What's Your Vice? Mine is Vice.
Cindy and I have been watching entirely too much "Shameless" (the US version with William H. Macy) lately. I am not committing a hyperbolic act when I say too much, either- we're talking a season in a day type of binging. Heavy stuff, but I can't help myself. Sometimes you stumble on a show (or a movie, book, etc) that just speaks to you. The term "understatement" doesn't begin to cover this one.
You see, I come from a very loving (but dysfunctional) family. We're not the Gallaghers, but we're not the Cleavers, either. I don't say this to disparage my mother (a tough woman and a true survivor) or my late father in any way. I think most families nowadays fit the classic definition of dysfunctional.
Dysfunction (noun): The condition of having poor and unhealthy behaviors and attitudes within a group of people; Abnormal or unhealthy interpersonal behavior or interaction within a group.
Frank's staggeringly powerful and well developed addiction to drugs and alcohol set the tone for the entire family and how they live their lives. All of the family have lived a life of bad decisions, foster homes, illegal activities, scams, and sometimes disastrous mistakes. You've got car thievery, rampant sex, attempted murder, babies on cocaine, Dad passed out in a different ditch every night.......you get the idea.
Was my upbringing like this? Hell no! The Gallaghers are a fictional family with the volume cranked up to 11 for entertainment purposes. You suspend your disbelief and enjoy the ride. It's an exaggeration, much like the wrestlers of the Attitude Era (like Stone Cold, The Rock, Triple H, etc.) were not gimmicks/characters but the real person done in a very over the top fashion. Art imitates life, as they say.
Dysfunction is often the result of crappy circumstances and poor decisions- divorce, poverty, abuse of some kind, lack of supervision, exposure to high crime areas and the like. Everybody's situation is different. I won't broadcast the specifics of my early years (out of respect for those involved), but I can tell you some of the interesting results.
I was arrested by the age of 11, for vandalism. I dodged a number of bullets where I should have been arrested (B&E and assault being 2 other favorites). A decent stretch of my preteen years saw me roaming the streets at all hours of the night with only my big brother for guidance. I was exposed to hardcore porn at the tender age of 9, and I've never been the same since. I was homeless for nearly a year while I was still in high school. During that stretch I stole to survive- food, gas, cigarettes. I took my first drink at ten (Southern Comfort). I've smoked what probably amounts to a ton of weed in my life. I had a 2 year period where I did more blow than Scarface (snorting and muling). I've dropped enough LSD to be considered criminally insane 10 times over. Lots of mushrooms. There were lots of questionable decisions with shady friends (some dead, some in jail) in the worst parts of Albuquerque. It was wild, but it was never dull.
Am I proud? NO. Am I ashamed? HELL NO. I did the best I could under the circumstances of my childhood and knew full well the consequences of my adult decisions. I don't believe in regret. It's not in my vocabulary. I've learned lessons from every bad decision that have served me well as a "functioning member of society".
And I AM a "functioning member of society". Make no mistake about that. I pay my taxes and my bills on time. I run my piece of a VERY large business quite successfully. I help other develop their careers and become leaders. I am a devoted husband and a loving father. My daughter is an Honor Roll student with a scary bright future and a blue belt in Taekwondo. I handle my shit. And yet.........................
Like all of you, I have my vices that call my name. Vice is defined (by Merriam-Webster, of course) as either:
- bad or immoral behavior or habits
- a moral flaw or weakness
- a minor bad habit
Under that definition, don't we all have some vices? What is yours? Is it food? How about sex (be it extramarital or just nympho style with your significant other)? Booze? Drugs? Too much TV? Fast cars and dangerous situations? Do you prefer the company of bad boys to "decent folks" (whatever the fuck that term means)? Do you workout twice a day, seven days a week? Do you absolutely have to have that old time religion?
Call it vice or addiction. I don't care. They are kissing cousins (more like fucking cousins) and it amounts to the same thing: you're looking to fill a hole in the middle of you. The filling of that hole is the response, learned at a young age, to an external stimuli. Rough day? Time for a drink. See that hot chick walking in front of you in the mall? Store it up in the Spank Bank for later. Going to your favorite movie? Better get high first. Need to blow off some steam after a fight with the missus? Go to the range and fire off 1,000 rounds. That'll do the trick.
Deep down in the lizard brain what we're all really addicted to is life and feeling truly alive. No matter your poison we are all addicts. The sooner some of y'all can admit that the better off we will all be. Ask any recovering addict and they'll tell you it's really about finding a new drug that doesn't harm them as much as the previous one.
My advice? Find something you can live with that doesn't wreck your home life and cause your loved ones pain. Learn to be happy with who you are and understand that there are things you will struggle with for the rest of your life. Take it one day at a time.
Denis Leary may have said it best in his epic standup routine, No Cure For Cancer: "Happiness comes in small doses, folks. It's a cigarette butt, or a chocolate chip cookie or a five second orgasm. You cum, you smoke the butt, you eat the cookie, you go to sleep, wake up and go back to fucking work the next morning, THAT'S IT!! End of fucking list!!"