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Changing Addictive Behavior in a Culture of Convenience

Changing Addictive Behavior in a Culture of Convenience

image of elevator to symbolize addiction in culture of convenienceBy Thaddeus Camlin, Psy.D.

The process of changing addictive behavior is anything but convenient.  To make matters worse, people changing addictive behavior find themselves couched in a culture of convenience.  Moving away from a reliable source of comfort is already hard enough with an enveloping worship of all that is indulgent.

Dr. Richard Alpert said that we are “living in the yuppy paradise of more is better.”  There’s probably some truth to his quote, and it might be more accurate to include a caveat about convenience.  More hard work isn’t better.  More sacrifice isn’t better.  I want it easier and, like Veruca in Wonka, I want it now!

I want doors to slide open for me and cars to start by pushing a button rather than by the exhausting hassle of turning a key.  I want to talk to my phone rather than touch the screen.  I want my phone to read my face not my thumbprint.  I want my food delivered so I don’t have to drive a mile each way to pick it up, and I definitely don’t want to cook.  I want my bed to adjust by remote control to my specific height and weight.  I want to talk to my TV, and more importantly, I want it to listen!

I want my car to drive itself.  I want my garage door to sense my impending arrival so I don’t have to push a button – I already have to push a button to start my car, ugh.  I want automatic lights so I don’t have to fuss with a switch.  I want Apple or Spotify to pick my music for me so I don’t have to identify my mood and a song that suits it.  But, it is absolutely unacceptable for me to want to sniff some powder for some instant energy and focus.  If I dare indulge such devilish desires, I must annihilate them immediately and for all eternity.  Unless, of course, the powder is brown and I buy it from my Starbucks drive-thru after they’ve run water through it, that’s totally fine.

A culture that exalts convenience and condemns the use of substances is akin to a tree dancing in the breeze and cursing itself for enjoying the wind.  The tree can’t stop the wind, so it might as well enjoy it and not hate itself for doing so.  We relish our take-outs and drive-throughs, express checkouts and fast-lanes, then expect people to ‘just say no’ to the most convenient, fast-acting means of attitude adjustment?

As long as I take the elevator instead of the stairs, circle the parking lot multiple times rather than park in an open space in the back, and use one-click purchasing with prime delivery to avoid a store, I am in no position to argue that those who lie on their couch and pop a pill rather than go to the park to fly a kite should be thrown in jail.  There’s nothing at all wrong about enjoying comfort and convenience.  There might be a little bit of hypocrisy, however, in enjoying the benefits of our McCulture while imprisoning others for doing the same.