Self-knowledge avails me of nothing. Yep. I said it. The human services teacher and professional. Its true, at least in my life. Awareness, alone, does nothing unless it is paired with action. I'm sure some of my colleagues will be jumping up and down, demanding that I retract the statement, but I won't.
You see, I actually come from a very long line of people who are as compulsive and excessive as me. They have wrought havoc in their small parts of the world, pursuing addictions (yes, that is the word for the excessive pursuit of pleasure) to the tune of disjointed families and damaged children. They've destroyed promising careers and businesses, wrecked above average brains, been imprisoned, and died prematurely. Some of them did minimal damage in their compulsive obsessions, creating morbid obesity and concurrent health issues related to that state. Some drank alcohol or smoked pot only at home, devastating the family income and relationships, but doing little damage outside the house. Most took their insanity into their communities, causing a range of injury to self and others.
I'm no different than any of them. In my pursuit of substances, I punished my family for imagined violations of my carefully crafted, anal-retentive plan to make the outside believe that we were the epitome of normalcy. I was cruel to an extent that thoroughly shames me, but hasn't entirely left me. There were jobs and houses lost, careers and educational paths abandoned, cars totaled, and so many more things. My particular brand of pleasure: numbness. Emotions overwhelm me. They can be painful and unpleasant. I don't like unpleasant sensations. Being a hedonist to the extreme, I seek pleasure. My flavors of pleasure vary and include a wide variety of experiences that some may consider painful, but pain brings numbness, too. In fact, all things in excess eventually create numb. Numb is, in my brain, the ultimate pleasure -- the complete absence of sensation. And, I can make it happen via most roads.
You can, in fact, eat until you are numb. I've proven this. I've eaten in a pattern that can be described as nothing short of a frenzy until I was blissfully empty and absent, unaware of my surroundings, or operating in such a foggy state, that my behaviors were automatic and dead. This is the state of oblivion that I desire above all else. And, the roads to this state are so many -- lust, shopping, relationships, exercise, knowledge, exhaustion, reading, fantasy, spirituality, drugs & alcohol. Oh, yes. Positive things, in excess, are not positive anymore. Restricting your diet to the point of starvation is not healthy. Exercising to the point of physical injury is clearly misguided. Reading for days, devoid of sleep or food, is specious at best. Avoiding sleep for any cause for 72 or more hours is unquestionably unsound. Working incessantly, beyond the level of reward or incentive, is truly foolish. But, I am guilty of all of these.
And, it always, always begins with the craving. Something in my brain tells me that I am in a state that is unpleasant -- boredom, anxiety, discomfort, stress -- and that tiny inkling of craving begins. Its like an itch that is in the one place that you cannot reach, cannot describe, and no amount of pretzeling your body makes it accessible.
Eventually, the hole becomes so large that the pain is intolerable. You can no longer bear the blood loss. You're anemic with it. Your head begins to spin. You're dizzy and unable to focus. You can think of nothing but the pain, the craving. The sensation of panic begins to spread through your nervous system as if you were confronted by a hungry lion.
And, with the panic, comes the shame. You should be able to manage this. You should be stronger. You're throwing all of your hard work away. How dare you squander what you have? Why would you do this, again? And, all the while, the little mice chew and chew and chew and chew until the pressure becomes so unmanageable that you do the thing you know will make it go away.
You do it and do it and do it until bliss comes and goes and emptiness follows. And, there you sit, devoid of any human expression. And, you are happy, for about a moment.
Then, the shame comes, anew. And it spreads. And the little mouse wakes up, where its hidden in its little corner.
And, the whole thing begins again.