I'm Addicted To Gum

I'm Addicted To Gum

We didn't think it was possible to cry while chewing a piece of gum.
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I am a gumaholic. Yes, I am addicted to gum. My problem began when I was eight years old, on Tuesday, May 17th 2005. That day, my father died suddenly of a heart attack.

In the week after, friends and family brought food and stayed with us. I didn’t understand why they were bringing us gifts at such a somber time. Until that point, I had only received gifts for birthdays or holidays. My young mind associated gifts with happiness and I was certainly not happy. I do not truly remember grieving my father’s death in the days and weeks after my father’s passing. I was too young to recognize my own feelings. What I remember most was my mother’s reaction. I had never seen someone cry more than she did. She cried with her mouth half open and her head in her hands. I remember wanting so badly to stop her tears. On the second day after my father’s death, my best friend, Stephanie, stayed home from school to be with me. She and I were upstairs in my room listening to my mother’s cries while we tried to brainstorm ways of cheering her up. The first step was to stop her tears. I remember asking my grandmother to take Stephanie and me away from the crowd of people at my house so we could buy a pack of gum. Neither of us thought it was possible to cry while chewing a piece of gum.

We returned home with four yellow packages of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum, where we found one of my father’s colleagues reading a short story to my mother, who, barely listening, continued to sob on the couch. Stephanie and I climbed sneakily up onto the back of the couch and sat behind my mother. Stephanie unwrapped the first piece of gum and passed it to me. I reached around my mother’s head and tried to toss the gum into her open, wailing mouth. My mother’s mouth accepted the piece of gum and started chewing, but continued to cry. Stephanie and I were quickly escorted away by a family friend who scolded me and asked me how I could be so inconsiderate at a time like this. Stephanie and I were not discouraged, however. We were driven by the necessity to see my mother happy again. We quickly came to the conclusion that one piece of gum just wasn’t enough.

In the next few days without my best friend by my side, I tried many different approaches to giving her the gum. I would walk up to her once an hour and leave an unwrapped piece of gum in her hand. She would thank me but continue to cry. By the time I came to the realization that it was indeed possible to cry while chewing gum, family and friends had stopped coming over. They had stopped bringing food. But my mother had not stopped crying. She was paralyzed by her own tears. I knew the gum would not solve her problems. I only had one packet of gum left, and I decided to keep it for myself. I found myself stuffing gum in my mouth when I was hungry, bored, lonely, or restless. Gradually, my mom got better, but a compulsive habit had been born.

Gum chewing became a dependency that lasted long past my mother’s recovery. I find that when I am stressed or sad, I crave gum. I use my cravings as a tool to recognize my feelings. I keep a packet of gum in my purse and on the inside of the flap, I have a post-it note that reads “What’s wrong?” While the gum never helped my mom, it was probably the most important part of my own recovery. When I read the post-it, I take a few minutes to meditate and move toward achieving my own happiness. My hope is that one day, when I reach for a pack of gum and ask myself "what's wrong," I will always reply to myself with "your breath stinks!"

Cover Image Credit: sites.psu.edu

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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.
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Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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Summer = Rest?

Sometimes it feels as if we need a vacation... from our vacation.

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Ah summer: Popsicles and sun burns, mixed with fresh-squeezed lemonade that local kids are pandering to make enough money for Roman candles and Black Cats. The crack of the bat can be heard among the simmering charcoal grills and Troy-bilts humming through the ever-lasting sun. School is out and children are wild. It's a paradise.

Or is it?

But after countless sports camps and tournaments, other camps, vacations, school (?) events, traveling teams, VBS, summer seems to have been sucked fun-free.

Maybe it's Hollywood and Harper Lee's fault for giving us this utopian view of what summer should look and feel like (I'm looking at you Sandlot). But how can we really rest this summer? Because everyone needs some actual rest, even adults.

First thing is do NOT pack your summer full. Say no to some things. Coaches and Families can expect too much and it's okay to say no to them. You have to. There is no time for kids to be kids anymore.

Work can take a backseat. Vacations need to be taken. Families need to reconnect.

And for all my super-scheduled people out there, please PLEASE don't schedule out your vacation. Just enjoy it.

Another bit of advice would be to put away the technology and spend some time outside. When was the last time you tried to catch lightning bugs? Or went for a swim? Or listened to birds on your front porch?

I may sound like I have an old soul, but I really feel like we have lost this connection to the outside world. Summer is all about getting a farmer's tan and getting stung once or twice. I can guarantee you that's some of the best therapy in the world.

Maybe this sounds all over the place. Maybe this sounds like me ranting. And it probably is.

But I'm telling you that this stuff matters. Don't let summer whiz by and you arrive in August more drained that you were in May. Enjoy this time with family and friends.

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