I'm addicted to crack (machines).
There’s an epidemic in Starkville.
I know because I’m very attuned to these things. Like any hypochondriac.
It’s crack (machines). I speak from experience. (And I’m pretty sure it’s not an epidemic of One, but if it is, that’s ok, because the army is an Army of One, and I know for a fact that there’s more than one person in the army. I’m stepping forward to speak today because I’m no longer afraid to confess that I’m addicted. Perhaps, I can speak as One for us All. Perhaps, my story will help others).
I could hardly write that last sentence without giggling…at least, a little.
It’s one thing to enjoy a “devil” beverage at a bar, much to U.L.’s chagrin, but it’s entirely another when you’re enjoying it plus sliding countless dollars into a medium-sized black box with lights flashing and a menu of over 100 different touch-screen challenges, ranging from puzzles to quizzes to action and strategy.
There’s even a Triple Threat option for those who like to live on the edge.
With my hypochondria, though, I take too much medication to attempt the Triple Threat. I’m nervous just sitting here thinking about it.
Here’s how you recognize that you have a problem: You’re going out to bars, on a regular basis BUT you’re not drinking at all, which bartenders don’t like. You’re simply going to play the games. On top of that, you’re accosting innocent people at bars like that time I did at Dave’s because I thought the machines were broken, which, of course, I knew immediately meant that they were phasing them out, getting rid of them, possibly because of their addictive natures, or to discourage me from coming out to Dave’s in the first place.
(Hypochondria can be mental, as well).
It turns out they’d just turned them off. It’s good to be energy-conscious. That’s what they reminded me of, again, last night.
Last night where I bet I spent ten dollars on one single machine because I am a competitive individual, I can’t help it.
I wanted to see those words Winner! or New Grand Champion! roll across the screen because I knew right after it rolled across the screen would come my favorite part: I’d get to type in my name and stand back as it clicked in at the Number One spot.
Some have said to me, Well, Kris, I’m certainly glad you don’t gamble.
That’s not even remotely the same thing. And let me tell you why.
Gambling doesn’t have a Top Ten list, for one thing, and second – you wouldn’t know those people anyway, probably. But at a local watering hole, like Dave’s and OVP, or Barrister’s, chances are you know the people on the Top Ten list, and you know them well. And so, you have to beat them because you know them.
You want them, more than life and breath itself, to stroll back into that bar one evening, grab a Coors Light or a Cape Cod, or Vodka Collins, whatever, and sit down at that machine and try their hand at Gone Fishin’, or Double Quiz, or Type-A-Phrase, all the while thinking they’re going to beat their own score (they naively consider themselves still in the Number One position, naturally) and when all is said and done: Oh, they beat their own score, all right, but not mine.
Then, they have that moment where their fists ball up and they murmur a soft curse, That Kris! And order another Seven & 7.
That’s why I play. Imagining the look on their faces when they fall to second place is the whole of my addiction.
And that’s, also, the hole in my wallet.
But, I mean, doesn’t money exist to be spent? Where else would I put it? The bank?
Please. I’m one of the last members of Generation X. We don’t “do” banks. Our entire reason for existing was to aggravate everyone else. Especially parents. And parents “do” banks, so, there goes that.
I admit it – we’re probably the reason for this current recession.
Of course, now that I’m in my 30s, I’m ok with a bank. I’m wishing now that I’d “done” banks, back then. Because my car needs a tune-up, two new back tires, there’s electricity – I like having it – so I’ll have to pay for it. Yes, just when I least expected it, Life came running back downhill and kicked me in the face for being a “rebel.”
God, I’m using a lot of quotation marks, today.
Probably because I recognize the futility of a youth mostly wasted. Not all, but mostly. And if it took me this long to figure that out, then I worry for my nieces and nephews. They’re already belligerent. And the oldest isn’t even 5, yet. Still, they’ve established a pecking order: who sits where at Sunday dinner, who gets the yellow truck, who gets the green and blue books, etc. So young, and yet, they “must have” certain things, if for no other reason than to keep someone else from getting it.
Is that what propels us to addictions, in the first place? A lack of control over anything larger than the Self? An inability to see beyond the temporal? I wonder…
Sure, you might argue that an addiction is the opposite of self-control, but is it? Really? The more I think about it, the more I come to believe it isn’t, actually. It’s an abusive, unhealthy form of self-control, but all the same, it’s self-control…it becomes a luxury in its destructiveness, a habit that we eventually must enforce.
I suffered from an eating disorder for several years. Originally, it was harmless enough. I’d had a car accident, I’d hurt my left leg (nerve damage), and I wasn’t able to play tennis, officially, so I did what most do under the circumstances: I became depressed. (And I didn’t need much help in that department).
At first, it was easy enough to not eat. I wasn’t in the mood for it.
But, then, I actually began to enjoy the looming end result of not eating. I couldn’t do what I wanted to do (tennis, etc.), but rather than focus on that, I could do something else: re-make my body image. Denying food became a game…with no clear way to define a winner. I lost an ungodly amount of weight. My family eventually intervened, of course. But, it wasn’t an easy intervention, upfront.
However, when, I fell out in church, that was that.
We knew something was wrong then. Baptists don’t get the Holy Ghost. If you fall out in church, it’s most likely from a medical reason. Also, one time, Miss Ada Lee may have had a heart attack in church. Point is, we knew why people fell in church and it wasn’t because they found God. Per se.
My weight was sickeningly low. I was 22, 5’10″, and maybe 118? U.L. has burned all the pictures from that painful time, and painful it was, but I must tell the truth: I “felt” entirely in control of myself, my life. When I put on a pair of blue jeans that I’d not worn since the fifth grade, I was elated. Not for the sake of weight loss, anymore, but for the idea that I could fit in these pants, and the last time I’d worn them, I was a child…and that meant, I was someone else’s responsibility. That was the safety I think I was trying to secure by not eating.
I think that’s what addictions do for us.
They cover us, they shield us, they protect us, bad as they are. They distract us when we need it…the problem is they also distract us when we want it. The danger comes in marring the line that differentiates the two: want vs. need.
I know, I’ve kept my toe on that line for many a year.