There are a handful of things that are truly valued in the United States. We place value on accomplishments, on materials and ultimately on our own pleasure. If something is fun, then it is worth our time, our money and our energy. We spend billions of dollars every year to attend sporting events, to visit theme parks and to entertain ourselves in myriad other ways.
When someone turns to alcoholism and drug abuse in New York or Princeton, it is often first in the name of fun. Addictive behavior offers an opportunity for escape and pleasure, but in time the behaviors dominate one’s life.
Addiction: In it to Win
When you immerse yourself in an enjoyable activity, time doesn’t matter. You lose focus of the outside world and become completely distracted by the single task in front of you. This can happen while watching a movie, completing a puzzle or reading a book. When you engage in an activity like this, you become rejuvenated and re-created in a certain sense. You are able to refresh your mind, break free of self-consciousness and devote yourself so entirely to something outside of yourself. This is often referred to as “single-point focus,” and it is actually considered a form of meditation.
Mood-changing drugs provide this same relief. They allow us to temporarily escape self-consciousness by becoming wholly absorbed in the experience of the moment. Unfortunately, the consequences of using mood-changers to achieve this effect are frequently negative.
Even in pleasurable activities there is often an element of competition. Everyone wants to be “better” than the other, or to be told they are the best in this or that. Work values have so heavily invaded our pleasure activities that they have become goal-oriented. Instead of enjoying a sport for what it is, there is an underlying desire to win and to make something profound happen on the field.
We are no longer indulging for the fun of a behavior, but instead to accomplish something meaningful. Suddenly, addictive behaviors are rationalized as a method of achieving something greater—whether that is a perceived happiness, peace of mind or something else.
The constant need for meaning and competition in once-pleasurable activities will also drive people to seek an escape from the goal-oriented mayhem to find a way to live in the moment. This is something that is often achieved through mood changers. This stands to argue that our value-driven society is actually pushing more people further into the grips of addiction.