Saturday, May 22, 2010

Convenience? Ha!

Have I mentioned lately that I'm in a 12-step recovery program? No? Well, truthfully, I'm in two of them, one for addicts (almost 20 years) and one for all the good people who have to deal with us addicts daily (about seven years.) I mention this because it is time for my yearly diatribe against convenience stores.  

At breakfast with friends recently, the conversation turned--as it often does--to addiction and its toll. One young woman, speaking of her brother, told us he was an addiction looking for a substance. That made a lot of sense. Many have a tendency to think of addiction as a moral shortcoming focused on a particular evil: alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex and pornography... Those of us most intimately acquainted with the subject know different; addictions are shifty things: once one is defeated, another arises to take its place, and the common ground of those who recover is an attitude of constant vigilance.

Which brings up one of my favorite subjects: convenience stores.

Back in the days when I was a substance abuse counselor at a local hospital, I'd always stop for coffee at a Seven Eleven on my way to work. One day it struck me that these uber-American institutions and others of their type that sell everything from scented condoms to soda crackers, were really an addict's heaven.

Think of it. Under one roof, you'll find alcohol, over-the-counter-drugs (including my personal favorites, Robitussin and Listerine), caffeine and nicotine, sugar-laden snacks, nutritionally worthless foods, porno magazines, lottery coupons and other gambling incentives, and of course ATM machines for quick infusions of cash. Most establishments are open 24-7, though in some states you cannot buy alcohol before eight in the morning.

In other words, convenience stores are designed for people who do not like to plan ahead, who are reactive, opportunistic and impulsive. Does that describe your run-of-the-mill addict?

This is not to denigrate the usefulness of such places; for normal folks, convenience stores are lifesavers, but it does serve well to illustrate that what is one man's convenience is another's folly.

Think of that the next time you're craving a Slurpee.

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