Joyless, “The Internal Conflict … of DOOM!”

Thursday, Jan 22, 2015

Thursday morning: I can’t count yesterday as a smashing success, but it did have some good notes. No smoking, no drinking, no video games! ‘Course, one day doesn’t mean I’m cured.

The weather (for winter) was pleasant, so I enjoyed the walk to work yesterday. It takes about twenty minutes and it felt good to get some sunshine on my face. I don’t recall having that thought at all; mostly I remember wishing I had a cigarette for the trip.

Just like writing without smoking, walking without smoking is something, like all things, I’m going to have to relearn. Since I didn’t pick up smoking until I was 18, some of these activities actually have roots without cigarettes and they should (?) be easier to remember once I start to dismiss the harmful habit(s).

In some ways, I’ve partitioned my mind with my drug-use. Caffeine, nicotine, sugar, marijuana – these things infiltrated their way into every part of my life; there is nothing I probably haven’t done (regular or extraordinary) while under their influences. Alcohol is different; while under its influence I really only pursue mindless pleasures… which I’m fine with, given alcohol’s loss of wherewithal.

I began writing again (in earnest) probably in late ’13. I remember making the conscious decision to NEVER drink and write, as inebriation doesn’t really lead to brilliant dialogue. I was trying to prevent future blunders and disruption of something cohesive by giving myself that rule. It worked… to a degree. I’ve drunkenly edited before, but that’s an escalation that began recently.

I want to think about that, though. “Never drink and write!” doesn’t sound like a rule at all, but a compromise. It’s what it is, too. My “sober” Self had that talk with my “drunken” Self and they agreed to not bother each other. There was no change involved, so no pain; in fact, it was a built-in excuse that if I ever didn’t want to write I could simply opt out by chugging some booze.

The dialogue mentioned in the paragraph above is an example of a familiar argument: “mind versus brain.” Addiction is the same kind of battle – the instinctual pursuit of artificial stimulants versus the “normal” instinctual pursuits of food, water, community, etc. The “true” addict’s nature will trump food, water in favor of drugs, the instinctual pathway rebuilt internally to reflect this new inclusion of things necessary to life.

(As an aside, I would like to state how wondrous an organ the brain really is! Even simple, basic brains found in smaller, ‘not-quite-so evolved’ life forms perform a certain task or tasks in an astounding way, provided the correct form of stimulus is used. The human brain is infinitely more complex, but also infinitely more wasteful. In order to make the human mind work, the body just floods it with energy and nutrients, constantly feeding the most (arguably) mechanical part of the human corpus, which in turn constantly produces “something” by way of thought in regards to the stimulation received by the environment around it. It should at least. I knew someone who admitted to just “blanking out” and having no thought at all for a period of time, and for the life of me, that is something that I cannot imagine. But that doesn’t take all the energy; where does the rest of it go?)

Since video games hit the scene when I was five years old, and I played them, it’s safe to say they provided some sort of augment to my mental development as I aged. How much so, I cannot say, but just as it helped develop problem solving, categorization, whatever, it also added a little spot inside my mind that encouraged video games’ use as a mental stimulant and entertainment source. There aren’t many things that are entertaining and educational. The safe argument one can make for literacy is that if you don’t know how to read, you can’t play certain video games; although the powerfully awesome human adaptability would probably overcome most of that issue.

(I wish it worked that way for math!)

To return to the vague point, that’s what happened inside my mind. Every cigarette, every bowl of marijuana, every other drug – they all carved their initials in various spots in my mind. The more I used these things, the deeper, more plentiful, and detailed the carvings became. The same is true for video games, and outside of weaker but still stimulating signals from television even earlier in my youth; video games were the first mental vandal.

So now my brain has all these mental scars of various things that have imprinted so well that now I do need them to “survive.” My mind knows better and while it goes along for the rides, there is always a quiet voice trying to pull myself away from these non-essential things. It’s easily ignored when the cascade of emotions from resolving extreme conflict (provided by video games) add an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, couple that with a cigarette providing its pleasure, perhaps even add a nice glass of whiskey for ultra-relaxation and so on and who could hear that tiny voice to come back?

That’s why I had to make that original compromise – “Never drink and write!” (That sounds ridiculous to type out!) As wondrous an organ as the brain is, it is dumb, and it can be overwritten, since all of its behaviors can be calculated. That small compromise was the first time my mind was ever really heard by my brain and my conviction in the statement led my brain to accept without argument.

Now I don’t drink and write. And now I know that I can convince my Self to do something, I just have to believe it so wholeheartedly that my brain is convinced that there can be no other way, despite all the addictions’ and their carvings.

But how? That is much easier said than done and having an inkling of an idea doesn’t mean success, either. As stated before, there is only one brain. If I’m not sure of my idea, that much won’t be hidden. If I don’t really want to change, I’m not going to convince the brain that it’s time. Why would he believe that?

The whimpering voice that cried out for change has to become stronger. It has become stronger. Tuesday, I managed to shrug off the urge to get cigarettes and spend money on uselessness. That won’t be the only time I’m tempted and it certainly won’t be the strongest temptation, either; especially if I’m already under the influence of any other of my addictions. Knowing this and taking strength in personal victories is what will add to the strength of my conviction and give my Self the power to trump drug-and-media-use in favor of food and improvement.

I think after a week, with only the slightest change in diet and lifestyle (outside of the conscious attempt to remove myself from media), my mood is starting to improve a little. I feel optimistic; I’m armed with belief and knowledge and even though my brain is poisoned against me, it still, at its core, wants what’s best and I just have to stomp it into submission. What uplifting words!

And I need them, too. Thursday is a troublesome day, the temptation being to get a pint of whiskey for the evening and coming weekends. Thursday’s drinking is an escalation from what used to be a Friday and Saturday habit. When I picked up working on Thursday night’s I had the opportunity to get that pint a day earlier, so that idea started carving itself in the brain, too.

Here’s that “I’m aware of it!” moment. If I ignore the flimsy (since it’s recent) feeling to drink tonight, it will just become that much stronger tomorrow, where the habit is more finely engrained, culminating in the strongest feeling on Saturday, assuming I haven’t already gotten the pint by then. I know it’s coming. I know the time at work will be frustrating and due to the nature of the place, I will have to deal with people who are intoxicated. I will fight the “when in Rome” urge to fight fire with fire and if I have to embrace complete and utter madness to do it, then I will became famous for my lunacy. I am armed, I am strong.

There are a few hours before work. I feel as though I’ve been productive, which means my brain will start the excuses that I can play video games, but I think to encourage discipline, I have to ignore those thoughts.

Here is the perfect opportunity to write something other than logbook thoughts, or better, read any of my research material so that progress is made! Because I can’t completely figure out how much, if any, influence the map has over my drinking, I will avoid it today, since I know that I’ll already have triggers-a-plenty.

Yours,

Justin Lehman

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