Saturday, July 21, 2007

The cure for cancer and the alpaca addiction.

The cure for cancer and the alpaca addiction.

As a teenager, the acquisition of alpacas* dominated most of my waking hours. Honestly, there was very little I wouldn’t do to get more of those llama-like animals. I walked the woods looking for them, hoping that someone had thrown a few away that they no longer wanted. I would go to the dump near our house hoping to find some. I eventually got the courage up and started buying my own.

I watched my grades plummet as schoolwork took a back seat to alpaca adoration. My teeth became riddled with cavities because I would stay up late thinking about how I could get the next alpaca and would fall asleep without brushing them. What little bit of life I had as a teenager unraveled as I threw hour after hour, day after day, at my alpaca addiction. And when I wasn’t actually spending time with the alpacas, I was actively engaged in keeping this secret struggle, a secret.

As you can imagine, a herd of alpaca is not an easy thing to keep from your parents, but I made due. I poured out my best creativity into finding them new hiding places in my small room. I built elaborate raincoats for them should they be forced to shelter in the woods for a few nights if my dad got too close to their trail inside our house. I dedicated every living cell of every part of my body to the collection and protection of my alpacas.

I’ve since kicked the habit. Not for good mind you, an addiction is always interested in re-establishing a relationship. My friend that went to AA told me a joke they have – “When you’re inside an AA meeting working on your issues, your addiction is out in the parking lot doing push ups.”

I’m not sure if physically an alpaca can do a push up, but you get the point. I know they’re out there lurking. But sitting with a few friends the other night that have also had their own alpaca struggles, I was struck by the amount of time and energy we’d all dedicated to the pursuit of alpacas. Don’t get me wrong, I was surrounded by men that had carved out decent lives. There were doctors and lawyers and CEOs in the room with me. But I have to wonder, what could we each have accomplished had we not wasted the majority of our lives with addiction?

What if the guy that had the cure for cancer somewhere deep in his untapped brain was an alcoholic? What if instead of unlocking the answer to the disease in years dedicated to the lab and the library he gave all his time to the bottle? What if the woman that holds the key to cold fusion won’t ever get to it because she floods her calendar with shopping?

What if I’m supposed to write 15 books but instead I invest 2 hours a day for the next 10 years watching people get hit in the groin with wiffle balls on Youtube? (That never gets old.) What are we missing when we don’t give the things that need time and energy, time and energy?

I don’t have your answer, but it’s pretty easy in my own life to come up with a list of things I missed out on because of my alpaca affiliation:

1. Going to school with my friends.
After bombing most of the 9th grade because I was so busy with alpacas, my parents strongly encouraged me to leave all my friends and go to an all boys catholic high school.

2. My sister’s birth.
I have roughly zero memories of when my little sister was born while I was in high school because I was in such an alpaca-fueled stupor.

3. Getting into a fraternity.
The Greek scene definitely has its minuses but I think I could have avoided years of loneliness in college had my focus on getting alpacas now that I was out of my parents house not helped me become a huge jerk to every fraternity on campus which earned me zero bids. (Whoa run on sentence)

4. The first four years of my marriage.
The thing about a golden wedding band is that it’s not magical. I thought it was, but alpacas stampeded into my marriage and subsequently stole four years from me.

That list could go on and on, but fortunately for you, the length of my daughter’s nap forces me to keep things fairly brief. I’ll leave you with this though. Do you have any alpacas? Is there something you’re missing because your time and energy are being spent in places you wish you didn’t spend them? There’s a limit on both and it would be a shame to look back from your deathbed and only see a herd of alpaca steering back at you.

*Alpacas are not what I struggle with. It’s just the first thing that came to mind when I thought to myself, “how do I write an idea on addiction without people getting stuck on the symptoms when it’s the core issues that really matter?” Plus, it’s a fun word to say. “Alpaca!” Try it at home. It’s delightful.

1 comment:

Mallory said...

My alpaca is simply email. I will check my email a dozen times a day if I have the chance (luckily it is blocked at work). I know I am not that important and I probably won't have any new emails that are so important that they need to be immediately answered, but for some reason I can't keep myself from constantly checking it. And now that I work and don't have access to it, I find that I really can survive without it :)