I am someone who has struggled with addiction in dramatic, destructive ways for most of my life.
When addiction strikes, it feels like all choice is gone. There’s only the fix, at the expense of everything that stands in its way.
At the expense of relationships (“Baby, I swear I’ll never use again, you’re way more important to me than drugs,” and then getting high a few days later and wondering where “baby” went). At the expense of finances. At the expense of dignity, promises, and integrity. At the expense of body, mind, and spirit.
I am not talking about just drugs or alcohol. I have done those dances time and time again, but my main vice is food. Processed crap, horrible for me. It blows my mind, people make a living by scheming up new ways to hook the populace on this destructive garbage.
When I get it into my head that I need to gorge myself on junk food, it often feels like choice is gone. It’s like I’m on rails. All I can do is follow the track. Auto-pilot, until the fix is acquired. Dump it all in my face. Chew and swallow like a victim, as though it’s not actually me doing the chewing and swallowing.
Here’s the thing. I know countless effective ways to manage cravings. I have practiced them. They work. Almost every time.
But it’s a pain in the ass. I’ll use a technique, and then the craving comes back. So I’ll use the technique again. Craving returns again. Eventually, I give in. Then next time, I think, “I don’t really wanna go through all that again.” So I just give in right away.
Hm. What would I do in a burning building?
I take one step away from the fire. The fire catches up. So, I take another step. Fire catches up. Maybe a few more times. Damn persistent blaze keeps catching up. So, I just stand there and let it engulf me? Assuming I somehow survive that, then next time I am in a building burning, I just say, “Well, let’s just cut right to the incineration.”
Hell no. I run. I don’t get lazy and complacent with myself. Life is on the line. It’s urgent.
Last time I gave in to an urge to binge eat was earlier tonight. I procured my food. Then, I thought about how maybe I could have avoided that outcome by doing a visualization exercise, or cognitive behavioral therapy. Or any number of other methods. Distract myself. Dive into a meaningful project or interaction. Dance my damn booty off.
I know those things work when I commit to choosing them as many times as I need to in order to escape the burning building in my mind. Who cares if it’s inconvenient? Life is on the line. It’s urgent…
Look… when I know something works. And I don’t do it. And I let myself eat too much, even though I know I’ll regret it.
Am I truly a victim? Or am I mostly just being lazy and avoiding responsibility for my own choices?
Tonight, as I chowed down my feast, I had NIN’s Mr. Self-Destruct in my head.
“You let me do this to you… you let me do this to you…”
I did. I let it happen. I even chose it. Just like if I chose to stand still instead of run to escape an inferno.
I get that it doesn’t feel that simple when intense compulsions are involved. It often does feel utterly hopeless. But there are ways out. They work, when I actually commit…
So, what can I do now?
Well, start by forgiving myself. Giving myself a hug (which I just did, and it felt amazing; have you hugged yourself lately?).
Then, next time a craving hits. Gently remind myself, I have a choice. Lots of options. I can choose to numb myself with a binge-fest, sure. That’s one option. And I won’t hate myself for doing it; but I won’t believe the compelling, seductive lie that there’s no choice in the matter, either.
Doing nothing in the presence of that which hinders me is a choice. And a kind of weird one to make, now that I think on it…
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