Fatal Distraction

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Whether or not you identify as an Addict, craving is a distraction, and distraction can kill.

It was 2004, and my whole family was at a restaurant, talking and laughing. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. We had buried my grandmother just hours before. I had a three-hour drive ahead of me, and I just wanted the day to be over, to be able to relax. To do that, I had to have what was waiting for me in the fridge. In my apartment. Three hours away.

Fatal Attraction: Do not kid yourself - Craving Kills. www.strongcoffey.com

I should have been paying attention.

I should have been thinking about my driving, or at least about my grandmother, but as I hit the blinker to move right, I was thinking about how much __________ I had in the fridge, and whether that would be enough on a night like tonight, and where I’d go to get more of it if I needed to.

I looked over my right shoulder to the middle lane on the Grand Central Parkway. I was crossing the dotted white line when a van I hadn’t seen came hurtling toward me. We were about to collide, so I cut the steering wheel back to the left. About to hit the thick highway fence, I cut back hard to the right.

Next thing I know my car is spinning across the parkway at 60 miles an hour.

One full circle. “Shit!”

Two. “Well…”

Three. “…that’s the end of that.”

And that should’ve been my last thought.

I slammed to a stop in the center lane facing oncoming traffic. Hundreds of cars traveling west  on the GCP stopped short to avoid hitting me and each other. For a second that lasted a hundred years, I watched the cars stop on a dime like dominoes falling in reverse.

I made eye contact with the drivers nearest me in each of the three lanes. They’d been paying attention, they’d been present while they were driving, and that was the only reason I was alive.

Thank you, I thought.

You’re an idiot and you’re making me late, they thought, and then leaned on their horns.

I turned my car to face the right way and continued home. I thought “I should pull over and get myself together,” but I didn’t. I needed my fix, my stress-relief, my peace, now more than ever. And it was still three hours away.

I’d come about as close to death as anyone ever comes. A big fat life lesson was sitting on my fucking face. And all I could think about was getting home so I could relieve my craving.


 

The worst thing about having addicted parents is that they’re forever distracted.  The same applies when we’re the addict, regardless of what we crave: certain foods, alcohol, scratch tickets, drugs, cigarettes, or even TV. Of course, the list goes on and on.

Distraction (often in the form of craving and regret) can be just as devastating as the acute physical, mental, and emotional effects of addiction. In fact, distraction can be worse. While it may take decades for our liver to fail, our teeth to rot, or our heart to up and quit, distraction can set in early and plague us every minute of every day.

It can make us miss the bus.

It can make us forget to keep a promise.

It can make us spin our car into oncoming traffic on the Grand Central Parkway.

And it can make us feel disconnected from the life we’re living, the people we love, and the bodies we’re privileged to have.

“Surely you’re not suggesting that getting distracted can be as dangerous as getting wasted?!”

It’s not a suggestion – it’s a fact. My life wasn’t in danger that night because I was drunk or high.

My life was in danger because I desperately craved relief from a need that gets stronger and deeper every time I try to satisfy it.

Craving consumed my attention that night, pulling me off course like Odysseus’s sirens.

Fatal Attraction: Don't Kid Yourself - Craving Kills www.strongcoffey.com

Do you even read, Bro?

If you have what I have, and your life feels like it’s being ravaged by distraction, now’s not the time to freak out.

You don’t have to stop doing what you’re doing.

You don’t have to quit.

You don’t have to try to moderate, measure, or weigh.

Or repent.

Or get all spiritual ‘n’ shit.

I’ve been where you are, deep in the trenches of a wanting that took me out of my life, and my suggestion is this: Consider just paying attention today to how your cravings for Whatever-The-Hell-It-Is impact your ability to stay focused on and engaged in the present moment.

Pay attention to how being away from the object of that craving makes you feel about the rest of your life – like your work, your family, and your other obligations.

Pay attention to how loud and how often the siren calls.

Pay attention to how that tug neutralizes any goals you might have to make a healthier choice.

Notice that sabotaging your own efforts to moderate feels almost inevitable, such that trying to moderate – or even just thinking about trying to moderate – feels like a set-up for failure.


Click HERE to see the schedule for Coffey’s ALL NEW, FREE online workshop,
‘Why We Sabotage Ourselves (with Food) (and What We Can Do About It)


Pay attention. Be curious. Take notes.

To loosely quote a popular saying, when you’re ready to learn how to keep your eyes on the road – and actually enjoy the ride – the tools you need to get there will appear.

Comments

  1. Danielle says

    My eating disorder started in 2006 deguised as a weight loss plan. After a few months of restriction, I started having these periods in which I ate uncontrollably what I couldn’t before. I still struggle with these periods. One I remember particularly was around 2009, I was in high school. Going back home from school, I spent all my money buying packages of cookies and chocolates. I literally had no money, not even for the bus. I had to make up a story and call a school mate (she wasnt even my friend) who lived nearby so she could borrow some money. I realized how screwed up I still was. Thanks to some major changes in my life, these episodes had almost reduced to zero. I’m much better now, but sometimes that craving, along to the shame it carries, remains. Thanks for sharing your experiences. You have no idea how much it meant to me to find your blog and to acknowledge I’m not alone in my fight. Regards from Mexico City :)

  2. Christan Manning says

    How do I get right? I don’t know where to start! I’m in a viscous cycle of eat, regret, not exercise, regret, eat, regret…regret regret regret…. Please help! Thanks

  3. Bethany Stewart says

    I am so glad you lived through the ordeal, mentally and physically. Everything you mention is extremely familiar. Its so strange .. . I know I would feel better if I made small steps in my head and body to promote better health. Yet there is a resistance to that. I do not fully understand where this comes from, this self sabotage cycle. Perhaps from years of trying to alter this and that and “failing” in my mind. Thank you for sharing your experience. I love how you write.

  4. Jennifer says

    I love this in so many ways. Long term consequences, short term fixes, and yet another reason to live in the moment. Pay attention to your thoughts and care for yourself….crazy idea eh? So simple, it just may work.
    For those who have never done this, it doesn’t always come naturally. I highly recommend anyone who this resonates with to pick up a cheap paperback on meditation. There isn’t really a right way or a wrong way, it is a practice for knowing ones self better.

    Rock on!

  5. Jo-Anne says

    Oh my, Kelly, So glad that no one was injured. I’m sorry about your grandmother. We have all had close calls. Perhaps this one you were being carried by that Angel grandmother you just buried. May you learn from this as well as writing about it for others to learn from too. Life is precious. One day at a time.

  6. Mardy says

    Hi Kelly,

    My name is Mardy, and like many of your followers I struggle with food addictions which have created obesity problems for me.

    In the past, I have yo-yoed to the same end result of gaining it all back plus some at times. I am struggling with changing my lifestyle now and my addictions are wide ranging. Because, I have had some trouble securing a full time job the last 8 months or so and it contributes to much of my impulse control. I think about food until I get it then I think about napping. These two impulses seem to overpower everything else. Because of these impulses I feel like I cannot get a handle on things and then torture myself for making poor choices.

    I can see in hind sight that I forgot to go to the bathroom or forgot to drive a different way or I say to myself it is easier to do a chore later when I am in the area because I am so tired or because I am hungry and those needs come first.

    I cannot seem to get a foothold and move forward. I just want to be healthy and stop being drowned by these addictions. Do you have any suggestions? Everyone I have spoken to or read stories about weight loss have told me that there is a pivotal moment in their lives when it all starts to change and it makes sense. I just want of the roller coaster.

    Thanks!

  7. Suzanne says

    Wow. There are so few original thoughts on these subjects, but I can count on you for a unique perspective. You are so right. For me, it is the carb craving cycle. A sandwich for lunch and I am as good as done until I find the nearest chocolate. When I worked above a drugstore in NJ, it meant a giant Hershey bar. I literally could not think – could not focus – could not process as long as the craving was there. It was real, physical, visceral. And chocolate was the cure. I am still learning about myself and my cravings. Thanks for this great insight, Kelly. Awesome as always.

  8. Liz says

    Dear Ms (sweet) Strong Coffey, once again, thank you for sharing, but most of all, thank you for putting down in black and white exactly what I have been doing for so long…… therefore the many slidebacks and failures.

    Thank you that you have given me a new perspective to face my own distractions and not concentrating or fighting hard enough to overcome those and move forward to success and a healthier body and lifestyle.

    I know you are a very bsuy lad, and therfore I appreciate reading your mails and blogs
    Thank you so much
    Kind regards
    Liz
    PS: My condolences with the passing of your family member..to all your family
    Stay strong

  9. Angelique says

    This is so where I am right now. Right now. As a matter of fact, I just opened a new tab for YouTube to distract me from writing this comment. Trying to sit without indulging my distractions or my addictions makes me want to run screaming from myself. I’m starting to discover the extent to which I have completely checked out from my family, my friends, aspects of my job– much less who I am underneath all this noise. I haven’t had as visceral a scare as you recount in this post, but that’s by chance. Thank you for sharing your work, because the extent to which I want to avoid it only underlines it’s the truth I need to hear right now.

  10. Carrie says

    I stumbled upon your website yesterday after doing a Google search for “food addiction” while I was in tears over the constant battle I have with food, cravings, weight, self esteem, guilt, etc. I’m so thankful that I did. Thank you for sharing your story and experiences.

  11. Tori says

    Thank you, Kelly, for putting everything out there in such a real way. You never pussyfoot around & you tell it like it is. It’s such a basic concept, yet so unheard of these days. I’ve gotten so sick of reading all the info put to the “poor suffering reader” and I just love your no-nonsense approach and especially your sarcasm! You are REAL to me & I can relate to you. That means a lot in getting through to my screwed-up brain. Thanks so much for all your wisdom, courage & inspiration!

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