Maybe weed isn't your vice. Maybe you just know someone who smokes entirely too much. Maybe you know someone who drinks too much. Maybe you freak out if you don't eaten your peanut M&Ms every day.
It's okay; everyone has a vice and engages in a little addictive behavior from time to time. However, if you do something just to get a little pleasure right now, at the detriment to your overall happiness (present and future), you've made a poor decision.
Do it regularly and I'd say you have an addiction, even if it's a minor one.
The choice between now and later can be difficult because our brain has two distinct and sometimes conflicting parts. You have the lower part that controls a lot of unconscious activity, instincts and the Freudian ego, which I like to call your dumb brain.
Then you have a higher brain that is capable of more complex thought and reasoning. This is where critical thinking and problem solving occurs; it's the smart part of your brain. If you can't seem to quit or moderate a behavior that you know is bad for you, it likely has something to do with your lower brain taking control of things.
We all have impulses, but we don't always need to carry them out. Our higher reasoning comes in to help us realize that certain behaviors, although instantly gratifying, are causing us more harm than good in the long run.
I see my friends succumbing to minor addictions, usually involving alcohol, and reducing their overall happiness just for another drink (or four) that won't even make them feel THAT much better in the moment.
I'll go out and get drunk with my friends, have a blast, but (usually) choose not to have those extra seven drinks. And the next afternoon, when my friends are finally drudging out of bed -- feeling like death -- I'll be feeling great, having already gone out for an awesome bike ride. It's like I'm continuing the good times from the night before instead of recovering from them.
Some say that drinking alcohol is like borrowing happiness from tomorrow, and I don't necessarily agree with that. If you go out drinking and meet people, socialize and dance when you otherwise would have stayed home and watched Netflix, it's hard to say that you are borrowing happiness and not creating it.
You just have to outweigh the bad with the good. I think your happiness is much more dependent on your activities than the substances you use.
Weed has always been my vice. I was getting depressed last year and would smoke to make myself feel better. I knew it wasn't helping in the long run, but I always gave in to the impulses. I really wanted to cut down, and I just couldn't seem to stop smoking.
I felt like I was in "A Scanner Darkly," where drugs dominated people's daily lives. Eventually I asked myself, "If I'm not controlling me, who is?" This is where "The Dog Whisperer" helped me out.
Like most reality shows, every episode follows the same formula. Someone has a dog behaving badly, Cesar Millan comes in to analyze why the dog is going crazy and his solution is always the same: He concludes that the owner needs to be a better pack leader by being calm and assertive.
I realized I was letting my dumb brain take too much control and my behaviors were being led by the assertive idiot in my head. It helped me to think about my lower brain as if it were a dog or a little kid who had understandable, but ultimately unhelpful compulsions.
I started to assert my higher reasoning in a way that calmed my destructive impulses. It wasn't just that I was smoking too much; I was smoking at the wrong time and in the wrong state of mind.
My depression was mostly due to lack of physical exercise and personal relationships. A lot of nights I'd be too tired and unmotivated to go out -- which I realize now is not laziness, but depression -- and I would decide to get high instead, thereby losing out on the exercise or socializing that would eventually bring me out of the depression.
Now I make sure to do the things that actually create happiness, not use up tomorrow's supply. I don't smoke every day anymore. It used to be a habit; instead of wanting to smoke I would feel like I needed to smoke. I'd be on autopilot from impulse to action.
Now, the decision to smoke is exactly that: a decision. If I'm calm and content, doing something truly enjoyable and I still want to smoke, then I do. If I'm feeling down or anxious, I've learned it never really helps.
Drugs offer solutions to these mental issues in the short term, and to addiction in the long term. They mask the underlying problems -- allowing them to continue and worsen -- adding into the mix drug tolerance and side effects.
I'm not saying don't smoke, drink or partake in guilty pleasures; just don't just let your dumb impulses control your life. It's not easy; these urges can be so strong that they make wants feel like needs.
Peeing is a need. If you need to pee, then go pee. If you "need" to have another whiskey ginger, it may be wise to take a minute or three to think about what you're really searching for.
Photo via We Heart It