It’s my theory that we’re all addicts in some way. Maybe to our jobs, to our partners, to perfectionism, to social media. Sometimes to obviously destructive things like heroin, obsessive cleanliness, or procrastination. But they are all alike in the space they occupy in our minds, and there is a common language that links this sort of behavior which we can benefit from.
The Last Psychiatrist was writing about online porn addition when in 2011, but the specifics don’t matter — substitute your addiction of choice:
When you characterize porn as an addiction it tells you that it is hard to break free, that it is a struggle, that relapse is inevitable– all things that have nothing to do with porn. But when you characterize online porn as junk food, the solution is obvious: don’t eat it.
If porn is in fact damaging (the writer argues that it is), the way out of the woods is to treat porn as a simple bad habit. The goal is to become the kind of person who just doesn’t like porn, in the same way that an active athlete truly doesn’t like junk food. Not because they don’t think jelly donuts aren’t delicious — but because they are closely attuned to negative consequences. They’ve got their eyes set of bigger things and they’re too busy for that shit.
It’s interesting to me because as someone who has known addicts in my life, I think drug and alcohol abuse treatment has a problem. The first step of AA and other 12-step programs is:
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
AA says two things. It says “anyone can quit drinking if they want to.” But it also says “you are nothing and you cannot fight this.”
The tragedy is that it’s giving the alcohol too much power. Rather than characterize booze as some force of nature to struggle against every day in church basements sipping watery coffee, these programs should treat it simply as something that is bad for you and that you should stop using. Nothing more. Drinking is an unproductive and harmful pattern of behavior, but that’s all that it is. Just a bad way to spend your time and money.
To call it an addiction almost gives it too much power.
Think of it this way: It’s always easier to start a new habit than it is to break an old one, even if the difference is only how you frame it in your mind. To put it another way– stop trying to avoid things to declare yourself a non-drinker, non-junkfood eater, non-procrastinator (a negative), and start trying to become someone who only spends time on valuable and rewarding activities (a positive). Become the kind of person who doesn’t do the bad habit.
Empower and elevate yourself, and stop giving power to the external source of negativity in your life.