by Corinna Louise Mendis
Pan Metron Ariston
The Ancient Greek expression above has been ingrained into my brain by my Greek Father throughout my life. It means, “Moderation in all things,” and my father, like the ancient Greeks before him, believed that moderation was a principle of life, and anything done in excess led to harmful effects on one’s life.
I work as a Physician Assistant, smack in the middle of the opiate epidemic, which demonstrates lifestyled far from moderate. As I notice how addiction affects my patients, I contemplate my own addictions.
I’m a writer. At least I consider myself a writer. I also take pride in the fact that I’m a TV Junkie. I binge-watch my TV programs just as much as I binge-write. That being said, I wonder, is writing an addiction? Are all writers addicts?
According to ASAM, the American Society of Addiction Medicine:
Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors…Changes in the brain’s wiring are what cause people to have intense cravings for the drug and make it hard to stop using the drug.”
This infers that addiction is not just related to drugs and alcohol. Addiction can be related to anything that causes a “Brain reward” such as euphoria.
I suspect that our brain chemistry changes the same way with a healthy addiction as it does with an unhealthy addiction. This leads me to believe that the term “Addiction” does not have to be associated with something bad.
Socially acceptable, “Good Addictions” include healthy foods, working out, playing music, reading, traveling, learning, cooking, meditating, dancing, The internet, phones, video games, spirituality, positive thinking.
Socially Unacceptable, “Bad Addictions” include drugs, alcohol, sex, shopping, gambling, pornography, unhealthy food, negative thinking…
You get the drift.
From my perspective, we are a culture of addicts.
Most of us have something we are compelled to do; if we don’t do it, there is a huge lack at the very core of our being. The more I think about it, the more I realize that writing also is an addiction.
To quote THE DUDE, “Far fucking out.”
Most people start using drugs when they are teenagers. I became addicted to writing at that time (among other things).
Also according to ASAM, because the brain is not fully formed at this point, the addiction literally keeps it from developing to a mature emotional state. If someone starts their addiction at age 16, and continues it to adulthood, the 30, 40, or 50- year-old person is actually functioning emotionally at a 16-year-old level.
Does this mean that I in fact am an adolescent living in a 40-year-old body because I was hooked on putting words down on the page so early? That brings up another question: When does the “good” writing addiction cross over to the dark side and disrupt our lives?
When I am writing, I become addicted to the process. I welcome the inevitable rewriting because it keeps me stimulated, so stimulated that sometimes there never is a finished product.
When I write, I am the only person in the universe, and my thoughts and ideas pour down into my fingertips and onto the keyboard. And, please, do not interrupt me while I’m writing. I simply will not respond. Not because I don’t want to respond, but because I won’t hear you. I am in a zone and any interruption will make me lose my train of thought. And that, my friends, is the quintessential buzz-kill.
In other words, writing gives me a sense of relief and release from my everyday life. It definitely makes me high.
If I receive criticism for my writing, “Ouch!” The rejection hurts, but it seems a small price to pay for the opportunity to bask in the praise that comes almost as often, and which also makes me high.
Writing takes time. It takes time away from one’s family and friends. When I start a project, I inescapably blow off the people around me. Most of the time I’m a social butterfly, but when I write, I’m a loner.
I write to escape reality. I write to get out of my own head. I write to forget about the meaningless of existence. I write to prove to myself that the meaning of existence is to write, and when I am writing and focused on my craft, I am neglecting those around me.
A few of my relationships actually ended because I was more focused on writing than the relationship. When I’ve completed a project, I do take time to hang out with my family and friends who’ve had the patience to stick around. I share my “baby” with them and am told that I’m an inspiration by the same people who threatened to never invite me to a social gathering ever again.
I think it is clear that writing is cathartic. It can be used as a therapeutic tool to purge and cleanse our emotions and alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. Writing can even be a replacement for another addiction, a recovery tool for the drug addict or alcoholic. In fact, many writers find that they get their best work done by writing as a way of overcoming a stressful event.
This brings us back to moderation. It’s been said that addicts can’t do anything in moderation. But what if the moderation is an addiction of its own? I am a writing addict and am also addicted to living the rest of my life in moderation.
Ah, I see the answer now. It’s all about balancing my addictions in the most positive way. As a writer, I’ll continue to throw myself into the writing process and enjoy the high…as long as I do it in moderation!
Corinna Louise Mendis is an award-winning writer, indie filmmaker, and Physician Assistant. She’s a creative to be watched…unless she succumbs to the dread lure of Too Much Moderation.