From co-dependency to cake ... A personal tale of the many faces of addiction.
Posted August 9, 2013
I had the great pleasure of hearing the following piece read aloud by the author and thought it was one of the most compelling stories about the many faces of addiction I had ever heard. The author has kindly allowed me to share it with you. I hope you will share it with others and provide your comments below.
I’ve always said that the reason I’ve never tried a Krispy Kreme donut is the same reason that I have never tried cocaine—either way I’m sure to wake up three days later in a daze with white powder all over my face, wondering what the hell’s just happened. My name is Ruthie, and I’m a cake drunk.
Years ago, I was briefly involved with a man who was a drunk drunk. What amazed me about his fervor for alcohol was his absolute single-mindedness about it. Nothing took priority over this man’s drinking when he was on a bender—not his successful career as an actor, not food, not sex.
Once at the long end of one of those typical Saturday nights in Chicago, we’d come back to my apartment and were enjoying a slow dance. We’d visited several bars—each stop involving cocktails and pitchers and Yager shots—all the way up to last call and lights up.
“You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here!” had been the familiar cry of Pat, the Old Town Ale House bartender, at 4am.
There we were, pressed together, my fit twenty-something body now stripped down to nothing but French lingerie and body glitter, when over my shoulder he spied the two remaining inches of Morgan’s rum lingering at the bottom of a bottle by my sink. And that was that.
As he twirled us over to the kitchen to be closer to this true object of his desire, I felt myself, with every step, progressively subjacent in his esteem. It was like this dark siren supermodel had suddenly appeared and beckoned him with the crook of her manicured finger, and then nothing else mattered. She was the old girlfriend who knew him best—the one who he should never have let get away. I knew at that instant he would always love drinking more than he did me.
Over the years, I’ve had my own share of addictive behaviors. In Chicago when I worked as an actor at Second City I chain-smoked, and for about a month back there I was also quite enamored with the numbing effects of codeine cough syrup (which I’d been prescribed as a treatment for the many bouts of bronchitis I’d had because of my smoking).
I did know it was time to let go of the cough syrup the afternoon I dizzily found myself in a changing room at Ann Taylor three tablespoons in, about to try on the stack of “show clothes” I’d selected, only to discover—at the same time as the saleswoman still standing next to me did—that under my long winter coat I still had on my flannel nightgown. I’d forgotten to get dressed.
If the characteristics of an addiction are (as Siri has just defined for me) “Being abnormally tolerant to, and dependent on, something that is psychologically or physically habit forming” and “an abnormally strong craving,” then I’ve also, most definitely, been addicted to sleeping with a certain right wing, homophobic stuntman here in Los Angeles, who, despite owing me money and wanting nothing other to do with me than (albeit really, really good) sex, I’d actually had to seek professional help to disengage from.
The Stuntman and I had met in line at the bar at the Luxe Hotel at a Television Academy “mixer” for members.
He’d looked at me with those soft, baby-blue eyes and said, “Hello Ruth. I’d really like to double you.”
“Double me?” I’d laughed. “Is that some kind of stunt talk? It’s been a while since I’ve been doubled.”
We had sex that night and at least two hundred times in the five years that followed. We never had dinner, or saw a movie, or went anywhere together except his apartment in Encino and my place on the other side of town. And though I eventually wanted “more” and he didn’t, I couldn’t let myself let it go.
As it was explained to me by the therapist (as I sat in her office unsuccessfully able to get her to join me as I attempted an in-depth analysis of his latest texts of “hey” and “wanna?”), my brain was at that point so saturated from the flood of dopamine released each time The Stuntman and I had one of our intense “sessions” (as he so charmingly would refer to what I deluded myself were “dates”) that I was not able to “think straight.” And it was true.
Seriously! This was a man who would look at himself in the mirror during sex to point out how buff his own body was. (And it was! No argument here! I loved it. But, it got lonely, really, really lonely always waking up alone.)
So, after an initial doctor recommended “detox”—no contact with him for 90 days (where I did actually experience a sense of physical withdrawal much more acute than when I’d given up nicotine—someone has yet to develop the “stuntman patch”)—I began to be able to put things in perspective and realize he wasn’t ever going to fall in love with me or be the man of my dreams, and that I deserved more, much more, and that the truth was, I wasn’t happy. My friends were right—I wasn’t actually the kind of person who could be physically intimate with someone (for five years!) and not develop an emotional attachment to him. Nor did I want to be. I started to re-focus my goals and examine my relationship with myself.
Which brings me to cake. Gorgeous. Sensual. You can’t feel poor when you’re eating cake. It’s rich. And whether Red Velvet, Carrot or Buttercream, you know what you’re getting—perfectly textured bliss on a fork. Cake doesn’t argue with, or belittle you—or point out all the many ways you could be more successful. How you’re failing. It just waits. Faithfully. Hello, I’m here. Nice to see you again! Cake brings you back to childhood birthday celebrations, people singing for you, the reminder to “Make a wish! Make a wish!”
And it lifts you up! With each delicious bite you’re invincible. As the sugar soars through your blood—the butter—or cream cheese—a veritable hug from the inside, your thoughts race with all of your possibility. You can do it! You can finish writing that book, and return those phone calls and land that great gig! You can even choose a man who would acknowledge that you’re his girlfriend! Of course you can! Why can’t you? And the best part is, that you don’t have to do it just at this moment. How could you? You’ve got to eat cake! There’s cake to eat! You’re busy eating cake!
Until there is no more cake. And then you go to put on your skirt for work and it’s not fitting very well. And you feel tired and crabby—too tired to get anything done. And fat. And then you’re talking to somebody after your show, but not really listening to her because you’re wondering if you should stop at the Ralphs on the way home—for cake. More cake. Which you know you’d eat every bite of before you fell asleep. And then wake up wanting. Because there’s never going to be enough cake. Sigh. I had to quit cake too.
For me, my love affair with cake, just like with cigarettes and the Stuntman, although intoxicatingly seductive at times, ultimately failed me. Or I should say more accurately, they made it far too tempting for me to fail myself. I’ve used them as distractions from conflict—intimacy blockers, ways to check out.
But, as I’ve grown to learn, the problem with checking out is that when you do, you’re just not all there (which you don’t really know until you stop doing that thing). Sometimes for years at a time. You’re not all there to be all loved. Or to love yourself—to fully embrace your “worthiness,” flaws and all, without shame. Or anyone else’s either. To fully risk.
And water seeks its own level. It is my hope that as I learn to show up for myself, I will attract someone else who’s also showing up—and I won’t feel the need to push them away when they do.
My name is Ruthie and I am a cake drunk ready for my leading man—one day at a time.
Ruth Rudnick, a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and an alumnus of the Second City theater in Chicago, has appeared on numerous TV shows, including Curb Your Enthusiasm and NCIS, and is now writing a childhood memoir.
Ingrid Mathieu, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and author of Recovering Spirituality: Achieving Emotional Sobriety in Your Spiritual Practice.
Copyright by Ingrid Mathieu, Ph.D., 2013. All rights reserved. Any excerpts reproduced from this article should include links to the original on Psychology Today.