Hello, my name is Michael and I’m an addict.

Wow, that was not easy to write. But I guess it had to be done. I had to come clean. It was becoming too apparent, after binging three weekends out of the last four, and then crashing hard. I think I’ve been hiding it well from most people, but my therapist knew. He called me on it this week. And I had been rolling it around in my head for quite some time now, as I replayed all the searing, soaring highs and the near-suicidal lows. The worst came the other day, when my first major meltdown in weeks had me bemoaning my fate, my self-created problems, my sense of worthlessness. All tied to my addiction.

So, yeah, I’m coming clean. I am addicted to social interaction. Oh, not just any interaction. I’m not the butterfly, flitting from superficial flower to flower of encounter. No, I am the wasp, stinger at the ready, plunging deep into the vein of human connection, seeking a soul-to-soul link.

In the middle of my binges, I have no doubt that what I’m doing is right. Healthy, even. Certainly satisfying. But it’s the comedown, as always, that’s a bitch, the inevitable withdrawal that comes when I go back home, alone, spend work day after work day alone, cook and eat too many meals alone.

Ok, we can end the extended metaphor now, yes? But the point is a legitimate one, I think. And my therapist did use the word “crash” to describe the transition he hears me recount too often, and that I can see for himself, when I go from a sustained encounter with my best friends – or even a less-involved-yet-still-rewarding weekend, like my recent experience in DC – back to the lonely routine that has been my life for almost a year. What can I say: The nights, and especially the weekends, I spend with the people dearest to me make me feel alive. Valued. Like a person who has so much to give. And then the return to the too-empty home (especially on the days of late when even Callie was not there, staying instead at my mother’s in between my weekend jaunts), is just such a let down. Such a reminder of the constant companionship I once had, whatever the flaws of the marriage, and of the possibly long stretch of loneliness to come.

I realize too, as I think about my social addiction, that I didn’t get a strong enough fix from others when I was in Chicago, or at least not until it was too late, when the Ex had already come to her unspoken decision about what was to be. Not getting my high outside the home, I put too much pressure – unconsciously, mostly – on her to be my source. She was not up to the task. Perhaps no single person could have been, or should ever be. I suppose that is one healthy thing I’ve learned as I still struggle with this addiction: Always have many supply lines in the quest for the social buzz.

Perhaps another lesson is to cultivate more self-reliance. Grow your own, so to speak. As part of my metta meditation, I say this in my mix of phrases: “May I find peace in solitude and self-reliance.” And as part of the process, I wish for all other beings to find the same peace. For the reality is, as much as we are linked by the shared quest for happiness and reducing suffering, by our shared essence of energy manifested in corporeal form, we are often alone. Physically, emotionally, existentially. And coming to grips with that seems like a healthy thing. If often daunting.

And yet…and yet. As I’ve learned this past year, the loved ones in our lives help keep us grounded. Give us love. Remind us that life is worth living, when at times our saddened and self-absorbed egos might think otherwise. Our friends and social interactions of all kinds stimulate our minds, comfort us in troubled times, provide a needed audience for the expression of our passions. Perhaps most importantly, my loved ones make me laugh and open themselves up to my attempts to make them laugh. I do not know if there is anything more fulfilling on God’s great earth than a shared laugh with someone we love. Except perhaps a hug that fills our entire body with calm and warmth and the mutual sense of contentment. I know in my head what those are like. I long for feeling them again in the flesh.

Until then, the laughs will have to suffice. They are my real drug, the ultimate reason for all those hours spent joyfully off the wagon and with my friends. The laughs, along with the honest talk, the true emotions. I do not apologize for that addiction. No, I crave it. Even knowing the crash that will always follow.


~ by mburgan on May 26, 2011.

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