Addiction as defined by Merriam-Webster –
- a strong and harmful need to regularly have something (such as a drug) or do something (such as gamble)
- an unusually great interest in something or a need to do or have something
In other words, an addiction is an urge that is undeniable, harmful, and so strong as to become an organizing principle of one’s life.
Thank God, I always thought, that’s one bullet I dodged.
This thought has comforted me my whole adult life, until last week when my therapist, while leading group therapy, laser-focused on me. Twisting her body on the grey velvet-covered love seat that she prefers to a leather-bound analyst’s chair, she demanded to know something.
“How could you have trusted them? Everyone knew they couldn’t be trusted except for you. They were blowing smoke up your backside.”
She was referring to a recent bad investment I made while relying on two very slick guys who made me feel smart and liked. I hate when she brings up the times I have been taken advantage of and relieved of my money.
Then she repeated her oft-asked question.
“Why do you need people to admire you? You get yourself taken advantage of because you want people to like you.”
Sitting on the opposite couch, I stared back at her. I was mute. So was everyone else in the room. My therapy group members all stared at me. We are often prone to interrupting each other, but not this time. I am often prone to have a ready answer or argument to fire back and deflect her challenges, but not this time.
“Honestly, I have no idea why I need people to admire me,” I finally said while staring straight at her.
“It’s an addiction,” she blurted out. Then she leaned back in her loveseat and contemplated the rest of the group. “What do you all think?” She asked somewhat rhetorically.
My group agreed with my therapist’s assessment and just like that I learned that not only do I have an addiction to being admired and flattered, I have had this addiction for years. Sitting with my group, I shared my continuous need to convert people over to not just liking me but truly admiring me. I crave flattery. I crave that intense and fleeting satisfaction all addicts feel when they get a hit of their favorite drug.
I am addicted to feeling the ray of light people shine on me. I make decisions, sometimes bad ones, just to get attention.
I hear you thinking. “Oh please, what total nonsense. Everyone likes to be liked and admired. That’s not an addiction. You are being grandiose.”
Merriam-Webster defines grandiose as “seeming to be impressive or intended to be impressive but not really possible or practical.”
I am being grandiose and I have an addiction. Coincidentally, my therapist often accuses me of grandiosity.
Grandiose talking offers me bragging rights I have not earned. This isn’t ambition. Ambition is admirable. Having goals and devising strategies to achieve goals, even lofty ones, is legit impressive. Ambitious people are often really quiet about their goals. Grandiosity borrows the narrative of ambition as a shortcut to garner praise, to be impressive, to be admired.
Laying claim to an addiction sounds grandiose, like I am coopting language and a framework of illness, just to garner attention. It’s kind of circular. I am grandiose because I claim to have an addiction. My addiction uses grandiosity for fuel.
The amazing thing is that addictions, and moderate grandiosity, can be socially acceptable. My addiction makes me popular. I am sought after as a volunteer because I am known to complete assigned tasks with energy and dedication. My need for approval creates high quality efforts and leads to results. My neediness may irritate people, but it also brings me close to people, and too often, to the wrong people. I am catnip for sociopaths and con artists. Because my self-esteem is wrapped up in being admired and flattered, I am an easy target for being used and lied to. Later, I end up being pissed off at the users and at myself.
My therapist says “Shine a light on your need to have a light shined on you and take responsibility for your behavior.” I hear her thinking “knock it off already.”
So that’s what I am doing. I am shining a light on my need to be admired and my need for approval. I am trying not to organize my life around what I believe will please people. Turns out, this gives me more time to write.
Aphorism – A fool and her money are soon parted. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread
- People without good sense or judgment will have no hesitation in tackling a situation that even the wisest would avoid.
Take Away –Subtle addictions can masquerade as socially desirable behavior. See your behavior for what it is. If you lie to cover up your behavior, it’s a sign of addiction.
Recipe – Trifle (or Fool) with fresh whipped cream.
This is a grandiose layered dessert. It looks very impressive.
Trifle is a British dessert. It is a pudding or a Fool, as the British have named it. It is delicious and so apt.
I learned to bake because I liked to eat sweets and I soon found that my parents and their adult friends gave me tons of attention over the desserts I made. I even created a baking business and made money from my baking. But the core motivator was attention.
2 Stale Pound cakes – Bake it or buy frozen Sara Lee. Slice it 1/2 inch thick and let sit out overnight.
Seedless Raspberry jam
Sweet Sherry or Port wine.
Homemade custard – see recipe below (or use vanilla pudding)
Homemade whipped cream – see recipe below (Or use a good quality store bought whipped cream)
Sliced almonds – lightly toasted in the oven until pale brown and cooled.
Custard – This is truly manna for the Gods
2eggs, lightly beaten
1 vanilla bean split lengthwise or 1teaspoon vanilla extract
The key to custard is the combining of hot milk with the eggs in such a way that you don’t end up with scrambled eggs.
Heat the milk, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla bean over low heat in a saucepan. Stir often to keep the cornstarch from clumping. Bring to a tiny boil and remove from heat.
In a separate bowl, whisk the two eggs.
Now here comes the tricky part, while vigorously whisking the eggs, add a few drops of the hot milk mixture. Beat until incorporated and then add a few more drops. Keep adding slowly and beating until all of the milk mixture is beaten into the eggs. The mixture should be frothy. If it looks like scrambled eggs, throw it out and start over. Trust me this has happened to me countless times. There is no shame in throwing out mistakes. Some errors can be fixed, this isn’t one of them. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat until just before it begins to boil. This will take under 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool. The custard will thicken as it cools. Fish out the vanilla bean if you used one. If you didn’t use a vanilla bean, add vanilla extract and stir.
1 cup very cold Heavy cream
¼ cup or less sifted confectioners/powdered/10x sugar. This sugar has a lot of names.
You will need an electric beater for this. Place the bowl and the beaters in the refrigerator until very cold. Pour very cold whipped cream into the bowl and begin to beat. Beat at medium speed and study the cream as it thickens. Once it is the consistency of hand lotion, start to add the sugar. Taste as you beat and add just as much sugar as you like. Beat until the cream would hold its shape if you were to drop a spoonful onto the table. Do not overbeat. It will start to separate and then you can’t use it because you have effectively started the process of making butter.
Take a large pretty glass or crystal bowl. Spread raspberry jam on one side of each slice of pound cake. Line the bowl with the cake slices, jam side up. Sprinkle one tablespoon of sherry or your favorite liqueur over the jammed cake slices. Spread one cup of custard over cake and sprinkle on berries. Layer more cake onto the custard, and then more berries and custard. Layer the whipped cream on the top and sprinkle the toasted almonds.
Refrigerate. This gets even better overnight, but don’t wait too long to eat it or the custard and the whipped cream will start to break down