Addiction, choice and serenity

It’s a new year and a new decade, so I figure why not jump in with both feet and tackle a heavy, possibly even taboo, topic? πŸ˜› Sometimes ya gotta strike while the iron is hot. And right now? It’s smoking hot.

I mentioned the word addiction to my 5 1/2 year old daughter Ava the other day. I can’t remember exactly what I was saying at the time (probably grumbling about my husband Jody and World of Warcraft), but I wondered later if using that word with her was the “right” thing to do (not to mention that I was grousing about her dad – a whole other issue).

Ya see, addictions have been a part of my life since I was born. In one way or another I’ve been exposed to them throughout my entire life. If I wasn’t around someone who had an addiction, I had one myself.

My addictions have varied over the years, but I just recently discovered how far back my propensity toward addictive behavior goes, think a little older than Ava’s age. And now here I sit nearly 30 years later, on my computer (another addiction), typing about it. Ironic, huh?

Jody and I were talking a couple nights ago about the excessive computer use in our household and he said something like, “I wonder what our lives would be like if we didn’t have the computers?” And the first thing out of my mouth was, “That would make a great blog!” πŸ˜› So then we joked that I’d have to write my blog entries in a notebook – old-school style – and then take a picture of the page and post it on the ‘net, presumably all from my iPhone since computers would be out of the picture. (Though I’m not sure how I could justify having an iPhone if I was swearing off computers, but anyway…) We got a good laugh out of it, but seriously, my life revolves so much around computers.

I’ve been feeling kind of depressed about my computer usage lately too. It’s not that way when I’m writing and actually feeling productive, but it’s when I sit here for a stupid amount of time and walk away not having accomplished anything and not having made any real connections with anyone other than “liking” someone’s status on Facebook or commenting on a random Tweet or two. I’ve started feeling like I’m being sucked into an abyss and I’m not sure how I’m going to get out of it. It’s not having a blog that sucks me in. The blogging, the writing, the researching, and reading thought-provoking/entertaining posts, etc., is all of the stuff I enjoy. The things I’m proud of. It’s the mindless drivel that’s been sucking the life force out of me. The hitting refresh waiting for someone to say something. Waiting for someone to talk to me. Waiting for anything. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

And the irony (there’s that word again) is that Jody and I are trying to work on our marriage. In the evenings, at least, I have another adult here in the house (Jody) who I could be interacting with. We could be speaking to each other instead of interacting with the “internetz.” Yet we both feel this pull to the internet. After all, as we talked about at our couple’s therapy session yesterday, it’s because of the internet that he and I met in the first place. Here’s that word once again. This time say it with me – irony!

I digress. The point is I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching the past several weeks and discovering a lot about myself. Some of those things make me proud of myself, while others make me feel pretty craptastic.

Life is all about choices. I want to make smarter choices, not only because I think the future of my marriage depends on it, but I believe my children’s futures depend on it too. (Oh and there’s also that pesky thing known at my happiness – another thing I’m still learning about.)

That brings me back to talking about addiction with Ava. There’s a history of addiction on my side of the family and some tendencies on Jody’s side as well. However, I want the cycle to end with Jody and me. I don’t want my children to have to carry it on (in whatever form they may) as they get older.

Right now I know that I need to find the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, but I also need to find the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. By changing what I can – what I actually have control over right now, which is only me, myself and I – I have hope for the future. My future. My family’s future. I can’t change the past, but I can change the present. And I’m going to work on it one. day. at. a. time.

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28 thoughts on “Addiction, choice and serenity”

  1. Oh, Amy. You know I’m right there with you!!

    Total honesty? DH has mentioned a few times that the crap on the floor of the house bugs him. The crap on the other surfaces bugs me. He’s an awesome guy so he never complains about it just to complain. Instead he puts the kids to bed, then starts picking up. This takes time away from us. It takes ANY free/relaxation time he has away. And it makes me feel like crap. Because it wouldn’t be a big deal for ME to keep up with it, but most likely I’ve wasted HOURS that day zoning out on the internet, accomplishing NOT A THING. It makes me so angry with myself. Do I change? No, I sit here right now, zoning out rather than cleaning.

    I have many excuses, mostly that I’m tired. But it’a an addiction. I need to stop.

    Think there’s a way for us to support e/o and cheer e/o on in making a change?

  2. And, FYI, I’ve failed to get off the computer because I keep wondering if you’ll reply and maybe if I sit here I’ll catch it. Getting off now….

  3. Oh man, addiction is something I’m so familiar with. And you can’t take out one addiction without replacing it with another, so the internet is my nasty habit now. I’m making a point of being more productive with my time in 2010. I’m keeping a list of things to do each day on my white board. I dropped a ton of blogs from my reader that I don’t read and comment. And I’ve been cutting my Twitter lists down.

    Hope 2010 is productive for you as well!

  4. I’m a very goal oriented person. If I want to make a change, I know that I need to make concrete goals.

    In university I was so bad at wasting time at one point that I had to start scheduling my entire day. I had every hour blocked off, with a specific goal (10am to 11am – read Chapter 11 of Accounting textbook). If I finished that early, I could have a “break” (doing whatever form of goofing off I wanted to) until 11am when the next task started. Or I could start the next task in order to save up for a longer period of goofing off later in the day. That really helped me when I was at a point of getting nothing done and wasting all of my time. It made me feel good about accomplishing things and also creating/earning time to goof off.

    Right now, I’m working on fitness goals. I put down the Internet for a certain period of time each day to get on my treadmill or do something else active. Having specific goals really helps. I do it.

    I may have to start doing some task lists for work too – e.g. open twitter briefly in the morning and then close it until Tasks 1 through 5 are complete, then enjoy twitter again until after lunch. We’ll see. So far I’m keeping pace + getting stuff done, but I have a busy few months ahead workwise.

  5. While I was thinking about my reply to this post I opened Twitter and got sucked in there. So, um, yeah, I guess I understand.

    I’m not even sure what a reasonable balance would look like for me, to be honest. Like you there are aspects of my computer use that I really enjoy and am proud of. There are other bits that aren’t so great. But it’s not so black and white because they are intertwined and convoluted and all of that.

    I guess what I’m saying is, I understand and I wish you luck. And I am facing some of the same struggles myself.

  6. I can totally relate. Though I try not to go on the computer at night when DH is home, I am on it the majority of the day.

    I want to know how to find that perfect balance.

  7. There was a time in November, where I was really concentrating on my novel writing and blogging and was just on the computer absolutely all day long, that I just started feeling dirty. Not sure if that’s the absolutely correct word, but just really out of balance and icky. Here I was, writing things I believed in, interacting with people I liked, but I felt like I was missing out on real life, as if I was living it all virtually rather than concretely. And the thing is, I didn’t even really want to stop, because I was otherwise enjoying being online so much β€” I just felt like I should cut back.

    When I mentioned this to people, they said to me what I’ll pass on to you β€” that if you feel that something’s out of balance, you’re right, and it’s time to do something about it. Good for you. Thanks for your honesty, and I hope you figure out what will work for you.

  8. I saw you tweet this blog post, and I was suddenly drawn to it. I have been having a lot of the same thoughts. I keep saying “I need to spend less time on the internet and more time being productive”…yet here I am, reading a blog…that I noticed from twitter…after refreshing the screen.

  9. Amy, this is a beautiful and honest post.

    when i started my blogging journey, i made a very clear personal choice to close down on Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath. While I’m not observant of Shabbat in way that Orthodox Jews are, I am highly aware and carefully choose what I do on that day. I also don’t Facebook or Twitter on Shabbat – I really don’t go on the computer at all from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown.

    It’s a nice 24 hour break from the online world once a week.

    Not that I’m advocating this for everyone, but it is nice. Twitter feeds and Facebook updates and RSS feeds will continue to roll on even if you take a break once a week or however often you decide a break is in order. It also proves to yourself that you ARE in control of your computer use and time.

  10. Hey sista,
    As you know, I’m in the same boat. Not having a computer during the day right now is really forcing me to see what life is like w/o it. I have been so productive moving along with my interests and soon to be business, that it amazes me. I know I was wasting SO much time just popping in to see what was happening, to see who was on, to see what exciting things other people were doing…all while sitting on *my* bum doing *nothing!*

    I have to say that a big reason I’m on the net right now is to keep up with my friends. We wouldn’t hear from e.o as much w/o the net and that makes me feel sad because I don’t want to lose touch with them. We are in a very conservative area right now also and being able to touch base w/ people that are more like minded keeps me sane.

    However, I have found that simply removing this addiction because it’s “unhealthy” isn’t really enough. It’s more about filling the “void” with a nice balance of healthy things in life that will most likely help me “kick the habit.” I’ve been thinking of how I want to spend my limited time on the net recently; do I spend it checking random FB posts or spend it by making a bee line to those friends who matter most? Do I spend it reading the news or finding recipes? What computer use can I live w/ and live w/o? Seriously, I use the net for everything and it’s crazy to see how much my life centers around it.

    Do you think that we are all addited to the net because it’s easier to find people who have similar ideals and therefore, we suffer less rejection? If we find it and don’t want to deal with it then we click an “X” or hit delete. We don’t really have to work issues out with people and it just makes life “easier?” These are the things I’m trying to figure out right now as I work through the withdrawals.

    Thanks for the post. I’m happy (in a not so happy kind of way) to know that crying over my broken ‘puter is something that other people might also do and that I’m not completely gone. πŸ˜‰

  11. The computer is such a darn time suck! I get on to check one thing and suddenly an hour has gone by and I haven’t even done what I sat down to do. I have 2 thing that help me… one I put a timer next to the computer and set it whenever I sit down. Sometimes that works. At least it pulls me out of the abyss long enough to realize what I am doing. I also have this silly watch that I wear sometimes. I think it is meant for old people to remember to take their meds, but I use it to pull me back into the moment. I set it to buzz every 15 min. I try to make sure I am doing what I *want* to be doing (kids, life, friends… not computer, TV, mindless nothing) and refocus if I’m not.

    I’ve also thought about setting up the parental limits on the computer for MYSELF! LOL

  12. Just thought I’d say happy WW so when you are checking you’ll find someone dropped in πŸ™‚ My [perspective there are much worse things you could be addicted to than the internet. I once mentioned to a group of ladies how my husband like to chase our geese, one remarked not to worry he could be chasing other women instead LOL So – It really all depends on what you are doing on the internet not just that you are on it or not. This seems pretty constructive.

  13. Summer said, “And you can’t take out one addiction without replacing it with another.” Oh man, do I ever understand that. I think addiction has to do with escape. Finding a way to escape facing the complexities of real life. So alcohol, drugs, Internet, food, TV, gaming, and all sorts of other things can fill in once one addiction is removed.

    I gave up drinking a few months ago. Yay for me. But now I have to get off the Xanax that my doctor prescribed as an alternative. And once that’s gone, I guess I’ll eat even more than I already do, or some other self-defeating habit. No, it doesn’t have to happen. But it’s been that way my whole freakin’ life.

    How am I ever going to get my BOOK written?????

  14. *sigh*

    I know all too well about the things in this post. I was JUST talking with my husband about all this yesterday too. I’ve gone through the people I follow on Twitter … and the blogs I follow in Google Reader … and MADE MYSELF sign out of Facebook after I was done answer comments. NO need to sit around waiting for replies … I’ll see them in my inbox.

    And you know what? Yesterday I felt GREAT! Now to stick with it.

  15. Hey Amy – It sounds like we’re going through some very similar issues right now. None that I am comfortable blogging about on my own blog but stuff I certainly feel I can comment on here. My husband and I are trying to work on our marriage too. We’re both in counselling and I’ve just started attending Al-Anon due to his late night drinking. I’ve never been touched by addictions until my marriage (except for in my work) and I find it very very difficult to deal with. He blames our problems on my computer use, which I find rather funny since he used to spend up to 8 hours a day if not more, on the computer doing aimless amounts of nothing and I spend no where near that nuch and I am doing something that is mostly productive! But now that I have a blog and I’m not doing as much of the productive stuff around the house that I used to do, and because the blog doesn’t really make any money, he thinks I am the reason he’s depressed and drinking. But he won’t do anything to help make money on the blog or do anything to help around the house, or anything else to make matters better. I try not to talk about addictions in front of my young children because I’m scared of the word. I’m scared of dealing head on with this issue with them. But I have read that it’s not a bad thing to do. Kids need to understand what is going on. Especially older ones. But the difference between drinking and computer use…? I don’t know…I’m still trying to figure it all out.
    Anyway – sorry about the rant. Phew. My New Year’s resolution is to spend more time mindfully and actively loving my children. I wrote a post on it for the Carnival of Natural Parenting coming up next Tuesday. I am resolving to do the same with my husband too.

  16. I am so right there with you.

    When I was still seriously recovering, I avoided the computer and the ‘net almost entirely. So much so that writing assignments and product reviews were delayed. Instead I read books (wow) and watched tv and slept.

    Now, I’m back to the refresh-refresh-refresh of Twitter and Facebook and I hate it. Hate it.

  17. I think for me it boils down to balance. Some days I use the computer more than I like, but I really think in the last year, I have had a much better balance with it. I feel like you do with the blog-that I feel is productive, but the “surfing” is where I had an issue. I think I had been using it a lot prior as an “escape.” It was a way to deal with a lot of unhappiness I had, instead of dealing with what was causing the unhappiness. Like watching TV, it was easy to just get absorbed in the computer, and not have to deal with those issues going on in life.

    Taking the steps to fix what was making me unhappy helped, and like I think Brandy mentioned, staring to fill “computer time” with things I like has helped me cut down on computer time. I used to love to read, and I am getting back into that. There are many classics I haven’t read, and I feel so much better after I read one. It isn’t the most productive thing I could do, but at least I have *something* to show for it after I have put in the hours reading.

    As you know, I started running- kind of on a fluke, but I enjoy it, and it has gotten me back into enjoying fitness like I did before I was even married! Sometimes at night now, instead of doing mindless computer time, I’ll do stretches, or try some new yoga poses, I saw on the computer (of course). So the computer isn’t all evil- it can be a tool for good or for evil.

    I have also tried to impose on myself that I am not on the computer after 11pm- that is my reading time now.

    I think our mom’s had addictions to soap operas, TV, alcohol. etc. back in their days, and I think the computer is our modern vice. It’s good you are aware and are looking to change. I know you can do it- it is hard work at first, but after a few weeks, you don’t even miss the blogs you stopped reading, or the sites you used to visit, etc. I used to love e-bay. I could spend hours on e-bay just looking at stuff. I only go to e-bay now if I am looking for something specific, and will look for no more than 10 minutes.

    Make time for the important things in your life, and your computer time will fall into the cracks around that- not the other way around.

    Love ya!!

  18. Amy,

    Addiction. Such a tricky and complex word. I am glad to have known you for as long as I have all these years and to keep in touch from time to time. The fine balance you speak of us within you. Realizing that something may be a askew in your life including but not limited to the time you spend online is a step in the right direction. I personally gave up TV on Jan 1st 2008 and have not missed it since. It is all personal choices for each of us. The Net offers us an infinate and instant form of gratification. Learning how to self maintain control of how we use that is the real key.

    Take care Amy. πŸ˜‰


  19. Best of luck to you. My husband and I actually separated because of his WOW addiction. Luckily we worked things out and it brought us closer, but WOW is no longer allowed in my house. In fact the only game or gaming system we allow is our Wii since its something closer to physical activity that we can do together!

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