This is a bit of a continuation from my last post (pick your poison) where I basically just dumped all my thoughts about addiction into a word document and tried to make sense of them all a bit. I have had a fair few battles with addictions and turns out I have a fair few thoughts on the matter too. So here is the second half of that word dump for you all to try and make sense of as well!
We are so quick to point fingers at those leaning on substances like alcohol, or drugs or perhaps even prescription medicines. Or people turning to behaviours like gambling, or self-harm, or purging. But addictions and crutches come in many forms. I feel that it is not always so much what the habit is, but more how we are using the habit that turns it into an addiction. It may be the extra shot of gin or glass of wine each night because it’s easier than dealing with the heartbreak. Or the hit of whatever off the street drug you’re into, because there is nothing else to do. Or a cigarette at any opportunity because work is easier when you’re relaxed. But then it could also be an energy drink for breakfast, lunch and dinner, because it’s the fastest and easiest way to wake yourself up (and get away with staying up all night playing computer games). Or maybe it’s eating an entire pack of chips and chocolate biscuits to end another shitty day. Even just running an extra mile every time you get stressed – until you are making yourself ill. Buying yourself a whole new wardrobe every other week even though you can’t afford it because work has just sucked. Many of these things are pretty harmless in moderation, but still have the potential to become damaging and addictive coping mechanisms when we rely on them too heavily.
I know “everything in moderation and nothing to excess” is a cliché, but like most clichés there is a lot of truth in it. I’m not trying to say that drug addicts and compulsive gamblers have nothing more to worry about than daily coffee drinkers and instagram insomniacs. But I do think that in an age where there are so many “shortcuts” readily available for us to take in our instinctive drive to feel “nice”, it’s important we all keep an eye on our habits. It can be tricky to stop them from short-cutting their way into control. To keep moving forward in our lives and properly tend to our health and our values we need to have balance. We need to have a routine full of habits that give us control rather than take it away.
The problem with this is that life isn’t easy. Often things happen, feelings pop up, problems appear, and we don’t want to deal with them… And if we fall back on that habit we don’t have to. For the longest time I was smoking weed every day to avoid the frustration and dissatisfaction I had in my life. Or I was drinking way too much too often to make up for the hurt I was feeling. I used to over exercise by running too hard and too far every time school work got on top of me. Even my self-harm habits and altruistic behaviour were a way to avoid suppressed anger and anxiety. I consider all these habits to have been equally damaging addictions in my life. I was leaning on them too much to avoid my intense emotions and consequently they grew to have a lot of control over me.
Not an intense emotion at all, but a big one I think a lot of us fall into avoiding is boredom. It’s a pretty harmless example but one I feel like just about everyone will relate to. Why put in so much effort to do something enjoyable or productive when we’re bored, when there are so many easy “short-cuts.” Maybe it’s just returning to the kitchen for yet another snack even when we aren’t hungry, or staring at blue-light screens we aren’t really paying attention to, every night. Maybe it’s getting wasted or high at every opportunity, or gambling, or even arguing. “Everything in moderation and nothing to excess (including moderation)” can be applied here of course. Doing these things occasionally doesn’t make you an addict. But there comes a point when although these things might be curing your boredom in the short term, in the long term they are really doing you more harm than good.
I don’t know why scrolling through my instagram is easier than drawing or reading a book, but it is. So despite the fact that I feel so much more relaxed and content if I spend my evening working on a piece of art, I will often catch myself staring aimlessly at my phone instead. I know I feel more accomplished and energized after a nice hearty salad I have made for myself, and yet I am much more likely to grab a handful of chips and a coffee. I’m not even trying to avoid any big scary emotion or life struggle here – and yet still these habits feel a bit out of control… So it’s not hard to imagine how out of control they can get when you are avoiding something!
We get addicted to things because it’s easier. Maybe because it allows us to avoid something much more difficult. But also maybe because we are just chronic procrastinators and we don’t need much convincing to pick the easy, short term, option. I truly believe that to get the most out of our lives, be more resilient to the rollercoaster that it is, and feel the most satisfied in ourselves it is so worth working a bit harder to create healthy habits. Make decisions for future you and not just present you. And consider what your habits are doing to the other parts of yourself, and the people around you as well.