When she first brought it up, mentioning it in passing more than anything else, I thought she was joshing so I shrugged it off with a smile. Fortunately, I did not make any wisecrack that I would now regret.
But I've never known anyone who admitted to being a food addict. I am sure I know other food addicts - one specifically comes to mind - but I do not know of anyone else who is in recovery, diligently following a 12-step program. I believe she is an extraordinarily brave person. Most of us who love food too much just whine about the lack of willpower and then hide the evidence behind baggy clothes.
Over lunch with three girlfriends, I told the story and they, too, listened in amazement. But it did not induce any of us to order calorie-reduced meals. I ended the story with the pronouncement that I believe that every person is addicted to something.
"I'm not," Penelope Ann was quick to declare. "I have complete control."
I narrowed my eyes. "You're addicted to vanity." The other girls laughed. "You're completely obsessed with how you look. If you put that much effort toward helping the poor and disenfranchised, we'd call you Mother Teresa."
"Speaking of that," she said. "Did you notice the new color of highlights in my hair? Victor said that I should darken them a bit for the season."
Claudette spoke up. "Okay, Miss Know-It-All, what am I addicted to?"
I smiled. Claudette is the one who is always looking for a good deed to do even when she already has too much to do. "You're addicted to helping people. You go overboard with i; you're always worn out and stretched to the max. You get some kind of high out of it. Maybe doing good for others makes you feel good about yourself. At least momentarily. A temporary fix."
Claudette could not dispute it since she had just rattled off all the casseroles and cakes she had baked in the last two days and how she was taking her elderly neighbor to her doctor's appointment.
Carrie Beth had been quiet throughout the conversation but was nervously tapping two fingers together as she often does when she is anxious. I ignored her and went on with my own self-diagnosis.
"I'm a workaholic," I said.
Penelope Ann rolled her eyes. "Of course, you would have a noble addiction of some kind. Oh, puh-leaze."
"It's not noble," I replied. "I'm not balanced. I do not have enough control to stop myself from working at a decent hour or on the weekends. I can't relax. I have to be busy all the time. Too many times, I turn down fun dates to stay home and work."
Penelope Ann, because you can always count on her to never let anyone off the hook, piped up with, "What is Carrie Beth's addiction? And please don't tell me that it's wearing the same shade of lipstick for the last 10 years. That's ridiculous, not addictive."
I laughed. Carrie Beth's life is in a constant state of turmoil. There is rarely peace and calm with her. "She's addicted to bad decisions and the chaos that results from them. She thrives on disorder."
"I don't thrive on it," she demurred softly. "It's just the way my life is."
"Yes, but when you ask our advice on something and we tell you the best thing to do, you always do the other," Claudette pointed out. "You always pick the worse solution possible. Don't make us have to name them. I can think of two in the past four days."
Our own addictions acknowledged and discussed, we moved on to our analysis of other people we know. In fact, this discussion has now continued for more than two weeks.
I guess you could call it our new addiction.Ronda Rich is the Gainesville-based author of the new book, "What Southern Women Know About Faith." Sign up for her newsletter