This topic REALLY relates to everything I have talked about so far. From smoking, drinking, and drugs to eating, computers and music, and so many things in between, I have an addictive personality, and it makes everything that isn’t it hard, and then even harder is when it has to stop. One addiction doesn’t just stop though, it brings out the best of you as you quit and the worst as you find its replacement.
I think I can really go back to my earliest memories to find stories of addiction, but I am not even sure if I could find the root of it. Some might even roll their eyes at that and the idea that I can think of addiction as a child, but yeah. It’s that line between wanting something and having to have something. I had that early on. I never just wanted a new box of crayons, I needed every color made by a particular company, and they all needed to be perfect in their boxes. I have to pause at that statement, cause I am not arguing that I was spoiled or that this is proof of that, with kids that just want everything that they see and are never happy until it happens. This goes deeper than that. I grew up in what you might call middle class, maybe lower middle class. I wasn’t poor, but I wasn’t rich. My parents were able to spoil me here and there, but they just couldn’t afford to do it to a point that would warrant the “spoiled brat” behavior.
That may not of been important to address, but I think there needs to be an important discussion here about the difference in a need and a want when discussing addiction. That is how I know I was easily swayed to addiction as a child and still am. It is the feeling that can’t be described by words like regret, jealousy, envy or any other of the normal phrases associated with a desire or wanting. It is a more deep seeded drive that you only feel when you know you are without, not when you want or have. If asked to describe it I can only compare it to the feeling any normal person would have if they were asked not to eat for a couple days, or go without water on a hot day, or even that level of obsession where all you can do is think about it, plan on it, think about how it will happen, or when. It doesn’t have to be rational, it doesn’t have to be good, it can be stupid, dangerous and someone could tell you with no doubt that it could kill you, it doesn’t matter until you have what you are addicted too.
This is the feeling I remember having as a kid, starting with simple things and collecting. If I had that box of crayons, I was happy to have them, but I felt almost physical pain about the fact that I didn’t have every single one I could have, and no matter what rational person explained to me that I had every one I COULD have, it didn’t matter. I did this over everything, and if I couldn’t finish a collection, it was often better to not have any of it, because the incomplete would occupy too much of my time and thought. So, what a wonderful day when I learned about drugs and alcohol in High School, and decided to try them.
I want to start by saying that I am 13 years sober from drug use. I don’t count alcohol use, since I no longer keep it around and have stopped drinking enough to get drunk. I do still enjoy a drink with friends on occasion and I make an effort to not drink it more than that. I refuse to drink alone, and certain friends I have had talks with explaining that I never want to be addicted to it and if they see signs of it to make whatever efforts needed to remind or stop me.
Anyway, I found drugs and alcohol, and boy was I in love. I tried everything, this is the point my parents usually tell me they don’t need to know my entire past, and I loved most everything. I liked testing new things and mixing things and just being where they could take me. I don’t want to spend much more time on it than that, the simple fact is, drugs are great…when your on them. Alcohol has that concept down to a tee, best you’ll ever feel is that moment between blind drunk and throwing up. If you can just figure out how much you need to drink to stay there until you pass out, your golden, but you will pay for it in the morning every time. You will curse ever using it, until the hangover wears off, and it’s like you suddenly forgot what a hangover even is and where’s the beer? There was a point in all of this that I thought I could never quit either drugs or drinking, but then I found my first big transitional addiction to replace them both, love.
Man the things you will do for love and sex. I found a beautiful woman that liked my car, and at 19 that was close enough. Eventually I proposed and she said only if we both stop drinking and drugging. Well, she was the one I loved, and that is a much stronger addiction than any chemical I ever put in my body, and she was the only source I had for having sex, so sure, I want love and sex much more than a 5 hour trip or 1 hour high, or even a night drunk. That was my new addiction, at least it felt like it, and I did everything I thought I should do as a husband, turns out 20 year old’s don’t know a lot about being a good husband, and 16 year old’s don’t know a lot more about being good wives. We had some very rocky years, with a lot of good moments, but eventually there was just to much negative to work for any positives.
During my 6 year marriage I did increase an obsession, even addiction, to both music and computers that started at a very young age. Why do I think of these as addictions, you might ask. It’s simply because I have that feeling like I need to do something with computers constantly and I need to listen to collect and learn about music constantly. That difference in the feeling of need and want, to a point that either could easily take over my life if I didn’t keep them in check, keeping them from really being hobbies, but more like controlled addictions. I also learned clearly while married that I loved food, a bit too much.
Food, oh food, how do I love thee. I can eat pizza until I am full, then eat because I want the flavor of it in my mouth, have to stop because I am too full, but wait a little bit, drink some soda and finish off the rest a little cold. All the time telling myself that I am a fat slob, but how great does this pizza taste. Now, this isn’t just pizza, it’s just eating stuff I like in general. There have been nights I lay in bed thinking about all the things I could possibly go eat, and hoping I fall asleep before my will power breaks, it’s a race between the ambien and the car trip for some McDonald’s fries, which can I hold out for longer? Plus, eating it just evil. It is always there, you have to do it, and if you can’t have something you are trying to break the habit of, drinking, smoking, bad break up, what better friend than Ben and his friend Jerry? Family and friends never understand it either, even if they have the same problem. They offer you food, you turn it down and they are insulted you won’t eat. “I don’t want to eat because I finished all the calories this stupid app on my phone says I can have today and for some reason I am listening to my phone for health advice now.” or “I can’t eat cause I don’t know how to enter the crap you made in this stupid app.” It really doesn’t matter the reason, they still think you just don’t want to eat their cooking, or you ate before coming to see them or you have plans you aren’t telling them about after.
They all have a diet you need to try, and never think the one you are on is correct. The last actual diet I was on was a closely doctor monitored and controlled diet, and when I tried telling people what I was doing I actually had people tell me that my doctor was a “quack” and I needed to find a nutritionist that knew what they were doing. All because they read online or heard from their doctor about this diet or plan that somehow worked for them, or at least someone they at least knew someone that knew them. If they don’t know of a diet you should be on, they have an opinion about how you shouldn’t diet. If you are using an application or program of some sort, it’s never the correct one, and no one seems to have the same opinion. You need to try this or you need to try that but don’t do what that other person said to do or not to do.
What I use to do to relive all this stress was a good old fashioned cigarette. Smoking is a powerful and very addictive activity, one that I enjoyed so very much. I once described how smoking feels to my friend Amanda, and she told me I sounded like I was describing a erotic pleasure of some sort. I wasn’t even trying to do that or being poetic in my attempt. When you have smoked for several years you get to a point that there really isn’t much that feels quite as good as lighting up that next cigarette. If anything encapsulates the feeling of addictions as good as hard drugs do, it is smoking. When you are smoking you feel like you are with an old friend helping you through your day, and when you aren’t smoking you are thinking about how all you want to do is smoke and get back to that friend of yours. I quit smoking myself in 2012, partly due to health concerns with a developing cough I had, that has stopped since, and with healing factors from a surgery, but mostly because I have an asthmatic son who asked me too try.
I did quit, but found it so hard that I really only replaced it with an electronic cigarette or vaporizer. While sometimes I still use nicotine, and sometimes I don’t, I am still going through the addicting actions and behavior of smoking, just without the smoking itself. While some people consider this a much better habit, and some feel it is just as bad, I tend to lean towards the former just since my health seems to be better for it. Even though it does seem to be the case, I do still plan to quit the vapor as well. I find myself looking towards the idea of quitting with the same dread as when I quit smoking and feel like I will be losing a part of myself. The worst of the feelings that all addictions seem to have for me, the feeling like I need something I don’t need and have some how failed by having to lose it. It really is a common theme in addiction, and the worst of addictions really hit it home.
The final chapter in my talk about addictions, and not a moment too soon seeing how long this has become, is stuff. When I say stuff I mean stuff of all kinds. I collect things, and more often than I would like to admit, collecting things becomes an excuse for borderline hoarding behavior. It is all back to that same behavior of addiction that is the earliest in my memories as a child and it has never really gone away, and I don’t know completely how to control it even after 30 years. It is this special feeling where my OCD and addictive personality meet. I don’t just want my favorite book by this author, I need every book they ever wrote, even if I don’t even like anything else they wrote but that one book. I do it with everything, I have to have. What might set me apart from most hoarders is that I don’t have to have everything of everything, I am not saving everything cause it my be useful or I might feel wasteful getting rid of it, that would be almost too easy, I have to somehow make it more complex than that. There are lots of things I don’t care about, and as soon as something breaks I can chuck it with little issue. The issue I have becomes apparent if I find something I truly like.
Lets take stuffed bears as a great example. When I was born a neighbor of my parents gave me a stuffed bear, and I love that bear, and I still have that bear. Skip a couple years and now I am 2 and I break my arm, the friend of the family watching me that day felt horrible and bought me a stuffed bear to keep with me during my recovery. Ever since my jogging bear, he is wearing a green jogging outfit, has sat on a shelf next to my other bear. Now lets skip 18 years and I have just moved into my first house with my wife. When I was decorating my space in our room I get out these two bears and she didn’t know what in the world was going on, so I told her all about them and why they were important to me. She thought it would be cute, and it was, to occasionally get me a bear as a gift from my then new born and later toddler kids. We skip one more time another 13 years and we get to me moving into my new house, now a single dad, with my two growing up too fast boys and when unpacking I realize that I have 3 small moving boxes of just bears, and one more of random stuffed animals, and I can only place getting a handful of them all for special reasons and then my two favorite bears from my childhood, and I don’t even know why I have the others. Looking back on it I can see the point that I stopped getting them as gifts and started buying them for myself, and I still don’t understand why, other than to explain this need to just have them, and I needed all of them, and I don’t know how many there are, so I just get every one I see.
The worst part of this behavior for me came when I recognized it and started just giving things up. I don’t want addiction to hold me to things or actions and I am trying constantly to enjoy things, to have that drink and to have a collection, but to stop at that drink, to only collect one or two things and learn to just enjoy the things I really want without having to have everything, but that feeling of the need never stops. I put all the stuffed animals that mean something on a display shelf in my office, and on my office chair is all the other bears and other animals, that I just don’t know what to do with. I know I need to box them up and give them away. Some child will be better off playing with those than them being stored uselessly in my office in a box, but I have to bring myself to do it. If you are wondering I did settle on three actual collections, outside of the knickknack here and there things to remember family members by that have passed. I collect playing cards, dictionaries, and silver dollars. The reason for each could be a post themselves.
No matter what you do, no matter what your addiction, that need is all that seems to matter. The worst part is that need goes away once you have it, and more times than not you find that you don’t even want what you needed, you just needed it. I never wanted to smell like cigarette smoke, or have hundreds of stuffed animals that I have never as much as looked at, or done anything that was bad for my health, I just needed it, or at least felt a need for them. The want is not always there like so many that aren’t addicted to anything assume is what it is all about, but the need is what drives this behavior that makes the person doing it fell horrible, and then once the need is fulfilled, there too often is still no want and no fulfillment but learning that you still need, it’s just moved on to something new.