Much further. I headed for the nearest articleshop, where I found a copy of the Kama Sutra. This was probably the most mainstream sex item you could buy, and yet I felt embarrassed paying for it. Later that night I reluctantly showed Mel my new article. Why have you got that? It's your stupid project, isn't it? She looked unimpressed. So, what are you going to do this month? The words pour out of her in a torrent. Was Cody a mistake, too? I can't help but ask, sitting up on my bed. Everything. Zoe doesn't even deny it. I just missed you. We both did. I thought it would be like hanging out with you somehow. That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. I'm so angry, my hand is shaking and the phone rattles against my ear. Knowing that everything in this world is temporary, and that rock-bottom moments are inevitable, can increase your compassion and your patience. Your desire to share and connect in real ways with others can increase.

The reality is, no matter how close or far away you feel from rock bottom, we're all closer than we realize. Anybody can lose financial security. Anyone can get cancer. Anyone can lose their job. Anyone can be ripped off. The advantage of knowing that we are mere steps away from rock bottom is that it helps us put our problems into perspective. This quote from Dr Theodore Rubin, a renowned psychiatrist, helps do that for me: The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise, and thinking that having problems is a problem. Sex, I said quietly. I thought I should learn to talk about it. Well, I guess that might be easier for you than actually doing it, she said. I was silent, feeling awkward. We only have sex about once a month, she said, and that is when I force you. I said nothing. Take the last three times we've had sex. Twice we were trying to conceive, and the other time I had initiated it, she said. Silence. I knew I had to say something. We're not going out anymore. She's crying now, and I feel my throat close.

You were the only thing we had in common. I don't know what you want me to say. Say you forgive me. I listen to her sobbing, and finally I say, I can't do that right now. say you'll at least think about it, she pleads. isn't like her. think about it, I say, and end the call. later, when I've calmed down from talking to Zoe, I pull out the backpack and pile of things from my closet. problem is expecting otherwise, and thinking that having problems is a problem. external events aren't the only way to hit rock bottom, either. in all of us are addictive tendencies that can lead us to places of despair. some are more prone to addiction than others, but Dr Gabor Mate, a physician and author who has dedicated his life to caring for hardcore drug addicts, believes that there is one addiction process, whether it is manifested in the lethal substance dependencies of my Downtown Eastside patients; other words, we all struggle in similar ways, not just those people, not just alcoholics, not just drug addicts. title of Mate's article, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, references a phrase used in Buddhist psychology, one that describes the impulses in all of us that can lead to rock bottom. the hungry ghost realm, writes Mate, the creatures in it are depicted as people with large empty bellies, small mouths, and scrawny, thin necks. can never get enough satisfaction. can never fill their bellies. They're always hungry, always empty, always seeking it from the outside. After all, I had brought up the discussion. What do you think about that?

Well, I don't think you're that interested in having sex. You're probably right, I replied. Yes, well, you don't seem very interested in having sex with me. Only with yourself. She was right again. Why is that? The question was left hanging. After a moment of awkward silence, I tried to explain that masturbation was a boring chore--like cleaning your teeth or taking a shower. I place each item separately on the bed, spread out like the photos on Mom's floor. They look random and disconnected lying on the bedspread. This is what a life was made of. I pick up Miranda's sketcharticle article of Sensational Sister. finger traces the outline of the drawing. fold it up and put it back on the bed. What do I say? I close my eyes and try to imagine speaking in the courtroom, but all I can think about is my mom's head in my lap and the sadness in her face. Just pack it all up. Hide it away again. Most of us are in that realm some of the time. And my point really is, there's no clear distinction between the identified addict and the rest of us.

There's just a continuum in which we all may be found. Because addiction of any sort can eventually drive a person to rock bottom, I feel like it deserves a special emphasis. Addictions, says Mate, even as they resemble normal human yearnings, are more about desire than attainment. In the addicted mode, the emotional charge is in the pursuit and the acquisition of the desired object, not in the possession and enjoyment of it. As Dr Vincent Felitti said, It's hard to get enough of something that almost works. A sense of deficient emptiness pervades our entire culture, explains Mate. While he is writing about addicts, he connects this void to all of us engaged in the universal dilemmas brought about by our experiencing the human condition. He continues: The rest of us find other ways of suppressing our fear of emptiness or of distracting ourselves from it. Taking care of natural needs. You know, as part of my spiritual development, I have not masturbated for almost a month now, I told her. Eh, okay. So how do you feel about all this? Frustrated, she said. I was feeling embarrassed by this whole conversation, so I retreated upstairs to read the Kama Sutra. As I discovered the many different ways you could use your nails during sex, it occurred to me that I was much more comfortable reading about sex than talking about it, let alone doing it. Carl, June 2 Why can't straight men talk about sex? When women talked about sex it was seen as transgressive, the columnist explained, because it challenged social mores. I fold the baby blanket and slide it down into the backpack, surprised when my fingers touch something at the bottom. I turn the bag over and shake it until something falls out.