Time to get clean

It’s almost spring. Time to detox.

Each of us has something going on in our physical or mental being that needs to be scrubbed out. Spring’s as good a time as any to get started, and the way to start is to sit down for a few minutes and look at what’s getting in your way. It may be something as traditional as a chemical or food problem, which you will no doubt have help with if you ask any of the kind people here on campus who have pledged to get you clean, sober and healthy. But there are other things that nag at us, which get in our way of getting on with what needs to be done.

A friend of mine once sat down with a piece of paper, a pencil and a cup of coffee and tried to figure out why her car and apartment looked like they’d been bombed by magpies. She had papers overflowing from every nook, cranny and horizontal surface, and hadn’t recycled her soda cans in about three years. She bought underwear weekly to avoid doing a wash, and only paid bills when collectors called her. After she wrote out a few goals (“Become a grown-up” was one) she discovered she couldn’t hold the pen properly and figured out why. This woman had two-inch nails, which she reinforced with weekly visits to a manicurist, who applied the sort of stuff you use to shore up bent fenders to the tips of my friend’s fingers. My friend couldn’t turn on a faucet, open a door or even brush her hair without extraordinary effort. In her next trip to the nail technician, my friend had the gunk removed from her nails and began to have a life again. She was amazed that something so simple would allow her to do laundry, clean out her car and sort papers without discomfort. She still owns about 200 pieces of underwear, but at least now they’re all clean.

Another friend decided her roadblock to getting clean and sober was her daily trip to a local coffee shop. Not only was she getting an ulcer from the coffee, she was also wasting about an hour a day getting there, waiting in line, ordering, waiting for her drink, sitting and sipping, and getting back. She brought coffee in a thermos thereafter and although she’s lost her ability to tell me which side of that certain mountain in Colombia from whence came the beans, she’s also brought her G.P.A. up considerably.

How about just changing something slightly so it’s more satisfying? A student I know use to take the same route to the parking garage every day, part of it through a pack of smokers. He’s particularly sensitive to smoke, and felt dirty all the way home; he’d often take a half hour or so at the end of the trip for a shower. Now he walks about a block out of his way, and saves time at the other end, not to mention his nerves. Another guy of my acquaintance discovered that he wasn’t going through a bout of insomnia, he had his bed facing the rising sun. One quick turn, and he’s doing eight hours without any problem. Sometimes it’s just that simple.

What if you don’t really have a secret vice? Are you just spending too much time and effort on something that isn’t paying off? After a long heart-to-heart with myself, I’ve decided that after a 35-year addiction to coffee, it’s time to call it quits. Not only can I not afford it, I also can’t afford the sleepless nights, shaking hands and the ever-present possibility of an ulcer. It’s going to be liberating, discovering what six in the morning looks like without caffeine, or at least that’s what I’m telling myself now. Ask me again when I … zzzzzzzz.