I have been very intentional in this blog to focus on recovery in general and less on specific addiction, whether food, alcohol, drugs or other behaviors. The longer I am in recovery, the more I am convinced that for me, addiction, is addiction, is addiction. My two primary addictions are alcohol and an eating disorder. Sandwiched between are nicotine, workaholism and perhaps a host of lesser knowns. I recognize today that I can use all of those substances/behaviors to avoid living life on life’s terms. I can equate every experience/rationale/consequence/thought process with alcohol in a very direct parallel with food. Within the past couple of weeks I experienced the same hangover and remorse feeling from a sugar binge as with alcohol in the past. In going through some boxes earlier this week, I came across something I wrote in 1978, six years before I got sober, noting the need to do “something” about my use of alcohol, tobacco, and food.
A response often heard in Alcoholics Anonymous goes “I came here to get sober, not holy” or “no one every got arrested for driving while under the influence of food” and so forth. While I question the overall wisdom of such sentiments in general, the logic is flawed for me as well. Fact is, today, I have no desire to pick up a bottle of any alcohol or what are typically termed “mind altering substances” such as narcotics. However, I know that compulsive overeating remains a constant issue for me, and although I have not used nicotine in over 15 years, smoking pops into my head occasionally.
I think these latter addictive substances raise their heads as possibilities precisely because, for better or worse, I do not identify them as my primary addiction but do use them escape. As anyone who identifies an eating disorder as their primary addiction, might also engage in secondary addictions. A close friend in recovery from an eating disorder e-mailed me last night about their difficulty in the past year and noted they are concerned about “. . . slipping into bad habits too . . . I think I drink too much.”
For me, this all comes back to either moving in the direction of recovery or moving in the direction of relapse/active addiction. Am I moving to live life on life’s terms or trying to escape reality by anesthetizing myself. I don’t see this as a matter of “getting holy” as noted above. For example, gambling an addiction for many folks is a behavior that has never resonated with me. In my life, I have sat at a slot machine less than 10 times. Gambling does nothing for me, though I appreciate for others it is their primary addiction.
That understanding is one of the benefits I thoroughly enjoy about the process of recovery – if we are rigorously honest, we are able to see how various substances/behaviors move us in the direction of active addiction and its consequences. For me, engaging vs. abstaining from a high stakes or low stakes game of blackjack is meaningless. But a pint of ice cream . . . that is a different story.