Spot the addict

My obsession defines me. I spiral inexorably down to my next fix.

Addiction: A degree of involvement in a behaviour that can function both to produce pleasure and to provide relief from discomfort, to the point where the costs appear to outweigh the benefits.
McMurran, 1994

Did you catch the bus to work today? Sit in a traffic jam? Maybe you stood in line at your favourite coffee shop to pick up some breakfast? Chances are you saw more than one or two addicts. But you may not have noticed.

Those stressed-out parents juggling pushchairs and laptops trying to get the kids to nursery and themselves to the office? They crack open a bottle of wine most nights. They “need” a glass or two or three to relax at the end of the day. That successful-looking girl next to you? She’s got a beautifully tailored suit and a designer handbag. But the occasional weekend drug use of her twenties has tipped over into the week as her deadlines crash into each other. Sure, the coke is illegal, she’s addicted, but you, and her boss and even her partner doesn’t know.

There’s a woman over there at the bus stop, smart but overweight. In fact she’s obese, carrying about three stone of excess weight, a size 16 on a good day. She’s had a great morning and a healthy lunch but then she falls into a familiar patten. Bored she makes a cup of tea and decides to have just two biscuits. Then, half an hour later she notices with horror she has eaten the whole packet. She mistakenly notices her reflection. She hates herself. She thinks she’s a complete failure. As she makes another cup of tea she tells herself she’ll start the diet again tomorrow.

She’s as addicted to food as others are to alcohol, cigarettes, shopping and sex, but her addiction is clearly, humiliatingly, visible.

When she walks down the street, she’s the butt of shouts and taunts, open stares and loud whispers. She gets no sympathy for her addiction. No help to overcome it. When she talks about it with people she thinks she can trust – her parents, doctor, a close friend – they say the same things: “come to a zumba class with me? ”, “more salads, fewer cakes”, “it’s simple – just eat less and move more”.

She’s consumed by shame. She knows every time she walks down the street, she reveals her inadequacy to the rest of the world. She believes every person that passes her has noticed her obesity and they’re ridiculing her for it. Her assumption confirms her belief that she’s inadequate. She doesn’t recognise that she’s a fallible human with an addiction that she needs help and support to overcome. And so, to numb the social 
anxiety that she feels, she eats. And eats. And so 
the cycle continues.

I hate myself. I try to resist. It's impossible. I hurtle headlong back to my safe place. My saviour. My prison.

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