Archives for Addiction
Have you been watching "Downton Abbey" like the rest of us? Think about the Dowager Countess of Grantham, marvelous Maggie Smith. When she doesn’t like something, she gets a face like a cat that’s smelled something bad. And you get the message. If you read authors like Edith Wharton and Jane Austin, you know there’s not a lot of bellowing and stomping around. Hearts are broken, fortunes lost, people became ill, or bereaved, despondent or angry, and through everything, they all use their inside voices. Compare that to, say, the last week on this blog, in which the volume on everything was turned up to 11 (although the comments remained civil and I thank you all for that). Daughter had to rant in public to make her point, Dad had to shoot a computer to make his point, I had to “hate” Dad to make my point. And I'm not generally a hater. But I got swept into what seems a trend of our time: anger that becomes superheated, superfast. It’s not necessarily just that America is getting less civil. For some reason these days, it seems we need the volume on all our emotions cranked way up. Even negative emotions. Maybe especially negative emotions. We need to watch screen violence that is increasingly extreme, we need to fight our battles publicly and with insults and vehemence, and we need to grieve extravagantly, where everyone can see us.
Habit and inertia. I believe those are behind every New Year’s Resolution failure. A recent study out of Harvard finds that nicotine replacements—patches and gum—are not particularly effective in the long term. I read that in my newspaper this morning, along with an article discussing the we’ve-heard-it-before finding that eating foods marketed as sugar-free, fat-free, or low-cal are not a particularly good route to weight loss. They’re just not satisfying, so we just keep eating. What these two articles together suggest to me is that substitution to break a habit is no substitute for breaking the habit itself.
My five-day experiment in unplugging was a flop. No, I didn’t cave and mainline Facebook during my Mexico-beach vacation. I didn’t crumble and tweet my every mojito, check my email, text, or even google anything. My computer stayed home and I kept my phone turned off and locked in the room safe. Despite all my prior misgivings, no trauma was involved. Not the slightest twinge. My husband had his computer with him and I wasn’t even tempted to peek. I never felt cut off, suffered no DTs, needed no substitutes. As anxious as I felt about not having a computer to write on for a week, I wasn’t even tempted to scribble a few lines with pen and paper. I read, sketched, ate, drank, swam, snorkeled and lounged. It was easy Some experiments don’t go as anticipated.
I’m going on vacation next week. A real, total-veg-out vacation at an all-inclusive beach resort. I’m shutting down my office and my brain. I haven’t taken a vacation like that in 20 years.* The resort has in-room WiFi, but I’ve decided to cut myself off and leave my computer at home. No working. No googling, no Facebook, no Twitter, no blogging (look for guest posts next week). Radio silence. It sounds great, right? Then why does the thought fill me with anxiety? Am I addicted to the Internet?
New research finds that alcohol doesn’t blind us to the stupidity of our drunken actions, it only makes us not care about how stupid they are. This is useful information even for those of us who don’t drink to the point of picking fights or doing anything preceded by the command, “Watch this!” (As in the old Texas joke: What are an Aggie’s last words?) Drinking does lower inhibitions, which can be a good thing, in moderation. In fact, the researchers found that participants who were given alcohol reported themselves to be feeling “less negative” than the stone-cold sober control group. Certainly a little alcoholic lubricant is just the thing some of us need to cruise through social situations. With the right amount of alcohol, I am pleasantly outgoing. I relax and loosen up. But a drink or two over my line and I am guaranteed intense middle-of-the-night regrets.