the opposite of addiction 

This is a 7 minute talk I presented recently at my local Toastmasters club.


Heroin. Sex. Facebook. Gambling. Working too much. Exercise. Alcohol.

What’s common about all these things?

They are all forms of addiction.

One of my favourite philosophers, Alain de Botton, once said: “almost everyone is an addict, when addiction is defined as a manic reliance on something as a defence against dark thoughts”.

Also, Russell Brand, a rather famous former alcholic and heroin addict once said “I look to drugs and booze to fill up a hole in me; unchecked the call of the wild is too strong”.

But is addiction this bad? Can we overcome?

There’s a common belief about heroin addiction that if you take heroin enough times then you will become a heroin addict.

This came from a series of experiments last century where they put a rat into a small cage and they gave the rat two choices: water and water mixed with heroin. What they found over and over again is the rat would drink the heroin water and then couldn’t stop drinking it, ultimately overdosing and killing itself. This same thing happened over and over again leading us to think what we think about heroin addiction.

But imagine you seriously injured yourself today. You’d probably be taken to hospital in an ambulance and you’d most likely be given heroin. It would be much like street heroin, only more pure and effective. And when you discharged from hospital, chances are you’d continue on with your life. You wouldn’t be a heroin addict. But this contradicts what we think about addiction.

In the seventies there was another series of experiments with rats. Instead of putting a single rat in a small cage alone, they built a much larger cage, called Rat Park, and put lots of nice things inside: ramps and amusements, fresh food and lots of rats. Rats could connect with other and have sex with each other, and they provided the same drinking options: plain water and water mixed with heroin. But what they found this time around is whilst some rats tried the heroin water out of curiosity, not a single rat became hooked, not a single rat overdosed, not a single rat died from the heroin.

It seems the original rats died from lack of connection instead of addiction.

But what about seemingly good addictions? Like exercise, or working hard all the time?

Can “good” addictions be bad?

These seemingly good addictions are bad because they are about avoiding inner thoughts of our mind. They’re not about connecting with others.

I’m a reader and big supporter of The Big Issue magazine in Australia. The Big Issue is a unique publication in that it’s sold on the street by homeless people who become street vendors, they each get to keep half of the cover price which is currently $3.50 of seven bucks.

But I’ve read numerous stories about the biggest difference being a street vendor for The Big Issue makes to a homeless person’s life isn’t the income, it certainly helps, but the connections that are created between the vendor and their customers. Having customers the vendors get to know mean they start establishing human connection: something that is missing for a lot of homeless people.

We may never overcome addiction, so the key is to choose the least harmful one.

Get addicted to connecting with and helping others.

Johann Hari once said “the opposite of addiction is not sobriety; it’s connection”.

I recently saw the sequel to the cult classic 90s film about heroin addiction called Trainspotting. I’ll leave you tonight with a quote from the sequel to that film:

“You are an addict, so be addicted. Just be addicted to something else. Choose the ones you love. Choose your future. Choose life.”

Audience erupts in thunderous applause.

→ parenting advice: don’t kill them

I’ve maintained the idea for some time that becoming a parent is simultaneously the best and worst that can happen to you. That is why I am always torn about what to say to couples who are expecting their first child as you see them seemingly obsess over trivial things like buying cute baby shoes and over what colour to paint their newborns room-to-be.

From now on I’ll just refer to expecting couples to this article, it’s dark, but so true.

View story at Medium.com

the gutter is within

“I have a friend so beautiful, so haunted by talent that you can barely look away from her, whose smile is such a treasure that I have often squandered my sanity for a moment in its glow. Her story is so galling that no one would condemn her for her dependency on illegal anesthesia, but now, even though her life is trying to turn around despite her, even though she has genuine opportunities for a new start, the gutter will not release its prey. The gutter is within. It is frustrating to watch.”

~ Russell Brand on Heroin Addiction

one good thing

I’ve found that focusing on having one good thing of each thing makes me happier and my life easier, plus it’s better for the environment.

Take a pen for example. It’s easy to have lots of various, cheap, disposable pens lying around and be constantly losing/finding them as you don’t really care about them as you’ve just picked them up at a conference and can easily get more.

But imagine if you had just one good pen. You’ll notice how suddenly you care about that pen. You won’t lose it as it’s your only pen, and it’ll be much more pleasant to have a good pen that you know will always work for you and is nice to write with.

The same applies to other things in your life:

  • one good pair of shoes for walking;
  • one good pair of sunglasses for seeing;
  • one good razor for shaving;
  • one good suitcase for travelling; and
  • one good teapot for brewing.

It’s all too easy to continue to accumulate cheap, disposable crap in this day and age, and it can be sometimes hard to justify $30 or $50 on a pen (when you buy a box of cheap biros for a few dollars), but it’s definitely better in the long run 😊

king of animal traps 

I recently watched the story of how Penn Jilette came to be one half of Penn & Teller through his obsession with collecting and studying animal traps:

“I showed my classmates my skill, they were impressed. But not impressed enough that I felt I could make it my whole career. 

So I broadened my horizons and I diluted my goals. 

And that’s how I got to be half of Penn & Teller.”

toastmasters

I have recently started attending and have already signed up to join a local Toastmasters club. My first impressions have been overwhelmingly positive: a community of people who have all taken the step to make themselves better at speaking and being confident. 

The thing I love about the club is the diversity of talent: members range from newbies like me to Distiguished Toast Masters (DTMs) who decades of regular public speaking experience, and there’s no agenda except for personal improvement. 

One of the DTMs gave a short speech last week about how Toastmasters changed his life. This really stuck with me. He explained that Toastmasters had given him the ability to speak clearly about anything when he felt like he needed to speak, not just to be able to speak all the time. This is awesome and something I am striving towards myself. 

rooster year is bad for roosters

“According to Chinese astrology, people in their zodiac year are believed to offend Tai Sui, the God of Age, and incur his curse. It is believed to bring nothing but bad luck. Therefore Chinese astrology followers pay special attention to their conduct every twelfth year of their lives, i.e. in their birth sign years.”

source

I was born in 1981 which is the Chinese Year of the Rooster and 2017 is also the Chinese Year of the Rooster. Luckily I found out from a friend about the curse of Tai Sui and I took some precautions before the lunar year began last week:

  • My standing desk in my home office has been rotated 180° to face due East (facing away from Tai Sui in the West);
  • Kitty gave me some bright red underwear; and
  • Kitty also gave me a jade rooster which I carry around in my pocket.

Here’s hoping these precautions are enough to fend off Tai Sui, only time will tell.

→ embracing the mundane

“It wasn’t until I committed to traveling a journey of intentional self growth that I discovered where life is really lived—in the mundane. Life is lived in those in-between moments we often hurry past. It’s in the car rides to school, standing in the grocery line with your son, reading to your kids before bed time, or clearing off the dinner table as a family.”

Eric Ungs ~ 5 Simple Ways to Live an Abundant Life through Self Simplicity

Becoming Minimalist is one of the few sites I follow on Facebook and I’m always interested to read their articles.

I also really love the article The Completely Achievable Path to Becoming a One-Income Family.

my perfect day 

Kitty asks…

“Describe your perfect day”

I overthought this one for too long. It’s actually easy. I simply stole this idea from Alain de Botton:

“when life’s knocked you around a bit and when you’ve seen a few things, and time has happened and you’ve got some years under your belt, you start to think more highly of modest things like flowers and a pretty sky, or just a morning where nothing’s wrong and everyone’s been pretty nice to each other.”

My perfect day would be one where nothing goes terribly wrong and everyone in my family has been pretty nice to each other. 

My question for K:

“Would you say your best days are before you or behind you and why?”

three choices

So here I was thinking that there were only two choices in any tough situation in life:

A) change it (fight)
B) leave it (flight)

But there’s actually three:

  1. change it
  2. leave it
  3. accept it (change yourself)

Having number 3 up your sleeve is a handy trick for the occasional tough situation but I’d advise against using it too often as it has been known to lead to complacency. 

one foot in the gutter

“It’s odd the way that, in spite of the exuberant appurtenances of fame, the undeniable and, let’s face it, enjoyable tokens granted by success, I’ve always had one foot in the gutter.”

Russell Brand

I’ve always thought Fatboy Slim’s album title ‘Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars’ is an apt description of life.

As Oscar Wilde famously said:

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”