Sunday, February 28, 2010


Addiction is a strange thing. It creeps up on you when you least expect it. It grabs hold of you when you think you are invulnerable to its effects. The moment when you think you will never get addicted is the moment when you open yourself up. Now you may think that I am talking about drugs. No, not I. I have virtually no experience in that field. Alcohol? No not that either. But I am an addict. I, like most people, have addictions. But not to drugs or alcohol or even cigarettes. What I am addicted to is the easy way out. The escape. The thoughtless action where your mind goes blank and you just coast like a skateboarder down a hill. The dangerous thing about coasting downhill is that you can easily lose control and fall.

I'll tell you how I found out I was addicted: I fought it. Not the addiction, mind you, but I fought the very idea that I could be addicted. The possibility was ruled out in my mind. That was when I knew that I was addicted. When you deny even the possibility that you could be addicted and you do not take the time for introspection that is when you should be worried. The times when you are coasting. The times when your mind is off and you are moving from pleasure to pleasure, from entertainment to entertainment, from game to game. Those are the times where your interior alarm bells should ring. Because if they don't you are in danger of picking up speed in your downwards coasting. What first seemed like a gentle slope soon turns into a steep valley with no bottom in sight and the faster you go the harder it is to stop. This I know from repeated experience.

Addiction, no matter what it is you are addicted to, always, always gets worse. It is not a horizontal line, nor is it a diagonal downwards line, it is an exponential decrease and the further you go along the graph the faster and closer it gets to vertical. For example, I am addicted to mindless (or nearly mindless) entertainment as a substitute for scholarly endeavors. When I watch a movie instead of doing school work it puts me out by an hour or two. Next time I will factor that into my mind when I am thinking about school work. "I finished the work last time even though I watched a movie first, I can do that again," I'll subconsciously say to myself. Except this time I will watch a movie do some homework and then maybe watch an episode of my favorite T.V. show as a break before I finish my homework. Then the next time I'll add in a half hour or so of video games. My time for doing homework becomes less and less. And the time for doing the things I want to do (the things I really want to do) becomes less and less. My day, or my week, or my month becomes a mess. I have short intervals of compounded time in which I must do three or four times what I would normally do in that time. Therefore the things that matter (work, school, relationships, health) all begin to suffer. When I am in bondage to my addiction I can't spend enough time on the important things because the 'fun' things are taking up all my time. Even if my addiction is something as simple as watching too many movies, or playing too many video games it can seriously hamper my ability to function optimally. And the most terrible thing about addiction is that a small 'joy' is being realized by sacrificing a greater one.

For example: At work if you have a report to do and you know it is easy you can take an extra long break, relax a little, play internet games or whatever to fill up the time given to you to do the report. Then when you are ready you can do the report adequately and hand it in. Or you could use all that extra time to put more effort and time into the report thus impressing your boss and getting a well deserved promotion. Now this example applies to anything. Replace report with 'essay' and boss with 'teacher' and promotion with 'an A' and you will understand how my addictions are currently affecting me. I am getting good grades and I am half-assing it. I know I could pull of straight A's without my addictions but still I rely on them. I am having fun in the short run by sacrificing the rewards I would receive in the long run if I just worked hard in the first place. I know that if I worked hard from the start I would be less stressed, and simply enjoy life more. Not to mention all the long term benefits that getting excellent marks could do for me. I could get into a better graduate school, I could get a scholarship to graduate school thus freeing up my summer, I would be respected more by my profs. I am sacrificing so much potential good for the 'joy' watching a movie for two hours gives me, or the 'joy' playing video games for an hour gives me. I enjoy my entertainment and my escape; it is so much easier to turn your brain off and coast then to turn it on and to struggle up hill. However, the view from the top of the hill is much more rewarding then the crash at the bottom of the dark valley.

Falling into addiction is like entering a seemingly placid pool and finding a whirlpool. When you enter into the pool of pleasure a safety rope is attached to you; that is your link to who you were before the addiction and who you can be without it. When you are addicted you hold onto an anchor and the whirlpool pulls you down quickly. But when you let go of your addiction (the anchor) you can fight through the current and pull yourself to safety. The whirlpool seems much stronger when you are holding onto an anchor. The whirlpool is simply momentum and addictions work like inertia in physics; the faster an object is going the harder it is to stop. The longer your addiction has lasted the harder it is going to be to stop. But when you make steps in the opposite direction the momentum begins to shift; any addiction can be defeated by opposition. I will now try to fight my addictions not by not indulging in mindless entertainment but by actually doing the work that would usually be deferred. Fight a negative with a positive not with another negative. I will seek support in combating my addictions, I encourage you to do likewise.



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