It was a Friday this October, and my whole family was pretty eager for the long weekend, because Grandma was back cooking again after being sick in the hospital for a staggering ten months. My grandparents’ antique Italian walnut table was fully set, decorated in its annual -not so- Thanksgiving ambience, looking flawless with Nova Scotia crystal and beautiful golden crowned, rose painted china plates.
I kept spying on my Grandma through the china cabinet connecting to the kitchen. She was working up a sweat. I hadn’t seen her move like that in forever.
I used to laugh and say to her, “I can’t imagine cooking for fourteen starving animals like us”.
And so all fourteen of us chatted while we patiently waited, reminiscing on hilarious memories of our reckless childhood, like the unforgettable time my cousin went skinny-dipping at four in the morning, then fell off the pool slide and broke his arm, -that story never gets old-, between the endless bursts of laughter and making fun of each other, the aroma of her food made our mouths water, with every breath I took, freshly whisked mashed potatoes and turkey stuffing teased my excited taste buds.
With a table full of my favorite food, surrounded by my hilarious family, how couldn’t we love Thanksgiving?
Grandma finally yelled, “Everyone, come and eat!”
Rushing like a flocking herd, we all sat down at our yearly designated seats around the crowded table watching Grandma decide who the lucky one would be to get first dibs on the turkey. The feast began, peppercorn mushroom gravy spilled, arms flailed, stuffing crumbled, all ducking a few elbows in the process. I glanced over at my Grandma, you could tell she was exhausted and clearly weak. The enduring hours of labour got to her body. It was evident though that she still loved it, because it brought her family together.
Only five minutes into eating, I sensed the mood in the room was different than normal. There was less laughter and way too much silence. I looked to my left my cousin Matthew had eaten his entire plate already, shredded corn swimming in his unruly curly beard, with his head down texting. I then looked to my right, glowing faces with cracked smirks displayed evidence of more texting! Next to me, my cousin Tia had her arms reached out to my mother, showing her Instagram pictures of Kim Kardashian and her baby in her over the top Paris Fashion Week outfit, which –shamefully for Kim- probably cost more than my Grandma’s Cadillac. As you can tell I was appalled. Why the hell did my family think our family dinner was an appropriate time to be on their phones?
My Grandma’s face looked heartbroken. I was not happy. To hold myself back from flipping out, I tried to put myself in their shoes.
I remembered how addicting social media and texting were for me when I was sixteen to about twenty-one. I know you may think, “Honey you haven’t even lived yet”, but trust me, I do know a little bit about addiction.
My first one, was the pleasure partying drug Ecstasy. And the other, not a chemical property pill, but the act of communication with people over my IPhone and the Internet.
During my stint in rehab, with a new conscious mind, I recognized my behaviour with the two of them to be pretty damn similar. I was young and naïve. It killed my values, diminished my goals, and what was very obvious to me, was it messed up the way I cared about myself, and the people closest to me.
The EDC drug of my choice released serotonin in my brain like tiny lightning bolts of instant happiness. Every time I popped a molly, I loved it more and more. Like my craving for ecstasy, I’d phene my phone if I didn’t get my hourly dose of Instagram. When my phone ‘dinged’, I’d get a little rush of euphoria and feel all fuzzy inside. The most embarrassing times I remember is when I’d get the case of the phantom phone, excited, thinking my phone was going off, I’d run to the bathroom to text back, just to get pissed off that it was nothing and I imagined it all. I’d get a damn good kick of dopamine when I reposted a ‘FuckJerry’ twitter joke to make up for it. And what really got my synapses kickin’, is when someone ‘liked’ my freshly updated progress selfie. Especially, if it showed how ‘fit’ I was getting, but if people took forever to ‘like’ it, then I’d be freaking out inside, biting my nails right down to the flesh.
What made my addiction readily available?
Well, 3G of coarse. You could get it wherever. Whenever.
I use to love the instant gratification of both addictions; they distracted me from the present moment. I could be completely consumed and lost in each of them, I didn’t have to face reality, even sitting next to my boyfriend, desperately attempting to make a conversation with me, while I, completely dazed, not paying attention at all, would creep and explore photos of complete strangers. But come on, admit it, you’ve done it too.
The one thing that I hated was my perception of myself then, I’d sit on the couch, hating my body, wishing I were one of the girls I followed on Instagram. To make me feel better, I’d post a #ThrowbackThursday, of a ‘hot and confident’ photo from the past, which somehow made me feel alive again. On bad days, I’d stare at Paige Hathaway’s selfies of her abs, then look down at my Miss Vickey’s Sea Salt and Malt Vinegar filled belly, disgusted at what I saw. If I felt like getting compliments to boost back my mood, I’d take forty selfies, choose one, and edit the shit out of it so it ended up looking like an Adriana Lima version of myself.
Think I’m done? Hell no.
I’d take another fifteen minutes to think of a non-conceited caption, heart pounding in a panic, completely insecure of my artificial self.
If I were feeling rebellious that day, which was sometimes daily, I’d message my crush sending him inappropriate texts, flying high, free of fear of confrontation, staring at the lit blue IPhone screen, eagerly waiting for the dots to finally became words, and because I couldn’t tell the emotion of the text, I’d get pissed off at him and start a full-blown text fight.
Don’t get me wrong, growing up with texting, and social media does have its positives. But for my mental health, I had to find a happy medium. The way I felt and responded to it all, had to change. I’m lucky I could avoid situations with the pill, but I knew technology was inevitable. Like I said, 3G, wherever, whenever.
To get rid of my egotistical behaviours I learned new coping skills. The major challenge was working through my insecurities, especially, and definitely necessary, my deep feelings of inadequacy. And just as Jean-Yves Leloup described his break-up with his ego, “Sometimes we must undergo hardships, breakups, and narcissistic wounds, which shatter the flattering image that we had of ourselves, in order to discover two truths: that we are not who we thought we were; and that the loss of a cherished pleasure is not necessarily the loss of true happiness and well-being.” I am thankful that my addictions, particularly with social media, prepared me to slowly drown the vain that fed my false imageries of self-deception and love.
Don’t think it was easy, it was one of the most difficult times of my life, but the positive outweighed it all, and as I began to care for others, but more importantly, for myself, I tackled goals, grand or small, terrifying leaps or tiny steps, it really was exhilarating to stand for what I finally chose to believe in, and with my mind focused on the present, I began enjoying the little every day moments that really matter in life.
So when I saw my poor Grandma’s face, I decided right then and there, I was ready to make a change.
I stood up, grabbed her empty plate, filled it with her delicious mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, corn, thin slices of –now semi warm- pieces of white turkey and placed it portioned nicely on her plate in front of her. I then gently grasped my palms on her shoulders and whispered,
“Grams, I am so grateful for everything you do. Thank you for this beautiful, amazing meal. What can I grab you to drink?”
By Chantal Lacoste
*This story is based on true events, but not all (I was not addicted to Ecstacy, just Social Media.)
* I wrote this Colloquial style story for a Rhetoric class, November 2014