Addiction Should Be Avoided

I woke up in the middle of the night from a dream that wasn’t a nightmare, but it triggered a daymare for me.

I’m currently reading “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace. It is a disturbing book, and I’m sure last night’s dream was not the first I’ve had since starting that book, and it probably won’t be the last. I’m about 2/3 through it, and the theme is addiction, the consequences thereof, and the difficulty involved in clawing one’s way out of addiction.

One unique theme of this book is a fictional addiction from which there is no escape. A bootleg video cartridge becomes available to certain people, and once it is watched, the viewer cannot stop watching it. If the video equipment is shut off, the viewer will do any and all to see to it the video is restarted. The damage is permanent. Once viewed, the victim will spend the rest of their life trying to catch another glimpse. They will lose all ability to care for themselves, and left to their own devices will wither and die.

After I stirred from a dream about the characters in the book, I languished in that half awake state that I especially enjoy in the winter. The bed is warm, the covers just heavy enough, the flannel sheets snuggling every square inch of aware flesh of my body. Then the terror started to seep in.

Several people I’ve spoken with have told me they’ve attempted but not finished this 1,000 page book. In fact, I only heard from one person that made it all the way through. Then it hit me… the book was written by a clever psychologist, and is in fact a trap! Like many addictive substances, early exposure to it is not pleasant, but as the exposure continues, the experience escalates from tolerance to pleasure to compulsion. I was on the cusp of this compulsion! I’ll soon be unable to do anything except read and reread this book. I felt I had to warn the world, and I especially needed to speak to my friend that had read the book, and find out he was ok.

It seems a little silly as I write this now, but at the same time, I can feel the echo of fear that is still fresh enough to be viable. One takeaway from this book is that addiction is a terrible thing, and that our brains, some brains more than others, seem to be hardwired to accept addiction, and embrace it so completely that recovery is a lifelong struggle that many fail to achieve.

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