I’ve spend most of my life addicted to something. My addictions ebb and flow and have changed over time. I’ve been temporarily addicted to silly things like email/angrybirds /twitter/news; but over time I’ve realized there are a few categories that I seem to resurface time and again. There are certain areas of our lives that seem to gravitate towards dependency. Places where subtle addictions slowly creep into our lives.
It is a lot easier to see addiction or dependency in other people. Americans are certainly one of the most marketed to population in the world and it is apparent in our appetites and habits. When we look around, we notice the people we care about and are often aware of the addiction in their lives. I like the idea of being completely free from dependency. To be independent of so many addictions that we see in ourselves, family, friends or loved ones. The notion of freedom from all addictions stems from a great lesson from Sean Seay. In one of his messages about families, he introduces the notion that the one thing we all want, at the very least, is for our family to be free from dependency. If we have children it is even more paramount. We don’t want our children or people we love addicted to food, drugs, alcohol, video games, cell phones, or spending.
Is dependency bad? Not necessarily. But in my experience, I’ve identified many things that keep me from living a fully optimized life. I’ve also noticed several common addictions that directly affect my life and the people that surround me. The strangest part is that most people are not even aware of their own addictions. I feel like simply discussing some of the most prevalent is a great place to start.
Caffeine – I’ve been drinking a cup or two of morning joe for many years now. I think the habit is still more attractive than the actual caffeine itself but the combination is still quite powerful. I’ve taken little breaks here and there but I know I still crave some of the brown juice every morning. I’ll probably take a break from the caffeine part and just do some tea or decaf just to break my habits. We have stopped doing caffeine after our morning coffee but I still rely on it to start off my day.
Medication – Medicine, when used correctly, is amazing. And in some cases individuals need to live a normal life. But if I have a choice, I’d like to live as unmedicated as possible. I’d prefer not needing a pill to help sleep, breathe, concentrate, be pain free, or even have normal cholesterol levels. I want to do anything in my power to address the underlying issues (if possible) than to rely on a medication to fix my problems. I’d rather fix the stress that is causing me to sleep poorly, remove allergens that stop me up, eat healthily, exercise, and even fix the the things that are causing pain.
Alcohol – Again, addiction is not the best word to capture my relationship with alcohol. But it has been a mixed one. Dependency on alcohol to relax, sleep, have fun, dance, or relate with people is a much more likely scenario for most of my friends and family. I’ve written extensively about my relationship with alcohol over time.
Spending – I don’t want to be dependent on spending to have a good time. I enjoy efficiently spending money but I also want to develop habits that have low variable costs. And, if I plan strategically, some of the most entertaining things I enjoy are virtually free. I love playing sports, riding bikes, running, reading and hanging out with my family.
Luxury – One of the strangest addictions that is becoming more prevalent in America. As our incomes rise our expectations tend to rise in tandem. Do 1,000+ sq ft houses, multiple bathrooms, softer beds, prettier food, and fancier wines make us happy? Are leather seats and 4 Stars necessary to be content? I want to be able to enjoy all scenarios and have an open mind even when my comfort is challenged. Luxury is one of the most powerful and addictive drugs I’ve seen in my surroundings. And very few people, myself included, realize just how dependent we are on American luxuries to feel happy.
Cell Phone – This one is a tough one for me. And I’m not even sure exactly how addicted I am to my phone. I do know I have that strange sense of panic when I leave it at home or at the office. Most of the time I don’t even notice how often I check it. It is subtly subconscious. How often do you check your phone a day? Per hour? When we take a break from screens for a few weeks I’ll have a better idea of exactly how much I depend on my phone.
Debt – Even among academics and financial writers, debt seems to be a popular topic with many different viewpoints. After doing financial counseling for years, and working with hundreds of families- I’ve seen addictions and dependency on debt that still surprises me. I’ve had just enough taste of debt to understand how individuals and families become dependent on it to drive, live, eat, purchase gifts, buy furniture or go to school. I don’t want to be dependent on debt as a tool in my life.
I feel like the items I mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg. Addiction can be easy to see but dependency is much more subtle. I didn’t even mention convenience (including convenience foods) or comfort. They almost deserve their own article. But I still find it fascinating. I think the first step to addressing dependency is simply pointing out that it exists and we are more addicted than we expect. Do you find yourself dependent on any of these items to feel normal in certain situations?
Is a life free of dependency a noble goal? Is it worth striving for? I think so. I still love the idea of being physically and mentally independent. As much as possible, I do not desire to need external stimuli to feel normal. I want to maintain a fulfilling life without dependency. I want to be free. I want to feel free.