Are you an addict?
I ask you this because a year or so ago, I would have said no. Today, I would answer yes. So what changes and what could you not be realising about yourself?
There is a saying: “The truth will set you free.” It could be timeless wisdom or a tired cliché, but it speaks to me. By admitting the truth to not just others but also to yourself, you can live a life you truly deserve. However, the hardest fact we can acknowledge is the one that hurts ourselves. The truth that reveals a significant weakness we have within ourselves.
For a long while, I refused to admit my addictions. But specific events in recent times have meant I could no longer deny that I am an addict. Not regarding drugs or alcohol but other of life’s vices:
- Social Media
Addiction is a short-term pleasure for long-term chaos. By choosing to take that quick hit, you are perpetually damaging your future.
For a long time, I was an impetuous spender. If I saw an item and thought I could afford it, I’d buy it. That could be a DVD, book, chocolate, a ring, cake and so on.
Now, if I’d done it in small increments, then it might have been okay. Instead, I binge spent. I would pay a fair amount one day, follow it up the next day and the day after that. I didn’t tie each transaction to the others, so I never understood how much I was spending. Instead, on top of my usual outgoings, I was paying close to £200 a week.
On specific salaries, that might be kay, but on mine it was unsustainable. Christmas would hit, I’d go on holiday, or my car would need new tyres, and I wouldn’t have the spare funds. I entered my overdraft and descended quickly.
Eventually reaching a point where my salary wouldn’t get me to the surface. I was drowning, living month to month in the red. That presents issues that you will understand if you’ve been in a similar situation. First, you get charged overdraft charges for being in it. My bank charges £1 a day for being in the overdraft, which is taken out as a lump sum at the beginning of the next month. On top of that, it also includes daily charges. Those daily charges are calculated by 7p for every £1 you are below the surface. In my case that could end up costing me £60 extra in fees a month as I sunk ever deeper.
The second issues are that you cannot save any money. My plan was the save enough money to pay off my overdraft in one go. That plan failed as soon as something significant needed paying for like Christmas or my car. As you can imagine that meant failure and month after month, I just watched my money drain away as I refused to change my ways. I was trapped in my addiction.
Sex is the addiction that has caused me the most pain. It is a fun, pleasurable experience that appears to have few downfalls. It doesn’t affect your health negatively unless in the unhappy extreme of an STI and it doesn’t damage you financially unless of course, you pay for it.
I spent years jumping from fuck buddy to one-off to fuck buddy to boyfriends to fuck buddy. It was close to four years of meaningless sex and nearly zero commitment. Sounds perfect for a young guy in his twenties, right?
Except like all addictions, it delivers short-term pleasure for long-term pain. You spend so much time, and energy leapfrogging from person to person, while always searching for the next that you lose all sense of emotional depth.
Sex becomes shallow. There is no chance of romance, a relationship or love because you are continually chasing the next orgasm. I left university with two notches, as they say, both with people I cared very much about. Before I finally decided to settle down with someone particular, I’d added 31 more worthless notches in those four years. That is 31 guys who I didn’t care about, who I used to chase the orgasm.
The worst part about sex addiction is that it never satisfies you. You achieve the orgasm. Nothing more. That isn’t satisfying. It is another pleasure trap.
Social media is now an integral part of our lives. I’ve had my Facebook account for nearly a decade; my current Twitter account for two years with another three years before it and an Instagram account for close to five years.
Almost everyone in my generation has a social media account and uses it daily. Each one has their reasons. Mine was to keep in touch with people and try and create a brand for my writing.
Recently, I read a book by Cal Newport called Deep Work; In those pages, I learnt disturbing truths about social media addiction and how it distracts away from deep work. Because of the many distractions, social media encourages us to engage with, we end up developing shallow work with very little consequence and worth.
After reading that book, I examined how much I used social media. I concluded that social media was having an incredibly adverse effect on my life regarding my work, both personal and professional and my social life. I scrolled through Facebook and Twitter searching for something of interest, never quite succeeding and yet continued scrolling anyway.
I’d be continuously connected to people through Facebook, never having a break because of the multiple conversations happening in real time and calling that friendship. It meant neglecting people sat right in front of me because I had a new message on my phone. In fact, there were times when everyone at the table was on our phones, and it didn’t occur to any of us as a negative thing at the time.
Being always connected to each other and the digital world means our lives are filled with noise. The noise of a curated, cultivated, digital experiences that are unnecessary to a healthy life. I realised I was trapped in my addiction to my digital life.
Solving my addictions
I’ve been lucky in who I surround myself with. I am the first to admit that I despise relying on others, but my friends and lover make it known that they are there for me regardless. I refused to ask my friends for financial help, and that cost me dearly.
Finally, I opened up to my lover and best friend (gave me the harshest and yet most caring lecture I’ve ever received), and they helped me see how much I could save by cutting out on much of my waste.
However, that wouldn’t get me out of my overdraft, which was the most pressing issue. Thanks to my lover’s intervention I recalled a savings account I had set up five years previously collecting a small amount each month. It turns out that pot of money had accrued enough money to push me comfortably above the surface.
Now that I was no longer drowning and on solid foot, I had an opportunity. I could continue behaving as I did before and undoubtedly return to the depths of my overdraft or I could change. I chose the latter. So, I reduced my overdraft to the bare minimum. Cancelled many of my automatic outgoing payments and useless memberships and budgeted myself for what I could save and what was essential. No more frivolous spending. It was time I took control.
Finding the meaningful in the pleasurable
My escape from my sex addiction was painful. Not just for me, but for the one closest to my heart. In the past, I have never been concerned about cheating on my partners. There are various reasons for this, some of those being subconscious. However, the one I always told myself was that sex was just physical and it was just about chasing that orgasm with different partners. Nothing more or less.
Due to that belief, I avoid any relationship that could require emotional commitment. That was until I met my current lover. He captured my heart. But that didn’t stop my addiction. It did, however, temper it. Instead of immediately jumping into bed with another man, I resisted greatly. I talked to them through Grindr, but never actually met them. It became more of a fantasy than an act.
However, even that tempering of my addiction caused both of us pain, and I realised that I could either remain a selfish addict and lose him or change my ways and love him unconditionally. Thankfully, for both of us, I chose to change.
Leaving the social space
Social media was by far the least painful addiction and possibly the easiest to escape. I hadn’t thought about the effect of social media on me, until this past year. After completing Deep Work and examining my social media use, I chose to cut down. It is surprisingly easy.
First I automated my accounts through IFTTT, which meant my twitter account retweeted people I admire for me and retweet topics I wished to discuss such as Stoicism. If I tweeted, the post would immediately be posted to my Facebook page. It meant I didn’t have to do much.
However, upon further reflection, I realised that I still scrolled a lot on Facebook. After a week of consideration, I moved all my people who I regularly chat to onto Whatsapp and deleted Facebook. It is the social media account that had the most significant drain on my attention, and I have to admit, I haven’t missed it.
The tipping point
There came a tipping point regarding all three of my addiction. Realising I was drowning in my overdraft. Realising my sexual antics and betrayals would make me lose my lover. Understanding the drain social media was having on me. Each one of those realisations came through my embrace of philosophy, especially Stoicism.
If I wanted to live to change for the better, I had to make that change. I had to take individual responsibility for my life, and that is what I have done. I have chosen to change. Now, examine your life and see if you have any addictions you wish to admit to?