Having heard this phrase recently I became initially struck by the seeming contradiction of these words. Logic would dictate that if one found pleasure in something, it certainly wouldn’t evoke guilt. But yet, here we are. Somehow I think we buy into the notion that we don’t deserve to have pleasure in life, or, at the very least, we should have to pay an exceptionally painful price for such delights. I believe this phenomenon is most likely rooted in religious or other secular ideals and philosophies, but no worries; I’m not going down that rat hole.
I believe that guilt is sometimes confused with regret….that is, guilt that is experienced when awakening after a night of one too many glasses of wine or having given into the dessert temptation is, in reality, just regret. Ironically, the “I’m never drinking again” or “I should have never had that pie” are self-imposed mean-nothing scoldings for regretted behavior that, unfortunately, we will most likely repeat again. I mean, as long as we sufficiently suffer the consequences of our actions, we are free to rerun that scenario. Right?
On the flip side of this, however, is that regret can turn into resentment when we coerce ourselves, kicking and screaming, into compliance. Case in point, I’ve spent the majority of this past year living without alcohol. Encouraged (guilted) into teetotaling insanity by a well-meaning, albeit cruel, matter-of-fact physician who interpreted blood test results as a blatant indicator of overindulgence, despite my objections of “But I don’t drink THAT much,” I acquiesced. Being the dutiful little play-by-the-rules/follow-instructions kinda’ gal that I am, I’m like…..BAM….That’s it! I’m on the wagon.
My months long sobriety, consumed initially by pride at my ability to fend off an overwhelming craving for a coveted glass of wine while cooking dinner was soon replaced by guilt at giving into an insatiable need….yes I said “need,” for ice cream. And I don’t even particularly care for ice cream. This was a serious addiction, folks. It was like crack. I thought about ice cream all damn day…scheming about how to get it, obsessing over ensuring I had a sufficient stash of various flavors on hand at all times, breaking into a cold sweat when scraping the last of the creamy goodness out of the tub, and then, when the expense of buying a $5 pint jettisoned my pragmatism into high gear, succumbing to making my own 3-ingredient, 4000 calorie per serving variety at home. It was like I’d turned my home into a meth lab ice cream shop. The absence of the morning after fog I’d experienced after I’d stopped drinking was replaced by an ascending number on the scale and lactose hangovers the likes not seen by even the most gluttonous among us.
As I came to grips with the impracticality of my replacement indulgence, I knew I had to do something. I convinced my inner addict that I needed to slowly wean myself off the creamy concoctions. It didn’t come easily. The mantra “I. Don’t. Even. Like. Ice. Cream, I. Don’t. Even. Like. Ice. Cream” became a part of my daily meditation practice, and I packed away all of my stretch pants to prove that my insistence that the scale was lying to me was, in reality, my own little conspiracy theory. But I stayed the course and eventually found myself, once again, in an ice cream, alcohol free zone.
I don’t think doctors truly understand the power they possess over people…well some of us anyway. I truly believe that if a licensed physician told me that standing on my head sipping oatmeal from a straw while balancing two parrots on my feet was a healthy practice, I’d be hell-bent to find a way to do it. Doing all the right things feels….well…..right, and good, and obedient, and prideful…..until reality slaps you in the face like a baseball bat. Seven months into my self (or physician) imposed sobriety, I went into the lab for a follow-up blood draw with all the confidence of Dorothy Hamill nailing a double axel triple salchow. But the blood Gods saw fit to have the last laugh and delivered back virtually unchanged results. What. The. Hell.
I was left with the perplexity of wondering if what I felt was resentment for going on the wagon for nothing, or snarky enjoyment of a bit of in-your-face-I-told-you-so pride toward a doctor who thought I was a bumbling drunk. Either way, I still didn’t have answers. Several more tests later; more blood draws, an ultrasound, a funny souped-up sound wave machine thingy, and a liver biopsy, and the blood results are still a mystery. According to everything BUT my liver enzymes, I have the healthiest, pinkest, perkiest, little liver any 60 year-old woman has ever possessed. BOOM!
I am now officially OFF the wagon, but my indulgences are much fewer and further between, and my yearning for it resembles some distant memory of youthful exuberance. The experience has changed me; for the good or bad I’ve yet to figure out, but there’s something amiss in the ‘ole brain. No longer having a guilty pleasure is rather unsettling, I’d say. Yet, there’s still ice cream. Hmmmm….