Have you ever had the sense that you are a horrible person or spouse? I am definitely a bad person and a bad wife. I mean sure I didn’t have a lot of practice since we were only two months in the marriage but shouldn’t we still be in some honeymoon phase right now? Or the fact that I was in church right now and instead to fully engaging in worship I couldn’t wait to sit down so I could get my phone out and read a book?
Yes, I am in church and I want to do is curl up somewhere and read a book, even when I should be engaging in worship and praising God. Forget that my life was a mess right now and I should be giving it all to the Lord. It had been days since my husband had been home and when he left he had been pretty angry at me.
I could vividly remember that night and the smell of the meal I had burnt again, in my preoccupation, which hung in the air around us. The house itself had been a disaster as all the dirt that had accumulated since the previous Sunday was now visible to the naked eye. Tinashe had always been a little bit of a neat freak and a germaphobe so we usually kept the house super clean and top notch.
It didn’t end there though, as there was really too much junk lying around everywhere waiting for someone to pick it up. The kitchen sink was a disaster as it was overflowing with dishes from the day he had left for his conference in Kariba. He had been away for all of three days and short of arranging the dishes nicely and removing any extra food on them, I still hadn’t washed them.
I hadn’t done a lot of things since the day he left and I had promised myself I would do it all before he came back. I had gotten distracted though, to the point of burning another meal. I had been sloppy this time, failing to cover my tracks and that day Tinashe decided to let me know how he really felt about my behavior over the three weeks that led to that day.
He even shouted at me, something he rarely ever did, because I had had the audacity to act like nothing was wrong. I had fumbled over my words looking for the best lie to hide my problem but I hadn’t been successful as I was unable to lie straight to his face. I didn’t blame him for being angry but the ever constant guilt and shame had increased with each word he said.
As he kept shouting at me I wondered if there was anything I could say in my defense. Well, obviously there is a lot I could say but maybe not the truth? He was right in thinking that I have not been completely honest with him and have been hiding something from him all this time. He was right in saying I have a problem because obviously, I do, there was no question about that.
He is wrong though, in thinking that I kept these secrets from him just so that he could marry me, no, I didn’t keep quiet to trick him into marriage. I would never do that because I love him so much, I would never hurt him on purpose. But here we were barely two months into our marriage and I could already see that I was hurting him.
What he didn’t know was I had kept quiet because I was embarrassed. We only just got married and did not know how to explain my shame-filled secrets. I should have probably told him when we were dating, but even then I did not have the courage to do so, neither did I have the words to explain it all. My fear and my shame held me back from being honest but I am just realizing that it didn’t help much. In fact, it had just made things worse and more difficult to deal with.
I take full responsibility for what was going on with me, and in turn with us. You see, the truth is, I have an addiction, an addiction that when I let it reign, takes over my life to the point of dysfunction. I know some people can function in their addictions but I often have a problem with basic functions.
And I didn’t tell him I had an addiction not because I thought he wouldn’t want me, but because I thought I had it under control. And no I am not addicted to any kind of substance that would affect my thinking, and thank God for that because if I was a mess now, can you imagine if it had been drugs or alcohol? I always felt for anyone in that situation because I know it had to be really painful for them.
The thing with my addiction though is that it’s rather embarrassing and shows forth a lack of self-control and discipline more than anything else. I had been so relieved when it looked like I had won the war because it was just way too embarrassing to share the details of my addiction with anyone. I always felt as if I was just making excuses whenever I had to explain myself to someone, and as expected no one ever believed me. I had stopped trying to explain myself to people a long time ago and had chosen instead to hide my shame.
I am addicted to something simple, and to many people, harmless. I am addicted to novels, a bookaholic as some would call it. It sounds completely harmless, I know, and compared to drugs and alcohol it definitely is. But the fact that my husband, the love of my life had been missing in action at home so early in our marriage should show you just how harmful it can be.
Also, the smell of burnt food that clung to the air in our kitchen and the number of missed calls from so many people, including my husband and my mother-in-law was also another indication of how far from harmless my addiction was. Even now as I think back to that day and I cannot remember eating the whole day. My laptop has been lying on the table in the sitting room since the day Tinashe left as I hadn’t bothered to touch it since then, and I had even ignored the thought of all the work emails that needed to be attended to.
When I had finally gotten to it, I had discovered some which had been time sensitive, meaning I had lost some money by not attending to them in time. Money that I truly needed as it was the lack of adequate finances that had me stressed, to begin with. Being a freelance writer was both a blessing and a curse sometimes. And so was working with my husband because he was copied on those emails and he knew I hadn’t responded to them in time.
No, my addiction is definitely not harmless. I had thought I had it under control though as it had been months since I had gone a binge like the one I was currently going through. I wish I could lie and say that having my husband angry at me was incentive to stop but I can’t. In fact, the fact he was mad at me was more incentive to curl up back on the sofa and just keep reading. Losing a client, or a job, was also only another reason to keep reading, and losing money…
Yes, I know, it didn’t make much sense and it’s beyond counterproductive but I don’t really think addictions are supposed to be rational. Especially since a lot of them start as a coping mechanism. I should probably write a blog post on how coping mechanisms are such detrimental things people should probably not depend on them. Not that my opinion matters because truth be told I probably wouldn’t take that advice either.
My addiction had started as a coping mechanism but for years it had ruled my life even when I had nothing to deal with. It became a habit and then a lifestyle, something that for a while I honestly could not live without. I fought it though, and I got out… oh, so I thought until I found myself under some major stress. Then I fell back onto the old coping mechanism.
I know they say if you know you have an addiction you should not put yourself in a place where you can relapse but I honestly do not have the luxury to make that choice. I am a writer, and as a writer, I need to read, but even worse, I am an editor as well. I could never stop reading completely because it’s a part of what I do, a part of who I am. So I cannot avoid it, it’s like a Baker who is addicted to sweet things and baked goods. They cannot avoid it, it’s their job, and they are surrounded by that smell every day without fail.
It’s a choice between living with an addiction, while you are still able to live your passion, or losing your passion and possibly getting rid of your addiction. And let me tell you, writing is part of who I am, even editing is a part of me. It’s my passion, it’s all I have ever wanted to do. And my best friend has a passion for baking, and yet eating is her coping mechanism, eating sweet things and baked goodies. Both of us are in no way ever going to choose any other job than what we already do, so that means we somehow have to curb our addictions or learn to live with them.
Easier said than done though, obviously. The stress of all the bills I had to take off from my wedding in December was getting to me and I had turned back to some bad habits to deal with them. Bills I wouldn’t have if my family, especially my parents, had allowed me to have the low key inexpensive wedding I had wanted. But no, it had to their way, whoever thought a wedding was for the couple is definitely not Zimbabwean. Unfortunately, it had nothing to do with me and what I wanted, and everything to do with my family showing off at my expense.
I know I sound bitter but both Tinashe and I had no idea who 3 quarters of the people at our wedding were. And yet we are paying for everything, how unfair was that? I could see Tinashe was under pressure and I felt guilty because truth was, most of it was to be blamed on my parents. And one thing led to another and I was spending every hour I could reading on my tablet, and hiding my embarrassing behavior from my husband.
He initially thought I was on WhatsApp or something, or maybe I was writing… until it became obvious I had nothing to post the moment I ran out of pre-written things to post. I kept promising to write something but two weeks by and I had posted nothing. And then, of course, there were the issues of the missed calls, and then there were the times I was constantly distracted when he was talking to me, and find the constant burning of food. I am pretty sure I had lost weight too from not eating properly. It was honestly getting out of hand.
I am ashamed to admit that once I had started reading something, I could never stop, and when that finished, I was constantly scrambling to get something else to read. Even worse it’s embarrassing to admit that basic functions like eating, bathing and using the toilet were also affected. Sleeping too had become a thing of the past. I would wait until Tinashe was asleep to grab my phone or tablet and continue reading. He had caught me a few time and he thought I was either on WhatsApp or on Instagram, he wasn’t impressed.
And the more I got frustrated with myself for doing it, the more I did it. It wasn’t a conscious decision, I would find myself already doing it and unable to stop. Or if I deleted the apps I would feel so empty or stressed out, and only redownloading them and reading would make me feel better. I felt like I was falling into a dark deep hole and I couldn’t get out.
“Are seriously going to just ignore me right now?” I remember him saying.
Tinashe’s whispered question snapped me out of my panic as I had been trying to figure a way out of the situation instead of paying attention to him. and I remember how I sighed deeply as I walked towards him, taking his hand in mine, and led him to the table.
“Do you even care?” he had asked.
“Of course I care, Tina, I love you more than I have ever loved anyone in my life,” I responded, feeling so guilty that I had him questioning what we had.
“Then what is going on? Why do I feel like we are not in this together anymore?”
“Tinashe…” I sighed again, realizing that I had to be honest with him. I didn’t have it under control as I had thought I did, or maybe I had just been in denial? “Babe, I …I have a confession to make…I have an addiction…”
“What? What do you read? “
“Uh, I mean, it’s not something bad but umm yeah…” I tried to explain, how does one say what I wanted to say without sounding stupid.
“Hope what are you talking about? And why am just finding this out now?”
“Um, because I thought it was over? I thought I had conquered it.”
“What’s this it? You still haven’t said, are you just trying to cover up for yourself again?”
“I am addicted to books, to reading, and I have been going through a sort of binge right now.”
He had scoffed at me and rolled his eyes before standing up while looking at me, probably waiting for me to say I was joking. It seemed to dawn on him after a few minutes though that I wasn’t going to say anything.
“What the hell Hope! Tell me right now what is going on!”
As I proceeded to explain my affliction to him I saw the skepticism on his face and I realized he didn’t believe me. Of course, he didn’t, rarely anyone ever did, and they always thought I was making things up or over exaggerating. Though I was expecting it, it really hurt when he shook his head at me and stormed out of the house banging the door closed behind him.
I cried a little when he left hating that we had just had our first big fight as a married couple, and more so that I was the reason for it. When I got over the sobbing, I was tempted to go back to the reading. I knew it would instantly help to make me feel better as I usually forget about the real world for a bit when I am reading. I fought against the urge though, I had to clean up the house and get some work done. If I started reading, I knew without a doubt that I would not be able to stop, that’s what had gotten me there in the first place.
Taking a deep breath, I forced myself away from the phone and chose to clean the house instead. The pressure I felt on my chest didn’t let up until I put on some worship music and tried to ignore the urges. Worship music and listening to sermons helped sometimes, maybe one day I would experience a miracle and be released from this?
The next three days were pretty rough as I did not touch my phone or my tablet except to do work and answer some calls. Tinashe had not been home since he left but I wasn’t too worried about it. Not because I didn’t care, but I knew he would be back, I trusted him to know he would never quit on us like that.
The craving I had was taking up all my mental capacity though. And I worked non-stop for three days straight trying to keep myself occupied so as not to give in to the urges.
I wasn’t much of a surprise to me when I caved to the pressure finally, I couldn’t keep up and I fell right back into another binge. The whole of Saturday, I did nothing except reading stories. I had prepared for it though and had all the things I needed to post ready to post and scheduled for when they had to go up. Thank God for the amazing progress in technology that allowed me to do that. But maybe that was the problem, the fact that I expected it and prepared for it, just maybe I wasn’t fighting hard enough?
And speaking of God, I am ashamed to say that right now that as the church service progresses and as the MC started talking, I grabbed my phone and started reading. There was a chapter I had failed to finish and I really wanted to finish it. Yes, I was in church but instead of concentrating, I was reading a novel, such priorities.
To be honest I hadn’t slept since yesterday and I had been dozing off even during worship. How embarrassing would it be if I got caught sleeping in church? I knew one thing that would keep me up, which was reading…no surprise there, so that’s what I was going to have to do. Next Saturday I would make sure to get some sleep.
When my phone was gently pried from my hands, I froze, praying that it wasn’t a leader but maybe one of my friends. Sure it would be embarrassing having to explain to a friend, but better that than someone in authority. Being caught reading in church, was even more embarrassing than being caught sleeping. But in my mind, no one would grab my phone because they would be concentrating on what they came to church for, so reading was, in theory, safer than sleeping.
Looking at the hands though, I realized that it was Tinashe, I hadn’t noticed when he came in and sat beside me. Sure I saved a sit for him but I had been so engrossed I hadn’t realized he was here. I froze in fear, not knowing what he would do, or worse what he would think of me. On one hand, it was a relief that it was him and not someone else because I had already admitted to him that I was addicted, but the truth was, being caught in the church by anyone was just a no-no.
I blindly passed on the offering basket without putting anything into it as I hadn’t even realized it was offering time. I would have to give my offering using Ecocash after the service. I was tense for a minute and was only able to relax when Tinashe sighed and grabbed my hand as we stood up for the last worship song before the Pastor came on to preach.
I definitely wasn’t expecting his kiss of reassurance on my forehead, but it was welcomed. He wouldn’t be trying to reassure me if he was still angry at me, that means he believed me now. And maybe, just maybe, we could work through this together.
And then he whispered,
“I got you, you are not alone in this. You were never alone, Jesus has you in the palm of His hands. God loves you no matter what, and with His leading, we are going to walk through this valley and come out at the end.”
I suddenly realized that it was going to be okay. I had been going about this all wrong. I wasn’t alone this, and while I may have fooled myself for a while, I never fooled the Lord Jesus Christ. He knew the worst of me and yet He still loved me. The Lord Jesus loved me, and He would release me from this bondage, on my own I had obviously failed, and I needed to stop trying to do this on my own.
Looking at my husband, I realized I wasn’t alone anymore. I had Tinashe, but most importantly, I had the Lord.
‘Lord Jesus, I need you, I cannot, but You can.’
Suddenly, I didn’t feel like I was falling anymore, someone knew I had a problem, and He was willing to help me. He had been there all along, and now I just had to let Him take over. Tears welled up in my eyes and I let them fall down my cheeks as I joined the worship song that was already half-way through.
‘It’s Your battle Lord, I am done.’