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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Prolonging Pleasure and Self-Betrayal

Jill Kelly is an editor and writer I have the privilege of knowing. A post from one of her blogs, Sober Truths: The Making of an Honest Woman, so resonated with me that I'm quoting most all of it here:
Today I was editing a chapter from a book in progress on child development and parenting and came across this sentence in a discussion of why using rewards and punishments with children is a bad idea. "Using rewards teaches the child that the most important thing is to prolong pleasure—even at the expense of betraying yourself." 

"Prolong pleasure even at the expense of betraying yourself" is an amazingly accurate description of my addictive relationships. whether they be food, alcohol, work, sex. You name it. The incomprehensible demoralization that the AA Big Book talks about is that very sense of betrayal. And yet I have been so desperate to prolong pleasure because in the either/or world of addiction that I still visit all too frequently in one form or another, there is only pleasure and punishment; nothing else is really living. Both the extreme pleasure I have sought and the deep misery I have experienced have seemed like "real life." As if ordinary, peaceful, semi-contented living isn't real life.
The definition of "betrayal" in my dictionary includes "to fail or desert, especially in time of need."
Jill's words made me think of that curious and driving hunger for that thing---the one that will give me such indescribable satisfaction that I have no need for anything else. That place I long to occupy, a self-contained unit of uninterrupted joy and pleasure. And how I have spent so many years and meals and relationships and money (and, and, and...) seeking that perfect high, and most often failing.
I'm not sure if food was the first desired and received satisfaction for me, but it was the first comfort I could acquire by and for myself, without the participation of others. So it became primary, important, mine. And, of course, fed my isolation. How? Because I used to (and still do, sometimes) eat differently--more heedlessly, mindlessly--when alone. I often 'eat from the refrigerator'--standing up, grazing, not making a proper plate, and having (or wanting) no idea of how much I consume. Sometimes eating with absolutely no knowledge of what it is I desire, and simply eat until I find it, or stop only when I'm completely gorged up.
It is harder for me to do that, these days, but trust me: it's not for lack of trying.

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