An easier word to swallow
By Sandra Dee Owens
Years ago, while contemplating the things I found impossible to resist, I looked up the word addiction.
According to Merriam-Webster addiction is “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.”
What a grown-up word!
It seemed I would need a degree or two to understand this complex illness. So instead, I considered a word that was easier to swallow—”craving.”
According to Merriam-Webster craving is “an intense, urgent, or abnormal (unusual in an unwelcome or problematic way) desire or longing.”
I could grapple with this.
For each of the items on my irresistables list: Pop-Tarts, Snickers, and a 5-year love affair with dirty vodka martinis. “Craving” was an ever-present gremlin. I craved chocolate, sugar, fat, salt, and the delicious, full-body tingle of alcohol.
Blessedly, the Pop-Tart craving disappeared once I admitted I had a problem with it. I can now walk by the bright, sugary boxes and the craving is gone. I am proudly six years Pop-Tart sober.
While my vices may not meet the traditional standard of addiction, I desire to live free of anything that sinks its talons in me. I value freedom above all.
Simple is not the same as easy
Knowing my chocolate craving was nearly as old as I was, I sensed the Snickers bars (and other chocolates) might be the toughest craving to dislodge. So I turned my attention to the martinis and took stock of what I knew about them.
I knew that:
- Martinis interrupted my sleep.
- Martinis gave me a headache, a cobwebby mind, a dippy tummy, and a poisoned tongue feeling the next day.
- Martinis were an expensive habit.
I felt embarrassed (early childhood religious training?) going into a liquor store.
Alcohol made my husband and me argue (we were scrappy enough without it).
I found it nearly impossible to stop at one drink—no matter how deep my resolve was to do so.
I was a grandmother and did not want to set a bad example for my children and grandchildren.
I was buying martini “fixings” weekly as though they were a grocery.
Is alcohol a grocery?
With my list of martini knowings, I was able to identify a path forward. I knew what I needed to do.
I needed to stop buying martini fixings as though they were a grocery—and bringing them home. I imagined my door sill as a line in the sand. A line I no longer wanted this unhealthy habit to cross. Alcohol needed to get out—and stay out, like an unwelcome guest. I was careful to avoid telling myself I would never drink alcohol again. Why? Because I knew that if I loaded unrealistic expectations on myself, I could easily get derailed by discouragement.
So instead, I shifted my relationship with alcohol from in here—to out there.
I stopped buying it like a grocery and switched it to a treat to enjoy at an occasional dinner out. This did not address the craving, but it did address the daily habit. And that was worth a lot. Even though I was not an alcoholic or even a big drinker by most standards, it still took one year for the martini craving to go away. For one whole year, whenever I drove past a liquor store, I felt it. This both shocked me and deepened my resolve to be free of this powerful gremlin.
Having discovered that some cravings are stronger than others, and each has a unique personality, I treat them accordingly.
Blessing in a curse
Luckily for me, alcohol makes me really sick. I suffer a significant hangover from even a small amount. Reluctantly, I view this as a huge gift.
Why? Because I have pisspoor willpower for my irresistibles.
The other big helper? I write and speak openly about this gremlin. Since I believe the devil grows in the dark and diminishes in the light, this gives it no place to hide.
Rather than a mindset of battle, defeat, and conquer, I am extracting the gremlin’s talons from my flesh—one good choice, back-slapping, atta girl moment at a time.
To learn more visit: sandradeeowens.com.