I walked uncertainly into the unfamiliar hall.
The chairs were arranged in the typical circle, and I spotted the styrofoam cups and the free coffee and sad biscuits on the banquet table along one wall.
I knew the drill.
Draped my jacket over the back of one of the available chairs, made eye contact, smiled at a few people.
Picked up the black marker, the sticker.
I wrote my name in big, legible letters, peeled it from the sticky paper, and stuck it prominently on my chest.
The guy in charge, his name tag read “Bryan”, cleared his throat and softly asked us to take our seats.
We danced around each other, made it to our seats. Twelve of us in total. More women than men.
Pretty standard for the type of support group.
Bryan stood up when we were settled.
“Hi, I’m Bryan”
“Hi Bryan” we echoed.
“I’ve been clean from my addiction now for ten years.”
Smattering of applause.
“My addiction was something I could never really talk about. It was seen as a weakness, or that’s how my family viewed it anyway. I put us into debt. I was trying to create a ‘Perfect’ world, and I just couldn’t seem to keep up with myself. I realized that I was hurting my wife, hurting my children. That’s when I sought help. You should be proud of yourselves, admitting you have a problem is step one in your recovery. This group is here to support you and listen to you. Our judgement stays at the door. Who would like to share their story?”
A large woman to my left, “Mandy” in a neon pink polyester onesie stood up and told her story. Her breasts wrestled with the material, she started crying. “Ted” told about how he’d turned to prostitution to keep his addiction up. There were nods and murmurs of agreement and understanding from the circle. “Lenora” spoke of the emptiness as her addiction grew and she was struggling every day just to get back to normal.
Then it was my turn.
I took a deep breath and rose. My hands were shaking, so I put them in my pockets.
“Hi. My name’s Paris” I started.
“Hi Paris” they echoed.
“My addiction started like many of yours. Stress, loneliness, feeling like I had to keep up with my peers…I remember the first time I got that first amazing high. It was incredible. The freedom, the feeling of security and not having a care in the world… It wasn’t until I was starting to go broke that I figured I might have a problem.”
I stopped. Took another breath, filled my lungs. “Cayley” beside me squeezed my hand.
“It’s hard to admit it to yourself…that you have a problem…but I know now… I am addicted to Christmas shopping. The gifts, the decorations, the food. The perfect tree. I’ve spent hours searching, fighting, digging through christmas bins. I’ve scoured the internet for secret turkey tips…I even stole some of my neighbours christmas lights from next door…because they were slightly more beautiful than mine! That was when I hit rock bottom.”
Nodding and murmurs of agreement around the room.
“My childhood Christmas’s were always magical…”
I started to breakdown
“… I just wanted to recreate those feelings I had as a kid.”
I started to sob. “Cayley” stood up and held me tight. Her judgement had been left at the door.
Everyone clapped a little bit.
“Bryan” stood up.
“Thank you for sharing with us today Paris. I think we can all relate to your story. Congratulations on making the decision to continue finding strength from within, and wrestling with your addiction.”
The session was over. We all hugged, shook hands, peeled off our name tags and left in dribs and drabs.
I decided to walk home, even though it had started snowing a little.
I passed by HMV. They had a sign in the window, “Christmas specials for you and the whole family!!!”
I’ll just look inside I thought to myself…