Small Addictions Normal People Have
"The simple definition of addiction is 'something you can't control'. "
- Dr. Joseph Dispenza from "What The Bleep Do We Know?"
“Heroin, be the death of me. Heroin, it's my wife and it's my life because a mainline in my vein leads to a center in my head and then I'm better off than dead. Because when the smack begins to flow I really don't care anymore about all the Jim-Jims in this town and all the politicians making crazy sounds and everybody putting everybody else down. ”
- Heroin by Lou Reed
"Ba Da Ba Da Bump Bump... Ba Da Bump Bump"
- The sound of the Maxwell House Coffee machine working
"But Aquaman, you cannot marry a woman without gills, you're from two different worlds. (sees missile approaching) Oh, I've wasted my life. "
- The Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons (Tree House of Horror VIII - The Homega Man)
Before I begin, I want you to know what this is about.
Back in 2000, I had a website called Vikar's Rant. The site was full of jokes, irreverent essays, and other fun things. The biggest problem with the site was that was dangerous for a corporate wage slave like me to run without people of power getting offended. The only practical choice was to either commit to the site fully or not at all - because as Mister Miyagi says "middle of the road people" get squished like a grape.
I pulled the plug on the site despite my own misgivings. My fans were forced to go through some cold turkey abandonment issues. Years later, I was tracked down and forced to publish some of my old rants. I also promised to write a few new ones.
My fans are determined people and ones you wouldn't want to meet in a back alley.
Sure, I'm a coward. What of it?
In any event, I'm reprinting this one on addictions. These aren't the kind of addictions that make you think giant spiders are eating your body but the ones that are subtle and uncontrollable until you're mindful of them.
We're All Addicts of Some Kind
The best definition I've heard so far is "something you can't control".
People get addicted to all kinds of things. I just find it funny that the stuff that gets the most amount of recognition is the stuff that is politically incorrect to be addicted to. You know cocaine, heroin, cigarettes, alcohol, gambling, and sex. That stuff. No one would say jack if people were addicted to broccoli and spinach.
And it's quite understandable. If people take enough crap and become attached to the wrong stuff, it will be physically damaging to not only the user but to the user's family. People who become addicted to heroin become psychologically unstable because apparently, the pain of withdrawal will drive that person to extreme behavior in order for them to get their next fix. Cocaine addiction does wonderful things to the human heart and hypertension. The surgeon general says that smoking will cause lung cancer and make the people around you sick. Alcohol abuse will lead to household violence and cirrhosis. Gambling is illegal in most states and there are senators attempting to make internet gaming illegal as well. Sex addicts will... um... get blisters on their hands and private parts if they can't satisfy their needs.
Actually, I have no experience with sex addiction. So, that last part is just made up. I hear it's serious and I promise I won't make fun of it anymore. Well, maybe just a little. There are so few inflatable doll jokes floating around that if the opportunity comes, I may not be able to pass it up.
No one ever talks about the stuff that legitimate businesses keep people addicted to. Stuff that TV, candy, coffee, video games, comic books, internet surfing, and other seemingly innocuous bits of behavior that go right under the radar. I suffer from three legal addictions I'd love to give up: TV, coffee, and comic books.
TV is by far the biggest and most expensive when it's attached to DVD purchases and big screen televisions. I've ranted before about television addiction and since my rant, I've found more organizations popping up that address this issue. I've done some reading on it. My favorite book on the subject is entitled "Amusing Ourselves To Death" by Neil Postman. I have another that I'm dying to read called "Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television" by Jerry Mander. I haven't read it yet and the excuse I'd give would only qualify my immediate need to do so.
I find it funny as our government, which is so invested in the concept of parentalism, has done nothing to help people with this addiction. Not that I really want them to, but I find it's just unusual. After all, people who regularly watch television when attached to a PET scan will read the same as a person who is in a trance. And when you get down to it, what would be the difference between a person watching television for two hours and a person smoking marijuana.
Nothing really. The only real difference is that less Ben and Jerry's ice cream and Doritos are eaten more in one than in the other. I'll leave that to you to figure out which would be which.
Most people think that television is just a harmless past time. It's not so harmless when you think of the time spent, the chores that get ignored, the books that go unread, and the lack of time one does not spend with loved ones. When you think about the actual physical act of watching TV, you must remember that all it is, is a person sitting motionless in a chair or couch watching an inanimate object that changes colors and makes sounds.
The best and worst thing that I found to feed this addiction is Blockbuster Video's previously viewed DVDs. Did you know you can buy DVD's for half and sometimes a third of the original price with the caveat that the DVD was previously viewed? It's a hell of a deal and my collection of movies has exploded while spending a fraction of the potential price.
When you start doing that regularly call someone quickly and get yourself killed pronto. It'll be the best thing you ever do for yourself.
One can argue that news and some of the programming that air on television are worthwhile pursuits, but more can be said about the focus and intent of the written word and the transience of the spoken word (i.e. - in one ear and out the other). A human being has more of a likelihood to absorb and maintain something he's taken in through reading than he's watched on the television. While it can be argued that people are born with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), it could probably be said that television does nothing to help the condition. My advice to anyone who is addicted to news programs is to pick up a newspaper instead and READ IT.
What legal addiction do you have and know is bad for you?
My Coffee Addiction
Coffee comes in a close second as there's a physical need for that addiction. Cut coffee from my life for one day, I'll feel it. If it's two days, I'll get a really nasty headache. If it gets to be more than a week, you might find me outside a Starbucks with a sign that says "WILL TRADE ORGANS FOR A VENTE LATTE!"
Hey, here's a scary thought. What if... WHAT IF there were a terrorist plot to start poisoning this country's coffee supply via Dunkin Donut franchises? Makes you think, doesn't it? Remember that next time you walk into a Dunkin Donuts and a man of undetermined national origin pours you big one with half and half and sugar.
I can see it now. Kumar is nervously wrenching his hands in a corner behind the counter saying, "Drink it all, American pig-dog! The poison is on the bottom!" He knows then that I'll be dead in a week because it's my third cup of the day and I can't taste poison over the Splenda. Who would know if I were poisoned? Especially if it happened in the middle of my drinking a medium cup of coffee and my aorta burst from my heart. My wife would be called and they'd say, "Sorry, we think he had too much coffee."
And people wonder why I get my first cup at Starbucks.
What are the detriments to too much coffee? Well, there's hypertension, possible heart disease, ulcers, and insomnia. I'm sure there's a correlation to prostate problems if one looks deep enough. Just keep buying saw palmetto for yourself, if you're not sure. The dead give away is when you can't sleep because you want to pee all night.
Also, coffee would be hard to make illegal as most of Washington would look like complete hypocrites as they start their day with two cups of coffee before pushing an anti-Folgers bill into legislation. If we were to look at that seriously, cutting coffee away from our culture would make American businesses come to a screeching halt.
There is a lot of truth to the Dunkin Donut ads of keeping America running. Coffee and thoughts like this keep me awake at night.
Comic Book Addiction
The flirtatious mistress in my life is comic books.
I stop buying.
I start buying.
I stop buying.
I start buying.
They are like paper sirens calling every time I walk into Zapps in Manalapan. Or if I'm in Redbank, I'll hear them calling from Kevin Smith's Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash. I go in saying to myself, "I'm just going to look that's all. Just lookin'." And then eighty bucks later, I have 40 comics in a cheap plastic bag and an immediate need to go and read them. Oh! I'm a junkie all right. I need my fix of Spider-man, Batman, and Superman. If I see any issue with a #1 on it, it'll be mine. Who knows? It might be a collectible one day. Bag. Board. Box.
I recently went through what comparatively is a small collection of 27 boxes, amounting to about seven thousand comic books. Admittedly, I found a few gems in the collection - Amazing Spider-man #300, Incredible Hulk #377 (3rd Print), and two copies of Captain Marvel #1. Each is valued in the thousands.
If my dedication and concentration to computer manuals and languages were one-tenth of my concentration for comic books, I'd be on the NASA Space team. And I ream myself out for it every time. I keep asking myself, "Why? What value do I get from reading this crap?"
I really don't know.
It's a habit I started when I was a kid and then continued when I got to college because I didn't have another of my addictions: Television. I say this as a really poor excuse for the person I was 22 years ago. I substituted one addiction for another. Surprisingly enough, I did not turn to drugs. I did turn to comic books. What comic books provided was escapism. This is what drugs also provide. Drugs cost money but comic books are cheaper. But unlike drugs, if you hold onto comic books for a few decades, you can actually get a return on investment on some of them. If someone spent 15 cents on an Amazing Fantasy issue 15 (the first Spider-man appearance), they'd have a return investment of about $15,000.
Remember to bag, back, and box your books kiddies. Mint condition comics are hard to maintain if you keep them in a hot attic. And remember, if you have too many comic books, storage space can be gotten for about $100 a month. It has to be climate controlled so the pages don't yellow. Cheap baggies will melt on your books so be sure to buy quality supplies.
You can stop me anytime you think this is obsessive. If you think I'm joking about this go to any comic book specialty shop and check out prices for comic book bags, brands, backings, long boxes, short boxes, and new editions of the Overstreet Price Buyer's Guide. I can't tell you the thousands of dollars I've spent on this hobby.
It's sick. How sick is it? This is how sick it is. After reading the 9/11 Commission Report, I went out and bought it again in graphic novel format. How many 50-year-old men own a copy of the graphic novelization version of the 9/11 Commission Report? Whatever the number is, add one more to include me. I own bookcases of comics in graphic novel formats so I don't have to open the plastic bags that I have the original issues in. I own hardcover versions of some comic books. I've spent real money for all of these things. They were not found or inherited.
I paid for these.
Okay, deep breath. Think of clouds - big fluffy clouds. Peaceful thoughts are good thoughts.
In any event, these three vices I have are serious addictions. They are completely legal and are multi-billion dollar industries. When confronted with any of these, I'm powerless against them. They are time wasters and are unhealthy.
The worst thing about these addictions is that if you were to speak up about any one of them people would laugh at you. I tell you this, anyone can be addicted to anything. All it takes is a desire, a means, and a subliminal payoff. People get addicted to sex when they're able to get it and they can find partners willing to oblige. Kids get addicted to television when parents use it as a babysitter. Comic books become an addiction when stories are good and people get convinced that they are a sound investment. Coffee becomes an addiction when people notice they can get more work done and like the feeling of being focused.
Some people can actually get addicted to church. I won't go into this far as I rant too much about religion as it is. Just know that when a person has a need for acceptance and finds a place that will give it to him, giving up free will and personal philosophies is usually a small price to pay. When that acceptance and camaraderie are taken away the person may experience psychological withdrawal and seek others for that same kind of acceptance. This is the power behind most cults.
There's always a seductive dimension to addiction. Drugs are an easy call because people either feel different or happier because of them. Alcohol makes people giddy and relaxed. The feeling people get from any of these substances has an immediate pleasurable effect. In some cases, they are part of a vicious circle. People feed an addiction experience a withdrawal and feed the addiction more and get a deeper withdrawal which leads to feeding the addiction again.
Addiction always begins with a need. Whatever that need may be is different for everyone. The best solution for overcoming an addiction is through self-analysis or maybe just through analysis. Sometimes people need help in the form of a therapist to get them to recognize the why's. The first step to any problem is to recognize the problem and then try to figure out the cause. Most people don't know how to explore their own feelings and emotions. And most don't know what the root cause behind their own addictions are. All they know is that they feel better when they indulge in them.
The secret to everything lies in good balance. Having one beer won't kill you. Having fifty beers might. Having one joint won't make you an addict. Having a joint every night might. A cup of coffee in the morning can be an eye-opener. Eight cups a day is a problem and can lead to hypertension. One has to recognize what excess is and know where to draw a line.
The real question is do you want to pick up a pencil and draw one?
© 2017 Christopher Peruzzi