When does pleasure turn into addiction

Have you ever indulged in an extra helping of food, a pint of beer or a glass of wine? What about another kind of binge, the Netflix kind? Maybe you like to put a wager down on your team, horse or even what sex the next royal baby might be – we really do bet on anything. These are all parts of life that we can enjoy, or can we? 

The divorce left Jane a single mother with 3 kids. Her plan to grow up, get married and live happily ever after didn’t exactly have a contingency for this scenario, yet life happens all the same. Fortunately, a glass of red tends to fix most things. Well, it does for Jane, at least. A glass of red with every meal was a treat she always looked forward to. 

Think back to a time when you were eating your favourite food. You’ll know there is a pivotal point – let’s call it the ledge. When we’re on the ledge, we’re left satisfied but still craving just a little more. The closer we can get to the ledge without falling over, the better.

At other times, we take that extra step right over the edge. Once we’re over the ledge, we’re left wishing we never took that final step. Before we know it, that extra spoonful of ice cream becomes the tub. For Jane, that glass of wine turned into a bottle. 

We all go over the ledge from time to time, some of us more than others. The question is, why? What pushes us to take that step when seeing the cliff below? Jane saw the cliff. Still, she stepped over. Her divorce dragged on for months, and problems seemed to surface at every junction. Her kids needed braces, her dad’s health was deteriorating, and possibly the worst blow – Oprah retired. Now, what was she going to watch while drinking? 

Before long, a bottle seemed like self-control. Before she packed the kids’ lunches, she needed a drink to settle her nerves and feel normal. Two years later, a glass of red with dinner turned into a bottle with every meal.

Our vices are unique as we are. For some, it might be gambling, sex or social media. The list goes on. But are our vices bad? Is sex bad? Well, you’re here, so no. What about social media or gambling? Indeed, reading, donating to charity or singing kumbaya around the campfire are probably more wholesome. Still, in moderation, we can’t whack them with the “bad” label. 

Is vegetable juicing bad? There was once a man who died from juicing. Vitamin A is important for our health, the same vitamin we get from carrots. You can eat carrots all day, and you’ll probably be ok. But, once you start juicing them, it becomes possible to overdose on vitamin A. What about juicing? Should we add it to the list of vices? 

Juicing and Jane’s boozing share the solution to our dilemma – what makes a habit bad? Jane drank away her pain while another person juiced theirs away. Drinking and juicing isn’t bad. Nothing in life is that simple. It’s the reason behind a thing that makes it bad, never the thing itself. It’s not the what that makes something bad, but the why behind it. 

You might have a stressful project or return from work exhausted, so you start eating. Only this time, it’s different. It’s not for the taste or the pleasure; it can’t be. You’re swallowing it down before you can even taste it. On another occasion, you take your time, slow down, and stop once you’ve had your fill. Your first meal brings joy, but your second meal doesn’t bring anything. Instead, it merely numbs your pain. Life can be as painful as it is beautiful. We can’t drown our pain without suffocating the beauty. 

A vice only becomes a vice when we use it to trade joy in exchange for less pain. The worse thing about vices is that they only work in the moment. Eventually, that pain is going to come looking for us. Every time it comes back, it gets stronger. The decision to face it without escape becomes harder each time we run away. 

Jane’s last drink was 10 years ago, and her kids are all grown up. These days it’s cheesecake that draws her in. Only, she runs marathons for fun and can do more pushups than her nineteen-year-old son. What’s her secret? 

These days, I always ask myself why I want to do something. There’s a difference between eating a piece of cheesecake to finish the day off with a bang and eating the entire cake to forget the stress of cooking for my inlaws. 

Published in Premium Stories, Uncategorized
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