01 May 2009

Addictions and More

First, a quick note. There's now a PayPal Donate button located on the right side of this here thing. If any of you can spare anything, from $5 to $500, that would help myself and the love of my life come up with the last bit of cash to finalize everything we need for our upcoming wedding, I would be eternally grateful. Seriously, anything that can be given would help a great deal. I hate asking for handouts, but there are some times in life when it cannot seem to be avoided, as much as I would love to find another way.

Now, on to business. Through this blog and some Facebook posts, a number of people have been tracking the progess of my week without caffeine. Overall, the experiment has been mostly one in self-flagellation; between the intermittent headaches, the horrible leg cramps, and being excessively tired, I have little to show for it than a stubborn resolve to stick to my guns and teeth that are probably whiter than they've been in years by the grace of not being stained by a constant flow of coffee and tea.

What it has given in benefit, though, is a dose of perspective and plenty of food for thought in the realm of addiction, withdrawals, and the whole "doing without" aspect of life. I think that it's really shown me, both through my own actions and in things going on around me, that people really can become addicted to anything. Work, school, friends, family, drugs, emotions, the whole range of things with which we're capable of interacting becomes a minefield of potential additictions when the collective human inclination to attach ourselves to that which we enjoy kicks in. We embrace those things in life which give us pleasure, and this becomes a form of avarice through our desire for more of that selfsame pleasure; we are driven to seek out the things that we enjoy, even if those things may be obviously self-destructive or detrimental. Look at the case of the smoker, such as myself, who knows the risks and dangers of engaging in the activity and says that they are going to, or are trying to, quit, but just need that one more cigarette to help them calm down, they've had a stressful day at work, and I just can't sleep when I'm feeling jittery like this, and well, now it's morning and I don't want to face the day without this anchor that helps me wake up, or take a break from the day while toiling away at work -- the cycle is nearly endless.

Look, too, to the abusive relationships of the world, to the people who cling to their non-lover despite the clear and undeniable acts of violence or hate, of sheer uncontrollable rage; oh, that's just how he is, he doesn't mean to hurt me -- excuses formed to keep ourselves from having to face the reality of cutting ourselves away from what we know and, for strange reasons, find comfort in. Change is a scary thing, even when that change is for the better; thus, we allow the addiction to take hold, we become enslaved to our own perception of what we need, what we want, what we idealize about the things we have, flatly ignoring the blaring klaxons screaming at us to wake up and see the light and break ourselves from our own self-terminating tendencies. We begrudgingly light another cigarette, tell the nurse that we fell down the stairs, pull the tourniquet tight so we can get a good shot at that vein and find some relief in our death-obsessive desires, all the while knowing that any moment could be our last because we've chosen to hold to the objects, sensations, emotions that we know and understand, the comfortable realm of the already-experienced, daring not to tread into the dark waters of help and healing.

And why? Is it just fear? Is there no reason besides a deep-seated desire to avoid the unknown that makes us keep our shackles even though we hold the keys? The ache in my legs right now says, "Not at all". It's not just that we can't overcome some sense of paranoia that wells up from looking into the darkness; it's that we know that unfamiliar ground can be painful. The abusive boyfriend may leave bruises, but those fade faster than emotional scars. The cigarettes may cause cancer, but that's in the future, far off from the cravings and the mood swings in today's attempt to kick the habit. We stick to what we know not only because we find comfort in it, but because we know that out there, in the world away from where we are, there's a lurking pain just waiting for us to leap willingly into its grasp, stalking us at every turn and waiting for the slip where we finally decide to plunge into the darkness from whence it can strike; and once it has struck, we find ourselves yearning for the relief that only those very same corrosive habits can offer; the succor of a well-known hurt, of a masochistic indulgence that we've already embraced.

As this week draws to a close and I wait to re-embrace my own vice, I will muse on the idea of cutting oneself off from addiction and the various rites and rituals there entwined; more next week on the subject, once I'm caffeinated and have had more time to reflect on all of this. Suffice it to say that this has been a very interesting and surprisingly thought-provoking experiment on my part, and I'm excited to use the lessons therein.


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