Late to the Dexter party, it was only this year that I inhaled all eight seasons after a free Showtime offer landed in my inbox. I started with a few episodes, the gateway to a full-blown addiction.
Dexter's dark passenger was part of my fascination. What is a dark passenger exactly? Is it a secret, or more like a drive, or perhaps a secret drive? Does everyone have one lurking? Do I? More importantly — do you?
For a long time I believe my nicotine addiction was my dark passenger. "It" made me sneak around and lie, things I would not normally do. When I was young and couldn't always afford to buy smokes, "it" made me steal cigarettes from an unsuspecting aunt's purse or money from my mother because she had no cigarettes to steal.
The dark passenger changes you into a person even you don't quite know: liar, cheater, sneak, impostor, pretender. Of course, "it" never made me kill, unless you count working toward killing myself. The dark passenger does not require murder. The qualities "it" brings to you, not simply the acts you commit, are what's important. There are many dark passengers.
Take adultery. It's not the sex act that's the crime, it's the emotional infidelity. Then there's the addict or substance abuser. The smoking, drinking, or drugs are not the only problems. It's the deceptions, sneaking, stealing and pretending to be someone other than who you are. Like Dexter, one moment you're a sweet, kind family guy. The next, you're a cold-blooded, I'm-gonna-get-what-I-need, monster.
Is your compulsion to impress others your dark passenger? Not quite reaching the level of addiction, perhaps it's the hidden compulsion to eat, sneaking snacks after everyone's in bed. Maybe it's your compulsion to always say you're more than you are, like you've run more miles, gotten a degree you actually never completed or have more money than you really do. Perhaps it's a compulsion to cut people down with cleverly sarcastic but hurtful humor.
We don't all want to disappear and do penance as a lumberjack in whatever version of Siberia Dexter landed in. There are other ways to make things right. Excluding actual crimes and serious addictions for which you must get expert help, for misdemeanors there are steps we can take to fess up and get rid of these bad habits and lose our dark passenger.
• Be honest. Tell the people you're hurting with your deception or problem behavior.
• Set goals. Work toward goals to make the changes you know you must make.
• Go public. Open up about your intention to change with people important to you.
• Persevere. Find the grit and determination to make difficult changes.
• Get support. If you can't do it on your own, seek out experts or other help.
Dexter tried in vain to ditch his dark passenger. How could he? The series would have flopped. As a reformed smoker I can tell you that losing your dark passenger is liberating. Change is what real life is about.
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