Summary: Getting to know the addict
I had been playing Xbox since I woke up 15 hours ago. Two empty Dominos pizza boxes sat open on my desk just staring.
Right now it's 5 a.m.
Matchmaking is getting slow and my coffee thermos is empty; must be time for bed. I say goodnight to my fellow gamers and turn off the Xbox. The thought of brushing my teeth doesn't enter what's left of my consciousness. Without walking, I move from my chair to the bed.
Two missed calls and a text from my girlfriend.
The only source of light is the brightly lit screen of my laptop. As I type in "p," the text "pornhub.com" automatically appears in the URL of my browser. I'm excited before I even press "enter."
After finishing up, I close my eyes as YouTube lulls me to sleep.
A voice inside mumbles, "I hate myself..."
"If I hate myself, who is the I, and who is myself?"
Tomorrow will be the same.
Pleasure is what happens when your brain receives a signal that an activity is rewarding. The sender of that signal is a neurotransmitter called dopamine.
Almost everything we do releases dopamine. Some things release a lot of dopamine.
For instance, sex with the girl you've been with for 3 years releases dopamine. Surfing a porn website and jerking off to any number of your favorite fantasy scenarios releases a lot of dopamine.
Playing golf releases dopamine. Playing Rainbow Six Siege with your squad against teams that you're slightly better than releases a lot of dopamine.
Eating a strawberry or cucumber releases dopamine. Eating a pepperoni and mushroom pizza releases a lot of dopamine.
It might seem hard to believe that a cucumber releases dopamine, but it does.
The problem we have is we develop a tolerance to these dopamine spikes. Our brains come to expect that any activity less stimulating than a dopamine spiking one isn't worthy of our motivation to do so.
Thus, activities which were once pleasurable to us become chores we can't bear the thought of.
This is essentially what depression is.
When I'm depressed or simply stressed over a long period of time I become driven to do things like eat junk food, watch porn, and play video games. This is because these are some of the activities that release enough dopamine to motivate a depressed mind.
These are also things I did often as a kid, when my brain was the most malleable it will ever be. I developed certain connections in a my brain that will probably never go away.
For this reason, if you've ever known someone who had a drug problem early on in life, you know they will always be an addict. The connection is too strong for your brain to unlearn it.
The next day started just the same. I browsed Reddit in bed before I finally found enough gusto to get up and make coffee.
But then something happened.
As we played Xbox that night, we started to get matched up with pro teams. It was exciting-- until we started losing...and losing, and losing. It wasn't a pleasurable experience anymore.
The flow of dopamine stopped abruptly. I took that opportunity to return my Xbox to the store. It felt liberating--just like it did the other times.
The first time it was Wal-Mart, then Best Buy, you get the picture.
My pre-frontal cortex, or the consciously thinking part of the brain, did not want to buy Xboxes and play the shit out of them all day. As soon as its slave driver looked away, the real I started running and never looked back.
When you're under the influence of your addictions, you are like a slave having to watch his world crumble around him.
Last month my brother in law relapsed on heroin. He was 13 when his brain learned how rewarding it was.
He had a brand new home with my sister, a new car, and so many bills he was constantly under the stress of. For the first time in 9 years, he went to some dealer-- not Wal-Mart or Best Buy, but probably some hood dude in Detroit, and he became a slave.
He lost his family, job, and home.
He didn't want to lose any of those things. He was genuinely a good person.
My mission in life now is to treat my brain only to simple, natural pleasures. It's learning to appreciate things like cucumbers more every day.
A big part of my mission is staying mentally healthy in order to avoid depression and long term stress which would likely result in relapse.
Things that used to seem unimaginably painful are becoming small obstacles.
"The day the body becomes dominated by pleasure is the day it will also be dominated by pain" - Seneca
Almost anything unnaturally pleasurable can become addictive
The stronger your addiction's influence on you, the more you are a slave.
Stay mentally healthy to avoid being influenced by your addictions