No this isn’t me coming out as a substance abuser or the newest member of AA; if it was, this probably wouldn’t be my first place to turn.
No, my addiction is a bit more subtle, and perhaps more common.
I’m addicted to TV.
I would say that we all have at least one addiction in our lives, something we go back to time and time again when we get down, something that our day just wouldn’t feel complete without. It doesn’t have to be an obviously harmful thing in and of itself, yet the fact that you become addicted to it transforms your relationship with it, into something that is a destructive force in your life.
I have this relationship with television.
I don’t know about you, but I’m an evening person. This is gradually changing as I get slowly older (and wiser?) but I still have the capacity to sit up blindly watching a flickering screen well into the early hours of the morning.
These days, if I have a dead leg as a result of sitting in the same awkward position on the sofa for hours at the end of a long film or a prolonged channel hopping session, I get angry with myself. What have I just been doing for all that time? What have I achieved? I go to bed annoyed with myself and determined to do something about it, to change my ways and stop wasting life! And yet the next night or the next week I find myself with another dead leg.
What draws me back? Sometimes I think it’s story. My wife will testify to the fact that if you ever want to watch TV or a film with me, you better be prepared to sit up and shut up. I need to see and know everything, I need to suspend reality for an hour and immerse myself in another world. When I come out of the cinema it takes me an hour or so to come to terms with the fact that I’m not a secret agent, a super hero or the president of the United States.
TV is not something I can just switch off if I’m getting tired or realise a new day has begun while I’ve been sitting there. It’s a story that needs to be completed and resolved. However I can also catch myself channel hopping in the evening and watching mind numbing things I probably wouldn’t give the time of day to ordinarily.
I heard somewhere that your mind is more active when you’re asleep than when you are watching TV; it sounds incredible but I can really believe it.
Don’t you find that just sometimes you want to switch off your mind for a bit? To ‘vegetate’ and not have to engage actively with the world?
The addictive feeling, is almost like slipping into a pleasant waking coma. You don’t have to worry about anything else, it’s just you and the screen, no responsibilities, no need even to create your own images as you would with a good book. It’s all there for you, presented on a plate – just eat it up.
I am part of a generation that doesn’t just want to be entertained, we expect to be entertained. We get bored with real life quickly and easily, so we allow the world to come to us as we sit stationary.
I hate to think of all that I could have done, places I could have been, people I could have met if I hadn’t been sitting in that same place with a dead leg.
It’s a vicious cycle you see. The more I get down about myself, the more I want to feel better or escape, and how do I escape? I slip back into that pleasant coma.
Instead of getting angry with myself, I need to be pro-active. To break through a wall in my mind that prevents me from getting up and switching it off. Often that will be not switching it on in the first place, removing myself from the situation. Our addictions are tough to break, but the things we think we can’t live without can often be more harmful than we realise and restrict us from truly living life to the full.