Saturday, December 13, 2014

Can Addiction Be Beat?

The honest answer is, I don't know. Very few people possess the expertise to say so, and I am certainly not an expert. So if you are struggling with addiction and have somehow stumbled on this post, please read with a grain of salt in hand, it's an opinion piece, factually I can only speak of my opinion, not the workings of anyone else's mind, body and their relationship with addictive substances and passtimes.

One thing I feel confident on commenting on, is the general nature of beating an addiction - the fact is that it takes the entire rest of your life to prove you've beaten it, but only a moment to disprove it.

For those unfamiliar with me, my addictions are arbitrary and relatively speaking, trivial. But they have been educational to confront for me. I haven't been in a KFC since New Years Eve last year. I used to eat it at least three times a week. Was that an addiction? Or merely a habit? Probably the KFC part was habit, the sugars, salt and animal fats were no doubt what I was addicted to.

Following that I quit McDonalds, then caffeine, alcohol (which technically I was never addicted to, I had my problems with alcohol, but they came from low tolerance rather than dependence), pornography, and desserts and soft drinks - which I simplified into sugar.

Unforch, unwittingly I had stumbled into what would become the next demonic health fad - quitting sugar. I have written about that before.

I want to talk about that one, because curiously though it is the thing I quit most recently, it's the one I get most acknowledgement for.

Here's an unexpected side-effect: I have inspired other people to quit sugar, or aspire to quit sugar.

The thing is though, when I say 'people' what I mean exclusively is women. What I find curious, is that I have been a pretty serious long distance runner for years. This obviously brings me great health benefits as my weight remained stable (if unideal) despite having a diet that often consisted of alternating between KFC and McDonalds.

I also was quite conspicuously training for and ran a marathon in my social circle. I have not inspired anyone to take up running, in the years I have been running. If I have, it has been men - though I'm not sure if I 'inspired' them for their own benefit or they were inspired to compete.

But in 7 months or so, the number of women that have confessed to me that they really should quit sugar, and those that have tried it out has genuinely surprised me.

This is what I hope isn't the case - for many women seeing a man forego sugar immediately is presumed to be 'dieting' behavior. They are noticing the bi-product of quitting my addiction - weight loss, and projecting onto me conformist body image behavior. Then feeling guilty that they don't have my dedication.

I am fairly certain this is not what any female friend of mine consciously thinks, I just suspect it describes a set of hardwired but unintelligible emotions my female friends feel. I don't know what they tell themselves but I am always suspicious of the reasons they give.

Which brings me to my next point of discussion. Pornography, I had previously written in a set of posts here about how pornography (and specifically - videos) had become too 'hardcore' for me, and what I mean by 'hardcore' I now understand to be 'misogynistic' and 'grotesque'.

I maintain my theory that this is because porno is a drug, and acts like a drug - users build up a tolerance, taking them longer and requiring more 'stimulation' to gratify them. By taking them longer I know from my own experience that porno's true cost is search time. You can trawl the internet for an hour and a half to find one image that hits the spot. In the meantime finding plenty of material that is a turn off.

More concerning though is the 'more stimulation' at the risk of reiterating something I had previously written, I would point out that porn videos can only hit two of our senses - visual and auditory. The women of porn (and men, I guess) need to be visually super-stimuli (ie, larger breasts, more extreme hip to waist ratio, redder lips, longer lashes etc.) to compensate for the lost sensory input of video (touch, smell) that make actual sex with an actual person a much better experience than any porno ever viewed.

The sex acts engaged in, likewise become more extreme to compete with 'the real thing' and for some reason, this has trended towards anal penetration becoming a status quo, and slapping, spitting on, choking, gagging and calling women 'bitch' pretty commonplace in porn videos.

With few exceptions I quit porn videos long before I 'quit' porn. I now see pornography as a social problem, an industry that badly needs regulation, socialising or some drastic intervention.

It comes up the least in conversation though, I guess because I am often offered tea, coffee, alcohol, biscuits or desserts that I have to decline and explain, but am rarely offered pornography to watch.

I don't trust it, I find it incredibly hard to trust. Pornographic video in particular challenges my concept of consent.

What I'm confident about is that the norms of porn do trickle down into the norms of sexual conduct of everyday couples. Trends in porno set trends in conventional sex. I suspect oral sex, as performed by women on men became almost ubiquitous as my generation came of age. It certainly existed before, and probably prior to the legal definition of time immemorial, but not ubiquitously so. That 60s-70s stalwart 'the Joy of Sex' referred to couples who naively were attempting sex via a woman's navel instead of vagina.

While not necessarily a bad thing in terms of liberating people to indulge their sexual fantasies, I am sure, and feel confident the book 'Female Chauvinist Pigs' had found in research, that the widespread adoption of oral sex was not equal between the genders. Guys were not uniformly going down on girls to give them pleasure and express affection and tenderness.

I'm not really down on the teenage highschool gossip like I was when I actually attended highschool, so this is pure speculation, but I imagine the number of girls between 16-18 that have consented to anal sex with their partner has skyrocketed by 8000% between my graduating year of 2001 and now.

From year 8 to year 12, I got the gossip of some 300 students at my school. Off the top of my head I can recall about 5 kids getting busted giving blowjobs. These stories are memorable only because the kids got busted, the kids in actual relationships not having spur of the moment relations in the boys toilets during 4th period must have been engaged in fellatio much more frequently and in much greater numbers, though with the average age at 17 to become sexually active, many, myself included had to content ourselves with kissing.

Anal sex is a more concerning trend because porno creates a larger degree of illusion, unreality. The first being that actresses are into it, the second being that the actresses are sober and the third being that it's fine and harmless instead of being painful with lasting aftereffects. Bj's can be depicted with similar degrees of illusion (particularly face fucking) but in general sucking a cock on video and the reactions of the participants are not that far from what happens at home.

Most concerning though, is spitting on women, slapping women in the face or on the ass, telling them they like it, calling them bitch etc. These aren't fetishes, they aren't playing a role, or any role other than hating women. Women should not be exposed to this message. Men should not be exposed to this message. It should not be able to play emotionally through their brains, even if they (and I) feel we can process it cognitively.

A case can be made for virtually every sexual fetish, including anal and even rough play. Degredation of women is not a fetish though, it is something else. There is no way to spin degrading acts both verbal and non-verbal as a kinky fetish. I'm sure many have tried though.

I saw a post of a lot of quotes from former porn stars today, and many of them said 'everybody is on drugs' I think this statement is both powerful and weak. It is weak because making a blanket statement about all porn actresses is just a weaker argument than taking only your own perspective - it is much more relevant that a single actress had to be high on cocaine and ecstasy to get through their scenes than for them to assert that everyone does. Because just one is enough to permanently destroy the illusion required to enjoy porno.

Viewers are trying to identify with a sexual fantasy, and whatever else is said, and however many men out their identify with rape and brutality, the vast majority are fantasizing about encounters that are mutually pleasurable (if unrealistic) between consenting adults. That ability to identify goes away once you can no longer trust whether an actress is saying 'oh yeah' in response to the sex act, or in response to being high on MDMA and coke and completely dissociated from what is going on.

Which is to say nothing of tumblr and pornographic stills. I guess if it is taken from a porno shoot, whether as a gif or a still image. There is no difference. But tumblr is full of sex blogs consisting only of still images of lingerie, bikini and nude models, you can find ones that never depict any kind of sex act. Good old fashioned pornography in other words, like the magazines that predated the internet available in newsagents and stolen by teenagers.

Those really are the side of porno addiction I quit this year, because I compulsively consumed them and they in turn consumed much of my time. I am much more okay with modelling, pin ups etc. on ethical grounds. Selfies I am not going to touch here, they are to say the least problematic. But a model working with a professional photographer, staging shots or doing shoots can be fine. Van Styles and Cherie Roberts I trust. It can't be said of everyone, there are certainly sleaze photographers out there. I recall one whose thing was to reach his tattooed arm into shot and touch the models he was shooting, just seemed akin to that whole domination vibe that put me off porno videos in the first place.

And I should say, that just because I object to porno, and it is little discussed doesn't mean I unequivocally oppose porno. I find it plausible that people comfortable with their bodies, whom have an exhibitionist streak could consent to documenting sex acts that they enjoy and distributing the footage for general consumption. Where no party is exploited beyond being subject to piracy. I may have even seen some porno that was ethical. Amateur porn (particularly couples making their own) in general is a lot more trustworthy than industry made porn. What I don't think is happening is that such porn is made, nor likely to be made by the porno industry as it stands.

But all of these things, I have quit. I may have backslid on occasion, but never fell back into habitual consumption. I ordered a coconut juice for example at a restaurant and it had added sugar. Having ordered it and the waiter opened the can, I just drank it anyway and took note not to take such risks in the future.

I also consume condiments that no doubt contain sugar, what I haven't done is drink a bottle of tomato sauce as a substitute for the ice cream I used to consume.

But onto the central question - Can addiction be beat?

I quit all these things, true. Sugar particularly was clearly a problem-solver, stress induced consumption habit that relieved on a daily basis, stress and to some extent emotional pain. And I live without this security blanket now.

But... I ran, between 1-4 hours 6 days a week most of the year. And post marathon when I tapered back my training I got pretty heavily into video games.

At this early stage (less than one year in) it would seem that while I can beat specific addictions, I can't live without some kind of security blanket. Video games in particular, are clearly detrimental to my health.

This is the struggle of those who are addicted, and a lesser known thing. Is someone an alcoholic when they seem to go two three months of heavy drinking, then go cold turkey? What if they then having sworn off alcohol are suddenly taking heavy painkillers round the clock?

They aren't an alcoholic but they are an addict. Both opiates and alcohol can numb emotional pain.

I have noticed that certainly in my own experience, I certainly have less security blankets to go to than I used to. I can't really comfort eat anymore which was the big one, nor manage my energy levels via caffeine (deciding when to relieve my withdrawal symptoms that is) I have no recourse to 'dutch courage', nor relieve my sexual frustration by logging onto a sex dedicated tumblr and perusing.

Running is by it's nature a discipline and frankly, a pain in the arse to indulge. I certainly get addicted to it, but it self-regulates because it is by it's nature effort.

Video games I should quit, but I am reluctant to because like facebook, for it's many downsides it has it's uses to a visual artist. It also is regulated by being constrained to my computer. I have to come here and make time to play the games. I am not seeking to eliminate all escapism from my life.

I notice I am far more likely to actually deal with shit now. By virtue of having less security blankets, those I do have become far more transparent, far more flimsy. Running indeed is little more than a planning exercise for dealing with shit. I emerge from it focused and relaxed. If only the same could be said for video games.

I imagine it is possible to live without security blankets entirely, without short term avoidance strategies. I am not sure if it is desirable.

A guy at a party I was at earlier this evening said of my non-drinking 'whether you are a hardcore drinker or a hardcore abstainer, you are still letting alcohol control your life' which I think is true and speaks to the tragedy of addiction. It does never leave you.

But with this common ground, the two choices are very different, and those differences have meaning. If you can beat one specific addiction, even if it results in you having an addiction to carrot sticks as a cigarette substitute, I feel you certainly should. 

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