For my addictions counseling course, we have to give up a substance which we are presumably somewhat addicted to… as part of the assignment, we also have to write a letter to our substance. To be included in the letter are these components:
- How my addictive substance/behavior is loved and is considered a “friend”
- How my addictive substance/behavior is sensual (appeals to my senses)
- How my addictive substance/behavior provides “healing” or is a “balm” to my emotional wounds
- How my addictive substance/behavior controls and promotes my feelings of helplessness and entrapment
- How my addictive substance/behavior is hated – what it has “cost” me
My letter is as follows:
My forbidden friend. My morning delight. People jest about my relationship with you but they don’t really understand; they don’t see the insidious underbelly of our relationship. They don’t know the price I pay to have you in my life. They only know that you’ve been in my life for 15 years. They know that without you, I’m a grumpy mess. They don’t know that I’ve been given explicit instructions not to consume you, that doing so could be detrimental to my health in a very real way.
God, I know, this sounds so dramatic but every cup really is a case of life or death when I forget to take my heart meds, as I often do. Not to mention the fact that you’re a diuretic and I’m prone to kidney stones. You’ve helped put me in the hospital a few times. Cost me thousands in medical expenses. Yet, I just can’t seem to give you up. I’m hopelessly hooked. You’re an expensive friend. But I don’t know what I would do without you.
You’ve been in my life since before I even knew I had any health issues. Back in the days when my morning routine consisted of my sweet cup of joe and mindlessly scrolling through the very slow dial-up pages on the internet. Those were the days of forums and chat rooms. I could spend hours with you warming my hands, warming my body as you melted the tension in my throat and belly. Your scent has always triggered something instinctually calm in me; it’s almost Pavlovian. Our relationship in those days was a thing of beauty. I was blissfully unaware of the toll you were taking on my body. In truth, I’m not sure I would have cared if I had known.
Life was rough back then. Mom was gone. Dad was drowning in the bottle. You were a part of my reason for waking up in the morning. Actually, you did the waking up. You were a better parent than my actual parents. Father brewed his coffee in the morning but he always brewed extra. I guess that was his part in making sure I woke up; perhaps he knew I couldn’t resist the delectable aroma of freshly percolated coffee beans in the morning. It was my only reason for bregudgingly rolling out of bed. I was depressed without knowing what depression was. I had no desire to do anything, to even live. But, you gave me just enough of a push to survive. I needed that morning jolt to thrive in the wilds of high school.
Little did I know then that I’d still be relying on you, 15 years later, to survive the hallowed halls of high school. Only this time things are different. I’m the teacher. I’m an adult and not an angsty teen anymore. There is an expectation that I be calm, cool, and collected; most days you give me that. I have my kids as a reason to get out of bed. But, you give me the fortitude to read their harrowing stories, to hold them when they cry in the corner, to encourage them when no one else will, and to be continuously authentic. Because, I’ve got to say, without you in my morning routine, without you warning my soul in my morning meditation, I don’t think I’d be strong enough to be who my students need, to be who I want to be for them.
It probably doesn’t make sense to think of you as something that provides comfort and soothing since you’re a stimulant. And I must admit, you give me the jitters and sometimes make it hard to focus. But when things are good; they’re really good. I never would have survived graduate school without you. God, you had a way of honing my mental acuity. Those long nights of reading and writing, fueled by you, fresh from the French press. I indulged back then. Now it’s all about expediency, frugality, and convenience. Coffee from the Keurig mixed with vegan protein powder. Part of me hopes that the protein powder will make up for the ways in which you hurt my heart. I mean, it kind of makes sense, right? Protein is good for muscles. The heart is a muscle.
I know, that’s not the case. If it were I wouldn’t have been back in the hospital a few months ago with chest pains and almost no potassium in my body. It’s probably way past time that I admit you’re not good for me. I guess I’ve been afraid that if I gave you up I’d be irritable, cranky, even more of a gray cloud than some people already think I am and thus I’d be hopelessly alone. But, maybe this is for the best, these next several weeks of forced apartness. Because surely it is better to be alive and maybe alone than dead and definitely alone. Not that I think it would ever get there again. We have been careful enough, I think. But, it could. And that potentiality should be enough, right?
Enough with the justifications.
I try so hard to be healthy in every other way: I take my medications (mostly); I’ve got a plethora of self-soothing activities in my toolkit; I’ve got individual therapy and group therapy; I see a doctor when I am sick (mostly); I eat healthy… so, it makes sense that I should probably also drink healthy. And caffeine, you’re just not doing it for me anymore. You’re not compatible with the lifestyle I’m striving for. I’d say it’s not you, it’s me but that’s not entirely true; it’s both of us. You’re noxious. Deliciously toxic. I’ll miss you but I really think this will be good, us parting ways.
Your every morning companion