Over and over gain I seem to have drifted into habits which have some form of addiction
and as I break out of one I unconsciously drift into another.
It is like addiction itself is my problem rather than the individual habits and their associated issues.
I was thinking about it today because I read an article about women's relationship with alcohol as I sat in bed clutching my second double espresso.
A requirement before I could force myself properly out of bed to face the weekend.
I can't remember a time when I haven't had an addiction, a crutch to make me feel a little bit more real, worthy, or a thing with which to reward myself with a little bit of self destruction.
Currently its coffee, and perhaps a little too much time on the Internet just browsing through other peoples lives, sounds quite benign? compared to places I have been it is.
The coffee, which has been a bit of a joke amongst my friends, has however recently brought this all back into focus for me after a lovely and well meaning health practitioner suggested for the 10th or 11th time that I should cut down. It was clearly in the "script" of healthful things that they should encourage those under their care to give up.
I listened thoughtfully to the lecture on it creating a fight or flight response, I answered quite honestly about the quantities of coffee I consume for their questionnaire and I seriously considered their advice before looking up if what they were saying was true (only partially)
I considered my life without coffee and I thought of all of the other things I have given up. I am good at giving things up, I have had to be.
I went through most of my adolescence and early adult hood with dermatilomania - a skin picking addiction.
I have worked through recreational drugs (briefly), smoking, shopping, drinking and eating disorders amongst others.
So here I am, chastised repeatedly for coffee...so, as I said, I considered this, and here and now, knowing myself and - that, just for now, this habit serves a purpose which has little harm and a minor benefit I don't want to swap it for any other thing. It seems a relatively benign problem compared to some of the others and I am not prepared to move this one over to see what will fill its place. Something will if I am not mindful, it always does.
I have a very stressful life in some respects, but I am not going to justify this "addiction" by playing some kind of 'stressy life slap down' of why I deserve to maintain it. I know what it is and think its relatively benign. I also reserve the right to change my mind later if It suits me to.
So when challenged about coffee, again! rather than deflect or lie I said;
"I can give it up , but I'm not going to, so I would be grateful if you would stop challenging my judgment on this. Of all of the problematic things I could be doing to myself this one is the least harmful."
Ah! you were expecting something clever or witty?..sorry. Really. It just comes down to me being at this point where I know myself.
I can choose to ignore well intentioned but misguided advice.
I can choose to act in my own interests rather than be swayed by the needs of others.
I can choose not to share my reasoning.
I didn't share the research I did which shows what they said was ill informed. I chose not to argue or attempt to shame them, or even change their minds. I just disagreed and politely asked that this discussion not happen again. Adult, controlled, rational and considered. Scarily different than the ways I have dealt with others on my list.
The worst of all of these was drinking.
What did drinking mean to me?
To have time off - to put myself beyond competence and tick the box - 'Off Duty - not responding until further notice'.
To not think.
To not sit in the silence of my own head and work a sequence of thoughts through from start to finish.
To block out the possibility of thinking things through.
To hide in my own head, behind a wall of fuzziness.
To have something to blame outside myself.
To feel more socially adept.
To be wittier, cleverer, more attractive, briefly - to have that joy of stepping outside my self loathing.
To never not be occupied...and lets conveniently forget the night horrors. Waking in the night running through my faults and shame in myself, and I had a lot.
After my father died I drank more, I frightened myself at my capacity and yet I would work through the days and parent through the evenings, starting to drink so that as my daily "Duties" were discharged. I filled up their space with slurry thinking and as the business of the day was done - so was I.
It was only a month or so but the routine of doing this set in so readily and the hangovers were consuming the following days.
I stopped - just stopped. Totally and completely - 3 years now - I couldn't cut down - I was already in a routine that had too much alcohol in it before I got to that stage and had tried repeatedly to cut down from that unsuccessfully. So I had to stop completely and in one moment, as I had from every other addictive habit, I had given up.
Fear holds me back from drinking again.
I have deflected inquiries about it;
"Ah - weight loss, cant cope with the hangovers - makes my menopause symptoms worse." ( Really good for shutting up the over inquiring)
But the truth is its fear.
I am frightened I couldn't find the strength to give up again.
butWithout the drag and fuzziness, without the lack of focus and the occupation of getting the next glass, choosing the next dose, hand to mouth, the sipping and occupying the hands and mind...I had to think. Something I had studiously avoided by filling my life to a busy capacity at every opportunity.
But now what to do?
I read books, and thought about the themes and characters and empathized.
I watched movies and felt emotions.
Life was raw and exposed and I had to relate to the whole damn lot of it.
There was no escaping my own capacity to think, to reason and to judge. Every interaction was full of meaning and intentions and needs and although I could withdraw a little to protect myself from what felt like an overwhelming wall of information, I could no longer throw a glamor over conversations with my 'Family of Origin'. The stark nastiness and entitled nature of their behavior was just there, real, there was no way to pretend it was just "miss-said" or "not quite what they intended"
I couldn't pretend I misunderstood their intentions with all of this clarity available to me and the things in the past that had just bobbed to the surface occasionally but had remained in my head as isolated incidents joined up into a glaring pattern it was impossible to look away from.
The more I saw, the more there was to see. Like a picture made of hundreds of other pictures, once you see the overall shape, you cant unsee it.
I know with hindsight that pretending this pattern wasn't there and the need to hide the "Bad Girl" that I believed I inherently was were part of this, but the person I was when I stopped drinking wasn't the person I was when I started. I was older, much older in many ways. When I joined up the thinking and turned and faced the monsters I thought I had been hiding from they were not as real or as powerful as I had feared, quite the reverse.
Many of them were not even mine, just ghosts of someone else's version of me.
I still carry this 'Bad Me' in my head though - she is like a portal I pass through as I go out to interact with the world, she tries to pass me her baggage as a go by and I try not to take it. She is there when I retreat into my quiet self, wanting to inspect every interaction and find shame and guilt and reasons to hide. Sometimes I try to sooth her, and sometimes I am angry with her sometimes I barely notice her anymore. I expect that someday soon I will realize she hasn't been around for a while. She is not a monster, or a thing I need to solve, she is just the ghostly echo of a person someone else wanted me to be.