Written by Anonymous
People say addiction has no regard for who its victims are. It can take the form of a troubled teenager raiding his grandmother’s medicine cabinet or a well-to- do middle-aged woman taking her first dose of anti-anxiety medication while she pours Billy’s orange juice first thing in the morning. Addiction can shape itself as a thirty-something homeless man under a bridge shooting up whatever he spent his panhandling money on, or a top tier college student blacking out and throwing up every weekend in the name of a weekly job well done.
People also say that addiction comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s not always found in the bottom of a bottle, at the tail end of a pipe or mixed in with the last droplets in a syringe. It can reach you with a shot of dopamine to the brain every time you get another like on your latest selfie, or perhaps each time you feel a rush of excitement upon completing checkout from your favorite online retailer. It’s the elation you experience, provided by your latest sexual endeavor, and it’s the fourth trip to McDonald’s this week for those bangin’ fries.
Where, then, is the line drawn? This is a question of the ages, disputed by some and experienced by many. Some may argue that you do not have a problem until whatever you partake in causes problems—like arrests, medical problems, debt or depression. Others might say that the moment you become obsessed with something—anything—you are walking down a dark and dangerous path.
Our habits and behaviors do not begin addictive in nature. The metaphorical path we begin to walk is not dark but well-lit, with balloons and cake and music as far as the eye can see. Otherwise, we wouldn’t hop on for the ride. Oftentimes, our habits start out as enjoyable and fulfilling experiences. They grab ahold of us, caressing us and telling us that we fit in and we belong when that’s all we ever wanted to believe. But when they turn on us and the lights go out, we continue walking into the dark and continuously wait for the lights to go back on.
Addiction begins to take shape when we attempt to fill any sort of void over and over, even though we are aware of the undesirable outcomes that might ensue. The chemical reaction that occurs in our brain when things go “right” will call us back every single time.
"The metaphorical path we begin to walk is not dark but well-lit, with balloons and cake and music as far as the eye can see."
Objectively, we live in a world that allows for the artificial filling of voids. Had a rough day? Hit the bar! Don’t feel beautiful? Post a picture and get some likes! Feeling sad and less-than? Buy some new clothes…then you’ll fit in! Horny and lonely? Hit up that rando you’ve been talking to! The buzz from a drink, likes on a photo, or compliments on an outfit seem to block out all the negatives. In reality, these things act as a blanket, covering up the anxieties, insecurities, and self-deprecation that lives warmly underneath.
Eventually, people of this sort will face another rough day. You will realize that the trials of life continue to smash into you, whether you lose hours and money and self-respect at bars or parties. You will wake up hungover, drenched in shame and panic, swearing never to be as reckless again…that is, until the next weekend comes and the self-pity has subsided for long enough to enjoy another hurrah.
"But when they turn on us and the lights go out, we continue walking into the dark and continuously wait for the lights to go back on."
Eventually, you will feel insecure again. You will do your makeup and check the lighting. You’ll reach for your phone and open your favorite app, post that fabulous photo, and slide back into yourself as the likes pour in. Inevitably, the day will come that the likes don’t cut it. We’ll grow tired of the clothes we loved so much for that first week, only to go out and buy something new to chase that same euphoria. You’ll grow tired of that hottie with a body and watch a bunch of adult films until you find yourself a new plaything.
We will try to feel as good as we did when it all went down for the first time, even though deep down we know the satisfaction will subside once again. When it doesn’t work, we might even give up for a day or a week or a month, but more often than not we return to the same momentarily therapeutic habits we are familiar with.
This is not to say that everyone with a Facebook account or preferred watering hole is an addict. This is to say that addictive traits run deeper than the media cares to admit. Our compulsive behaviors are worth looking at. After being so used to reaching out to something we are accustomed to, it can be hard to turn our emotions off and our brains back on to really be mindful of the reasons why.
Most of us live and cope every day the best way we know how, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a better way. Next time you reach for the pacifier, think about what you are trying to soothe. See if you can soothe it yourself. If you can, more power to you! Please share your techniques. If you can’t, welcome to the club…we’ve got roughly five-hundred million members and counting.