Monday, November 5, 2012

Confessions of an Addictive Personality

   I have a confession to make. A pretty serious one that I wasn't really planning on making public via my blog any time in the near future for many reasons. Several of those reasons being a possible hit to my level of credibility to those I don't personally know, potential worry in the hearts and minds of people I do know closely (whom I care about deeply), and the early release of some personal information that could take away some of the mystery and intrigue that might drive people to want to read my book... someday, when it's finished being written... But, as a result of some inspiring discussion during Adult Sunday School at church these past few weeks, I feel compelled to share something about myself with the world that I think could help provide some validation and comfort to people out there with similar struggles. People who have overcome an addiction only to find themselves a period of time later heading down a similar path only with a different vice. So there it is, I don't have an addiction (right now), but I do have an addictive personality.

   Before you roll your eyes and think to yourself "who doesn't?" or "that's not even a real thing" let me tell you what I mean... share a little bit of my story, however silly it may seem on the outside. Those reading this that knew me when I was high-school aged will not be surprised by this but others may be... I dealt with some rather serious substance abuse and self injury issues. Went through both inpatient and outpatient treatment at a behavioral health center, meet with multiple counselors and therapists, and spent several years attending NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings. With the help of my family and several key professionals I was able to really turn things around. Save for one relapse in each of those separate, but simultaneous, addictions I stopped using drugs and cutting myself. That was a LOT of work and at the time it felt like more than enough... and so I continued to smoke (cigarettes) for several years afterwards until I "quit". Quit being in parenthesis because what I really did was go from smoking nearly a pack a day (sometimes more, sometimes less) at my peak, to smoking a cigarette here or there on special occasions when I was out with friends or was extremely stressed. That did lead to a increase in use for a short span of a few months in the midst of wedding planning back in 2008 in which I even began buying full packs on my own again and stashing them in the glove box of my car to save for the next night out, but inevitably giving in much more frequently than intended.

   Many people wouldn't see the above as being enough to make a case for an addictive personality with smoking being such a widespread habit in our society and something that is physically difficult for just about anybody to quit once they've started... but the thing is this, outside of one particular vice that crept up more recently, everything that has seeped its way in since my extreme days of drug use and slicing my skin open, has been relatively tame. Outwardly and inwardly difficult to detect. Some of it downright ridiculous.. like this next one that I'm going to share with you. So please bear with me, and if possible try to keep the chuckles to a minimum. ....I got hung up on pizza. No, seriously. Not just overeating, but a specific emotional dependency on this one food above all others. I know... but, really, I ate pizza almost daily, and many times multiple times a day. If an uncomfortable emotion reared its ugly head so did an insatiable craving for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle food of choice. I gained weight, had to have my wedding dress let out (then taken back in when I stupidly decided to balance my pizza habit with gross Lean Cuisine frozen meals to lose what I had gained in such a short time frame), and wound up having to take prescription medication for acne that seemed to show up out of nowhere (go figure). None of these things was I able to put together until after the 'phase' had run its course. This particular addiction ended naturally when I got pregnant and lost my insane obsession with the food. I still like it but am in no way the fanatic that I was.

   The next one in line began sort of in the middle of the last one, that one being the internet. And this is my first time saying anything about it to anyone, ever, because it's still going on (strong) and there are just too many things that the internet provides that I am not willing to give up, mainly this blog. My writing is one of the healthiest habits I have... but the truth is the rest of the internet is usually what is getting in the way of it. When I go weeks without posting it's generally not because I'm out doing interesting things living an interesting life that I can in turn write about... it's because I'm caught up compulsively refreshing my Facebook, Tumblr and Pinterest feeds. Seeking the instant gratification that they provide all the while digging the hole that is my need for validation deeper and deeper by the minute. Hours pass every day while I sit staring at a screen, be it the desktop, laptop or phone (usually phone) comparing myself to the entirety of the internet, but contributing little to nothing. This problem, I know, is far more widespread than people with an addictive personality, but I consider it a valid chapter in my book of addictions because of the risks I have willingly taken to spend just one more minute browsing... risks like, at the time, losing my job. It never came to that of course. But people were getting in trouble for it every day. My backlog of emails got bigger and bigger and still, every time eyes weren't on me I un-minimized the tiny, almost unreadable window I had tucked away behind my inbox. And I REALLY hate admitting this now so publicly, knowing that the people on my team who I let down by doing this could read it someday. I am SO sorry. Truly.

   I typed that last sentence then checked my Facebook despite my best intentions to finish this. Get it ALL said...

    Back on a more linear timeline (forgive me, things tend to bleed together and overlap quite a lot) next up I discovered that what pregnancy cured in terms of unhealthy eating habits, my post pregnancy body pushed in the opposite direction. It started off fine and good. Really good actually. Healthier and happier than I had ever been. Healthier, happier and smaller. I began working out religiously and became completely obsessive about what I would and would not allow into my body. When I wasn't reading labels I was reading weight loss articles on any number of topics from the dangers of sugar to the proper balance between cardio and weight training and the best time of day to work out. If I wasn't doing either of those I was spending hours on Tumblr looking at pictures of incredibly tiny, fit, and many times underweight people, watching instructional workout videos to learn proper technique and reading "fitspirational" quotes. Workout done for the day? Doesn't matter I'm getting up and down from that chair anyways might as well do 10 more squats... while I'm at it 25 more crunches.... Surprisingly I managed to keep a relatively healthy attitude as well until I came nearer and nearer to reaching my goal weight. It was then that the voice inside my head wanting to see "just one less pound" on the scale got so loud I couldn't ignore it. I knew that despite my mouth telling everyone including myself that I would stop once I hit that goal ("which [is] technically within the healthy weight range for my height by the way"), it wasn't what I really intended to do. Thankfully around this time enough people took notice, and after confessing my unhealthy thought process about my weight loss to a few key people, the obsession faded and wilted away. Unfortunately so did a lot of my motivation to be healthy, because honestly I just didn't trust it.

   That last one was one of the more intense ones, especially having known some people who have struggled with eating disorders and the severe repercussions they can have mentally as well as physically. But this last one I have to share with you is the hardest and most embarrassing of all to admit because of what it means. Or what I fear it means. A higher admission of failure than all the rest. Because really what it is... what I'm admitting here means that some of the success I have claimed since that time of origin back in high school when my addictions began, isn't real. Wasn't real. Not a full victory anyways. A big one yes, that can't be taken away from me, but not a complete victory., here it is. I still self injure. Not with blades or pins or scratches of my fingernails... and well over 90% of the time with no blood. I do it with tweezers. I pick. When I get stressed or bored... or empty... I attack any stray hair on my body that resides below my collarbones. That's why the neat little white lines on my legs have darker tiny circles surrounding them. That's why sometimes I wince when putting my arms down to my sides after raising them. I feel so very gross admitting this... but it needs to be done. I almost never shave my armpits because there is rarely enough left to shave after my often daily tweezing sessions. And if I do it hurts like crazy so when it gets bad I just don't go sleeveless that day, even if it's 98ยบ outside. I even got lazer hair removal at one point last year, not to make my life easier by saving time in the shower, but so that there wouldn't be hair for me to pick... it didn't work. Sorry for any uncomfortable visuals I'm causing here. I wish I weren't... but hopefully at least some of you understand, I need to. I need to not brush it off or minimize it. I must expose this part of myself for what it is if I ever hope to heal from it.

   Also, caffeine....

   (Had, to break up all that seriousness)

   So, the thing is, I don't have a final statement here. A wrap up paragraph with an uplifting message of how I'm getting better now, or advice to share for those who have similar struggles. I got nothing. Nothing but this confession and a bit of a shift of weight from my shoulders to the pit of my stomach over the prospect of hitting the publish button. I can say I'll keep trying. Keep analyzing... keep my guard up against all of these things and the ones just chomping at the bit to take their place. But I have to say that I'm damn tired. Exhausted if I'm baring it all...

   ...and I am.

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