The $24,000 question

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I am an addict, and have been since I was a child.

Now, before you start having images of a 9-year old me sitting in a corner with a rubber band wrapped around her arm and needle sticking out of her, l should say I am not now, nor I have ever been, an intravenous drug user. In fact, other then a little dabbling with some green herb-like substances, I have never been a drug user at all. They always scared me.

So what then do I mean when I say I am an addict? Webster’s dictionary defines an addict as: “A person who has a compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal.” I think this is the definition most people think of when the hear the word “Addict”.

However, the definition I use is “the compulsive need to use anything (food, alcohol, sex, whatever) to fill a void or that allows me to remove myself from whatever it is in my life that I deem unacceptable” or “something I do to excess as a means to avoid looking at what in my life is making me feel unloveable, unfulfilled or just plain unhappy”. By this definition I have a lot of addictions.

This past weekend I spent the weekend downtown at a conference with others who are exploring a spiritual way of life. Now don’t go getting all freaked out, by spiritual I don’t mean religious. Trust me, I am one of the LEAST religious people you will ever meet, ask any of my friends. My definition of spiritual is living a life where I am emotionally connected to the world around me, and by extension the people in it. I attend this conference every year, and it always an experience that gives my emotional and spiritual gas tank a top-up.

On Sunday morning, I had the opportunity to hear three amazing speakers who shared their personal stories of struggle, tragedy and triumph as well as their personal experiences with addiction. I heard a lot of great sound bites, and nearly wet myself from laughing, but there was one thing that really resonated with me, and that I have been thinking about since.

I was reminded of the definition that I use to describe being “sober”, at least as it pertains to me.

“the abstinence from any substance which would affect me from the neck up”.

Please know that I do not take any credit for this definition, it was something I borrowed several years ago. However, one gentlemen spoke about how we conveniently always seem to leave sugar, nicotine and caffeine out of this definition – three substances that I use to varying degrees on a daily basis.

It got me thinking. How extreme does an addiction have to be before I am willing to surrender it? Drinking was a no brainer, because I was so emotionally unwell by the time I gave it up. Yet, when it comes to food, I am still struggling to remain abstinent from wheat and sugar, despite all my health issues.

What is it going to take before I give it up completely? Diabetes? Cancer? Complete muscle deterioration? Honestly, how bad does it have to get before I surrender?

Or better yet, what benefit am I getting from it that outweighs my physical and emotional health? I guess that would be the $24,000 question I need to answer.

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