I’m currently suffering brutal withdrawal symptoms from a 10-a-day coffee habit. I saw my doctor the other week, who asked how much coffee I drank. When I admitted my dirty secret, he was aghast. I hadn’t realised how bad it was until I thought about it enough to tell someone. I’m writing this with blurred vision and sweaty, shaking hands. I haven’t gone completely cold-turkey, I still have a couple cups in the morning, but midday is my cut off point. Reducing my coffee consumption hurts – my brain feels like it’s being squeezed in a waffle iron. This addiction started when my son was a baby and I would drink a shit-ton of coffee in the morning after being awake half the night. It escalated and before I knew it, I was knocking back a reckless amount of caffeine every day.
It’s prompted me to think about the other substances and behaviours that I lean on. I have given up alcohol which previously provided a significant, if precarious, emotional support. I drank to celebrate, to lament and to relieve anxiety. I feel good about my decision to stop drinking, however my addictive personality will not rest until it finds new and inventive ways of acting out. I’m really into exercise and healthy eating at the moment, but I know this is another area of vulnerability for me because I have a history of eating disorders. It’s necessary to be constantly vigilant that things don’t get out of hand.
People who are lucky enough not to have addictive tendencies may not understand what it’s like to have problematic relationships with multiple behaviours and substances. Being prone to addiction is like playing a constant game of whack-a-mole. Just when one thing has been dealt with, some other fresh hell will pop up. I’ve stopped giving myself a hard time for my addictive personality as I suspect it’s genetic. All I can do is accept it and do my best to make good choices. I know I’m not alone in this. Addiction has multiple permutations and affects lots of people in different ways. We’re living in a socio-economic system that profits off our insecurities and promotes dependency on substances or behaviours. Much of consumerism relies on low grade addiction. If a company can make its customers feel inadequate, then offer an addictive but ultimately ineffective solution, they have a customer for life. This applies to diets, alcohol, beauty, fashion, gambling, gaming, food and tech to name but a few. It’s actually quite a brilliant marketing strategy.
I don’t really have the answer to any of this as I’m still figuring it out. I have to work every day to be a bit more balanced and well. My propensity to self-destruct is powerful, even if it’s by doing something as daft as drinking too much coffee. When I’m dealing with all this stuff, I need a bit of lightness and this dress by Stine Goya has been helpful. It may sounds vacuous, but dressing cheerfully is a method of managing my emotions. Even if the improvement is small, it’s still positive action. I wear black, my mood will darken.