I have an addictive personality. My first addiction was to chocolate. In grade school, Teddy and I found a box of Hershey chocolate bars lying in the street. Not realizing this was a true case of finders keepers, we hid in some bushes and ate the whole thing. No, I didn’t get sick.
I remember sitting in a twelve step meeting when one of the guys said he had to have his “feel good”. He nailed it for me as well. I am not sure I have more unrest and pain than others, but I have always sought the “feel good”.
For the most part I can overcome the addictions. I quit a three pack a day cigarette habit after five years. I have quit drinking several times and started again, convincing myself I can control it. Later I realize I have gradually ramped up into excessive drinking and quit. I have probably done this seven or eight times, starting in high school. This time I have been sober for a year. I’m pretty sure I am done with booze forever.
I have smoked a haystack of pot. At one point In the late 1970’s I was buying a quarter pound at a time. I would go to work, go out on my rounds and light up. Parties were lots of booze and weed for a lot of years. One day at work I realized I couldn’t remember things I had done the day before. I have had about two tokes since.
Food is another matter. I am something of a binge eater. My main weakness is ice cream, chocolate, of course. My pattern is much the same as with alcohol. I will eat too much, scare myself, lose some weight, than ramp up again. I weigh about 215 pounds now. At one point I was up to 260. The problem is that I can’t give up eating altogether. So, I struggle. And then there is caffeine. AA meetings always have coffee.
I think you can see the pattern. I probably won’t kill myself with my addictions, but they have consumed vast amounts of time and energy I could have used productively. The addictions are accompanied by a lot of obsessing and compulsive behavior. I have repetitive thoughts and rituals around the behaviors, from rolling the joint, lighting a cigarette at every change, such as standing up, or sneaking ice cream out of the downstairs freezer.
I am currently engaged in the spiritual practice of letting go. This means letting go of everything keeping me from staying in touch with my true self. This is not an easy process, and I am sure I will be engaged in it for the rest of my life. “Trapped on the wheel of desire.” The problem with desire is that it cannot be satisfied. The new BMW, the Bud Lite, the new clothing style, cool Adidas sneakers, whatever. The proper number of bicycles to own? N+1; N being the number of bicycles you currently have.
Addictions are just the most pathological of this phenomenon. Our consumer society is driven by desire. Chasing money, chasing stuff, chasing the latest hit, it all pulls us away from our true selves. I want to get in touch with my true self, which means letting go.