A Sunday Afternoon Meltdown

So Duncan is in quite a mood this afternoon. He’s easily set off, keeps rubbing his eyes and alternates between fits of laughter and just plain fits. No mystery here. The boy is suffering from way too much sugar in the form of Halloween candy.

He’s also wiped out from going to bed too late and getting up too early.

It’s no big deal. As parents we expect this from kids who have had too much candy. We’ll put him to bed early, and his eating will return to the healthy sort we’re always vigilant about. 

But seeing him like this reminds me of how I used to be before I found the 12 Steps of Recovery for a binge-eating addiction. I looked at him and had a “this reminds me of a little joke” moment.

People ask me all the time why I had to give up flour and sugar to control both by addictive behavior and my OCD impulses.

I now have an answer for you that’s a hundred times better than any way I’ve explained it in the past.

If you want to know what it’s like to be under the spell of an addiction like binge eating, picture a kid having a post-Halloween sugar meltdown.

Now multiply that times four and include frequent rages and migraines, constant exhaustion and deep depression.

Instead of being like that once a week or every few months, picture being like that every day, for weeks or months at a time.

Yeah. That about describes it.

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Killing in the Name of… FarmVille?

We’ve all had our tough roads to travel. Some roads are harder than others. Is that any excuse to kill your own child because your fake FarmVille universe was intruded upon?

Mood music:

This story makes me want to slam my head through a closed window:

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Alexandra Tobias, a Florida mother accused of shaking her 3-month-old son to death after he interrupted her FarmVille game on Facebook, has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. The 22-year-old was charged in the January death of her baby, Dylan Lee Edmondson. She entered her plea on Wednesday. Tobias told investigators she became angry after the baby cried while she was playing the  computer farm simulation game, and she shook him. She also said she smoked a cigarette to compose herself and then shook the baby again, at which time he may have hit his head, the station reported. State guidelines call for 25 to 50 years in prison, but a prosecutor said Tobias’ sentence could be shorter than that.

This story hits me not just because a mother killed her own child. It’s a story of addiction. My impression is that this woman has an online gaming addiction, which can be just as insidious a disease as alcoholism, drug dependency and, in my case, binge eating.

That’s where my sympathy ends. In fact, I can’t say I have any sympathy. My friend Lori MacVittie sounded off on this case in language I wholeheartedly agree with. On her Facebook page she said:

“There’s an excuse for everything, even killing a 3-month old child over a stupid game. I’m addicted, I’m depressed, I was deprived as a child, wha, wha, wha. Grow up. It’s called choice. Everyone has them. She made the wrong one.”

I can speak from experience on this. As readers know by now, I’ve been around the block a few times. At any point along the way I could have used my troubles as an excuse to go into a life of crime and maybe kill a few people along the way. I certainly had my moments where, if you interrupted my binge or gave me shit about my OCD quirks, I would fill with rage.

I’ve thought about punching people many times. But I never did.

Because I had a choice. I chose not to step over the line.

Now, to say we all have choices and we all have the power to do right or wrong is to oversimplify things. When a person suffers from an addiction or a mental struggle, they are not always in their right mind. When that happens, you’re capable of all kinds of evil, no matter how hard you try to hold back.

I strongly believe there are suicide cases where the person is so far gone into the world of depression and despair that they no longer have the capacity to make sane decisions.

My childhood friend, Mark Hedgecock, became a thrice-convicted pedophile because of his baggage. The baggage was only part of it. He had a choice and made the wrong one three times.

He acknowledged as much over the phone a few months ago. He knows he’s a monster and that he probably shouldn’t be on the street. Bottom line: He did what he did and has to pay for it for the rest of his life. It’s sad, though. It’s a waste. But he was trolling for teenage girls on Facebook over the summer, showing he can’t help but repeat his mistakes. 

He had a choice. He made the wrong one.

This FarmVille-addicted mom had a choice. She made the wrong one. Now she’s gotta pay.

That doesn’t mean we have to like it. She killed her kid in a moment of insanity. It’s a tragedy. period.

Why Halloween Doesn’t Scare Me Anymore

I used to hate Halloween with a passion. It’s one of the worst days for someone with a compulsive binge eating addiction. Now that I’ve broken the binging cycle, I find myself in the odd position of looking forward to the holiday.

Mood music:

I used to dread it because I knew there would be candy everywhere. I would stuff it in my pockets, in the car and every other hiding space. Then I’d spend the next week binging on sugar. That would trigger the urge to go deeper down the rabbit hole, so a vicious, almost crippling cycle of binging would take hold from Halloween straight through the rest of the holidays.

That didn’t happen in 2008. It didn’t happen last year. It’s not going to happen this time, either. 

The chain is broken.

Hey, Halloween: You don’t scare me anymore.

Facebook Follow Friday

There’s a thing we do on Twitter called Follow Friday, where we list people we follow and suggest others do the same. I’m starting a new tradition: Facebook Follow Friday. Here’s why:

Mood music:

Facebook has become a place where people spill out their state of mind like blood. Sometimes, it’s beautiful to see and I get something from it. Other times I just roll my eyes.

I use it as a place to share this blog and the security articles I write for CSOonline.com. I also like to share the crazy talk that comes from my kids’ mouthes, and whatever music I have blaring at any given moment. Some appreciate it and follow me for those things. Others don’t like it and have unfriended me. I’m fine with that. If you don’t like what I’m pushing, why would you follow me? OK — maybe it bothers me a little. But I’m no different than anyone else in this regard.

Anyway, there are a lot of people on there that inspire the hell out of me, so I’m going to start acknowledging that. Think of it as one of my 12-Step things: I spend a lot of time repairing relationships that turned to ash during my darker years, and a lot of time  focusing on people I’m grateful to have in my life. This is just another extension chord. Next week I’ll start putting these on my wall. For today, though, I’ll list people in the blog.

This week’s Follow Friday on Facebook:

Erin Brenner: She’s my muse, my love and I’d be nowhere without her.

Ken White: A newcomer on Facebook but a dear friend.

Linda White: The other half of Team White, her posts are loaded with razor-sharp humor and observations about people around her.

Amanda Corthell: I don’t think I could live without her traffic reports from the mess that is I-93. It always makes me grateful that she’s sitting in it instead of me.

Mike Greco: The man knows his guitars inside and out, and he knows how to rock.

Christian Campagna: His posts will take you to a bizarre world you didn’t know existed. It’s a place where you will laugh hard and appreciate some excellent music.

Lauren Karpenko: Her posts are always uplifting and inspiring. You can tell she’s in love with life, and it rubs off on those who are connected to her.

Lori MacVittie: So smart it’s scary. Humor with lots of snark built in, which suits me. And her updates on The Toddler are priceless.

Randi Defilippo Dockery: I enjoy her sometimes racy humor, because it beats the hell out of reading a bunch of whiney posts. 

Faith Morrill: A Corthell cousin who is going to take the world by storm with her writing. She just doesn’t realize it yet.

Maureen Wilder Cefalu: She might be surprised to find her name on here, since we only recently connected on Facebook and in high school we really didn’t talk much. She was with one group of kids and I was with another. But here’s the thing: In junior high she was one of the few kids who treated me with kindness. We bonded over Def Leppard at the time. It helped make those two years a little more bearable. Thanks for that.

Don’t fret if you didn’t make the list. I got a lot of friends, and I’ll mention you all eventually.

The Cab Driver

I used to have this dumb, ego-driven idea that I was better than people who did things for work that were “beneath me.” Here’s how I learned to stop being stupid.

Mood music:

The lesson came from an obvious place that wasn’t so obvious once upon a time: God. I expected a lightening flash or something like that, not realizing God works through other people instead.

I’ve needed these graces, because as a thick-skulled punk in my 20s and some of my 30s, I always had the idea that I was better than other people if I had a big career. If you worked in the grocery store, the laundromat or the docks, you were beneath me. Truth is, I WAS beneath a lot of the folks who do the jobs I don’t have the skill or patience for. My attitude was all based on my personal insecurities.

This morning’s lesson came in the form of a Toronto cab driver.

I got in the taxi at 3:30 a.m. for the trip to the airport and, ultimately, home. I haven’t had the best opinion of cab drivers in the past. It’s nothing personal. I just couldn’t relate. More my problem than theirs. The fellow who got me to the airport was extremely cool, though.

He asked me all about the upcoming midterm elections in the U.S. and what I thought of it all.

He asked if I had any kids. When I said I have two, he wanted to know about them. Then, he told me all about his family.

He smiled for the entire drive.

As I get older, I realize there are a multitude of motivations that drive us toward what we do for work. The most important thing every time is providing for our families. Getting to do so is a gift, even if the work isn’t always pleasant.

I’m lucky because I love my job. Getting into journalism and then focusing that on Internet security was the right path for me. But I wouldn’t be able to pull it off without a lot of people doing those “lesser” jobs.

Most days, I’m only as good as the local Starbucks barista, the guy who keeps my car running (because I suck at the handy stuff, including auto mechanics) and the priests that help me get the spiritual medicine I need. 

And the cab driver who gets me around the places away from home.

Judging other people and pondering whether I’m better than them or vice versa got old somewhere along the way.

Let’s hope it stays old.

Moderation is a Myth

Some interesting conversation with friends in Toronto this evening about addictive behavior. At one point, the focus turned to another truth about people like me: Moderation doesn’t exist.

Mood music:

People like to say it all the time: “Why do you have to give certain things up? Can’t you just have everything in moderation?”

Well, my friends, that’s the problem. Moderation is an alien concept to me. When someone leaves half the food on their plate or a half-glass of wine on the table, I just don’t get it. Period.

There is no middle speed for me.

I either abstain from all flour and sugar or I eat it all. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the form of something old and stale. It can’t be left on the table when I’m in binge mode.

I either abstain from all the wine or I drink all the wine.

When the latter happens and I binge, everything important in my life suffers. So I either give the stuff up entirely, or I ruin everything for the sake of the fix.

If you can have things in moderation, I say good for you. In fact, I envy you. Unfortunately, I can’t be you.

I’ve gotten to the point where I’m OK with that now. It helps that life has gotten so much richer and sweeter for me without THE STUFF.

I stood around this evening’s event with my hands in my pocket while most of the folks around me had alcoholic beverages. I’m fine with that.

I didn’t have a beer or dessert when the friend I had dinner with tonight did. I’m fine with that, too. 

Last night, another friend — worried that his drinking was getting to me — offered to just drink water for the rest of the night so I’d feel more comfortable. I appreciate the thought more than words can say. But you don’t have to do that.

It’s my responsibility to stay sober and abstinent at all times. It’s nobody’s problem but mine, and that’s as it should be.

Still, I’m blessed to have friends around me who care.