Pictured here is some heroin, an illegal drug that can be highly addictive. Addiction, including addiction to hard drugs like heroin, is something I have thought about for a long time; when I was in high school, someone on the periphery of my social circle died of a heroin overdose.
This post is only tangentially related to tea, but I think it is an important topic, and I hope people find it useful.
If you were thinking initially of compulsive shopping, and are shocked by my leap to heroin, you may think I am exaggerating. But I hope that if you bear with me, you will find that my analogy has an interesting reason behind it, and the reason is not to shock or exaggerate. And, after explaining myself, I will conclude the post with a suggestion of how to overcome compulsive tea shopping.
There is unity in addictions:
I personally believe that
There is some science that is beginning to confirm the idea that different types of addiction have a lot in common, in terms of what is going on with the brain. I also find it interesting that twelve step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, and other similar programs, have been developed not only to help with alcoholism, but with a variety of other sorts of addictions, and these different programs have basically the same approach. The approach begins with admitting that the people have a problem with addiction, and that self-control is inadequate. In terms of my understanding of addiction, I would say that these programs work because they change a person's beliefs (the step of believing that one has an addiction and choosing to want to overcome it is a critical one) as well as providing a network of social support.
My experience with addiction:
Addiction is not something I discuss from afar; I personally have had problems with video game addiction, and it got bad enough that I deleted all video games from my computer years ago. I could spend hours playing role playing games and neglecting all sorts of other activities. More recently, I have struggled with addictive behavior towards social media and online communication media such as Facebook and gchat. I have also seen people close to me struggle with alcoholism, self-injury, and unhealthy patterns in relationships. One of my friends found a twelve step program helpful for overcoming problems with codependency in relationships, and I have seen people overcome alcoholism while others have failed to overcome it.
Some interesting resources on addiction:
If you're interested in this topic, NPR has recently had a number of programs (and published articles) on this topic. One that I found a particularly interesting read was Addiction Is Not A Disease Of The Brain. Wikipedia's article on addiction is also well-developed and has a lot of interesting and relevant material on it. The overall picture I get by reading different materials on the topic of addiction though is that addiction is complex and involves many factors, including brain chemistry, actions, habits, and life choices, social networks and relationships with people, and beliefs about the effects of various actions.
My thoughts on how to overcome addiction:
Some people "overcome" one addiction only to fall into another. I think that this is not a true victory over addiction...truly overcoming addiction involves overcoming the whole state of addiction, in which someone seeks some sort of immediate gratification through some sort of impulsive activity. The question of which activity is more harmful is often a relative one. Playing video games may seem relatively benign when compared to heroin use, but a true video game addiction, in which a person spends hours every day playing video games, and neglecting their job, school, health, or significant other, could actually be more destructive to a person's life than someone trying heroin once and never using it again.
I think that the best model for overcoming addiction is a holistic approach, one that aims to help a person reach a healthy state in which they are thinking and acting based on the long-run rather than immediate gratification. I think that an essential part of this is feeling happy and content in the moment. Addiction is all about satisfying immediate cravings; if you are consistently able to enjoy the moment without engaging in any of your addictive vices, and, without these activities, you can feel like you have everything you need in the short-term, then you have overcome addiction. I find mindfulness exercises like meditation, or the appreciation of subtle pleasures to have a positive effect on this whole process. A lot of people use addiction to run away from their problems...difficult situations, feelings, or memories they don't want to confront. It is hard to overcome addiction if you genuinely believe that your life is in ruin, as you will feel that you have nothing to lose, but if you feel like your life is worthwhile and in order, your willpower will be greatly increased. At least, that's how I view things.
How to overcome compulsive tea shopping:
I find it ironic that people suffer from compulsive tea shopping, as for me, tea is something that is associated with mindfulness, taking a break in my day to focus both on the act of preparing a cup of tea, and on the aromas, flavors, and other sensations while drinking a cup of tea, or my company when sharing tea with others. So perhaps a remedy for compulsive tea shopping would be to spend more time enjoying the tea. If you're truly enjoying what you have, you don't need any more, right?
What do you think?
Have you had any personal experiences with addiction, either mild or severe, that you are comfortable sharing in the comments? Do you think there's much truth in the "unity in addiction" view that I put forth here? What do you think about my suggestions of how to overcome addiction?