I’m a junkie, and I know this because when I was an impressionable ten-years-old or so, my sweet, round and soft grandmother took me to see Otto Preminger’s Man with a Golden Arm.
As the mother of 13 children who ran a boarding house, Grandma would not have read the reviews. It is hard to say which of us was more shocked. I remember being scared. I remember Grandma tensing and leaning over to say that she was sorry: she had not known what the movie was about. More than half a century has passed, and I still remember Sinatra’s battle with heroin addiction – I remember the needles and during his withdrawal, Sinatra shaking so violently that he edged off the bed and onto the floor.
Everything I know about drugs and addiction came from that movie. So I know an addiction when I see one, and I recognize that I could probably qualify for a 12-Step program.
In my case, I’m addicted to politics and following a year-long presidential campaign, following Congressional gridlock, following the election itself, and now the endless Monday morning quarterbacking, I am exhausted. Looking ahead to analysis of the ever-closer fiscal cliff, my stomach clenches. My shallow breath quickens. I’m on the edge of hyperventilating. It is time for detox.
Easy to say, but can I do it? Typically, I’m strong on plans and weak on follow-through.
I begin by listing the 12-Steps that I will follow in an effort to curb my addiction to politics: 1. I will cut the hours that I listen to BBC World and National Public Radio. 2. I will refuse to listen to Democracy Today. 3. I will not discuss politics with anyone.
That should do it. Three steps is plenty: I don’t need 12 steps.
It is going to be tough. If I have an addictive personality, other addictions stand in line ready to step forward and meet my needs. If I give up politics, what will follow? Will I eat more chocolate? Drink more coffee? Stoop to cleaning the refrigerator?
I won’t follow through, of course. I know that as I write, I don’t want to sit on the sidelines.
I soothe my savaged soul with listening to NPR’s “Storycorps.” Listening to people share stories of their transformative experiences is almost a religious experience for me. My heart clutches and sometimes I shed a tear. Almost always, I am lifted up out of the muck and dissention that brings me down. If you haven’t listened yourself, and you need to be reminded that man’s humanity is worth celebrating, take a listen at http://storycorps.org.
Or, you could embrace a portion of Barack Obama’s acceptance speech on November 6:
Democracy in a nation of 300 million can be noisy and messy and complicated. We have our own opinions. Each of us has deeply held beliefs. And when we go through tough times, when we make big decisions as a country, it necessarily stirs passions… stirs up controversy.
That won’t change after tonight, and it shouldn’t. These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty. We can never forget that as we speak, people in distant nations are risking their lives right now just for a chance to argue about issues that matter, the chance to cast their ballots like we did today.
Label me naïve. We have to believe.
If you haven’t read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (better than the movie), maybe you should. Friends have shivered and backed off when I have recommended the book. They’ve heard about it or seen the movie… think that it is too dark… too depressing. Yes, surviving a nuclear winter is depressing, but for me, the father/son bond and the their humanity shines through. Ultimately, The Road is an uplifting book.
- Do you have an addiction? What is it? What steps have you taken to over-come it? Have you been successful? How do you feel about your success or lack of success?
- Is tomorrow another day?
- Brainstorm a list of addictions. Write a short piece that features a character with an addictive personality.