“Moderation is for the bland, the apologetic, for the fence-sitters of the world afraid to take a stand. It's for those afraid to laugh or cry, for those afraid to live or die. Moderation...is lukewarm tea, the devil's own brew.” – Dan Millman
I used to believe this. Now, I’m not so sure. I’ve never practiced moderation and, for a time, I was proud of that fact. I would think of Millman’s words and revel in the fact that I was "truly living". But now I sit in my apartment when the skies are bright blue and folks are out there conversing with each other, taking walks, having sex, and I wonder if my lack of moderation is trying to tell me something else.
The first time I noticed that I had an issue with moderation came when I divorced my husband and went to work in the bars. Seven days a week I was working and drinking, being the life of the party -- climbing on back-hoes to pose for a picture, carrying armfuls of balloons into respectable establishments, paying for a life-size stuffed Jolly Green Giant in Punxsutawney, PA to ride home in my car with me, dancing on bars in chaps and underwear that said, “I Love Brad” (our resident DJ), and buying kites to fly in thunderstorms. I look back on these memories and, damn, I had a good time. So many great experiences and moments with friends but my poor liver had started to curdle and each day the hangovers were more severe, the drinking to feel better started earlier in the day, and on any given night I would do upwards of twenty shots. No moderation. Even today, I've only had drinks on three occasions in the last eight months -- and yet on those three occasions, I still found myself thinking that I could drink like I used to.
It’s not like I had no clue in regards to my lack of moderation up until this point. I’ve never ventured into the land of drug use because I know myself that well. I would practice no restraint and would quickly become an addict living on the streets.
My lack of moderation doesn’t just involve unhealthy choices. When I read a book I devour it. I will lie in bed for two days reading until I literally have rigor mortis of the ass. When a new Zelda video game is released I won’t leave my television for a week and when I eventually crawl out from under a pile of Nerd Rope wrappers and empty bottles of Sunkist orange soda I find that five or six days have gone by without my realizing it.
When I got out of the bar scene and stopped drinking seven days a week I decided to go back to college. All of the time and energy and devotion that I had put into drinking and having fun was transferred into school work. Some might say this is a positive change. Well, yeah, compared to drinking my face off, it was. But as I progressed through my first semester I realized that I had just shifted all of my time and energy into this. I spent my days in class and my nights doing homework, for hours and hours and hours. I saw no one, I said no to everything, I did nothing but pour over books, study, make flashcards, and write papers.
I’ve been out of school for the summer and it’s been a nice break. Where have I transferred my energy? Food. It struck me the other night that this new obsession is just as unhealthy as drinking. After having a dinner of spaghetti squash, a baked potato, corn on the cob, and a small smoked pork chop I still felt empty. Not hungry, per se, but unsatisfied. I went to the cupboard for a bag of Lays Sour Cream and Onion potato chips. After consuming half of the contents of said bag, I still didn’t feel satiated. I pulled out half a watermelon and went at it with a spoon, then a pudding cup, then a bowlful of green grapes, then a bag of popcorn and a glass of chocolate milk... I was sick. Not just from consuming the entire contents of my kitchen in the span of five hours, though that was part of it, but from watching myself lie in bed eating with no moderation whatsoever and yet still feeling empty.
It’s easy to look back on some of these times and realize what void I was trying to fill. (The keywords being “look” and “back.”) When I was out drinking an entire bottle of vodka each night, I was trying to mask the fact that I didn’t like myself very much and I thought I could conceal the guilt I felt for leaving my family after my divorce to begin a new life. But when you’re still actually in the situation, when you’re laying on your eleven hundred dollar mattress covered in crumbs and watermelon juice, it’s not so simple to figure out. I do know that I’m attempting, unsuccessfully, to fill a void; to fill a loneliness, an angst, a restlessness. I’m punishing myself with my choices and my personal whip doesn’t stay idle for long. I’m just not sure exactly what that void entails.
So it’s seeming to me that moderation isn’t for the weak, or the “bland”, or the “apologetic fence sitters.” It takes courage and resolve to practice moderation, at least it does for me. It’s an act of strength to put down those potato chips and see what longing I’m trying to fill before I inhale the whole bag.
Does anyone else out there suffer from “lack of moderation?” In what areas? What voids are you trying to fill Pinkies? And if you know you’re trying to fill a void how do you figure out exactly what that void is?
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