Continued from Part 1 of the series which posted on February 17th, 2016.
I quit drinking coffee once for about four months. Post sobriety, in December 2014. I blogged about it, explaining I didn't want to be held captive by any habit, any addiction, be it coffee, drugs, alcohol, food, cigarettes, or paperback books.
My coffee habit had become worrisome. It seemed like coffee meant more to me than other people, the same way alcohol and pot had meant more. If I was at brunch, I was impatient for the server to refill my mug in a near pathological way. I didn't feel whole without it accessible at all times, so I'd take it with me to Kundalini classes disguised in a pious white thermos. Sometimes I would go to bed early, just to make the morning coffee come faster.
One evening, making my 8pm brew, I spilled an entire cup of coffee on every Kundalini book I owned - all twenty of them, $500 of sacred texts stained brown - and I got the message.
I kicked coffee fairly easy, as in I held firm in my resolution to leave it behind, making it through the holidays with green tea and decaf lattes. It was AWFUL at first - I suffered debilitating withdrawal symptoms and a depression so severe I was certain I might disappear entirely. But after the initial detox things improved substantially. I enjoyed the promised new level of freedom, and I checked another box. Everything was going according to plan.
Everything, that is, except for this one annoying little side effect: I wanted to eat all the food again.
I hadn't binged and purged in a year, but some months into the coffee experiment, I found my caffeine-free self in the Trader Joes, completely overcome with the desire to eat all the food and throw it all up. I filled my cart with over a dozen boxes of green tea mochi, cartons of frozen cookie dough, and copious amounts of other soft foods that come up easily when half-digested.
In line to check-out, I caught myself. It was literally a coming to, like I'd been temporarily hypnotized, and someone snapped. I looked at my cart, realized I couldn't do this to myself again, and headed back into the store to empty it. As I replaced the items to the freezer case and shelves, the words Addiction Transference played on loop in my head.
This is what happens.
Later that week I started drinking coffee again. I saw the choice in front of me as using coffee or using food. Plain and simple.
No matter how badly I wanted it, the third option of USING NOTHING wasn't available to me. Not at that time.
I keep wondering, When does the hole finally fill? For a while, I was confident it was closing. I would just check off the substances one by one, and there I'd be. Whole. Holy. Not hole-y. But that didn't happen. Hasn't happened. Those damned last five pounds.
The Peter Cigarettes made the hole bigger. I can feel it more, it takes more to fill up, it distracts me more.
I think, How much more God do I have to find? How much more balanced must I eat? How much more meditation, yoga, community, purpose, creativity, connection, and essential oils will it take?
I think, what the fuck.
I think, I want to give up trying to close it.
But I'm me, and giving up has never been an option.
On Valentines Day, sitting in traffic on my way back from filling my heart with my family and my belly with heart-shaped pizza, I was stung by an almost panicked feeling of empty.
I hadn't smoked since New Years Eve, and I wanted to. Desperately. But I'd just had my car cleaned, and it smelled like chemical cherry, and I love chemical cherry. I looked around and thought What can I fill it with? I thought of the 7 packs of gum in my glove box, the 10-pack of La Croix in the trunk. I thought of Pema on Audible, or maybe Ice Cube on Spotify.
And then I thought…What IS this?
What the hell is it I cannot be with? What hurts? What is intolerable? What is suffocating me to the point I can't stay? Why does having a cup in my hand pacify me? What does the sweetness of gum juice dripping down my throat actually quench? Why does smoke pouring into my lungs make me still, why do men make me forget, why does fizzy water make me right?
So I sat. And I didn't grab or pacify or try to fix, didn't look for the exit or the escape. I just drove, the music silenced, the window down, the distractions gone. Just me with myself, there in the car, being.
And it hurt. It hurt so bad.
I've thought about *This* a lot the past few years. *This* meaning the need to fill with something, escape with something. The never ending game of whack-a-mole.
I've thought about it a lot because it's so obvious. With me, it's always been one thing or another.
I killed alcohol and then there I was, carrying pastry in my purse and excusing myself early from every social event to come home and get high. I killed sugar and binge eating, and the pot, cigarettes, and coffee blew up even more. I killed pot and cigarettes, and I started spending $400 a month on coffee. I killed coffee, and I started keeping Chipotle in business. So maddening!
I believed this transference had everything to do with drug addiction and alcohol addiction. It's my addictive tendencies. This is my addictive personality. It's a defeating thing to think.
Lately, I've been thinking something else. At what point is this not just because I went too far with Jameson? At what point am I just acting like every other human?
When we go to such lengths to stop addictively drinking, drugging, smoking, and eating, something happens to us that doesn't happen to those who don't suffer to such a degree: we become aware of our tendencies, especially our addictive tendencies. All people have them - all people have their special blend of escape routes and distractions. It's just those of us who almost died from some of our escapes tend to be hyper-aware and somewhat ashamed of our new ones.
It's not that I haven't just sat with discomfort and "BEEN with myself" over the last few years. Sometimes it feels like JUST BEING is all I've tried to do. Feel my feelings. Burn through habits. Sit in my loneliness. Drink in my existence. Play the observer. BE HERE NOW.
It's more like this: I haven't been allowed the distinct pleasure of escaping without noticing it. If I need a cup of coffee in my hand to walk in the park, I GET I need that cup of coffee to walk in the park. I GET it feels like addiction. If I slam four La Croix's back-to-back, I GET I'm using something external to try and satisfy something that won't be sated by Grapefruit flavored fizzy water. When I would text Justin 100 times in a day, it was not lost on me I initiated that first text because I didn't want to write a blog post, work on my business plan, or just simply face my loneliness.
It has felt like a curse.
To see so clearly. To know too much. To be so intimate with your Insatiable Dwarf, he has an actual persona.
And so, I have treated it like a curse.
The Insatiable Dwarf as the enemy. As a part distinctly separate from myself. Something that must be destroyed.
Except, of course, it isn't a curse. Because nothing ever is.
To be continued.
This is Part 2 of a 3-part series on my experiences with cross addiction. The final part, Part 3, will be published around mid-April.