I am what people call “passionate,” and not a little compulsive, and I’ve always been that way, and, maybe, so have you.
But here’s the thing: Even if you aren’t a naturally compulsive person like I am, you are probably addicted to something.
Everybody, I think, is addicted to something.
Even a total ascetic is addicted to something—God, maybe, or prayer.
A sense of meaning.
Being good. Feeling enlightened.
I don’t know. But we all have things we would hate to be without, and wouldn’t be very happy to let go of—and, for most of us, more than one.
Most of us, indeed, have quite a few.
The problem is, we never talk about the things we like to do that way. Not seriously, anyway. We act as if no one should ever be addicted to anything—as if staying away from addiction should be our only goal. And that’s why I’m going to tell you a secret about overcoming addiction, and it’s one that hasn’t let me down so far:
The best way to get rid of a bad addiction is to replace it with a good one.
These are my addictions—not all of them, probably, but enough that you get the idea: eating fat, drinking coffee, drinking diet soda, biting my nails, taking walks, making love, planning endlessly for the future, working, cuddling with David, reading, taking baths, shaving my legs, talking with friends, praying, and trying to lose five pounds.
These are the things that I look forward to doing every day. They’re the things that I can’t imagine giving up.
They’re my addictions.
They’re not just things I like to do:
They’re things I do to keep away the pain.
When I was in college and I was struggling so much with my almost desperate (okay, desperate) need for a man, sometimes, I asked for help, and, sometimes, people tried to give it to me. They said things like “Learn to depend only on God” and “You don’t need anyone else to be happy.”
I wish they hadn’t said these things. I wish they would have said something more useful instead. Something like: “Find a job you love and just never do anything else,” or “Find a man you’re not in love with and date him ’till you’re sick of the whole thing.”
I wish they’d have told me to get addicted to something else—something relatively harmless that would have made me forget about needing a man.
I wish they would have been more practical.
Eventually, I figured this out for myself. After that day at my friends’ house when I decided I didn’t want to date anymore, I started reading a lot more, and taking a lot of walks. I found other things to do to fill my time and soon, it wasn’t hard at all to be alone.
I just wish I had figured it out sooner.