Riding the Bull: The Tipping Point Between Habit and Addiction
Eight glorious seconds: That’s all they’re after. Sure, there’s the money and the fame. But it is not really all that much money. And at the end of the day, no one remembers their name. Bull riders do it for the rush. They know it is probably going to end in tears. But if they can stay on that wild, unpredictable, bucking, death machine of an animal for eight eternal seconds, they have achieved nirvana. Of course, even if they make it, we all know what’s coming. They are going to end up face-down in the dirt with their life depending on how well a guy dressed up as a clown does his job. What a ride. What a life.
It is fun to watch when it is a rodeo. It is sad to watch when it becomes the metaphor of someone’s life, especially if that someone is you. In this case, riding the bull is a metaphor for indulging in risky habits that ultimately end in addiction, and all that entails.
Addiction is usually divided into two categories: chemical and behavioral. While those categories may be useful for clinicians looking to prescribe the most effective drugs based on the particular type of addiction, at some level, all addictions are behavioral. No one starts doing drugs, or drinking, or smoking in a vacuum. There is always an underlying reason.
That is not to say that all addictions are equal. One way of subdividing them are by distinguishing between the habits that are known to be dangerous, and those that are innocent all the way up until their not. Those are the ones that tend to sneak up on us. Who knew shopping could become an addiction? No matter how savvy we think we are, we are all susceptible to some innocent habit becoming a jones that requires a 12-step program. That just seems to be the way humans are made.
Recognizing the Tipping Point
Another way that humans are made is that we don’t seem to be able to see it coming. On a roller coaster, there is the point when the cars are moving upward. At some point, it slows down and begins to right itself moments before taking the plunge. That is the tipping point. Every body knows when that tipping point comes. If it was possible to get off the ride at that point, many would. We do not seem to be able to see the tipping point coming where habit and addiction meet. We are shocked when the plunge finally, inevitably comes.
Recognition and Recovery
What we are reasonably good at is recognizing problems in other people. Evolution has made us surprisingly none self-aware. Our brain has no nerves and no way to sense itself. We have evolved to be hyper-aware of the world around us. Historically, our worst enemy was external. As a result, we are not well suited for recognizing the enemy from within.
Our trusted community can recognize those enemies and help us to see them. To ignore the observations of those well placed to make them is denial. Only after recognition can recovery begin. The testimonials you see in this video from Morningside Recovery attest to the fact that recovery begins with recognition. There can be no recovery without it.
You should also check out the Morningside Recovery Pinterest boards, which are full of useful infographics, inspirational words and healthy living tips.
Balance Means Staying Well Clear of the Edge
A lot of people think of balance as an object precariously situated on a fulcrum. That is not a good metaphor for life balance. It is a recipe for madness. There is a parable about three people applying to be a school bus driver. The interviewer asks each candidate to drive the bus as close to the edge of a cliff as possible without going over. The first comes within a foot. The second, an inch. The third refuses to take the test declaring that she would prefer to stay as far from the edge as possible.
When it comes to habits, we are the driver that wants to come as close to the edge as possible. We might take some recreational drugs here and there. Perhaps it starts with a habitual strong drink after work, just to settle down a bit. We experiment with things that we know cause addiction in others. But we are convinced that we can drive that bus just a little closer to the edge and be okay.
Here’s a tip: When you find yourself having to explain to your trusted community that you can handle it, you are probably already too close to the edge. Life balance is not about being precariously positioned atop an unstable point. It can only be achieved when we decide not to ride the bull at all.