Monday, October 17, 2011

Step Four

16 March 2006

    I was thinking of that TV commercial where everyone wore signs on their backs revealing their financial problems. Like the older guy in the business suit's said something like "Can't make his house payment" and the haggard-looking housewife's said something like "Credit score: 752" and shit like that.

    If we all wore signs detailing our biggest secrets or sins, mine would say "ADDICT". I'm not proud of myself. Most days I do my best to stay on top of damage control, while allowing my addict-self to wreak havoc, much like simply cleaning up after an irresponsible child rather than teaching him the rules and enforcing them with punishment and positive reinforcement. I do not know what drives my addict-self, but I am very aware of the returns, and I will be the first to admit the instant gratification feels good. It's the damage control, and guilt, the hiding, and the constant fear that I hate.

    We all have signs, just like in the commercial. Some people's problems aren't really terrible, they're just embarrassing facts they'd like to keep secret. That's fine. I learned a little about real problems from a Chaplain that had served on a B-52 during the first Gulf War. They flew home from a sortie with an unexploded ground-to-air missile stuck in their wing, having gone right through and stuck in the middle. They didn't know if it was a dud or not; for all the crew knew, it could have detonated at any time, killing them all. They didn't know if they could even land with it. That, I agreed with him, is a problem. Rear-ending somebody on the way to work when you're already late is not.

    During lunch today I pondered what the others' signs around me might say. The wholesome girl next to me might have been paying for her burrito with money she got after hocking her mother's earrings. Thief. The lady with the twin girls, no more than 3 years old, might be on her way to meet a lover after dropping the kids at daycare, eager to taste forbidden flesh. Cheater. The older woman with the high school ID around her neck might have just taken advantage of a vulnerable student during a counseling session. Molester.

    Is it presumptive to think that everyone has issues, that we all carry burdens in our hearts we'd dare not share with others? Or is it naive to believe that some people are actually happy, that some facts about their lives are simply personal, and although potentially embarrassing, would not completely ruin their lives if revealed? I know the answer to this question, but I can't figure out how it might be. And so I deny that it is.

    The truth is I have more than one sign. Most are in the second category: I would not be happy to admit to some very humiliating things about myself, but if confronted with evidence, I would nod and say "yes, I did that" and nothing would really change. But there are a select few that would almost certainly ruin my life as I know it now. From a distance, I cannot fathom what would make anyone continue these behaviours given the risks. On the inside, I know it's the rush of pure gratification, it's the depression that sets in between fixes, it's the constant questioning of my identity and self, whether I am worthy, pure, good. It's fear of facing who I might become outside the context of the drug.

    I am an addict, I know. Some day, I will have to admit this to other people openly, with my voice, and acknowledge what I've done to feed the drive. That is a prerequisite to understanding the addiction and finding the source. Of all days, I fear this day more than any.

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