I love my morning coffee, beyond reason. As far as I’m concerned, it is the elixir of life, nectar of the gods. I take the first sip of the smoky intensity of my first cup of Starbucks French roast and I am transported. Perfection. Sheer heaven. Nirvana.
It has to be exactly the right strength and temperature — strong enough to melt cast iron, hot enough to almost burn my tongue, but not quite. As soon as it cools off, it’s no good anymore. If it’s not strong enough, it’s no good at all.
And here’s the thing: that no-good-ness makes me want another cup, to recapture that fleeting moment of perfection, that all-satisfying first sip. Trouble is, that fleeting first sip of perfection is just that: fleeting. It is all-satisfying for only a moment. One moment a day. It doesn’t last, and it never happens again. It can only be the first moment once.
Yet I chase it.
And that, my friends, is at the heart of both the nature of addiction and the nature of human suffering: the hunt, the reaching, the longing, the craving, for that fleeting instant, be it that amazing cup of coffee, that scrumptious cupcake, or that perfect sip of wine that harmonizes so perfectly with your perfectly cooked wild salmon.
We know in our hearts that this fleeting instant is immediately gone forever, but we keep hoping it will come back. We know this is irrational, but still we keep trying, we keep searching — searching, searching, searching, never finding, because that orgasmic first sip is always followed by a second sip, and a third, and so on and on, none of which can possibly ever be as satisfying as the first.
So we end up having three cups of coffee when one is all we really want or need. We find ourselves scarfing down the entire bag of chips or box of butter tarts. Or we find ourselves peering up from the bottom of yet another bottle, not quite sure how we got there.
And so the cycle of suffering begins. The insatiable need for things to be something they’re not. For the 10th sip of cold coffee to be the same as that first, perfect sip. The longing for our life to be more satisfying, less struggle, more fun. For the anxiety about money or kids or our job or relationship to be somehow quieted. For that non-specific, free-floating anxiety that strikes around 4:00 p.m. to be gone.
So we feed it things that don’t really help, when the only thing that does help is to dive in. To lean in, as they say. To lean into the winds of our own desires and failures. To sit with who we really are without trying to escape.
So simple. But not easy.