The Nature of Addictions and Addictive Behaviour: The Problem and Solution with an Analogy
Quitting smoking was the hardest thing I ever had to do. Granted I didn't smoke for a hell of a long time compared to other, more dedicated smokers. However, 3 years, to me, seems like sufficient time to form a detrimental and life threatening addiction. I don't think anyone goes out of there way to say "Hey, today I'm going get addicted to something I actually hate! FUN!"
No, that's not the way it happens.
It starts off like this: Someone you know introduces you to what I will call "The Object of Addiction" or for short "OA".
INCREMENTAL ADORATION PHASE: You don't REALLY like OA at first - you are more or less entertaining the person who introduced you. BUT You will gradually, and imperceptibly to yourself, become more adoring of OA and the feeling it gives you. (Some people never leave this phase of addiction, which seems like it would be a happy place to be in...but actually, it's called "ignorance")
Obviously I wouldn't admit it at the time, but the main reason I started smoking was because I wasn't okay with myself as a person, and thought that I could be a part of an "exclusive club" that looks really cool going outside, and talking, and being creative - because everyone knows that all the BEST writers sit around having coffees, and smoking cigarettes. Surely this was the way to push forward my profound thinking and get me into "that" zone. The truth is, I've been an outsider most of my life and smoking, in my teenage wisdom, was a way of becoming part of a group that I'd never experienced before - a life I thought that I wanted for myself. I wanted to go to parties every weekend, I thought that's what normal teenagers just DID. I wanted to not feel like that innocent and predictable kid that people thought I was. I wanted to escape a perception of myself that I didn't like, and piss my Mom off while doing it. Two birds with one stone, right? (I was always a forward thinker, evidently). As it turns out, smoking made me feel like I was a total badass, and I kind of liked that feeling. It also did make me feel like I was better creatively, too. Why? I don't know. It makes you think what the relationship between an isolated action and one's state of being and thought is. It's not the action that makes you, it's how you perceive the action in relation to yourself - that is, definitional or non-definitional to one's person-hood. That's just a fancy way of saying that: it's all a state of mind.
DEPENDENCE UPON WITHDRAWAL: You never notice that you are dependent on OA until it is taken away from you by extenuating circumstances. (How RUDE, right?!). This is when you are, for lack of a better word, fucked.
This is the area of disillusionment, when you realize how far deep you are in, when you thought you were still in shallow waters. I remember countless times being stranded without a cigarette, and absolutely feeling like a truck was driving over me. It's just an unbearable feeling of helplessness, tinged with anger and resentment over this thing taken away from you, which you think you have a RIGHT to. Leading into....
SHAME, SHAME,...SHAME: At not having OA, and upon realizing just how much you feel you need OA you feel an upsurge of shame at yourself for continuing this ridiculous behaviour that does not fit in with your value system or your quest for happiness.
Did I express to you before how I thought smoking would make me a better writer? Yeah, that's probably because it made me feel depressed enough about myself so I could dole out just about the saddest "literature" you could possibly imagine. I mean, at the time I thought it was good, and everyone else I showed thought it was good. That's because, when you're a teenager, every time you say something like "every smoke stained breath, shatters my world and reaps my death", people think you are the deepest person they know, even if they don't understand it. Hell, you don't even understand it, it's just crap you wrote because you were feeling sorry for yourself. The point is that, at this point you are caught in an in-between state of being an agent of your well-being, or a subject of OA. You can choose either one, but you want both. You don't want to want OA but, because you are so used to your life with it and the perceived benefits or good memories you associate with it, you keep clinging on to OA. It might not seem like an ideal choice, but it is a choice one must make none the less, leading to...
CLAIMING INDEPENDENCE AND/OR ELLIPSIS OF WILL: You hate OA, or hate the effect that OA has on you enough that you actually start taking control and detaching yourself from it. However, it is easy to get locked into a perpetual on and off cycle of leaving OA and going back to it, otherwise known as suffering symptoms of Relapse.
Look, I "quit" smoking like 30 - 50 times before I got it right. It was at the point that every time I'd say it out loud, other people wouldn't believe it, and eventually I didn't even believe it myself. I thought I was in it for the long haul - I was going to be one of those grandmas that sat on the porch all day smoking, stroking one of her many cats in a rocking chair, if I lived that long. So grim. For some people, giving up OA might be as easy as flipping a switch, and those people are probably a lot stronger and secure in their own person-hood than others. Me and smoking? I was it's Bitch. You know, like THAT GIRL who can't get enough of that asshole boyfriend who treats her like shit all the time. It takes time and will power to overcome these addictions. In some cases, you have to get to the point where you honestly cannot feel any worse about yourself and then make a change to move your life in a healthy direction.
This part can potentially be more shameful than Step Three because every time you give OA up and then go back to it, you can't help but feel more of yourself degenerate into some desperate and pathetic creature. I'm thinking of Golum from Lord of the Rings. Just let the ring go and don't look back Golum! YOU ARE SO MUCH BETTER OFF WITHOUT IT!
Which brings us to...
THE PHOENIX: You have, against all odds, and by sheer strength of will, managed to turn your back on OA. This means cutting it out of the everyday - presence as well as thought.
Once you quit OA, COLD TURKEY, and you SERIOUSLY resolve to be happy and move on with your life, with time that resolve will manifest in reality. I promise. The only way I could stop smoking was by removing myself from it and things that reminded me of it. Number 1: not buying cigarettes. Number 2: certain friends. It was unpleasant, but needed to be done. I thought I could have both, but at the time I was quitting, I couldn't. Everything needed to go. Sort of like a life cleanser. When you are strong enough again to rise from a part of your life that made you genuinely unhappy, accept it, and not fall back into old patterns, I think that is the time you may be ready to reintroduce yourself to things that remind you of OA. Before then, you're just asking for a relapse.
Objects of Addiction are everywhere. Anything can become an addiction, it just depends on the individual's preference for self-destructive behaviour. You may be asking, "well, isn't there a good kind of addiction, or a bad type of addiction?" Although I'd like to believe this, I ultimately have to say that addictive behaviour is that which is employed to ESCAPE something. Think about you're own addictive behviours. Think really hard about the motives behind them. WHY do you do it? I guarantee you, the reason is because you, for some reason, do not want to move forward. Addiction is the enemy of progression. You do it to avoid working, to stall productive action, and you do it to ignore the realities of your situation instead of confronting them with swiftness and confidence. That leaves you...where? Isolated within the parameters of your own being. I know, its the saddest place in the world to be, and odds are, we're going to have to be in this place for many times in our lives.
Even though addictions obviously have negative effects, it would be ignorant to suggest that a good life never has addictions. Quite the opposite, in my opinion at least. We get addicted to so many things throughout our lives and its not our fault. As I said before, we don't set out to get addictions - they HAPPEN. Would it be crazy to suggest, that life is about this process of falling in and out of addiction? We learn so much from our addictions and the experiences they put us in - experiences that we probably would not have encountered otherwise. I would not be able to write this article if I had not started smoking, nor would I be the person I am today without experiencing all the misguided bouts of teenage rebellion that smoking led me to encounter. We can be addicted to cigarettes, drugs, television, films, music, technology, certain social networking websites, sex, and ESPECIALLY Love/objects of Love. No matter what they are, our addictions shape us into the unique human beings that we are, and our individual responses to addictions shape us profoundly. The choice is always there for you to make; you choose your destiny. The addiction is physical/external. The solution is abstract; the answer is the mind.