My story isn’t new. You’ve likely heard heartbreaking tales of everyday people who got in over their heads, who thought they could control their habit and found out too late their habit completely controlled them. Addiction long ago migrated from back alleys to Main Street America. And still the thought that someone like I was at the time, an everyday wife and mother, could get sucked into that vortex of destruction might seem hard to believe. But I did get sucked in. Off and on for more than twenty years, I was using. Now much older, a bit wiser and more than a year into recovery, I’m sharing my sordid tale in hopes of sparing others needless suffering.

Hello, my name is Lee and I’m an acrylic nail-aholic.

It all started with an innocent curiosity—such a cliché, I know. Acrylic nails weren’t even on my radar the day my neighbor, another young PTA mom, sat on my couch and pulled back the curtain on a lifestyle that at once frightened and fascinated me. She talked about how acrylics, with their uniform size and ridge-free surface, made her feel more confident and self-assured. There had been days in the past, she confessed, when she’d felt too self-conscious about her raggedy nails to even serve the coffee at a PTA meeting, much less raise her hand to vote. But, no more, she said, not since she’d begun using. She was a “hands on” kind of gal now, she crowed.

“Okay, take your nails, for example,” she continued, examining my finger tips. “They grow to a decent length, but they peel and split and then you’re right back to stubs again. Don’t you deserve more from life than stubs?”

“I guess so,” I replied nervously. “I mean, maybe. Oh, I don’t know–what will people think?”

“Look around,” she said with authority. “All the moms are doing it. And you didn’t hear it from me, but even Taylor’s first grade teacher is hooked. She has a standing appointment at Nail Jazz every other Friday. The owner herself told me.”

I’d like to blame it all on peer pressure, but the truth is that I was weak. I’d been struggling to a achieve a certain level of nail perfection for years—always falling short, of course—and the notion of a quick fix was enormously appealing to me. And once I started, I felt powerless to stop, despite the time and money the bi-weekly fill-ins siphoned from my life, and even despite the threat of permanent damage to my nail bed.

I swear if I tried to quit once, I tried a hundred times. But with a nail salon on every corner, offering discounts on full sets and half-price on fill-ins, I inevitably ended up with that wretched monkey—albeit one with beautifully groomed nails—on my back again. Until New Year’s Day 2015, that is. When the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2015, I made a resolution to go cold turkey and thanks to my higher power, also known as my husband who dared me to do it, I’ve been acrylic-free for nineteen months.

It hasn’t been easy. Every time I go for a pedicure, those wily nail techs try to lure me in. Try the gel polish, they coo. It wears without chipping or peeling, they say. It’s just a little polish, nothing to be afraid of, they tease, wagging their gelled up nails in my face.

Oh, get thee behind me, Satan! Nothing to be afraid of? Make no mistake, gel polish is a gateway drug to the hard polymers and those salon seductresses know it!

And that’s the bottom line here, folks. That’s the ugly truth hiding under the glamorous surface of those acrylic tips. They may seem like your savior in the short run, but they will destroy you in the long run. Take your money elsewhere. Get your mustache waxed, have an extra Starbucks or just save it for a rainy day. And if you’re ever tempted to go down the polymer path to hell, remember these words, my friends: Nothing real can come from false nails.

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