I remember when I was a kid how I’d have a full box of .22 ammo, or a brand-new pack of cigarettes, or a new package of notebook paper, and just having it would give me a safe, secure feeling. We were poor, and it was rare for me to have more than one of anything at a time. Hell, around our house, it was pretty unusual for anyone to have more than one thing at a time. For me, having fifty cartridges, or twenty smokes or — OMG! — a hundred sheets of notebook paper created an unusual sense of everything being right in my tiny world — at least for that moment. Even an unopened or relatively new pack of playing cards could do that to me. To feel secure, I needed my stash.
By the time I was a young adult and beginning to show obvious signs of addiction, those feelings of security had transferred themselves to full bottles of rum, or enough money in my pocket to make sure I could get some, and so on. I was still acquisitive in other ways — a collector and, to a degree, a hoarder — but my stash always involved addictive substances or activities.
All us addicts have our stashes. They may be alcohol, drugs, serial sex partners or emotional entanglements, the extra package of Little Debbies hidden in the closet, the credit card that we use for shopping sprees, an extra carton of smokes or bottle of vape … The list goes on and on. As addicts we aren’t very good at hanging on to those things, but we never feel really secure unless we have that “insurance policy” that helps protect our addiction.
For an addict, that’s normal, but for people in recovery it can be a warning that we aren’t as sober as we might want to believe. It might be the liquor cabinet for “when friends come over,” or that old bottle of painkillers that we hang onto “just in case” of that sudden toothache that just won’t respond to Advil. It may be an old lover that we cling to as a “friend,” and just don’t seem to be able to separate from entirely (even though there’s another new — or old — lover already on stage or in the wings). Fifteen old pairs of shoes we never wear? Check. Stacks of books in case we want to read them again? Check. That old, mouldy bag of weed on the top closet shelf that we keep “to remind us of what we used to be?’ Check. The humidor full of old, stale Cubans? Check. The nicotine addiction that we justify as “being better than….” And so on, and so forth.
Our stashes ought to tell us something, if we can manage to see through our denial. They are definite signs that we haven’t been quite able to let go, to turn it over, to really come to believe that we are addicts. And the active addictions that we manage to ignore fall in there, too: nicotine, kava, shopping, sexual acting out of various kinds, toxic relationships of all kinds, hoarding, any kind of mood-altering behavior done to make us feel better or forget our troubles instead of dealing with life on life’s terms. All stashes. We aren’t ready to let go and let…well, you know.
I put it to you that a stash means an active addiction isn’t far away; that we need to examine our behavior and attachments to the things of our past (and perhaps present) addictions. Like they say, “A drug is a drug is a drug.” And an addiction is never benign; sooner or later, someone always gets hurt.
Think about it.
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