Sunday, June 03, 2007


I went to my best friend SLA's surprise birthday party yesterday. She had called me a couple of days ago and to throw her off the scent I asked "So, are we still going out for your birthday?" And she said sadly, "No, I have to work both Saturday and Sunday nights." I knew that her older sister had called her work and found a sub for her. She told me that her daughter had come up from the Cities to take her out for dinner but then she'd have to go to work. I knew the hidden plan: that daughter would bring her to the bar/restaurant back room where we'd all spring upon her with "Happy Birthday!" So I parked in the back (so she wouldn't see my car) and came a half hour early. Her son and his wife and her daughter had decorated the back room beautifully and the only task left was to blow up lots of black balloons! Being the only non-smoker of the crowd, I was drafted to blow up those balloons.

I actually love smoking but am so lucky to be able to take or leave it and not get addicted. My Mom is the same. When she quit smoking she would only smoke when she visited her family once a year or so. For those couple of days she would smoke non-stop with all of them, then return home to (Dad, who smoked) not smoke again until next year. I love the smell of tobacco so much that my favorite perfume, "Wicked" has a tobacco-y scent to it.

We celebrated, ate dinner (paid for by SLA's daughter!) watched the gift opening, and drank. I have been so tired since returning from the convention that I needed caffeine, so had two colas instead of my usual two beers. SLA's little grandbaby was running about the entire time, being adorable. He's nearly two and can speak very clearly words like "french fry" and "Spongebob" and "Let's go!" Five hours of excitement and partying finally wore him down, though and he started screaming.

SLA, who is normally a sensitive, considerate person said (rather smugly) "He never does that when he's at my house!" She had had a few too many birthday drinks. Her daughter-in-law, pregnant, tired, and holding a kicking and screaming two-year-old was insulted, she turned pink and replied, "That's because you only have him for a few hours every other week!" There was an awkward silence, so I (being the only other stone-cold sober one in the room) said, "It's just because he's tired. He's all worn out from the party." The others started nodding and saying so each other, "He's all tired out." I hope daughter-in-law doesn't hold it against her and realizes that it was just the alcohol talking.

I grew up in a family where alcohol was a problem. My Mom worked (with resentment) a full time job because my Dad couldn't. All the other families around us had stay-at-home-moms in those days. In our house harsh words were spoken, screaming, tears, all sorts of mayhem, I couldn't have friends over to our house and never knew what to expect--just because of alcohol. I still do drink occasionally, but it's with a sense of danger and I try to stick to having only two--four at the very most in one evening. I can clearly see the slipperly slope my Dad took, in drinking to make the world seem better, kinder. Drinking to feel better about himself, for he was (I later realized) very very depressed. SLA and other friends have told me that I'm rather a party-pooper. And that's true. Last night, for example, I came home rather than go out with them after the (five hour long!) party.

But that doesn't mean that I have escaped addiction. In a conversation about addictions I once mentioned that I was addicted to food and one of the other people took offense at it, saying, "That's not a real addiction! I have to diet and watch what I eat, too. That's NOT a real addiction! Now my former drug problem was a REAL addiction." I beg to differ on that, and at the time counted off on my fingers all the conditions of addictions, and every one applied as much to a food addiction as to alcohol and drug addiction with the exception of doing illegal activities.

I don't remember all those conditions any more but I know that food can serve me the same purpose as alcohol served for my Dad. It can temporarily calm me down, make me feel better and be more able to cope with my feelings. I think they call it "stuffing your feelings" and it works, which is why it's so hard to overcome. Even when I'm sick, food will always make me (temporarily) feel better.

I think we often chose what is familiar. I fit so easily into SLA's family. When I met her 25 years ago, it was like we had known each other all of our lives. Her life was so parallel to mine, she went to the same college and had many of the same experiences, just four years later than I did. She had an older brother who was killed in a car accident as a teenager. His birthday is exactly the same day and year as mine--how creepy is that? Her high school best friend "Houseguest" was a quiet, shy girl who barely said a word, just like I was in school. Now they go out as often as they can and enjoy the bar scene. I just can't. The bar scene has always raised my red flags, even when I was younger, and I'm usually far too cautious to really have a good time. And that's OK.

So, what are your thoughts on addictions? Do you think, like some people (but not me), that everyone is addicted to something? How did you gravitate towards your best friends?


Blogger Anvilcloud said...

I don't have many coherent thoughts right now, but this was a good post.

9:53 AM  
Blogger Fizzy said...

It is a very good post. I too have a Father who drinks, his Mum and her sister drank also. His mum worked in a bar. I grew up around it all.I can take or leave alchol but instead eat. I feel that it is the same need to comfort, cope with, hide behind feeling/satisafaction that other people get from other substances, whether coffee, food, alchol, drugs etc. I would like to know what the reserach in to inherited genes has found out on this subject. I know that a "fat gene" has been identified. however what they can do about it all I do not know.
oooooo I seem to have waffled on a lot. But as anvilcloud says "this is a good post".

5:38 PM  
Blogger Dale said...

Excellent post, PB. I believe everyone is addicted to something. And I define an addiction as any act or substance that interferes with free will.

Me? I eat. Food calms me. When there's no food, I chew my fingers. It's the same hand/mouth compulsion.

And scientists have actually discovered the gene responsible for alcoholism. There is no doubt it runs in the family.

You're a wise woman to know your enemies.

6:14 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

Ah...I think I'll stay hands off the addiction questions....not sure where I stand. I used to pretty much go with the party line on it and now..well, I am older and have had more time to confuse myself.

I have always been drawn to friends who were mostly like me: not prone to deep emotional talking, lots of laughing and ease.

And then, of course, when we became closer, the deeper stuff just happened.

8:41 PM  
Blogger deni said...

I think anything in excess can become an addiction. Both of my parent's were/are alcoholics, so I know where you are coming from. I very rarely drink and when I do it's only one or two. There have been the rare occasions when I drank more and I was always sorry afterwards.

I am horribly addicted to smoking, I want to quit in the worst way. That is my next big goal.

BTW, I am really happy that you found a church and made your way back. :)

1:54 AM  
Blogger sumo said...

No addictions here...I'm just not capable of it...I'm flawed I know. I think it definitely is possible some people don't have addictions of any sort.

Some best friends from school...some from working...and I don't have many from either. I'm more of a loner...I like my own company and I'm introverted besides.

3:45 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Good for you for defusing a situation that could have become a lot more awkward than it was. Going by what you said, to me it would've been obvious that wee boy was overtired. Kids get practically hysterical when they're so tired don't they?

Anyway, about the addiction thing. I'm a smoker, and occasionally give thought to stopping, I've done it once, obviously not very successfully though lol. There are a few of my friends that have addictive natures...I think the most important thing is that they're aware of it. From what I've heard, if you have that type of nature and you try to kick one habit, you can end up replacing it with another. I'm not sure I have an addictive nature, but I'd hate to stop smoking to find that I replaced it with eating or drinking you know? I should attempt to replace my smoking addiction with some kind of exercise craze...that could work lol

Hope you got some rest over the weekend, you certainly deserved it after the gruelling conference!

4:51 AM  

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