Last night we had some family visiting from overseas. On arrival they told my son that they had a gift for him, to which he replied: ‘Sometimes I like gifts, sometimes I don’t. But even if I don’t like them, I still like them.’
‘Ah, isn’t he adorable,’ I thought, ‘and so clever, almost philosophical in his approach to life. And he’s not yet five! I wonder if we will be able to afford to send him to Harvard?’
My head giddy with excitement at the thought of the valedictorian speech he is going to give, I soon crash-land when I realise that my little boy pretty much just described the basis of addiction.
As I resolve to make him go cold turkey on all things PJ Masks with immediate effect I think about the many guises that addiction takes. Take Brenda, for example:
Brenda stands by the cookie jar to uncover a sorry mix of fruit shortcakes and rich tea biscuits; no sight of the Choco Leibniz that she saw Mary from accounts walk away with, or even the Bourbons that the temp is busy dipping in her tea.
Brenda makes a huffing sound and resolves to leave empty handed. ‘Maybe it’s better this way.’ But as if in a trance her hand reaches inside the cookie jar. She grabs three of each biscuit, leaving only what looks like a half eaten waffle behind. She has some standards. She goes back to her desk to surreptitiously apply peanut butter to the rich tea biscuits, because she doesn’t even like rich tea biscuits. The fruit shortcakes she washes down with a tin of Fanta.
She’s tried to give up her 4pm biscuit habit for a while. Sometimes she makes it to 4.14pm. Once she even made it as far as 4.46pm because she had a birthday party coming up and wanted to fit in to the dress lent to her by her sister, the one who strikes that annoying teapot pose in all her Instagram posts. Sometimes she buys blueberries from the Tesco Metro at lunchtime in the hope that they will help satisfy that afternoon slump, but then she just ends up eating the blueberries AND whatever biscuits she ends up finding in the tin that day.
She wants to speak to somebody about it. To tell them how she hates herself for eating the biscuits but can’t stop eating the biscuits. To explain that the reason is that it’s the only thing that keeps her sane in that dead hour between 4.30pm and 5.30pm when everybody’s eyes are glazed over and they have mentally left the building. To explain that the biscuits are what keeps her going when she’s tired and stressed. That sometimes they feel like her only friend.
But she doesn’t want to tell anybody, because it’s kind of embarrassing and it seems so stupid that she can’t control her biscuit habit. Because surely she should just be able to stop eating biscuits whenever she felt like it? And, there was that time in January last year when she stopped for 30 days. She’d planned to make it the whole month, but then it was Margie’s birthday and in some sort of ironic move Margie was serving Wagon Wheels and she just didn’t want to look like she didn’t get the joke, so she had two. It made her feel awful as she’d been so close to completing the month’s challenge, but she knew she could do it again if she wanted to as she’d gotten to 30 days that one time.
Deep inside she hates it that she can’t walk past the biscuit tin without checking if it might contain Choco Leibnizes. And deep inside she knows this is a problem. Because even if she tells herself she doesn’t like them, she still likes them.
Brenda feels ashamed. What she doesn’t know is that after work tonight Brian from marketing is going to a place where he can talk about his biscuit addiction, and that Richard in IT often spends time in an online forum where he talks about his previous love of carrot cake.
Brenda doesn’t know that she is not alone.
In fact, none of us are ever alone.