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Different Definitions

The addict's point of view

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I suppose it's saying something about me that my favorite foods are cake and Halloween candy, but then again it depends on what your definition of "favorite" is. For example, if I ate cake and candy all the time, then that would say I am, basically, a brain-diseased bovine, but I don't eat that stuff all the time.

OK, I do eat that stuff all the time. So I guess it depends on what your definition of "all the time" is. I've only been eating it all the time lately.

"Sugar is poison," Grant chides me. "Would you eat arsenic? Sugar is just like arsenic, only it kills you slower. Me? I don't have an addictive bone in my body."

"Ha!" I shriek. I love it when Grant offers himself as an example of admirable behavior because it's the easiest argument to refute. "How many used cars have you bought this year? Like, eight? And what about your addiction to colonics from a few years back? In the end you were getting them from some guy with a garden hose in the back of a van."

But Grant and I obviously have different definitions of the word "addiction." Still, though, he is pretty good at managing his. It's probably been a year since he had a rubber nozzle near his ass, and as of last week he was down to one car -- but I see a spree on the horizon because he just bought a 1987 Le Baron and named it Rico, and it's always a danger sign when Grant starts buying old Le Barons.

I just have my one addiction -- sugar is my drug -- and I can proudly say there have been whole periods that lasted almost entire weekends when I don't touch the stuff, but addicts are good at making excuses. Having an actual cake-and-candy-heavy holiday nearby on the calendar doesn't help at all, either. It's like New Year's Eve for alcoholics: a convenient excuse to indulge, a time when the addict can talk herself into thinking she'll fit right in with the rest of the revelers and no one will notice.

Fat chance, though, and I mean that literally. Right now I'm popping over the waistline of my pants like a muffin top. The misery is apparent on my face, and I mean that literally, too, because now I have this weird redness in my cheeks that acts up when I lapse back in to the sugar vat, kind of like what you saw on that famous alcoholic W.C. goddam Fields.

It's so seriously not fair, I think, because alcohol is a much more fun addiction -- you get to have indiscriminate sex as a side effect and everything -- while sugar is just sugar. People feed it to their kids; for chrissakes, why do I have to have the firecracker-capillary cheeks of a hardcore wino just because of my pussy-assed sugar habit? What's worse is that today I'm miles ahead of my past behavior. When I was 18 I lived on French fries, tequila and cocaine. If I did that now -- with my born-again drug-wienie body -- it would be a matter of days, probably, before all that's left of me was a rotten spot on a mattress surrounded by police tape. Today, the closest I come to drugs or alcohol is the biannual double dose of my daughter's drugstore cold medication (sugar-flavored). I live a Puritan existence, for chrissakes.

But again, addicts are good at making excuses, and everybody has their drug. You don't get to survive any sizeable amount of life without emerging with a set of adamant personal proclivities. I had a friend in college once who masturbated like a spider monkey the entire month after his eighteenth birthday when he finally bought his first legal porn. In the end he could be found at the free clinic clutching a tube of ointment and getting lectured about the dangers of "over-emitting."

But even that isn't as bad as the crack whore who used to live under a freeway overpass in my old neighborhood. She had a face like a pail of hardened paste, as though it was an insurmountable burden that morning simply to awaken with a heart still beating. She used to panhandle at the on-ramp, hobbling from car to car, shaking her empty money bucket, scratching at our windows and then flipping us off when we ignored her. A few times she dressed in a bad rendition of a charity-worker's uniform, but few fell for it.

Luckily or unluckily, sex and drugs don't hold such a huge appeal for me that I'd forego everything else in their pursuit. Instead I consume discounted Halloween candy hoarded in my glove compartment. That is until yesterday, when I happened to be in my old neighborhood. Paste Face was back working her corner again, and when she passed the bucket under my car window, I put the candy in it. She seemed grateful for my charity, but I didn't feel too deserving. I guess it depends on what your definition of "charity" is.

Hollis Gillespie authored two top-selling memoirs and founded the Shocking Real-Life Writing Academy (www.hollisgillespie.com).

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