Overdue confessions...

This will not be over quickly. You will not enjoy this...

As I started to think about writing this post, the above quote from the movie "300" came to mind. However, with changes to my life rapidly approaching, and with the desire for authenticity becoming more and more primary to my life, I think it is time to say what needs to be said...

...I am an addict...

In any twelve-step program, as I understand it, step one is taking ownership and responsibility for who you are and what your struggle is (I warn you, I will fumble over this, so please be patient). I begin with this phrase because my addiction is not singular. It isn't just alcohol or nicotine or drugs or sex or porn or *insert possible addiction here*. My addiction is any or all of these at any given moment. How I've made it this far without any one of these crippling me is a miracle, but still, I struggle. And I'm tired of pretending that I don't. Secrets are too much, and they take too high a toll on one's life...

When I shared my thoughts with Frankie recently, he told me that it made sense. His comfort came in telling me that, while I might have various addictions, he did not experience me as an abuser of my addictions. He (and other friends with whom I've shared this) see me as self-aware and as seeking to be a whole person, a healthy person. I like to think they're right, but as I get ready to leave Chicago and begin a new chapter of life, I suppose I want to take as little baggage with me as I possibly can, including the fantasy that I have no secrets, nothing to hide, nothing of which I am ashamed.

Side note: don't worry. I'm not about to give you my entire moral inventory. I'll save that for a sponsor should I ever actually pursue the 12-steps...

Over the years (and since I'm 30 in less than a month, I think I'm allowed to use that phrase), I've struggled with many addictions, most of which have been short-lived or at least sporadically present. Others have been persistent, a splinter buried deep, festering and infectious. Regardless, the energy that goes into maintaining secrets, into making sure one is not "found out" is untenable at best.

"I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge. It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom.” ― Edgar Allan Poe

For me, like many adolescent guys, it all started with sex (lust, self-gratification, porn, etc.). I would try to include some form of statistical data here, but let's face it: the stats on porn are biased in both directions. However, ask most adult men if they have or currently watch porn, and you will often see the clearest representation of shame possible. In one of my residency interviews recently, the supervisor I met asked me point-blank about my usage. It was several minutes before I could get past the shame of talking about my addiction enough to actually talk about it. I still didn't have any answers, but I was glad she asked.

Several friends have asked about my drinking habits (especially after Nanny died in 2011). My therapist helped me think about the role both Xanax and Benadryl were playing in my sleeping patterns. Other friends have tried to keep me in check about my technology usage, my smoking habits and patterns, or the compulsion to have massive amounts of friends. But in every instance, I've found myself hesitant to use the word "addiction," especially given my history as a card-carrying, self-loathing Southern Baptist. To admit one has an addiction is to step into a place of wondering whether or not God can still love someone who has to _______ to get by, to cope, to survive.

We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.

Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare. — Brené Brown 

I'm still thinking through much of this, but work with me here: in all honesty, I believe my biggest addiction, my own personal heroin/crack/opiate, is connection. In a world where we are constantly "connected," my greatest struggle has been a constant feeling of isolation. Truth be told, my greatest expenditure of energy on any given day goes towards feeling connected. Sometimes I'm rewarded with the real thing, and other times I settle for a very cheap substitute. But if I think about the various addictions with which I've struggled, they often surface either as a way to feel connected, or as a result of the lack of connection.

I may never overcome all of my addictions. I may never achieve the feeling of connectedness for which I am so constantly hungry and yearning. But at least I can say that I've taken another step towards honesty, vulnerability, and authenticity (and that, hopefully, it won't come back to bite me in the ass). In the end, maybe we're all addicted to something, and our connection comes when we bear one another's burdens. Maybe... just maybe...