Addiction is in the news and so very much on my mind in both a past and present sense. As a young child, I watched my mother and grandmother fall apart at the news that my uncle was dead. Near as I could understand from what I overheard, he was attacked when drunk and didn’t survive the altercation.
Fifteen years later, right after undergrad, I slung drinks at a bar by night to supplement the day job. A co-worker from that job drank himself to death in a hotel room after his partner of twenty years left him.
But the addiction-related death that cut the deepest was that of a former boss, a recovering-addict, white-collar entrepreneur who apparently hopped off the wagon undetected by the dozen or so people he employed. He was a vivacious, warm, kind and abundantly generous person. He hired me three different times: during my years as a freelance journalist; after being laid off by a network in a buyout restructuring; and as a divorced, single mother of a kindergartener and a newborn. The third time, he couldn’t really afford to hire me back in the post-9/11 recession, but he did anyway.
We got word in the office that his robbed body had been found in a hotel, with bottles and baggies decorating the room, just days after learning from his new, pregnant wife that he hadn’t been sober for months. He tossed a decade of drug-free years out the window, and within months of picking up where he left off, he left us all.
I could go on about others. People I worked and played with in the bar world during my college years and shortly thereafter. I know more than I need to about addiction, including that even ones that don’t take your life are no joke.
Addiction, by definition, is a negative thing. Wikipedia defines it as “the continued repetition of a behavior despite adverse consequences;” Webster’s dictionary says it’s “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice…to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.” Neither of these sound like a state anyone should want to be in over anything. And yet I am currently, unapologetically.
Kung fu is a behavior I continue despite adverse physical consequences, about which even entertaining its cessation causes me mental trauma. It’s not going to kill me, of course, but I acknowledge in the tag line of my blog that it can cripple me. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been told I should quit before I end up with limbs not working. Each time I hear these concerns and warnings, I respond with what I know sounds to some like I’m wading blind in a pool of denial. I’ve heard drug addicts sound the same way. At least exercise addictions aren’t known to rob one of the mental faculties needed not to escalate the behavior in the middle of negative consequences. Drug addicts just keep taking more.
At the end of the day, continuing in my addiction is as simple as knowing that the pain of activity isn’t yet greater than the pain of loss that stopping would bring. That’s simply how fulfilled it makes me, for lack of a less dramatic word at this late hour, any and every time a training night goes well – hurt knees, hurt back, hurt arm and all.
If only all addicts of all kinds could clearly weigh the pain of continuation against the pain of cessation. If only they lived long enough to get the chance.