Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Warm Turkey

When I was in 8th grade, I developed a passion for basketball so intense that I could feel a  itching sensation in my fingers, a physical craving to hold, bounce and shoot the ball that demanded to be satisfied. So much so that when it snowed one day, I went to the court with a shovel so I could still take some shots.


I think that was my first experience with minor addiction. I’ve been blessed to be spared the ravages of real addiction, the kind that drugs, alcohol, money, news, even coffee can be, getting its claws deep into the psyche and causing lifelong havoc.  But we all experience a variety of minor addictions —anybody have a phone?!—and it seems a good idea to be a bit more aware of how they work. 


So off to online definitions. Here’s Wikipedia:


Addiction is a neuropsychological disorder characterized by a persistent and intense urge to use a drug or engage in a behavior that produces natural reward, despite substantial harm and other negative consequences. It is considered a brain disorder, because it involves functional changes to brain circuits involved in reward, stress, and self-control.


Well, that’s interesting. The subject arose because I finished listening to my Audible book last week and don’t get my next credit to download a new one until tomorrow. So while I often walk through the park listening to the current novel, I had four days of “warm turkey”— walking without a device talking to me. No tremors or cold turkey violent physical reactions, but a period of adjustment as the brain/body remembered how to just walk alone with my own thoughts and be more present observing the sights and sounds and smells around me. But those functional changes of reward and self-control felt real, even at this low temperature.


Likewise, I’m back on my Doug diet, under direct orders from the bathroom scale, and am four weeks into not eating sugar, one-portion meals and less snacking and when I do, celery, carrots or apples. The instant little pleasures I used to get from my Trader Joes chocolate bars and the giving in to “I think I’ll just have a little bit more” were off the table. But I notice that after a few days or a week, I don’t need to deny my hunger in some martyr kind of self-discipline— I simply don’t have as much hunger and can still savor my meals.


Zen retreats, backpacking, blackouts when electricity fails, are all opportunities to settle back into the essentials of our own bodies, minds and hearts. All require a period of adjustment as we’re left alone with our thoughts with no button to click for instant distraction, all reveal the restless monkey mind that eventually quiets down and detaches from the arsenal of distraction and electronic addiction. Highly recommended.


But meanwhile, how to navigate this world we’re in, Siren calls from all directions beckoning us to our doom with their promises of instant gratifications and “more, more, more!” How to use a machine purposefully designed for addiction and resist the rabbit holes while still enjoying some of what it offers?


The above addiction definition makes an important distinction to have a craving for something  like practicing the piano or basketball or jogging or a vigorous walk in the park, all of which give back without damage to the body/mind/heart. In fact, the opposite. To qualify as addiction, the pleasure of the instant hit is offset by the actual damage to the body and mind—think heroin, opioids, alcohol, financial greed, lust for power. We can get a taste of it all with our little addictions and likewise, feel our own power to resist, to change the direction, to temper, to refuse. Put the phone away for a day. Keep the TV screen blank at night and read a book. Just say no to dessert for a month. You get the idea.


Good luck!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.