It became obvious to me last night that I don’t just have a drinking problem.
I have a consumption problem.
My hobbies apparently include having as much of anything and everything as possible. From my once 3-4 litres of wine and pack of smokes a day to last night’s half loaf of banana bread and 2 litres of juice, to this morning’s 48 ounces of coffee that I’ll pour down my throat by the time I’m done writing this post.
I am constantly reaching for things to collect and consume.
I feel as though I need more of everything, grasping at anything of substance that I can pour into myself as though I’m filling some bottomless void. It’s a one way high speed highway where I’m trying to get things into me as quickly as possible, at all times.
I’m not picky. Whatever quells the hunger in the moment is usually pretty good by me.
The problem is that the hunger feels insatiable – and yet I’m not even hungry.
I need to be drinking something constantly – even though I’m not thirsty.
It would be easy to chalk it up to an addictive personality, if I didn’t think that term was absolute rubbish. I wasn’t born addicted to anything. My parents didn’t raise me to obsess over things, and I wasn’t raised in an environment of scarcity, predisposed to coveting things in fear of drought.
My “personality” is the combination of characteristics and qualities that form my distinctive character.
My behavior, on the other hand, is made up of my actions and reactions.
That would make addiction a behavior. It’s not my personality, and it’s not who I am (although it’s important to note my behavior as an addict absolutely changed my personality).
But here I am anyhow – alcohol free – and still obsessed.
When I was drinking, it was easy to ignore, because I barely ate. So long as there was wine – in volume – it would be consumed en masse. In the rare times I wasn’t guzzling wine (basically in that tiny window between waking up and noon) you could find me guzzling black coffee like it was my job. The only thing that’s changed is that my wine has turned into water, kombucha, juice or whatever else I can keep pouring out and keep pouring in.
Fill in the gaps with cigarettes and sweets, and I’m still as addicted to consumption as I ever was.
There’s still something deeper within me that’s starving; something with a thirst so strong it never feels quenched.
Maybe it’s just the North American code of more, more, more.
Afterall, I’m the guy who when he finds the perfect pair of boots goes ahead and buys them in every colour, with a backup pair just incase. I do the same with shirts. And jeans. And pretty much anything I enjoy, from savoury dips to puppy dogs (because how can you possibly have enough hummus or Boston Terriers?)
It’s a fair trade in hindsight, swapping alcohol for almost anything else. But now I’m struggling with being mindful of moderating my new addictions. I’ve been giving them free reign because “I’m in recovery”.
Because I need “to be gentle with myself right now.”
Well, if I keep staying this gentle with myself, I’m going to need bigger pants and a catheter because I can barely keep up with the volume of food and fluids I’m devouring.
And…to feed what?
What in the world am I try to feed and what is this appetite I’m pouring anything and everything on top of to try and drown out?
It’s something deeper that alcohol obviously couldn’t gratify regardless of how hard I tried every day, paying my ransom with bottles and blackouts. I’m still here – eating and drinking my feelings, only now I’m sober enough to sense the bottomless well I’m pouring it all into.
At least it isn’t poison that I’m pouring, this time around.
Okay. Now I’m just being over dramatic.
It’s not that bad. It’s not as though I’m sitting here rocking in a corner wondering when I can have my next V8, or feeling despondent and empty, or that that my life is meaningless and unfulfilling without a glass of cabernet or a chocolate bar.
It’s not like that.
I love my life (especially this sparkly new sober one). I just wish I could figure out this endless thirst that I thought would go away. I’m still fresh out of the alcohol-free gate so it’s nice to imagine that over time the thirst will lessen or leave – but most addictions and obsessions just grow.
Just like weeds, out of control and never where you want them.
Just like my waistline if I don’t get a damn grip on my consumption of anything and everything that sits still long enough.
I don’t believe it’s gluttony and I don’t believe it’s greed.
I practice being grateful as a way of life, and I’m truly thankful for every little bit of each and every corner of my life, and that gratitude is growing exponentially with each sober day.
But still, there is this persistent, gnawing feeling that I’m not fully complete without something in my hand to eat, drink or otherwise consume. Like I’m not enough as-is and that I need something from outside of myself to make me whole.
What in the world am I trying to satisfy?
The beautiful dark side of sobriety appears when you begin to reclaim your clarity, and rediscover your ability to listen to your body, allowing the roots of your addiction to rise to the surface where you can’t ignore them anymore.
And when they rise up, they become so much easier to trip over.
It’s as though I’m finally turning the volume down enough to hear my inner hollows bellow and growl. Whatever thirst was briefly silenced by booze is still there bubbling below the surface begging for more. The same hunger that craved another and another is still there growling, empty, and wanting satisfaction.
And nothing I consume seems to satisfy it.
Peeling alcohol from my life is no different than removing a band-aid and revealing the wound.
The last time I felt truly full was when I was giving myself away and being of service without expecting anything in return. It was when I was using the talents I’ve been given combined with a healthy dose of passion and philanthropy, and I was overflowing with so much gratitude that it began spilling over everywhere I went.
It’s ironic and incredible how by pouring whatever you have to give into another’s cup, you can in turn fill up your own.
Perhaps that’s the void I’m trying to fill.
Feeling beneficial, like I’m contributing somehow instead of always taking, always fixated on myself and my desires (and these are all textbook “alcoholic” tendencies).
The more I consume, the less fulfilled I feel.
The more I give, the less I need to take.
Maybe I don’t have a consumption problem after all. Maybe the hunger and thirst I’m trying to quiet inside me is just unused potential that’s been buried too long, wanting to be released.
Maybe there’s nothing I can put in me to feel complete again, but instead, something I need to put out.
Maybe the only thing I’m really thirsty for is the taste of wholeheartedly doing something worthwhile again. Of that feeling I once had of being so full from contributing, that there’s no room left for obsessive over-consuming.
We make a living by what we get. But we make a life by what we give.
– Winston Churchill
I think I’m ready to start making a life again.