I sit at my desk, fumbling with a pen. The pen cap is chewed to plastic strands. I walk by my front closet and smell my old coats. I hug them as if they belonged to a deceased lover, one I lost in a war or a fire. Yes, a fire. A cigarette-sparked fire because the coats smell like a distant nicotine memory that makes my skin tingle with excitement.
I’m at a coffee shop, drinking green tea, taking in the sweet forbidden smells of the coffee I used to know oh so well. Like a brother. Like my blood.The black steamy substance coursing through my veins and giving me life, awaking me from the zombie-slumber state I terminally exist in otherwise.
Addiction is a motherfucker. It is an invisible chain that binds you to everyday objects that when taken out of context seem trivial, like a shopping list for some eccentric beatnik wannabe or worse a podunk trailer trashy Wal-Mart patron. Smokes, coffee, alcohol, pot. People revolve their lives around these things. I’ve revolved my life around these things at one time or another (alcohol being the least binding). And I’m sure most people reading this have some sort of addiction, a compulsion of sorts. And if you are responding to your laptop screen with a “No! I’m a better person than that. I made honor roll 12 consecutive semesters,” I’ll soon explain to you how wrong you are (Oh, you are so so so wrong. Deliciously wrong.).
I’m not proud of the multiple addictions I’ve claimed thus far in my life (I’m awaiting the many more that are in my future. Like laser guns and teleportation or whatever they think of next that I need need need). Cigarettes have by far been the worst offender, forcing me to leave my friends in the comfort of my warm living room to venture out in the cold night only to return wreaking of grandpa’s chimney…and I swear I think my friends used that opportunity to steal shit, or at the very least move it so I couldn’t find it. But worse than causing me to stink or face the frigid elements, cigarettes greatly reduced the quality of my life. No matter how much I stared at them and said, “Not this time you son-of-a-bitch! No this time! Cough Hack Cough,” the urge to slurp down another smoke was too great. My muscles would twitch, my neck and back would ache, my head would hurt and my thoughts would spin out of orbit sending my conscious into the stratosphere and making it impossible to accomplish anything until I just gave in. If cigarettes were sentient, I’d call their actions sinister. But they’re just objects, objects that beg to be consumed regularly and on a daily basis…oh and that cost about $10 a pack. Eventually I decided enough was enough. I was tired of smelling, tired of spending and tired of being tired as cigarettes had all but crushed my stamina. And like Frankenstein’s monster throwing a little girl into a flowing river, I took my last pack of cigarettes and threw them into the trash can knowing this would be our last dance. And it was. Three months now smokeless. Huzzah!
Now my boyfriend has decided to quit coffee. Cause as cute as he is and as wonderfully as he dresses, he’s not perfect. He has a pretty nasty coffee habit, and not just an ordinary cup of black joe habit. No, he has a bourgeois habit that requires him to drink large espresso-laden cups of mocha. It’s like having a diamond addiction. But he’s decided to slay this cocoa beast by downgrading to teas and water. I’ve decided to show my support by also quitting coffee, an act which is fairly easy for me as my withdrawal symptoms for quashing caffeine tend to be merely minor headaches. Still, sweetened green tea just doesn’t provide me with the brooding teenage girl feeling I’ve grown accustomed to when I wrap my hands around a boiling cup of coffee. No, now I just feel like a yuppie new wave douche sipping shitastic green tea. But hey, my nervous system is saying, “Thank you,” even if it is also whispering, “Loser,” under its breath.
So yeah, I’ve kicked some habits. And yeah, I still got problems. But before you start pointing your finger at me like some kind of finger pointing asshole, think about this. We all have addictions because our personalities are merely addictions of behavior that we have in essence quilted together to create a unique individual, that being us. Now this process isn’t so conscious. We just kind of do it unknowingly or we’re imprinted upon by our environment (e.g., parents) to do this. To explain using broad happy-little-tree brush strokes, a pessimistic person is pessimistic because he has an addiction to thinking negatively or expecting a negative outcome. For whatever reason, being negative was an adaptive behavior in this person’s life, one that at some point in time served some sort of purpose (bonding with other Debbie Downers for example). And this behavior, once done repetitively and with positive outcomes, was so addictive that it became part of this person, binding to their being and making them a pessimist.
The best part of this realization though is that it’s possible for everyone to change their maladaptive behaviors. Mind you, it’s not easy. I mean, first you have to identify these maladaptive behaviors (overly judgmental, self-effacing, etc.), which therapy or even non-professional friends can help you with (the latter option is much cheaper). And then of course comes the most difficult part, which is making that change, or breaking that addiction. But just like I broke that nicotine habit or my boyfriend has forgone coffee, it is possible to break these personality habits. It just takes a lot of work and patience and some guidance.
It’s something I’ve vowed to do, I’ve done and I continue to do. After all, we’re all kind of like a giant paint-by-numbers mural, and shading ourselves takes a lifetime, if we ever get done at all. What’s my mural? See below: