‘Hello and welcome to Your Real Life with me, Professor Linda Oberman. Today we are talking about addictions. And I don’t mean those harmless habits such as working too hard, obsessing over social media or over-eating. We are going to talk about the harmful addictions like smoking, sex, drugs, alcohol and gambling, and we’ll be speaking to one brave woman who will be talking about her daily struggle.
A very warm welcome to you, Carol, and thank you for joining us today. Can we start at the beginning by you telling us how it all began?’
‘Firstly, thanks for having me, Linda. Well, to cut a long story short, the love of my life left me without explanation after six years. I was broke and broken and I guess something inside me switched on. I craved rebellion and defiance. And so when I first did it, it was for the adrenaline rush and the heightened dopamine levels. But of course, these are soon followed by the low, like a smack on the cheek, and the guilt. I’ve tried everything to combat it – cold turkey, of course. Also, hypnosis, acupuncture, anti-d’s, drink, sex, laughter therapy, cold water swimming, and counselling. I’d like to share with you an excerpt from my journal if that’s ok?’
‘Please go ahead.’
I only have a handbasket because I only need a few things for my TV dinner. I’m doing better than I thought. No urges so far. The shop isn’t busy and I’m feeling pretty comfortable with myself. So here I am, reading the label on a bottle of rosé. Please no. Don’t do it. Put it in the basket or put it back and just walk on, c’mon.
Every day I remind myself: ‘Today is a new day.’
‘So, your addiction is alcohol?’
‘That’s one of them, yes. As well as lying, coffee, sex, and cigarettes – vaping, most days. Then there’s the gambling, the overspending, social media, and work. It’s called cross-addiction. Break one habit, begin another. I’m addicted to everything you listed before, except online gaming – I haven’t got the eyes for it and my head is too fuzzy.
Here is more from my journal:
Go on, it will be easy. Before I know it, it’s in there in the depths of my magic coat. Not in the basket where it should be alongside the newspaper, a magazine, a box of fudge, a bag of crisps and a Thai prawn curry for one.
I hate myself.
My broken heart is beating so fast, it’s almost one continuous beat. I just need to pay for the rest of my stuff and get the hell out of here. Online shopping from now on.
I go to a faceless self-checkout that will not detect my guilt. Beep, beep, beep. I scan each item, placing everything neatly into my new Bag for Life.
I feel redemption for truthfully adding one carrier bag to the total, whilst knowing the bottle of wine is deep inside my magic pockets. I dutifully feed my cash into the machine as it snatches it from my grip with its preprogrammed, unemotional aggression, and I begin to wonder if I may have been spotted this time. There’s always that chance. The hurdle is getting out of the door without that dreaded tap on my shoulder.
But that is the thrill. Oh, it’s dangerous but delicious.
I pick up my bag and turn. The wine in my coat clangs against the corner of the checkout. I look around horrified, and my face flushes, covered in guilt. People look at me with mild curiosity before they continue scanning their items. One lady looks twice.
Did she see me do it? Course not, I’m far too swift.
I pick up speed and head for the exit. Nearly there.
Relief. I’m out and walking towards my car. It’s starting to get dark and there’s a mist of rain so I jog a bit, my heels click-clacking on the tarmac. Ugh, I hate that sound but I’m almost there.
Tomorrow is another day.
‘Excuse me Miss.’ I hear the deep voice of a man behind me. Oh God!
I continue to walk. Other shoppers stop to stare. Some smirk as they pack their shopping neatly into their boots. I don’t believe it, finally busted over an £8 bottle of wine. I’m panicking. I feel a loosening in my body parts.
I keep walking, hold my breath and pretend not to have heard him. Who am I kidding?
My temperature rises, my breathing is short and fast and I feel tingly and hot. There’s cold sweat on my neck, my top lip is numb and my legs are wobbly. Am I about to have a heart attack?
And bravo to this man, he’s done his job, he’s caught one, a blot on society, a dirty scumbag, a common thief. How pleased he will feel when he turns me in to management. Will he get a reward? And when he’s finished his otherwise boring shift, will he go to the pub and boast about catching a thief red-handed? Will his mates roar with laughter when they hear about the modified coat with the deep, deep pockets?
‘Sorry, excuse me, could I…’ continues the man as I turn round. I swallow, take a breath and smile sweetly.
‘Yes…sorry love… I didn’t hear you,’ I stammer.
Oh well, here it goes – it’s a fair cop. Shall I just hold out my wrists?
‘I’m really sorry to bother you, but my mum would go mad if she knew I’d spotted you and failed to get your autograph.’ He looks about 19 and has a kind face. He thrusts a piece of paper and a pen towards me. ‘She watches you on TV and is your biggest fan. Sorry, you must get pestered all the time.’
‘Er, yes… yes, of course, all the time,’ I muster a fake laugh. The relief is like nothing I have felt before. I want to hug him. ‘What’s your mum’s name?’ I take the paper and pen from him. He looks pleased and smiles at me, like the son I never had.
‘Vicky,’ he says. ‘She’s not been too well lately.’
‘Oh, I hope she makes a speedy recovery,’ I give him a reassuring smile while scribbling my message to his mum. I wonder what she looks like? She’s lucky to have a son who loves her so much.
‘Thanks, this will make her day – oh, and a selfie?’ He takes his phone from his pocket.
He pulls me close and I smile for the photograph. The stolen wine is sitting between us in the depths of my coat.
‘Cool, thank you so much,’ he says, with the warmest of smiles as he checks the image on his phone and turns to go.
I smile back. ‘ You’re more than welcome. It was lovely to meet you…’
‘James.’ He turns to face me ‘I’m James, and it was lovely to meet you too, Carol. Oh, and by the way…cool coat.’ He winks.
‘That was indeed a fascinating extract, Carol. Thank you for reading it. And finally, could you tell me how you are feeling today?
‘Tomorrow is a new day, Linda!’
‘Absolutely. Well, thank you, Carol, for your honesty and for sharing your story with us today. We wish you all the very best of luck with the book.
Carol Candy’s book ‘Breaking The Habit’ is due for release in April 2023.’
Louise L. Pace has lived in Sunderland all of her life. Her writing journey began 10 years ago when she started writing a novel that had been building in her head for over twenty years. Since then, she has managed to write two further women’s fiction books, two children’s novels, blogs, scripts, training manuals and many short stories. At present, she enjoys the challenge of writing weekly flash fiction to improve her craft.