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I got some sleep last night after I went to bed with Dexter. His wry sense of humor kept me chuckling until the end and it was nice to see another nemesis bite the dust. Who knew serial killers could be funny and insightful?
In reading Dexter (and watching the show) I am learning a lot about addiction. In some ways, Dexter's need to kill and dismember the criminals the police cannot catch, try and sentence is as much an addiction as alcohol, drugs, sex or even love. He controls the urge much better than most people, or at least I thought so at first. There are some addicts who control themselves so carefully they never touch an addictive substance.
The Addiction Connection
Because I'm interested in addictions I decided to check old Google and find out what he had to say on the subject and I chose Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) for my search parameters because I know more about them. When I managed a psychology clinic back in Ohio a big part of our clientèle were ACOA so I had a working knowledge base that fit into not having a lot of time since I need to start work here shortly.
Since I was focusing on addicts who control their addictions, like Dexter, I sifted through the characteristics to come up with what such a person would be like. Like Dexter, they would be ultra responsible, almost rigidly so. They take themselves seriously, sometimes too seriously. Dexter covers his seriousness with amiable, even joking behavior, but he misses the point of other people's jokes. He is also extremely intelligent and a good liar. He would have to be to cover the fact that he is a murderer, a Robin Hood of the knife, dismembering evil doers and saving his neighborhood from yet another murderer. Dexter is a murderer with ethics in place of a conscience. Dexter is extremely loyal, but only to Harry, his father, and Debs, his sister. They are his family and Harry gave Dexter a code to live by and the tools to keep himself free from police scrutiny and Dexter works for the Miami police department, so Harry's code keep him safe when his Dark Passenger would rather he were more impulsive. Murdering and cutting up his victims is pleasurable for Dexter but he is careful to keep his pleasure within strict boundaries, Harry's boundaries. Dexter tends to be more flexible than many addicts who deny themselves the pleasure they crave and in that regard he is a more complex and interesting addict.
There are other addicts who have never touched an addictive substance and deny themselves even love and happiness due to a nearly oppressive sense of responsibility. These are the caretakers--in ACOA terms--and are usually the eldest child in an alcoholic or dysfunctional family. My landlady calls them "dry drunks". I think I finally understand what she means.
I thought she referred to a recovering alcoholic but she meant someone who is so invested in not becoming an addict or drunk like his/her parents that he exerts rigid control over every aspect of his life. S/he may have never touched a drop of alcohol, taken recreational drugs or even allowed them anything that feels too good because s/he might like it too much. These people often marry or become involved with alcoholics or addicts or even a workaholic or shopaholic, gravitating toward people who are emotionally unavailable. They are overly concerned about the needs of others to the point they neglect their own want, needs and desires in order to avoid feeling too good. They choose to remain in dysfunctional relationships because it demands little of them emotionally and because of their overweening sense of responsibility they refuse to give up rescuing the situation no matter what happens to them.
If these people stand up for themselves they feel exposed and guilty because they have been selfish and thought of themselves first when their duty is to fulfill everyone else's needs but their own. They may channel their own desires into projects and hobbies or even work in order to fill their time and keep out of the way or to be as unobtrusive as possible. Relationships with inanimate hobbies and objects they can handle and they crave an outlet for their frustrations, something they can control, somewhere they can feel productive.
These people don't like talking about their feelings because it's too much like admitting there is something wrong or something they cannot handle. Being less than perfect in everything they do is not an option. They enjoy the challenge and mental exercise, which is a stimulation they need, but more than that they need an area of their lives they can control. Because they fear abandonment above all else they will hang onto a bad or dysfunctional relationship to avoid the fear and the pain and they don't like confrontation at all.
One aspect I find particularly fascinating is that these people will avoid anything that makes them feel good, even love. If they have not mistaken pity and the need to rescue someone as love and they find a love that gives them the sense of sharing and being on equal terms, even understood, they will avoid it like the plague because those feelings are taboo. If they like the way they feel too much they cannot go back to their dysfunctional relationships and play their part, be responsible, stay disconnected, shut down and depressed. Momentary pleasures they can handle in small doses but real deep down soul pleasure that makes them feel alive and connected is to be avoided at all costs or portioned out the way food was given to the children in the orphanage where Oliver Twist lived and they dare not ask for more. What would they do if they got it?
This is just one group of characteristics of addicts. There are so many more but these are the ones most like Dexter who has caught my fancy so completely. The show is definitely taking a different turn than the books so far, and I wonder if Dexter's nemeses will end up the same way. I won't give away the ending of the books but I suggest giving Dexter a shot. If you don't have Showtime you can download the first six episodes of Dexter and watch them on your computer as long as you install a P2P program like Shareaza, which is free. I load the programs I want to watch and let them run all night so I can watch them any time I want. Since my TV is in the shop right now I downloaded Lost, Battlestar Galactica, and Torchwood and watched them on my laptop.
Those are my current addictions, along with writing, which I will be able to do later today. My TV addictions are limited by programming schedules and my writing is limited by time between bouts of working for a living and writing paying articles and stories, but most of the time I feel like Dexter when the Dark Passenger wakes from his blood sated sleep as the moons waxes full and hangs low and golden in the sky waiting for the next chance to write something--anything.