Sunday, April 15, 2012

Event Horizons

There is a point where addiction can be classified as a disease.  Where the mentality of the addict is so muddled, that the primary objective is solely to acquire more of whatever their addiction is.  Addiction is not just chemicals or gambling, but can also be food, hoarding, and a love of bad fashion.  For the addict, there’s even a complete subculture that defines their own functionality within a social set.

Among alcoholics and drug users, there are many rituals.  Wake up, dose; go to work, dose; four hours later, dose; repeat; come home, dose; dinner, dose; crash; repeat the day.  In later stages, you don’t have to worry about work, as by the time you hit two hour intervals or less, you aren’t leaving the house.  You likely aren’t sleeping long enough to pass over a dose.

These addictions can be set into false ‘tolerable limits’ by the addict.  A working-level meth user believes that the minimal amount they take every several hours is, in fact, helping them to work more efficiently.  The day trader with a never ending glass of whiskey feels it keeps the edge off. 

I was raised around alcoholics.  Hell, some of them were addicted to worse, but going into that past is not today’s story.  These were some of the scariest and nicest people I knew as a child and teenager.  Some, I would only know for a few years, as the addictions took their lives.  Others, would leave their respective scars. 

The great Hollywood presentation is grossly inaccurate.  The most destructive alcohol addict isn’t the one slouched over in a recliner turning their liver into a pickled beet: it’s the one that thinks nothing is wrong.  Goes to work at nine after filling their flask, dropping a shot in their morning coffee, while smiling and hugging their children; comes home around six, no longer stepping, but shuffling through the house, full glass in hand.  They continue to dole out parental advice, but, their patience is short; the ability to carry an intelligent conversation, shorter. 

Eventually, you say something that sets them off.  You find yourself locked in your bedroom for a week surrounded by a whimsical thrift-store purchase of Stephen Hawking books, several build your own computer manuals, an illustrated bible, and nothing else, as it was all thrown out in a drunken rage – radios, teddy bears, pillows, comic books, transformers toys.  While they’re at work, you climb out the second story window, and pop open a dining room window just to get food and what not.  You even devise a hidden compartment between the walls to hide and share food or books with your sibling, also locked in their own room.

Medical addictions can be as bad.  We follow the advice of our doctors – the ones established to protect us – to the point of personal peril.  We discuss our issues, and they whittle down each problem with different pharmaceuticals, often creating more problems.  The worst part is that few people are aware of the addiction until it’s too late – if at all.  Whether from the psychological trauma of the illness that launched them down this road – the dozens of ideas and diagnoses, the second guessing, doubt, reinforcement of debilitating thoughts – or from the prescription of medications that only treated a symptom, an addiction forms from the thoughts of comfort and health.  They never view themselves as addicts, only victims.

In some respects, they’re right.  This wasn’t an outright choice: they never planned on being defined by their illness.  But at some point, it became easier to be defined by it, than to try to deal with it, and that choice was not forced on them by a doctor.  As for the medication, the doctors prescribing it can be as guilty as the patient misusing it if neither communicates with the other.  Dosing issues, consumption, etc., are all a major concern, but should the patient not take it upon themselves to talk to a doctor about an issue, then it’s not on the doctor’s shoulders; equally, one doctor is not the be-all, end-all practitioner: it’s the patient’s responsibility to research anything that could affect their lives permanently.

There’s a point, though, where any addiction can be prevented.  The first time you try a substance, a game of World of Warcraft, or you decide to keep a magazine from 1983, you are doing it by choice.  The second and third time, much the same.  But, when the choice is made to repeatedly partake of these actions, the mind and body strips that choice away – almost as if the body’s default coding is to take repeated and patterned behavior as a designated procedure.  It’s voluntarily breaking itself to agree with the way the addict wants it to respond. 

So, what patterns can we manipulate our bodies and minds into, if we can unwillingly let it regulate a destructive behavior?  What tasks can we set ourselves to that otherwise would seem as equally shocking, but in a patterned, positive construct?  How can we make our bodies subconsciously dictate a complete overhaul on our worldview, workout pattern, artistic endeavors, or philanthropic agendas?


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