This morning I was eating yogurt-covered pretzels. I buy them sometimes at Bulk Barn, but with the understanding that whatever I buy must be consumed within 24 hours. This is not because there is someone with a gun to my head telling me eat the pretzels. It is because I will not be able to resist eating them. In this sense they “must” be consumed immediately. There is no other way.
So I ate the last of them this morning. I had a familiar moment of something like panic and disappointment when I looked for more and the bag was empty. I also have this reaction and feeling when I have a milk-chocolate bar in the house, or god forbid, white chocolate. I devour it mindlessly, and then realize its gone, and I STILL WANT MORE.
You probably know where I’m going with this. Chocolate. Booze. Same thing. 1) There is never enough. I always want MORE. 2) I feel shocked and unsatisfied when the treat/drink is already gone. Why did it go so fast? Now I must have MORE. But I don’t want more. But I want more.
Quit Drinking Lore has it that lots of us pick up new addictions and obsessions as substitutes for our alcohol addiction. Picture that popular-if-inaccurate trope of AA members with death grips on their coffees and cigarettes. Sometimes quitting a substance can lead to religiosity: an addiction to a real live church, or a zealous anti-substance-of-choice stance.
Okay. There’s a line to walk here. Another other big idea I’ve gotten out of reading recovery literature is that it is okay to make peace with some of those substitute addictions when you are battling the Big One. So I’ve now pretty much swapped alcohol for too much sugar and OCD-like consumption of ginger-ale with a splash of OJ and lemon. (Delish.) And vaping. I’m vaping more.
These new obsessions and “addictions” are arguably a form of a catharsis — much lesser forms of evil/suffering because you’ve chosen to make a priority of getting the main-stage evil/suffering the fuck out of your life. The lesser evils may have to be contended with in their own right at some point, but a girl can only handle so much self-discipline at once.
The Addictive Personality
So yesterday I was talking to a guy who professed he probably has an “addictive personality.” That’s probably what got me looking at my empty pretzel bag this morning thinking “Jesus. Holy Yogurt Pretzel Addiction. I WANT MORE!” It was discouraging in the moment. “It’s always something,” I thought to myself. I have the “I want more” reaction to: chocolate bars for breakfast; clothes; alcohol; sociological theory; exercise. So do I have an addictive personality? Am I sentenced to a life of fighting the “I want more” war on two or more fronts?
I can see how this could lead one to despair. Fuck it. There’s always something. I will never be at ease. I will always be fighting, fighting, fighting. Fuck. It. (Chugs bottle of wine.)
Kinds of Chocolate
Maybe there is an alternative to the fatalism of declaring yourself to have an “addictive personality” though. For me anyway, here’s the thing. My best strategy in the morning is to eat a square of dark chocolate with my morning coffee. (I know this whole chocolate thing is very idiosyncratic, but bear with me.) I love doing this. It’s a great way to start my day. It’s not that much chocolate, and when I eat my little square, I AM SATISFIED. I do not need more. I have the same response when I drink a near-beer. This never stops being a revelation. “Weird! I can drink this ONE beer and be good!”
What these picadillos suggest to me is that there are probably other ways to substitute habits and behaviours that satisfy, once you are attuned to your I WANT MORE response. These healthy and satisfying changes may not present themselves to me — I’m going to have to experiment and work at it, I figure. But I see possibilities that I did not see before because I was not intimate with my cravings in a mindful way.
One of the gifts of going through the process of getting sober is that you learn a *lot* about the physical and psychological characteristics of your “I want more.” You come to know your enemy in the cold light of day. Now that I have some grip on the difference between “satisfied” and “I want more” in a couple of areas, I think it’s going to become easier to head “I want more” off at the pass. So do I have an “addictive personality?” Maybe. But it doesn’t have to be a metaphorical death sentence either.