I have an addiction.
If the first step is admitting it, then I'm finally there.
Actually, it didn't take that long. My first week of a McDonald's McFlurry-a-day passed with a little embarrassment, but no more than comes with that niggle of guilt you feel when you know you're doing something you shouldn't.
As the second week of a McFlurry-a-day neared an end, all I could do was laugh. It was when I found myself ordering a cheeseburger to go with it that I realized I had a problem.
It hit when I got back to the office and stuffed the McFlurry in with the cheeseburger so that no one would see me walking in with it.
I had no desire for a cheeseburger -- it was just a front.
Then came the two-a-days. The excuse that my body was just craving calcium became more and more feeble as I watched the clock, careful to time my visits after a shift change so I wouldn't face the same salesperson twice in the same day.
Then came the denial. Who was I harming? No one. Not even myself. After all, it's not real ice cream, it's frozen yogurt and, they're not actual M&Ms, they're mini M&Ms. There are 14 grams of protein in each 12 ounce serving.
Even that came to a halt the second time I picked up my kids and asked them whether they'd like to have dessert before dinner -- just because I needed another fix.
I don't have to tell you what their answer was.
Being the McFlurry neophytes they were, I took it upon myself to introduce them to the joy of vanilla ice cream blended with crunchy chocolate candy.
I couldn't get them totally on board, so the first time I approached the drive-through with them in the car, I ordered one M&M McFlurry and one M&M McFlurry with the M&Ms on the side. Yeah, that's the way to not draw attention to yourself.
I divided the ice cream in two and added M&Ms to a bowl for 6-year-old Katie and gave 4-year-old Nikki a bowl of plain vanilla. I still had half a cup of M&Ms left over, so I gave them to Nikki anyway.
She added them to her ice cream.
OK, so now I realize that I'm laying my addiction on my children. After all, there really is no way to follow dessert with dinner. What kid in her right mind eats all her broccoli without the tantalizing promise of a chocolate reward?
I was forced to admit that my addiction is now harming someone besides myself. Plus, what kind of example am I setting for my kids?
Parents tell their children to do as they say, not as they do. It's not that we're being hypocritical. We realize that we're human and are pretty much a walking mistake, especially where our children are concerned. But, in our defense, we expect more from our children. What we really mean is "please don't be me. Be the best of me and take the rest and make yourself better. Don't be the human I am."
Of course, that only sort of works. It takes a lot of mettle to overcome the habits that you picked up as a bystander.
There will be a lot of times that I model behavior I don't want my children to mimic, but I'm going to get a grip on this addiction before it becomes one.
So I've taken the first step. I admitted I had a problem. I'm kind of winding my way through the other 12 steps, taking only those I feel apply. I don't think a sweet tooth requires a searching moral inventory or that it's a shortcoming I need to bother God with -- he's got much bigger issues to deal with.
But, I am planning to make amends to those I've harmed.
Right now, that's about three people.
For myself, I'm mostly off McFlurrys (hey, cold turkey is a shock to the system).
I'm making amends to the girls with a refrigerator stocked with healthful foods and a home-cooked dinner with a large serving of vegetables on the side.
I'm pretty sure they're going to prefer the mom who was in denial, but hey, if I want them to follow in my steps, I've got to take some first.