Yesterday was my granddaughter’s monthly visit to my office and, as usual, she melted hearts and brought smiles and joy to so many of my colleagues. I can’t stop thinking about that little girl; and she makes me want to dedicate 93% of my blogs to her. But, alas, my life is not comprised of 93% grandparent. Like Shrek—I’m an onion—I have many layers.
This week’s “layer” is about addiction vs. habit.
In my book, Living Out Loud, I touched briefly on my unhealthy relationship with alcohol at a young-ish age and, recently, was asked to go into a little more detail about how I controlled that “addiction” when it reared its ugly head again a few years ago. I am only going to touch on it lightly today, but am actively writing an eBook on the topic (which will be available very soon). I think it’s a topic that deserves “meat ‘n potatoes” detail, so consider this blog as a teaser of sorts.
Growing up, I was very anti-smoking, anti-drugs, but alcohol was a “meh” issue for me. I was raised in a home where wine was served at dinner sometimes; and I was permitted to partake. My parents were not big drinkers, so my sister and I were definitely not exposed to anything dysfunctional, by any means.
Both of my parents smoked, but quit just after I was born. So again . . . no negative exposure. And drugs . . . nope. Nothing.
Pretty normal upbringing, so why did I dive head first into chain smoking and heavy drinking by the age of fourteen and sixteen respectively? I’m sure if I sat down with a team of therapists, they would dissect my life and tell me that it was some form of complex, stemming from the trauma of being forced to wear a pair of diarrhea-colored corduroy pants that didn’t go high enough at the back to hide the waistband of my underpants. Yes, I was mortified. So we’ll blame it on that, and I’ll save myself two hundred dollars an hour and let the therapist ask someone else “ . . . and how did that make you feel . . . ?”
I have a fairly heavy-handed opinion about a few things, and the “addiction” of smoking is one of them. I’m sure some people will get their backs up about my opinion but, again, it’s my opinion—not what will be etched in a stone somewhere or become the discovery that changes the world.
Smoking and drinking, I feel, is a very strong habit. Not an addiction.
I remember my favorite cigarette of the day: the one, first thing in the morning, with my cup of coffee. I loved how it made my body feel so relaxed and gooey. It was the only cigarette of the day to make me feel that way; and it was probably because my body had been given eight hours of sleep to try to repair itself before I began polluting it again.
For me, smoking totally falls in-line with the Pavlovian Conditioning theory. When I began working in retail, I used to smoke during my breaks (we were allowed to smoke inside shopping malls back in the day). After I quit smoking though, it took years before I stopped having a cigarette craving each time I entered a mall. Therefore, instead of the bell and salivating dogs, it was the mall and me.
Do you feel me on this? I wasn’t “addicted” to smoking—I had mental associations that made me crave them. Think of it like a smell association from your childhood. To this day, whenever I smell fresh cut grass it fills me with peace and makes me think of my dad. Am I addicted to fresh cut grass or my dad? No. It’s just a mental association. We have them for things both good and bad. In order to avoid this blog reaching novel-length status, I will refrain from going into detail about my negative association with swimming pools and raw liver.
As for alcohol, it’s the same thing . . . but not. Being drunk is a little more extreme than the mild “gooey” feeling from smoking or smelling fresh cut grass, so I understand why so many of us get sucked into the world of regular/constant inebriation. On many occasions, I drank to numb myself after a crappy day. My throbbing head the following morning always reminded me that, my behaviour the night before, didn’t fix the crappy day, but only left me feeling crappy for that day.
I, unfortunately, after eighteen years without a drink, fell very heavily into the trap of wanting to feel numb towards situations in my life, which I felt were out of my control. I, once again, began to drink heavily almost daily.
Does it mean that I “fell off the wagon”? I don’t believe so. When I stopped drinking almost two decades prior, I never once labeled myself as an alcoholic—I just viewed my change in lifestyle as “growing up” and making better choices. I hate it when society places labels on individuals. But what I hate even more, is when we place them on ourselves. Shy, lazy, alcoholic, absent-minded . . . No matter what the label is, you control if you want to own it, or abandon it. Today, Saturday, I choose to label myself as “ridiculously awesome,” and will never label myself as an alcoholic or “reformed alcoholic.”
I actually had a glass of wine (not five) on Thursday night while I watched a Long Island Medium marathon—sobbing uncontrollably the entire time. Am I addicted to Theresa Caputo? Did I fall off the Caputo-wagon by sitting for hours indulging in multiple episodes? Yes! . . . Er . . . umm . . . I mean . . . No. I don’t have an inappropriate Caputo addiction; I just felt like binge-watching and binge-crying . . . because I could.
I’ll be honest though, after sobbing for about four hours straight, I woke up the next day with a crying-hangover—puffy eyes, headache—the works. Will I binge-cry again during, maybe, an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition marathon? Yes . . . There’s no doubt about that.
My name is Veronica . . . and I’m a cry-aholic.