I am an advocate for words. I have faith in their objectivity and power. I am perturbed and often feel the need to defend them when they are shackled by connotations, either positive or negative, and forced to mean things they do not necessarily want to mean. Armed with dictionaries and thesauri, I see myself as a benevolent arbitrator for words sentenced to miscomprehension.
So ladies and gentlemen of the jury, today we will be hearing the case of the word addiction and its derivative addict. These words have been hijacked by the war on drugs and its conservative puppet masters. When presented with the word addict, most people are forced to imagine dirty sex-fiend junkies, wallowing in their own filth as they follow every hedonistic urge, but I am here to argue that we are all addicts dealing with our own unique compulsions, and if we expose our addictions, we will see that we are all obsessed with many things. I will prove that the very nature of life is addiction. The question is not who is an addict and what is their vice, but rather how do we face our addictions and see them for what they are?
I have been an addict for as long as I can remember. Before you judge me, please let me present the word on trial for closer examination:
someone who is so ardently devoted to something that it resembles an addiction
What is addiction you may ask?
The condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with or or involved in something.
If we look at the definition above than it could be argued that we are all ardently devoted to something. When seen as passion, we applaud addiction, but when we become obsessive, we are told we have a problem.
Perhaps I have gone too far down the wrong track, let me back up and better explain my case. I was in the third grade when I first became cognizant of the emptiness that would cloud the rest of my life. Even as a child I was fully aware of a small void that seemed to fluctuate in size and follow me everywhere I went. The mistake I made as child was feeling that I would have to spend my life trying to fill this empty space. It was then at the age of ten that I started my obsession with filling this emptiness. I forced myself to constantly function in a state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that was psychologically or physically habit forming to such an extent that its cessation would cause me severe trauma, in short I became addicted to finding meaning in my life. I became obsessed with trying to fill a hole that was never meant to be filled.
Throughout my life, I have been addicted to many things, but as I look back I see that every obsession was rooted in one addiction, a desperate attempt to fill this emptiness.
I am here to argue that everybody is addicted to filling the emptiness in their lives on their own terms, but more importantly I want to share the lesson that I have learned, which is that this void need not be filled, on the contrary it is vital that it remains to allow us room to breath. This nothingness is the source of all life and not only do we not need to close it, we must learn to nurture and cultivate it.
Reality is empty and meaning is an illusion. Life need not have meaning. When we try to assign experience with value we are clouding the emptiness of reality. Don’t get me wrong, I am not an nihilist, I am simply arguing that it would behoove us to simply sit and become aware of the emptiness of life. We should not be afraid of it.
The more we throw into the abyss, the more traumatic our lives will become. We will find ourselves in a state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming to such an extent that its cessation would cause severe trauma, the definition of addiction.
I have also realized there is no healthy way to fill the empty space. Some people try to fill the gap with: love, god, politics, social-action, music, art, and family. We think of these actions as healthy, while other peoples’ choices are looked down upon as vices: money, consumerism, sex, drugs, war, and violence.
A few weeks ago, as my life was falling apart around me, I crawled into bed in the middle of the day with the shades drawn and confronted my emptiness. I saw all the things I had used to feed my addiction to finding meaning in life. I saw my vices and virtue swim in-and-out of the abyss in the darkness, when I suddenly realized I didn’t have to try so hard. I am here now to air my list of addiction as a way to expunge them and make room for my emptiness. I invite you to take a look and think about what you use to fill your emptiness.
There is no judgment here, there is simply an addict dealing with his addiction to life. Some of my habits may appear virtuous and worthy of praise, while others may seem manic, neurotic or down right psychotic, but these labels serve no useful purpose. Because as I said earlier, any attempt to fill the void is a mistake. I am trying to learn how to swim in the nothingness of my life. I have spent so much time and energy chained to my habits that it feels good to let them go and float about in this darkness. Below are the things I have used to fill the emptiness in my life:
Art, the need to connect with other human beings, music, literature, words, language, drugs, alcohol, love, friendship, tattoos, technology, politics, social justice, near death experiences, film, writing, the search for god, spirituality, women, poetry, teaching, traveling, being an outcast, fitting-in, work, communism, socialism, Buddhism, capitalism, vegetarianism, the end of isms, philosophy, education, concerts, food, television, fatherhood, the need to share every aspect of my life with as many people as possible, blogging, photography, science, rebellion, revolution, marriage, gadgets, clothes, sense of style or lack there of, and gardening.
I am sure I could think of more, because ultimately everything we do is an attempt to escape from simply sitting and seeing that life is empty, and that this emptiness is okay.
After I quit drinking and using drugs a few years ago, I thought I had cured my major addictions, but now I see that drugs and alcohol are merely minor aspects of addiction. I will always be an addict, until I can sit and observe reality and become comfortable in the void I discovered as a child.
So what do you use to fill the void? What are you addicted to?