Why I haven’t addressed my little addictions
– and why I still might
Recently, I wrote about my experience with eating disorders and alcoholism (aka Whack-A-Mole).
While I consider myself to be in recovery, that doesn’t mean I am free from dependency. There are also what I refer to as Little Addictions. They are commonplace. So small they barely count – that’s what I tell myself. These are the things that won’t kill me, but certainly don’t make me stronger.
Coffee. I start each day with a latte containing six shots of espresso. I know what you’re thinking, but it’s just three double shots. Who the hell takes a single shot? So it’s really like three. (Nice addict thinking there, huh?) I sometimes have a second one of these later. I have an amazing stash of coffee. Including some with a caffeine level so high it carries a warning label.
There is paraphernalia everywhere from French presses to espresso machines. I don’t like that I joke about it the same way I did about wine. (You can pry it from my cold dead hands, etc.) I was able to quit when I was pregnant, but unsurprisingly the cravings for it came roaring back once I started drinking it again.
An Inconvenient Truth
I am also addicted to my phone. God, that’s predictable, isn’t it? Just as I was with alcohol, I am perfectly aware of my dependence, yet I am mollified by the fact that seemingly everyone else is addicted too. There are different degrees of course. I leave it in my purse when I am out to dinner, or with friends unless it is to show them pictures of how cute my son is. (They were definitely going to ask. I’m just saving them time really.)
I’m Not That Bad…
A woman I know told me that a man she met on Tinder checked his phone during sex. He thought he was being sneaky about it, in that he didn’t actually pick it up, but Jesus. Just like there was always someone I could point to, often not too far from my circle, and say, “Now that is an alcoholic. I just like to drink. That guy has a PROBLEM“, Tinder guy is very helpful when I want to rationalize.
As usual, I know it’s a problem and as usual, I really don’t want to do anything about it. Part of me doesn’t understand why I do it. What’s so interesting on there? Nothing really. Candy crush? Endlessly pointless. I have no idea why I play. Facebook? Yes, I love the ability to keep up with friends and see what they are up to, but I really don’t’ need to know on an hourly basis. It’s the same with Twitter and Instagram – they aren’t real, but they take me out of the present moment. But I have no reason to want out. I have a beautiful life. Why do things I consider myself lucky to have – a toddler, a job, an apartment cause me to need to “unwind”?
We all know the reasons phone addiction is not a good thing. Hell, I refused to read the website Hands Free Mama for years because I thought it was about phone-shaming. (It’s not and it’s amazing.) But just seeing the title of that blog I thought, “I KNOW already, okay?”
The addictive part of my brain tells me that this dependence is technically an improvement. My other addictions were life-threatening given time. But I feel like this is too, in its own insidious way. I might live just as long, but I won’t be here for it.
I remember thinking years ago that if I quit smoking and quit drinking I would be a really annoying person. I pictured myself as a sanctimonious asshole in $300 yoga pants. I didn’t think I’d still be “me”. Anyone who didn’t drink clearly didn’t know how to have fun. “Everyone needs a vice!” I crowed. I now find it hilarious that I thought I would be vice-free if I just removed the alcohol.
What I didn’t realize, was all I would gain when I removed the alcohol. I pictured everything the same, just without the one thing that made life entertaining. But when I stopped, I finally was able to get off my couch. My depression lifted. All of a sudden I was going to places like the zoo and the beach or to picnics and museums. I didn’t flake at the last minute because there wouldn’t be booze there or because I was too hungover. I’m sure there are things I am missing out on with my phone addiction.
But what mole is coming when I smash this one? Shopping? Sex? Work? Money? Another round with the food monster? All of my experience tells me there’s something lurking there. I am still the same person, and that terrifies me.
One of the things I love about AA is that you are encouraged to keep evolving. To face yourself honestly and do the right. To keep becoming a better person. I love that right up until I have to actually do something about it.Click To Tweet
Dope Dope Dopamine
The little zing I get from a like on Facebook or Instagram, or looking at my blog stats is ridiculous. It’s like there is a twelve-year-old in my brain going, “Look! Look! People like you! Finally!” In theory, I don’t care. In practice, I pick it up like a one hundred dollar bill on the street.
I have heard various tips on the subject.
- Turn off your notifications. (No.)
- Delete Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. (Okay but they’re still easy to get to on the browser. Also, see my response to tip number one.
- Put it somewhere you could hear if it rang but don’t pick it up during family time.
This third one I was actually willing to put into practice and it worked pretty well. I focused on my family, had pretty good playtime with my son and laughed with my husband. But for some reason, I stopped doing it after I had a bad day and just didn’t go back.
How Change Happens
They say there are six stages that have to happen to change an addictive behavior:
- Precontemplation – Not even thinking about it.
- Contemplation – Thinking about stopping, but don’t want to yet.
- Determination/Preparation – Figuring out what’s involved beyond willpower. Strategizing and choosing a quit date.
- Action – Putting the plan in place and stopping the behavior.
- Maintenance and Relapse – The behavior has been stopped for a moderate amount of time. Continuing strategies that keep it that way, and if you slip up, getting right back on the horse – using the relapse as data to figure out how to avoid it in future.
- Termination – It’s mostly effortless now. No sense of temptation or craving.
I pretty much live in 2 – Contemplation. It’s not a comfortable place to be. It’s knowing I should change even though I don’t really want to. Or wanting to, and not believing I can do it. My brain constantly prodding – “Better the devil you know…”
What Would I Tell My Son?
This is always a good compass. Would I tell him just to let it go? I doubt it. If he were a teen or an adult with this issue, I would tell him that there are no little addictions. Just what moves you closer to life, and what moves you further away. That I believe in him. That it was ridiculous not to try. That he is never done battling bosses in this game. He will never be perfect but he should never stop improving himself – only for the reason that it will make him happier!
I don’t know why I can’t treat myself with the kindness I show to him. But I can ask myself those questions. And try to take that Mommy’s advice.