Tuesday, August 27, 2013

How Do You Measure An Addiction?

Sometime during the late nineties, my grandmother was suffering from some health problems, and had to stay with us for a while.  Once, during that time, her doctor told her that her electrolytes were low.  She decided to do something about it...but it wasn't the right thing.  Instead of drinking Gatorade or something similar, she sat in our kitchen and downed one glass of water after another, despite my mom's pleas that doing so was merely making the problem worse.  Though I was a bit young to understand such matters at the time, when I look back, I would assume that it was a product of my grandmother's dementia, which also affected her in other ways: confusion, forgetfulness, and all-around not thinking clearly.  Still, she persisted, and was all the worse off for it.
Was I addicted to this series?
Fast forward to last year: I randomly decided to check out the first volume--that is, three-book omnibus--in the Sierra Jensen series.  After reading the premiere novel, I read the rest of the series as fast as I could; in fact, I finished the last eight or nine books, while alternating between them and sci-fi/fantasy literature, in about two weeks.  When I thought about it after the fact, I thought back to my grandmother's insistence on downing tall glasses of water, and figured that I had another addiction, like she did.  I discussed it with my mom, and she disagreed; she felt that it was merely a sign of how much I enjoyed that series.

That right there is a sign that I have no idea what makes an addiction (or obsession, or fixation, or whatever you want to call it.)  Then again, I never have; when I was a kid, it seemed like everyone knew I was obsessed with whatever or whoever...except for me.  It wasn't until I found out that I had a medical condition that caused such irrational devotion that I decided to make it work for me.  In elementary school, when I was told I was obsessed, I denied it; in high school, I simply replied, "Yeah; so what?"  If I was going to show the signs, there was no point in denying them!

Still, one thing I have realized recently is that an obsession is always a bad thing, in more than one way.  Not only does it annoy people--seriously, you have no idea how many folks have gotten frustrated because there were only one or two topics I wanted to discuss--but it's also idolatry, which is sinful.  I'd like to think that such behaviors have gotten better with time...but I never knew they were that bad in the first place!

Though I haven't gotten a complete handle on it, I do know that one symptom of an addiction is when it takes precedence over what should be more important.  Some of you already know this story, but it's worth repeating: During the last half of 1999 and all of 2000, I was a die-hard fan of Pokémon and Scooby-Doo, and everyone who knew me knew that, for good or for ill.  Around February or March of that year, a longtime fellow church member and father of four lost his battle with pancreatic cancer.  On the way to his memorial service, my brother-in-law admitted he had cried over the guy's death, and asked me if I had done the same.  I said that I hadn't, because I felt no need.  He immediately criticized me by saying, "Oh, sure; you cry because the store doesn't have any Pokémon cards, but you won't cry over someone's death.  You really need to get your priorities straight."  It wasn't just that; on Mother's Day that year, I made no attempt to give my mom a present or even make her a card, despite the fact that I had a great printer and a Mac with Print Shop installed.  It got to the point where even my mom told me I had "a one-track mind," and you can guess what "one thing" she told me was all I thought about.

When I think back on that, I realize that it was a serious case of idolatry.  Though those Game Boy games could be fun, there are much more important things in life than a bunch of fictional battling "pocket monsters".  I have tried to be better about not letting my interests and fun pursuits get in the way of what really matters.  Have I succeeded? Not always; just last year, a former friend got rather upset because, as she said, "Some actress you're never going to meet gets more respect than a real-life friend!" I could say that my previous actions were well-intentioned, but that doesn't make them right.

The one...the only...DEMI!
Those of you who have been following my Facebook postings--as well as some of you who might not have--know that actress/singer Demi Lovato has replaced Victoria Justice as my number one celebrity crush.  Though I have liked her since at least 2008, I find that, the more I listen to her music, the more I like it.  She has several amazing songs, including "Trainwreck," "La La Land," "Remember December," "Heart Attack," "Never Been Hurt," and "Really Don't Care."  I realize how much I used to be obsessed with celebrities in the past; with Ms. Lovato, what I am going to try to do is be a fan of hers...without being fanatical.  I might need you all to help me keep that in check, though; we all know how bad I've had it over attractive female celebrities before, especially Hilary Duff, Anne Hathaway, and, yes, Victoria Justice.  It's one thing to admire a famous person and/or his/her work, but, when people start accusing you of being that celebrity's stalker, you know you've gone too far.

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