**Warning** - Existential crisis ahead
I've been lucky enough to be introduced to the work of Jim Maclaine, an addiction specialist, during my journey and it has really opened my eyes to a wider, more holistic view of health. His definition of addiction speaks to a "pathologically self-indulgent" self. This manifests itself most obviously in the life of substance addicts who find their safe place in bottles and pills.
However, when I look around I see us all (humans) so wounded and isolated that all we can do is indulge in the fantasy of some sort of control. Trained into a fierce grasp on "independence", we cannot help but feel "negative" feelings when we inevitably fail to maintain that control that is oh-so-important to us (yes, this is heavily Buddhist). After all, we can't control everything.
Since we don't usually learn how to appropriately feel and manage our emotions, we then end up reaching for something to dull the pain a bit. Basically, in the Western world (some countries/workplaces/families/cultures more than others), we are given all the tools to become "pathologically self-indulgent". It is simultaneously heralded and stigmatised. "Always look out for number one" and "You deserve it" so easily become "Have some self-control" and "What is wrong with you?!".
When this kind of individualism is the basis for a life, why would we expect people to know how to not go overboard when the shit hits the fan? We don't! We encourage it! Think about the last hard day you had. Did someone say "You look like you could use a drink" or something along those lines? I can't even count the times I've heard this in one way or another over the years.
So why are only some of us seen as sick? And why are we all so certain that we have the right to judge someone with an "addiction" (and those of us who wear the evidence of it on our bodies)? We all binge. We try and quiet the unrest in our heads through binges/avoidances/distractions of all kinds: video games (think Candy Crush), food, work, alcohol, TV series (GOT marathon anyone?), cigarettes, exercise, watching other people's dramas unfold (trashy magazines, Facebook stalking, social media of all kinds), travelling, sex, gambling, and pretty much anything else that can be done to an unhealthy excess. Same mechanism, different substance.
How do we know when we've crossed the line? I'm not sure. I'm slowly (very slowly...) learning how to listen to myself and others. I'm willing to consider that when I start hanging on to something a little too tightly (a bowl of pasta, my iPad...) there is usually something else going on. It's not the best feeling in the world. After all, it opens up the door for all of those uncomfortable feelings to waltz through. But, I've also learned that just because I don't deal with them doesn't mean they will go away. They just hang around and infect everything with their unresolvedness, waiting patiently for when I'm all out of substances to avoid them with.
I have also noticed that the more I consider myself just a person (amongst the other 7 billion people on the planet) (Maclaine) the more connected I feel and the more willing I am to let go of my self-indulgence. Tough work. But with every little victory there is little more peace and a little better health.