Dying Daily #34: Cheating Cheaters Keep Cheating

I am speaking to a class at Texas Tech later this week, so I am cheating again. It’s what I do.

I work with a lot of addiction, even if I don’t completely buy into what the medical model tells us about it. That’s actually probably why I get to work with addiction so much. That’s also probably a whole other blog.

One of the most disillusioning things in my life was to realize “nother” isn’t a word, like in “whole nother blog”. Disappointing.

What does it mean to be addicted to something?

A lot of definitions will reference compulsive behavior, self-destructive choices, and changes in the brain. The changes in the brain thing seem to be the defining aspect for the disease/medical model of it, but the brain’s plasticity is pretty amazing. A lot of things change the brain. Exercising, meditation (in just 8 weeks!) reading, trauma, all sorts of stuff. Shit changes all the time.

We get addicted to all sorts of things. These are some of the things I see in my office in that could be classified as addictive by generally accepted definitions:

Drugs (illegal, legal and OTC)

Alcohol (it’s Lubbock)

Video games

Pornography

Sexual choices that destroy their personal life

Exercising

Internet

Netflix

Reddit

Chat rooms

Food

Other human beings

How are these things addictions? What does that mean?

In general, it all seems to be about how we prime our dopamine production, what we sensitize it to.

If something brings us pleasure, we will seek more of it.

Addictive things very much change the brain in areas that affect judgment, decision making, memory, learning and behavior.

The thing is, all rewarding experience does this. Falling in love, having an intense spiritual experience, going somewhere new, all sorts of things. We don’t call them diseases and we don’t pathologize them, even though people can start making very destructive choices because of them. Do we classify things as addictive when they are more likely to encourage poor personal choices?

Really, all of this might just be about learning something really, really well.

It might be about our brain finding something that makes us really happy (in the moment), but also brings us all sorts of negative consequences. It might be about learning how to withstand this.

Tomorrow we’ll look at how mindfulness can help us with all of this.

That’s right, extending the cheating.