Oct 13, 2010

Addicted to our Habits.

Dear Ask A Punk-
I'm in an ongoing debate with some friends and family members over the difference between a 'habit' and an 'addiction.' I think the word addiction gets thrown around way to much. The truth is my whole family was a big ball of dysfunction when I was growing up and now they're no better, but now they talk about it, always defensively like someone will accuse the other of being an addict to something but their own problem is just a habit. Can you really use these words interchangeably like that? I think it was better when everyone was just f-ed up but didn't talk about it, not that they're really talking about it in any constructive way, but it is like now that they watch Dr. Phil or something they have this new vocabulary that they can mis-use on each other. I go to my boyfriend's house and it is like visiting another planet. I didn't know families could not just co-exist but actually like each other and talk about something other than the fact that so-and-so is way more screwed up than they are because of A, B and C. So what is the deal? Habit Addict.

Dear HA-
First of all, I hope you've moved out of that house by now, assuming you're old enough. I also hope that you don't bring this mode of argument into your relationship with your boyfriend, but I'm guessing by the tone of your letter that you're smart enough not to do that.

Habit vs. Addiction... hmmm.

Well, as you know there are physical addictions to things like drugs. Heroin, cocaine, alcohol etc... and those things are very clearly defined: The person addicted to these things gets physically sick when the drug of choice is taken away... of course at that point it really isn't a drug of 'choice' anymore but a drug of necessity. Addiction itself of course goes deeper than that psychologically. Every pothead will tell you that that weed isn't physically addictive... but it is undeniable that a certain percentage of marijuana users experience a profound psychological addiction to it... and 'psychological addiction' is a whole can of worms in itself.

Very often, whether they realize it or not, people are trying to self-medicate themselves out of one state and into another. That initial state is usually some sort of state of fear, anxiety, depression or, in rare cases mania etc... People figure out what works to get them out of that state and then tend to continue to rely on that mechanism even after it stops working or starts accumulating negative consequences ... like driving into trees or losing your house/family or getting fired from jobs etc. Then addiction becomes like a closed loop... It isn't 'working' anymore (if it ever really did) but the person can't stop themselves from hoping it'll work this time.

I too think the word 'addiction' is used to often and too liberally, but clearly, addictions do go beyond substance abuse. People can get truly addicted to many things: video games, porn, gambling, washing their hands, NOT washing their hands... I'm sure there are people who would argue against this model, but maybe they're just splitting hairs. People get addicted to things because they're seeking escape from some kind of pain, either physical or psychological pain. The biiiiiiig question of course is usually: What are the root causes of these pains?

...and then that gets into the realms of psychology, genetics, brain chemistry, family dynamics and personality. I'm sure my readers don't want to plow through a couple thousand words of me peeling back the layers on all those onions... but trust me, those realms are where many of these issues start.

Besides, what you don't need is ammunition to bring into your next family squabble. What you do need is to figure out how to be the least screwed up member of your family... and to do that you need some distance, some time, maybe some therapy and definitely some personal introspection. Take some time for yourself and figure out what, if anything, you might be addicted to... you might even be addicted to your family dysfunctions... sounds crazy I know, but it is possible.

Take care of yourself first. Give yourself a chance to evolve and improve on your own. It is always better for everyone involved to work on yourself instead of telling other people (family members, boyfriends, strangers on the subway) what THEY should be working on.

No comments:

Post a Comment