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     I’m no better than anyone else.  I am no better than the crackhead on the street.  The only difference between me and the homeless guy peeing behind the train station is that I decided I didn’t want to live that way, so I did something about it. 

     Yet, sometimes I still find I am addicted.   I know when we think of addiction, we all think of drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and sex.  We think of the new show, “Strange Addictions” and all the weird things the people on that show are hooked on.  No matter what, we always think of deviant behavior.  It is actually much more complex though, and sometimes it takes a while for you, or even those around you to recognize you are actually addicted, because the thing you are obsessed with is inoffensive.  They may never see it, but hopefully, you will.  As you will see, I speak not as a teacher, but as a sufferer.

     I recently realized that buying pre-viewed movies at Blockbuster is an addiction for me.  I know that it is an unhealthy addiction, because I find myself rationalizing my acquistions, and buying DVDs when I should be saving the money for necessities.  My justification is that the DVDs are on sale and a real steal at twenty dollars for five DVDs.  Therefore, it shouldn’t be a big deal that I really don’t have any money to even pay the bills I have.  After all, it’s only twenty dollars, and I could be doing so much worse than this.  I could still be doing drugs, drinking, smoking cigarettes.  Those things cost a lot more than DVDs, and were much more detrimental to me and all around me.

      When I go to the Blockbuster with someone, they always appear to be in a big hurry, which bothers me and I ultimately feel that it’s their fault that I didn’t get great movies.  I think I would have, had I been alone, because when I go by myself, I like to take a long time, go through all the DVDs, and find the five which are going to be perfect additions to my collection.   I really hope that at least one of the five will be the one that makes the twenty dollar purchase worthwhile.  I hope it’s my favorite movie, and I will be so happy that I own it, and I will watch it over and over.   Of course, it is still a crapshoot, and many times I bring home five movies that I just do not like.

     My friend Kirstin asked me yesterday whether I watch any of them again after the first viewing. I admitted, a few, once or twice, but not really.  I just like having them. I have a little DVD case for them with a glass door, and I like to look at them and think about how many DVDs I have.  I think it’s really cool.  It’s not cool, though.  DVDs are passé, which is why they are so cheap.  

     I thought about this, and wrote to Kirstin on Facebook today, “I am not allowed to buy ‘5 for $20.00’ movies at Blockbuster anymore…this addiction has to stop! Stop the Madness!”  She said she would not let me buy any more, but we all know that the addicted is the only one who can make the decision to stop ‘using’.  The fact that I know I have an addictive personality should make it easier to discern when a hobby is turning into a habit, but even so, I am always a little surprised and alarmed when I realize that I have crossed the line with an innocuous pastime. 

     Appallingly, another thing I find I am becoming addicted to is online gambling.  Not the kind where you pay, thank God, but if it were, would I go there, too?  It happened quite innocently, quite by accident.  We are going to a wedding in Vermont in two weeks.  I have never been to Vermont or anywhere in New England before.  I spoke with my sister Elaine, with whom I will be sharing the driving, and we discussed possibly making a pit stop or two on the way back to New Jersey after the wedding.  

     I had lived in Reno, Nevada in the early ‘90s, so I was curious about the new Indian Casinos in Connecticut, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort.  I just started clicking around the Foxwoods website, and found a page with free video poker.  How exciting, because when I lived in Reno, video poker was my game, baby!  I always knew to play only what I could afford to lose, but how I would love to push the boundaries to the very edge of what I could lose.  The great thing about Reno was that it is a working man’s Las Vegas, so they had no qualms about bringing free drinks to you, no matter what you were playing. I could play nickels all night long and get obnoxiously, disgustingly drunk for just change from my winnings (or, from what I felt I could afford to lose, loosely based on blonde math, that is).

      Now, here is video poker in my home, and for free!  I don’t have to worry about losing the rent, and I don’t drink, so it is purely good clean fun.  Except that now I play morning and night, and find I sometimes neglect my housework, or this blog, to try to get a Royal Flush. That’s the goal, and since I am not losing any real money, I can bet all I want to, over and over, trying to reach the rarely attainable Royal Flush.

      When I look in-depth at both of these activities, the losses are time and money, but that really is the effect, the symptoms of the problem.  The cause seems to be the same as it was with cigarettes, drinking and drugs.  I am looking for the perfect high, in these cases with the best movie, or a Royal Flush.  The good news is that I recognize this in myself much more quickly now, and I know from experience that I can alter my behavior quite easily with determination, and find healthy replacements for these diversions, and remind myself not to procrastinate by filling my time with distractions.  I can remind myself that I have a wonderful life now, and I don’t need to chase Utopia anymore.  It is unattainable, and it doesn’t matter.  I don’t need to chase happiness.  I have found it; it is within me.   I can easily walk away, and keep my mind open to the next addiction waiting to catch me.  That could be what the twelve-steppers mean when they say, “You will always be an addict.”  My answer to that is, “Not if I see it coming!”  

      I am happy to be here and be honest with you about what I have experienced and what I encounter as I grow; the good and the horrid.  It is true that it is somewhat cathartic, but that is not why I am so open.  I write because of the lessons I have gleaned from my experiences.  Please do not think I am preaching to you, because if you think this is a lot of hooey, then it is, to you.  For me, it is a continuing story that says it’s okay to be fallible, it’s human, it’s expected, and you can love yourself despite, and because of it.  Be kind to wonderful you.  When you see things in yourself you don’t like, it is your responsibility to change them.  If you cannot do it yourself, it is your responsibility to seek help in doing so.  You need to learn to love yourself.  When you own your past faults, recognize your present shortcomings, work to change them and at the same time forgive yourself and have pride in all your successes, then no matter how imperfect you are, you can love yourself.  I am not perfect; I am just one more human on a journey to an unknown or non-existent destination.  However, I find I finally love the journey!


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