fact, many times felt myself numbing to society, relationships and even my faith in the addictive struggle to keep going, keep climbing and keep up with the ideal version of who I think I’m supposed to be.
You might say this isn’t a “real” addiction, it’s just life. Still, I would argue I can relate in small ways; from what I’ve seen, it’s the small addictions we need to look out for. Nothing big gets big without first being small. Nothing big becomes what it is without our permission to grow.
When I was a teenager, my Junior year was supremely busy. Involved in honors classes, dance every day, family and friend obligations, I got too busy to do normal things – like eat. It began as an accident really, this weight loss, but soon, I noticed, and so did other people. Each compliment, or word of concern that I masked as a compliment, became my food … my nourishment. I started to see my reflection as one of numbers, (particularly the negative ones). And before I knew it, that small bit of weight I was losing became a daily obsession with the scale. I noticed the number of pounds I lost, bites I took, calories I consumed and calories I burned. I wasn’t out of control, I was too in control, but of the wrong things.
Within about six months I began noticing other numbers. I saw the number of times my parents and sister cast worried glances at one another. I felt the number of headaches and forgetful spells that tired me. I saw the number of bruises I gained at a touch and how often my hands would involuntarily shake. Finally, I realized the number of opportunities I would miss if I continued to starve myself; so I stopped, but it was far from easy and to this day I struggle with reflections.
Jon Kabat-Zinn once said, “All the suffering, stress, and addiction comes from not realizing you are already what you are looking for.” And I didn’t. Inherently, regardless of the number of people who loved me and looked out for me, I needed only one person’s approval … my own. It took me a long time to reach this conclusion. And I can’t help but wonder how many of you are still waiting to grant yourself this gift?
So, as a step forward in my journey, this Spring season I am giving up coffee. Though not extreme, I know that I am a small-sort of addict … when you wake up and the first thing on your mind is a dose of French vanilla caffeine, there’s a bit of a dependance brewing along with the grinds. And, though many might say there’s no shame in one or two cups, I don’t like that I felt myself need it. No matter how small it seems, I don’t want crutches. I know coffee isn’t my worst addiction, it’s my self-seeking, “busy-makes-me-better” personality. But maybe depriving myself of caffeine will slow me down enough to walk away from the small stuff that I make too big a priority out of. And just maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll be able to feel the feelings I tend to rush right past.