When I wake up the first thing I do is turn on my phone and play Star Wars. So I think my Star Wars habit qualifies as an addiction. Up until now, at least, it hasn’t destroyed any of my relationships or messed up my career. But my devotion to my video game has certainly left many of my close friends puzzled.
And I always tell them the same thing. “Look. I don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t do drugs, don’t gamble. So here’s the deal. You’re just gonna let me have my Star Wars. That’s how it goes.”
I am very suspicious of the idea that any of us is capable of living a life devoid of addictions. I also think many of us are addicted to things that we don’t see as addictions, and some of these addictions are destroying us.
I used to be addicted to anger, frankly. Any burst of anger or resentment brings with it a rush of adrenaline and a brief hit of confidence. I used to be an absolute sucker for that combination of feeling high and feeling good about myself. And I never would have admitted that I was addicted to anger.
Why? There was always an excuse, that’s why. Whoever or whatever I was angry at was the “real” problem. My anger was just a natural reaction. Never-mind the fact that most of this anger was happening in my head, as I was imagining conversations or situations. Never-mind that I was constantly revisiting the same events over and over again. Never-mind that the consequences of that anger were showing up in a lack of sleep, physical tension, sore muscles and headaches caused by teeth grinding.
Of course over time, those excuses got weaker and weaker. At first, I focused my anger on people who had genuinely done me wrong, people who really were abusive towards me. But as the addiction progressed, I noticed the anger was being focused on people who had merely offended me. Then I started to be angry with people and I wasn’t sure there was even a good reason why. I started to wonder if I was really the one in control. At some point, even I noticed that my relationships with my close friends were going to suffer if I kept indulging. I remember clearly the moment when I started going down the familiar path of resentment towards someone who was clearly innocent. At that point, I admitted to myself that I had a serious problem.
See, anger was not just an addiction. It was an expensive addiction. I didn’t directly pay for those hits of adrenaline. But my body and mind paid dearly, and my relationships suffered as well.
In comparison, Star Wars is pretty darn cheap.
It’s a free-to-play game, so I don’t need to spend money. It doesn’t interfere with my friendships. It isn’t causing any headaches, although I do suspect that when I hold my phone too long it might be reactivating some carpal tunnel problems from my past. Still, all in all, this seems like a pretty cheap addiction.
I get that same rush of adrenaline every time I fight a tough battle in this weird world of pixels and emotion. I get that same feeling of confidence when I win. And I get boosts of pleasure from seeing my “team” of characters improve and get stronger. I can get all these little boosts of emotional energy without headaches or damaged friendships. It seems like a pretty good deal.
It especially seems like a good deal when I consider the possibility that I’m going to have to make a deal with some addiction or other. I don’t believe that I am capable of living life with no addictive behaviors at all. I actually tried that and it was a total failure. I mostly just got stuck in my own head.
I also am greatly disturbed by the fact that so many people will think an addiction to a phone game is “uncool” or “dorky” or “weak”. But these same people will brag about their alcohol intake like it’s something to be proud of. Look, my Star Wars game isn’t gonna kill me. Your whiskey might, though.
So maybe you are different from me. Maybe you really can just avoid addictions altogether. But I suspect that anyone reading this is in the same boat I am. We are people who are going to be addicted to something. Well, I admitted it. I said to myself, “I know I will be an addict of some sort. Now, what’s the least harmful thing I can be addicted to?”
I chose video games.
And I encourage you to choose your addictions wisely. If it’s impossible for you to choose a “wise” addiction, well, maybe just choose a cheap one.