There’s no science needed, no heavy data analysis or surveys, its there for all to see, plain as day and in its many different forms, our behaviours are becoming more and more addictive.
The definition of addiction is; The fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance or activity.
We hear the word addiction and society has trained our brains so that we instantly go to a place where we think of the most destructive of things like alcohol, drugs or gambling, now these probably are the 3 of the worst addictions out there, but it certainly isn’t as clean cut as that and there are plenty more besides.
I have been an addict in some form for 20 years plus, some of it healthy, some unhealthy and some simply destructive and bordering on self harm. When I think of my own addiction/s and trace them back they can directly correlate to things that were going on around me in my life.
When I was a young child I was addicted to sports, being competitive and being the best. I grew up on a tough council estate so it was always about competition and trying to be the best, not showing any weakness. I think that this is normal, healthy and probably fairly usual for a child especially a lad, its as much of a cultural thing than anything else but nevertheless the reward was popularity, stimulation and confidence. Very ego driven.
When I became and adult (and that’s still arguable), I became addicted to work, I was a workaholic. Whether it was running night clubs or the sales environment, I got the buzz from getting up in the morning, driving staff to drive sales and hit targets, the reward was success, personal development and financial gain.
When I became a Cocaine addict, all the other things that stimulated me and I looked for in reward became irrelevant. I used drugs In the earlier stages, recreational, to feel a euphoric high and gain confidence and stimulation, this was my reward but later after the ‘recreation’ really became an addiction the reward was to feel numbness, create a sense of oblivion and suppress any emotions so that I just didn’t feel.
The above show my personal three different types of addiction and addictive behaviour,:
- Playing sports. To be the best, at a high level, you could say fairly healthy, and was at a time in my life where I was young, with no stresses, financial headaches or any of life’s other little challenges.
- Work, work, work. You could argue this is where it because less healthy and more an obsession, albeit its not destructive or hurting anyone, however when you are doing 80-hours a week, dealing with emails every day even when you are 5000 miles from the office and managing social media sites until 4 am, its not helping you or your relationships or life balance. This was at a time of my life where I had been beaten down by life but felt like I was still the boss, still in control of everything.
- Cocaine. This is an obvious one. Unhealthy, destructive and self harming. This came at a time in my life where I had pressures which had built up over time, financial, relationships, trying to conceive and the loss of my Mother and Father. All the Cocaine would do was stop me feeling anything for the above things and being numb because normal. Not feeling emotions had become normalised.
All 3 of these addictions gave me the stereotypical reward, the instant gratification but it went from winning, to making money to then taking drugs so that I wouldn’t’ feel anything. Overtime it evolved from healthy addiction to destructive addiction. I’m not entirely sure whether there is such a thing as healthy addiction?! As you can see from reading my addiction evolution, its clear that this is how my brain has been wired, its part of my make up so its surely just a natural progression? When things are good its controlled but when the shit hit the fan, I climbed higher and higher up the addiction ladder.
Its not just drink, drugs or gambling that we as a society use or do to get that quick fix, that instant distraction or that momentary buzz, so I started to explore this more and look at my own actions (outside of drugs) and study others, and what I noticed is that society has changed so much and there are now so many more ways and channels for people to tap into their addictive behaviours, and that’s why I think addiction is more of a problem than ever, just not obviously visible and not just in adults but kids as well.
My personal definition of addiction (and I feel like I have merited the right to give one) is the “obsession and ritual that must be carried out to satisfy an urge or a craving” . We can explore the reasons underneath which causes people to use and become addicted, but I’m more interested in the variety of addictions types that are out there without us even really noticing. My list looks like this;
- Drugs, Gambling and Alcohol as we’ve discussed
- Cosmetic surgery
- Computer gaming (consoles, apps & handhelds)
- Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Snap chat)
- Phones and I pads
When I was in the deep pit of cocaine addiction, the thought of me not being able to use drugs or not have any money to use drugs, would cause me to argue, loose my temper and go crazy, and that’s putting it mildly!! But If I took my nephews Xbox from him when he was naughty I would get exactly the same response from a kid aged 14!! I’m pretty sure anyone who is reading this would have the same reaction if you were told that they had to go without your phones for a week. OMG How can I live without Facebook?
We are living in the most addicted era that has ever lived, in turn this has led to the most anti-social, disconnected, obese, unfit, non communicative, poorer, alcohol dependant, drug using society certainly in my lifetime and i’m sure that ever has been,
The point is this. I don’t believe in the “Once an addict always an addict” mantra. We weren’t born like that, we’ve been trained and wired to cope with what society has thrown at us. As babies we use to reach out and ask for help when we were struggling, somehow over time we’ve stopped doing this and use ‘things and substances’ to cope.
If you go back to my personal story, it all started healthy, a happy childhood surrounded by care and love, any ‘obsessions’ were healthy, but this then later changes because life corrupts us overtime and somewhere along the line that addictive behaviour then becomes unhealthy and destructive, and i’m sure that what may seem like perfectly healthy addictions now will then go onto become dangerous later in life. The obsession with I phones and I pads, shopping and gaming, will all be transferred to other forms or substances when things go wrong. Hopefully things wont go wrong, but we all know that its unlikely because life just isn’t that kind, lets face it. Shit happens!!
We’ve trained our brains to use these ‘coping mechanisms’ to distract us so we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to feel what ever it we are feeling whether that’s happiness, sadness, fear, anger guilt or shame, these are all healthy emotions that are meant to be felt not pushed down or away, they are uncomfortable yes, but if you can’t learn to feel the tough stuff how will you feel the good stuff?
If we have wired our brains in this way then they can be re-wired to user more positive coping mechanisms. and actually learn to feel and be connected to our emotions. That’s not to say you cant have a phone, play games or have sex, but its about knowing when its getting too much, and more importantly noticing why you are on your phone all the time or glued to Facebook 24/7 or drinking in excess or using drugs but identifying that It really has become an obsession, like an itch that has to be scratched.
We have, and I know this applies to me have become masters of being able to anaesthetise our emotions.
My addiction to cocaine was as a result of traumatic circumstances yes, and at the time the pain and sadness was being dampened down but my emotions became so suppressed down that I became completely emotionless. I stopped feeling anything, then the using of drugs became about trying to feel something again, anything! How messed up is that? I used drugs to stop feeling and then it worked so well that I had to use to start feeling again! This little description of how my mind was working (or not working) just shows why drugs are ridiculous, because it just doesn’t make any sense, none of it does, it just isn’t rational, however we continue to tell ourselves that it makes sense
Whether its drink or drugs, iPhone’s or I pad’s, PlayStation’s or Xbox or cosmetic surgery we are all tinkering on the edge of addiction. Is there such a thing as a good or healthy addiction? I don’t know, I certainly believe channelling that focus into something like sport or fitness is better than drink or drugs granted but with that little addictive switch still in the mind and accessible at any point we are all walking the tightrope.
Can a social media addiction become a substance addiction?
From my experience it probably can.
Sometimes you just need to say to yourself “Just stop it”