Saturday, June 26, 2010

If Not For Our Addictions - Part Two

As far as alcohol goes, this should have been enough for me - right? We all survived, we didn't get caught with the whole underage drinking thing and we, or at least I, certainly had been subjected to an all night barrage of compelling reasons why drinking can suck, or more appropriately.... blow.

I didn't drink with any significance again for many years. Oh sure, we had our parties in high school as the Leaders of the Free World will tell you. Those parties have become legend, the parties at Shelley's house, the raiding of our hotel room on a band trip in Daytona Beach, my surprise 18th birthday party at the Holiday Inn banquet room.  I drank beer with the best of 'em. But I never really enjoyed alcohol. That is, until I moved to Milwaukee, where required drinking may be a city ordinance.

I'm pretty sure if one can find a silver lining to the fact that I removed myself from my friends in order to obsess over my high school boyfriend who would later become my husband, the gambler and murderer, it would be this.  I never drank much during those years. I skipped the college parties in favor of Mr. Personality who was much too busy with all his other addictions to involve alcohol. Plus, it was part of his sociopathic disorder to maintain a squeaky clean persona in order to perpetrate his many crimes. He would flash that beautiful smile of his and proudly denounce drug and alcohol use while simultaneously betting our home and belongings on college basketball games.

We all have our addictions, i.e., that which makes us feel high or numbs our pain. Some can be healthy like an addiction to tennis while others can destroy our lives and devastate our loved ones. I spent some time with a girlfriend earlier this week who has recently divorced after a ten year marriage to an alcoholic. She shared some of her more shocking stories with me. Like the time her husband showed up after a night of drinking looking like Telly Savalas. Someone had shaved his head completely bald, then threw in the eyebrows for good measure.

Or there's the man who traded in a twenty plus year marriage, a blessed life with a beautiful woman and two successful young boys for a crystal meth addiction. His life now consists of double wide trailers, a real life crack whore and what will ultimately end up being an early death or jail.  Oh, and did I mention, he's a small town doctor?

Tobacco, alcohol, drugs and gambling used to be the primary scourges of modern society. Now there is much attention directed at sex and porn addicts, shopaholics, tv-internet-video game addicts, success junkies and risk jockies who get their fix through life threatening pursuits. Many times, we carry more than one of these monkeys on our backs. For example, the eyebrow missing man mentioned earlier also gambled away $100,000 during the early years of their marriage.

Then there's the food addict. The addiction to that which also happens to keep you alive. Tell me those people on The Biggest Loser didn't get there because food was their drug of choice.  Go ahead, tell me.  I dare you.

I've been gaining weight as I get older. Yes, it's partly a function of slowed metabolism but primarily, at least in my case, it's more a matter of comfort. Attack of the perimenopause hormones? No problem, make a large chocolate sheet cake, insert fork and viola - you can fall into a sugar coma and wake up hating yourself for doing it, but now if you cry, it will be because you have a valid reason to do so.

Stressed out over work, kids, money, ex-husbands going to jail? That can all go away with a large plate of Mexican food or a fat burger smothered with bleu cheese and fried onions. If that doesn't work, then I pull out the big guns -  some good ol' southern deep fried soul food.  I swear fried okra can cure what ails you. Unfortunately, it can also get you a stern warning pertaining to the potential onset of hypertension, which I received yesterday while at the doctor for a nasty sinus infection.

I have a friend who has the opposite relationship with food.  During times of high stress, she cannot eat.  She has to will herself or literally be reminded to eat. She has been under an enormous amount of stress lately.  At the peak of it, we were all begging her to eat. But secretly, I was wishing I had her particular brand of coping mechanism instead of my own. 

Sometimes I feel like Elizabeth Gilbert in the first section of her book, Eat Pray and Love. She had come to Italy "pinched and thin", in desperate need of sustenance to feed her body and her soul. She immersed herself for four months in two things - Italian language and Italian food. In the end, she recognized that she had put on weight but not just in terms of numbers on a scale. She had expanded and magnified her life. She grew to love herself just a bit more. She allowed the pure pleasure of a decadent slice of pizza paired with the perfect bottle of wine to minister to her; yet, she also recognized one cannot live like that forever. There must be balance. In all things, there must be balance.  And there's the rub.

At present, I feel as if I am stuck at the bottom end of the big yellow teeter totter from the playground of my youth. I am holding myself here with food, wine, stress, uncertainty and to a certain degree, comfort. I am expanding my body to keep it down here because I know this place. I am afraid of what will happen if I push hard against the earth and rise up from the ground.  What if I push too hard and I end up at the top? What if the top of the teeter totter is in reality, the full manifestation of my addictions?  Or what if I'm not on the teeter totter at all.  What if I'm really on the rainbow colored merry-go-round, spinning out of control in a viscous circle of self destruction?

Hello, my name is fear.

I have to find a way to push up from within, to find that center place where I can remain because the other half of my life is holding me flush, perpendicular to the ground, not too high or too low but happy to be suspended in the middle with my legs dangling in frivolous freedom, trusting my journey while perched in this peaceful place of purpose.

Meanwhile, what is that siting on the other side of the teeter totter and why is it looking at me that way?

(To be continued.....)


  1. This is a moving and powerful post. This is an issue that too few people will discuss... Thank you so much for your honesty and sharing such important lessons. Now we need to think how to change the trajectory of men like Mr. Personality so they don't become sociopaths.

    Take shelter in the arms of your sisters...they will sustain you.
    peace and love from me to you

  2. I can't wait for the next installment. You're a great storyteller.


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