Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What is Addiction? Why is it Bad? All Your Questions Answered.

I am now an expert in clinical diagnoses! Just kidding, I talk out of my rear end, just like everyone else.

At work we were talking about addiction. I was thinking about this because it occurred to me that processed food is like opium or heroin - you take something whole and innocent and natural, refine and extract and condense it to (one of) its essence(s), and you're left with something extremely potent and usually bad for you. The experience of ingesting such highly concentrated materials is an exaggeration of our normal sensory spectrum. Whether in the form of getting super high or tasting something super sweet, our sense are manipulated by processed goods, and we are more likely to feel addicted to them since our concept of the range of our sensory spectrum has been artificially distorted, requiring repeated input from hyper-ized products to return to the falsely elevated feeling of "good." Personally, this makes a lot of sense to me when I think about spaghetti and potato chips, which I love and have emotional cravings for.

Okay so that's what we were talking about at work. So then I suggested that people become "addicted" to processed foods the same way they become addicted to opium or anything else. This isn't a new concept at all, but it finally seemed really clear to me. And we were talking about the overuse of the concept of addiction, and victimhood culture, and people's relinquishing of their own autonomous decision making power to something they can claim to be addicted to. So this got pretty heady pretty fast, so to back it up we decided to define addiction.

My offering: anything that has a negative impact on one's life that one feels powerless to combat. Seem broad? I think it fits. Habits and routines and practices that do not serve us, and yet we continue to do, I think can be swept under the definition of addiction.

And I think this is useful, because then everything can be given the AA treatment - by which I mean: abstention, community support, and giving oneself over to a higher power. My pal at work said that everyone getting to be addicted to whatever they want makes a culture of helplessness and excuse making. I sort of like the view of addiction, however, that connects us to a sense of our own smallness - we are not all powerful, autonomous beings who just need to try harder, think harder, and do better. Instead, we are tiny particles of a larger, more mysterious set of forces, and sometimes the self-obsessed feeling of addiction/helplessness is an inroad to this more selfless feeling of humble connectedness. Why not, right?

Sometimes I feel like I'm combating my "addictions" one by one, and that my view of myself and my progress toward inner peace is the process of shedding the negative habits that I seem to do without thinking. And I have to ask for a little cosmic help to do it because I'm pretty weak, generally speaking - I'm giving myself 30 days for t.v. right now, which would be from October 9th to November 9th I suppose, and I already fell off the wagon once for 1.5 hours of House on the 19th, but it's still a worthy undertaking - and I need a little Sky God Earth Power or whatever to help me exercise my will. The whole thing forces me to redirect my attention more positively, and I really appreciate the after effects.

So I think that giving attention to your challenges as though they are addictions can be a handy way of thinking about yourself in order to take your obstacles seriously and to be connected to the magical powers of the universe. The end.

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