Preparing to confront my lifelong addiction for the first time, I stood in front of the mirror ready confess the shame I’d been hiding. The first step to healing, I reminded myself, is admitting something is wrong.
“My name is Jackie, and I’m a gum-a-holic.”
Since I was five-years-old, chewing gum as been a vice of mine with the first piece of Bazooka Bubble gum innocently placed in my mouth by my father.
Chomping on the sugary substance with a mouth full of baby teeth, I laboriously masticated the glob until my cheeks grew exhausted. Once the taste was devoid of all sweetness, rather than give my jaw a rest, I just put more in my mouth.
In my teenage years, Double Mint was the next substance of choice. Promising fresh breath with its doubly long lasting minty flavor, there was always a stick or two on hand. Raging hormones were at an all-time high and, like a good Girl Scout; I wanted to be prepared just in case a rare kissing opportunity presented itself behind the high school bleachers.
As an adult, massive amounts of hydrocarbon polymers laced in sorbitol, took on a new meaning for me. Fearful of excess pounds, I continually tossed wad after wad around my updated dental work. How can you gain weight when you’re too busy chewing gum to eat?
My gum-masticating addiction had a cure, and it was within my reach. If I really wanted to give it up, I was confident I could go cold-turkey. I was more concerned about another act of obsessive behavior for which there is no cure. I’ve tried meditation, church, retail therapy, even wine, but I just can’t escape the fact that I’m a helpless cosseter: a helicopter mother.
For thirty-three years, I’ve been hooked on an all-consuming drug known as the love for my children. From the day they were born, every waking moment, and often nighttime dreams, have been devoured with thoughts of them.
When they were young, it was easy to satisfy my craving because they were never out of my sight. They relied on me for everything. With my rotor-twirling blades swirling over their sweet little heads, I saw to it that all their needs from dietary, wardrobe acquisitions, social calendar, transportation, even TV viewing and video gaming, were carefully planned out. But one day, somehow, they grew up and moved away. Sadly, I was forced into a cruel, empty nester sort of rehab.
Withdrawal from your favorite mood altering substance is never pretty. It can cause uncontrollable sobbing when reminiscing about childhood memories, delirium tremens over empty bedrooms, and insomnia wondering what are they doing now?
At first, it wasn’t too bad. With four kids at different ages, I was able to wean myself gradually, but when my baby Tim escaped, it was as if a spring in my heart, once held in place by the closeness of their bodies, exploded and thrashed out of control. So what’s a junkie to do, besides cry? Do as she taught her children – get a life!
One of the greatest things we can do for our children is relieving them from feeling responsible for their parent’s happiness. In other words, illustrate you’re just fine without them.
Before becoming a baby machine, I was an independent, self-sufficient creature with artistic talents that somehow lost their importance along the way. It’s time I brought them back to life.
So, to my children; Michelle, Jenni, Lauren, and Tim, soar all you want and don’t worry about your OCD mother. I’ll be here loving you, missing you, and anxious for our next rendezvous. And while you’re off exploring, this chrysalis will be unraveling her silk layering. Long ago I clipped my wings to care for you, but I’m taking the Band-Aids off and re-teaching them how to fly too.
We all have something we’re obsessive about. What is your addiction and how do you control it? I’d love to hear.