An easier word to swallow than addiction?
About 10 years ago, while waiting in line at the grocery store, someone walked past me holding a box of Pop-Tarts. Frosted with sprinkles.
Experiencing an instant craving, I got out of line and hurried to the Pop-Tart aisle with the urgency of a forgotten food staple.
Since cold, raw Pop-Tarts are disgusting, I raced home, hurriedly put my groceries away, and stood impatiently in front of the toaster, buttered knife in hand.
I waited to scald my mouth on two molten smears of jam, buttered frosting, and over-the-top sugary sprinkles, knowing with a lifetime of experience, that I would spend the next hour feeling sick to my stomach.
In fact, not once in my life (I am 61), since Pop-Tarts first appeared in the early 1970s in the New North End of Burlington where I grew up, have I eaten more than one without feeling sick.
And still, I toasted a twin pack, ate them—and was sick for the next hour.
After consuming the entire box over the next few days, I had to face the truth. I was addicted to Pop-Tarts.
Ditto for Snickers bars.
And (for 5 years), dirty-vodka martinis.
A nice little list.
Happily, the Pop-Tart cravings went away once I had the courage to face the truth about my addiction to them. The grip loosened with few symptoms of withdrawal. And years later, I can walk past them in a store—and feel nothing. It’s great to be free!
Sadly, this is not the case for Snickers bars. I acknowledge that chocolate has a deeper, more powerful grip on me. And for five years, so did alcohol.
In my mid-50s, after a routine physical, my doctor asked if I had any health concerns.
I said, “Yes, I think I am an alcoholic.”
“Oh, goodness,” she said, a little startled at my forthrightness. “Well, let’s check into that,” she said, and disappeared down the hall for the appropriate forms.
When asked how many drinks I consumed daily, I said “one to one and a half.” She muffled a giggle and stated that most people concerned with alcoholism often report considerably more than that.
“Well, I said, it’s concerning to me that this has become a daily habit.” I bring the ingredients home as if they were groceries. Once in my home, it’s too accessible, like too many rolls of toilet paper within view of the toilet; if you know you have more of something, you just use more.
“It’s the regularity that concerns me. It feels like alcohol has talons that are sinking into my flesh. It’s gained too much power and presence for my liking,” I said.
Though seemingly unconcerned, she scheduled a meeting for me with a counselor.
The counselor seemed equally unconcerned (having witnessed far deeper levels of alcoholism in her practice no doubt), but aware that alcoholism is a progressive disease, it seemed sensible to address this early. After all, aren’t most problems/illnesses easier to overcome in their earlier stages?
After meeting with the counselor, I reminded myself that for every problem I had ever had, I also possessed the tools to fix it. I just needed to have the courage to be honest with myself and have the determination to fix it.
It was, after all—my problem.
So I went home and pondered what I had to work with.
The easier word
I thought about Pop-Tarts, Snickers, and martinis. And I thought about the word “addiction.”
Merriam Webster defines addiction as, “A compulsive, chronic, physiological, or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects and typically causing well-defined symptoms (such as anxiety, irritability, tremors, or nausea) upon withdrawal or abstinence.”
Great big complex words that felt like I would need a degree in psychology to understand —and I didn’t want to do that.
What I wanted was to pry alcohol’s talons out of my flesh. I wanted to be free.
It occurred to me that an addiction is something you have (like an illness), while craving is something you feel.
And am I not capable of exploring my own feelings?
So I pondered the word “craving” as it seemed an easier word to swallow than addiction, and possibly a better fit for my condition.
For more information visit: sandradeeowens.com.