I needed a few days to think about this idea of addiction and how it has managed to ebb and flow in the past year. I truly believe that it is easy to become complacent with addiction. More times than not, addiction will be considered in terms of substances when it really can be anything that is done to the extreme in order to escape reality. Addiction, to me, is about achieving gratification when reality isn’t gratifying enough.
Until I took the time to really sling the rocks around with this question, I didn’t consider the dragon battles I’ve experienced as addictions. But they’ve been almost as destructive, expensive, and pointless. I’ve worked hard this year on letting go of many things. I never realized until today, while in conversation with a therapist, that the biggest addiction I had to break free of was the one I’ve had the longest — and that is the one that gave me the satisfying buzz of knowing the Bad Guys will lose and the Good Guys will win.
After four very long years — four years tomorrow, to the date — I can light a candle and chase away the darkness of an addiction to false hope with a silver-lined upper.
My name is C. Streetlights, and I’ve been sober two months straight now. The Bad Guys may have won but living clean is the way to go.
There have been some and there have been none. Enigmatic as always, opportunities appeared in ways that seemed like impulsive burdens at the time only to become something with wings. And even if these opportunities never fly at least they will be bizarrely beautiful like ostriches. Maybe.
I’ve traveled great distances in standing still, waiting for apologies and wrongs to be righted. I have always known these will never come, and even if they did they would not be presented in a way that would be satisfactory — the past can not be changed and broken hearts can not truly be mended without showing the scars. And yet, I rooted myself to the ground refusing to the budge.
Oh I knew it wasn’t healthy. I didn’t care. I just wanted to give myself an excuse to not reconcile hurts inside myself.
But one summer’s day a falling star landed right at my feet and though I tried to kick it aside, the thing kept following me around a gift shop. I was flipping through a display carousel and found file folders labeled Crap, More Crap, and Crappier Crap. Right next these were printed post-it notes that had check-lists to help with decision-making. The bulleted sarcasm was funny. And I knew exactly who would love these.
My former principal and friend. Oh, hell no. I had not spoken with her beyond shallow small talk since what I refer to as my Old Life. I was not going to start buying her presents. So I put them back.
I wandered around the gift shop for several more minutes, the opportunity to give a perfect gift nagging at me. I love to give gifts and when I find a perfect one for someone it makes even more exciting to me. I was feeling betrayed by my gift-giving instincts. I went back to look at them, picked them up, wandered around some more holding them, put them back down again… Finally, the salesclerk asked me the pointed, “Is there something I can help you find?” which is always code for “Buy something or get out of my store.” I sucked it up and bought it. I even bought a gift bag. With tissue paper.
I groused to myself all the way down to where she now works and hoped she wouldn’t be in her office. Of course she was. Of course. I put on my best fake smile and wished her luck on her transfer to the new school, explaining I found these and thought they were perfect for her. And after knowing her for so many years, of course they were — she laughed and laughed.
And then we talked beyond shallow small talk.
We never went into what happened between us, and I didn’t want to, but for at least an hour it felt almost normal between us even though we both knew it never would be again.
It wasn’t an opportunity given to me to show I could be “the bigger person” or that I really could “take the high road”, or even to prove how charitable I am. It wasn’t one I sought after or worked hard to achieve. Definitely not. I now recognize it for what it was — an opportunity to soften the awkward between us. It was an opportunity given me to show that I might Old Life might be over, but I still am the old me. I was given a moment to see that bridges might be burnt but different ones could be built that cross different rivers.
And I’m happy about that. Our sons are now on the same soccer team, are in the same classes, and are kind-of/sort-of friends. I’m grateful I had this star fall on me if only so my son could make a good friend.
I went shopping the other night at a store I will call “Bullseye” for the simple reason that I don’t have sponsorship and don’t necessarily want to promote a retail store. All that sounds legitimate, but I am actually renaming because I am already a little embarrassed by how much I go to to
I had an actual reason for shopping last Friday; it wasn’t my usual browsing while waiting for prescriptions. I was looking for shorts — a task that rates above jeans but below swimming suits on the list of horrible-reminders-of-what-babies-and-30s do to your body. Of course none of the styles I liked had my size and they didn’t even have the size I wished I still was, so I grabbed a few of my second choices and headed into Bullseye’s fitting room. I wasn’t alone in my annoyance. Other women were wrestling into clothes and then grumbling out of them again. For women, trying on clothes is pretty much like trying on pap smears in front of a mirror for fun. If one OB/GYN’s speculum doesn’t fit, you just have to groan, roll your eyes, and try another one. It is even more fantastic if you are lucky enough to have a three-way mirror.
Bullseye has already been My List because the employees seem to not be able to match clothing size to clothes hanger. I will constantly buy one size based on what is on the hanger and come home to find it to be completely different. This only necessitates another return to the store which only makes me spend more money. I see what you’re doing Bullseye, and I don’t appreciate it. This time, though, this time I was sure to match the size to the hangers. I’m not falling for that trap again.
The circus begun. Shorts on, deep sigh, shorts off. Shorts on, suck in, shorts off. Shorts on, fall off to my ankle. The shorts were labeled a certain size, the hanger matched — shorts were clearly at least four to five sizes too big. Factory error.
I took the shorts I was not buying to the fitting room clerk and showed her the mislabeled shorts, offhandedly joking about how extreme Bullseye’s vanity sizing has become. She and I laughed a little bit and I went on my way.
What I did not notice in this short little interaction was the woman standing behind me waiting to return her clothes, but I did notice her a few minutes later when she was crying to her husband. I don’t usually pay much attention to physical attributes to people unless they’re pointed out to me, but in this case it became clear she was upset about her appearance and weight. She was crying about how overweight she was and how nothing fit; she was crying about other people making fun of her. And that gave me pause.
Her husband asked her what she meant and this woman then replayed the same situation I had just had with the clerk, only this woman felt as if it was a slight against her. In her perception, I had known she was behind me and I had purposely teased her by bringing up over-exaggerated vanity sizing to poke fun at her. I was stunned because of course I had done no such thing! I replayed everything that this clerk and I had said and done in my head and could honestly not think of anything that could be construed as a personal offense or insult.
But… I still had made this woman with already low self-esteem cry and I felt terrible about it. All the choices of what I could do flipped through my mind, but I concluded that if I said anything or tried to apologize it would just make the situation worse. I walked away, leaving her husband to console her, hearing him try to convince her that what she thought wasn’t true and so on. One thing he said that I can still hear in my head is, “Sweetie, you don’t know that lady’s story…” I don’t know how he finished that sentence but there are several ways he could have.
He could have finished it by saying “…she could just be an unpleasant woman.” Or he could have said “…maybe she’s really insecure and feels she needs to put down other people.” In fact, more reasonably, he could have simply said “…she’s probably not even aware of what’s around her.” Sadly, that is really more the truth than anything else.
There are a lot of truths to this experience. It is true that I am not observant to things or people around me sometimes. Perhaps if I had been I would have been more sensitive in what I had said. Maybe I would have noticed that she was already feeling upset about her dressing room experience. It’s also true that this woman was probably too sensitive in thinking I was talking about her, and being prickly in that assumption. There was truth in what her husband said when he told her “you don’t know that lady’s story” because none of us do. She doesn’t know that over the years I’ve lost almost 40 pounds and I don’t know anything about her.
I think the biggest truth of all is that as women, we care far too much about numbers on label or a hanger and far too little about what is going on inside of us. None of us should be in a position where we are in tears over something that is said, or what we think is said, about us. And none of us should be in a position where we feel we can’t make a truly innocent comment for fear that someone will take it personally. I feel bad I made this woman cry, and I hope that somehow she will know I am sorry about that. But I also hope this woman will someday feel bad that she made me feel remorse for something that I didn’t intentionally do.
It’s hard to not let our personal insecurities become the center of our worlds. It’s even harder to not let them become the center of everyone else’s worlds, too.