Friday, June 26, 2009

Addictions as the Norm

I was thinking about addictions this week. I had a live healing/consulting session online with some clients about the topic of addictions this week. I had a reminder discussion with my son about addictions and with all that thinking I started to realize how much addictions have become part of our daily normal lives.

I see updates on Facebook saying "I am having such a craving for..." or "I have GOT to get that new...." or "I can't wait for the next episode of..." I even posted one a few weeks ago. I was "dying" to see the next episode of LOST. We seem to take pride in our addictions and in some ways they have become acceptable. I hear the phrase a lot 'I am so addicted to...." and then we all laugh because we all have our "addictions". Right?

Or does it have to be that way? How normal is this or have we just been brainwashed into thinking it is OK? Is it OK to joke about addictions and talk about them as normal and funny? I am starting to wonder after musing on the topic this week.

I am constantly monitoring my "addictions". Not for any noble reasons, but since I have been a child it has bothered me and felt a little "creepy" that someone else or something else was controlling my mind. I guess I was just born that way. I was never attracted to alcohol or drugs because the way they controlled me scared me. I used to turn off television programs ten minutes before the end because I wanted to show "them" that I didn't care what the end was (LOL). But still I find myself bombarded by temptations, invitations to become addicted to the next wonderful thing.

Why does a child want to continue playing a video game? Because there is always one more level to complete. Why do you want to ignore what you are doing and finish watching the TV show? Because there is an ending you want to see and then there is more next week because they never quite finish the story. Why do we want to buy certain foods? Because they contain sugar, MSG or other addictive substances. It is appalling the way that addiction has become an acceptable direct marketing tool. In fact, if you read some business magazines they actually suggest that you try to "hook" your clients, or "offer them something that fulfills a need on an ongoing basis" or "create a need". It is all about creating this "need". People "need" to watch that next episode, complete that next level, eat that food again, fulfill the craving for Starbucks coffee with MSG or Pizza Hut Pizza with MSG, people "need" to buy more of those special vitamins or scientific herbal formulas because they are scared our body will collapse if they don't, they need those prescription meds, they "need" to smoke that next cigarette, they need to drink that next drink, they need to take that next "hit"...uh can you see where this is going?

In our house the red flag waves if someone says "I HAVE to do that". Do you really feel you have to? Is it becoming compulsive? Do we want to encourage our children to be addicted to things?

When my children were little I was always "keeping an eye out" for this. When they became old enough to understand (9-12 years old) I explained to them how to look out for it on their own. Everything is marketed to us based on addiction. The goal of movies, TV shows, games, foods, fast food restaurants, online sites, etc...are to get us addicted. As long as you realize this and maintain control over your own behaviour you can avoid the addiction and enjoy the wonderful offerings that are out there for all of us.

So how can you define an addiction?

It is defined by Webester's dictionary as, "being abnormally tolerant to and dependent on something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming." You can be addicted to behaviors, people, situations, feelings, drugs, alcohol, TV, anything.

So how can you tell if you are becoming addicted?

1. The first sign around our house is if someone says, "I HAVE to do that" or they throw a tantrum or become otherwise unreasonable when asking (demanding) an item or activity or something. Do you find yourself or a child saying that or feeling that? Then it is time to try #2.

2. A good addiction test is to stop doing something for a week and see how you feel. If you can't go without it for a week then you are addicted. In fact, this is such a good measure of addiction that I periodically take breaks from things myself and have my children take breaks from certain activities or foods to monitor how they are dealing with that input in their lives. If you are addicted then you will feel a loss, a pulling or a strong desire for this item during the week. You may not even be able to function without it.

3. If your desire for the item, feeling, person, or activity overtakes your ability to function with family and friends. If you are unable to meet the needs of your family, children, spouse or friends or maintain healthy relationships with them because of the activity then you are addicted. However, most people who are addicted to things don't recognize this symptom at all. This symptom can only be defined by those around you. If someone close to you says "Will you stop.....all the time" or "It seems like you are addicted to...." then you might want to check out the possibility that you are addicted. Beause most likely you would not know how strongly it is effecting those around you.

Just some food for thought...but not the kind with MSG or sugar ;)

Blessings & Health,


Anonymous said...

Just a thought here.... you have clearly assigned the tags of 'bad', 'guilt', and 'weakness' to what might appear to be a perfectly normal function of the human creature. You might want to analyze your own personal fear of what you label 'addiction' in terms of your sense of being out of control.

Perhaps there are indeed some biologically and psychologically healthy reasons to 'want' things. Not every state of being is necessarily evil or wrong. Or in need of treatment. Balance is the key. A person suffering from a truly debilitating addiction (one that is causing actual harm) would find your agonized writhing over wanting to watch a TV show a bit demeaning, dont you think.

Kristie Karima Burns, MH, ND said...

Thank you for taking the time to read this post and write an eloquent reply. I really appreciate that! I just write and sometimes it is hard to know how it looks from the other end. Perhaps even differently to different people?

In any case...I agree completely that balance is the key. One of my points in writing this was to point out that we, as a society have made the word "addiction" so "normal" that we throw it around carelessly and that this line between a severe addiction, increased desire, normal desire and simple craving gets blurred. It is this "throwing around" of the word that I find a bit demeaning to people who suffer from true addictions.

Additionally, I have worked with many people who do have severe addictions and have trouble figuring out where that line between healthy craving and addiction is. I had one client who was addicted to pot and alcohol (no names) but had convinced themselves that they were just indulging in a healthy craving and were "in control".

This is more of a "to get you thinking" post more than setting a label or a rule or anything. I am glad for this opportunity to explain a bit of this. I would feel so badly if more people read this and thought I was advocating self-deprivation. There are an equal number of people who have trouble with that topic as well. People who think they do not deserve any better so don't ask for things in life and don't get ahead or receive the love or the salary or whatever they deserve because they don't feel they deserve to fulfill their desires and needs. I certainly don't want to come off as advocating that.

I would like more people to consider the way they use the word addiction and to become more educated as to what this means so they can watch for the beginning signs of it. It is often easier to control an addiction if it is caught early on. Certain people, as well, have a predisposition to become addicted to things so it is good to notice this early and try to teach balance.

It is not necessary to make your child turn off the TV if they have an increased desire to watch a certain show. However, from what I have seen in my work, I would definitely keep an eye on it and make sure the child is also getting a balance of nature and other activities as well. And I would watch for any additional pre-addiction behavior they might have. Perhaps none - but it is good to keep an eye out for it.

Balance IS the key - just as you said. There is a balance somewhere between severe addiction and healthy desire and the more we think about this topic the more likely we may be to avoid falling into an imbalance.