Are you addicted?

220px-Michael_ElphickI’ve just learned a bit about Michael Elphick, an actor I’ve always liked and admired. He famously played a part called Shultz, and had a variety of different acting roles on TV, stage and films over the years, his biggest part being a TV series called ‘Boon’, where he played a charismatic ex fireman turned private detective, alongside Neil Morrissey, another fine actor.

What I also learned, to my sorrow, was that he died in 2002. And what I didn’t know about him was that he was an alcoholic, and his alcoholism undoubtedly led to his death at only 55.

I mentioned it to a friend who is an ex-actor, and it turned out that he’d met him professionally having acted in a Boon episode with Michael Elphick and assured me that yes, he was every bit as nice and charming as he seemed onscreen, but he mentioned in passing how sad it was that alcoholics so often give up the booze, then ‘fall off the wagon’ repeatedly until the wagon well and truly crushes the life out of them.

Terry Tyler’s interesting recent blog (http://bit.ly/18lruDN ) gave some riveting insights into alcoholism, and it made for some shocking reading – do take a look. Several of her friends succumbed to drink and a few have actually died, in their prime of life.

My grandfather and great grandfather were both alcoholics, and both of them abandoned their wives and families because of it – not as dreadful as it sounds since I’m sure they sent money back home, and in the case of my great grandfather, he actually went to America to start a new life, no doubt intending to send for his family when he’d found his feet. But it’s fair to say that alcohol wrecked both their lives, and to some extent the lives of their families. Although my great grandfather lived to be over 80, my grandfather died at around 50 of lung cancer, no doubt exacerbated by alcoholism.

Of course, alcohol isn’t the only thing you can be addicted to. I once worked at an old people’s centre run by a Christian organisation, where the principle, himself an ex alcoholic, preached about Christianity with incredible zeal. A girl who attended there once said to me ‘Well we’re all looking for something in life, aren’t we?’ That was when I realised there was such a thing as an ‘addictive personality’, and people afflicted with this might just as easily fall into drug or alcohol addiction as fervent, pathological obsession about religion, computer gaming, rabid political actions or indeed almost anything. The difference between a healthy hobby and an addiction is that the latter takes over your life.

Gambling addiction always seems a mystery to me, but it’s obviously no less potently awful than other types of addiction. What about food? There are some people who go to the lengths of having their stomach stapled, because they cannot resist overeating. And the cycle appears to be that they eat because they have low self esteem, to cheer themselves up, they gain weight, so have even less self esteem. Food addiction is doubly hard to conquer, because, as someone once said to me, ‘you can’t go cold turkey, as you can with drink, because you have to eat to live.’

Possibly the latest and most pernicious addiction, or perhaps a better way of putting it is ‘habit’ is fuelled by the proliferation of these terrible ‘log book loan’ and ‘payday loan’ companies. I’m sure some of them are perfectly acceptable and offer reasonable terms but there are plenty that charge interest at fantastic, horrible, unimaginably high rates, and once you’re in the clutches of these evil leeches it can be enough to drive anyone to suicide. And again the vicious circle: the more money and assets you have, the better terms you can get if you need a loan. But If you’re at rock bottom you’re screwed right down so that you have even less.

Addicted to love? Not such a rarity. Does anyone remember the play ‘The Deep Blue sea’ by Terence Rattigan? The crux of the story is the obsessive love of the woman protagonist for the entirely unsuitable man she was living with. She knew that he was incapable of returning her passion, but her addiction was so complete that the play starts with her trying to gas herself because he forgot her birthday. Not, of course, purely because he forgot her birthday, but because of the reason why he forgot: she knew that he simply didn’t care about her as much as she cared about him.

Addictions aren’t always such a bad thing. Brilliant scientists no doubt are addicted to solving the problems associated with their work, and contribute to the sum of human knowledge as a result. Single minded hard working types accrue money and prestige for themselves and their families. Dedicated sportsmen hit the heights because of their dogged determined obsession to push themselves to the limit to the exclusion of everything else.

So are you addicted to anything, or to put it another way, do you have an all consuming passion about something, even if it’s not causing you trouble in life? Shoes? A football team?  Driving fast? Loud rock music or even opera? Are you addicted to anything? I’d really like to know.

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10 thoughts on “Are you addicted?

  1. Great post Geoff and it’s so sad about Michael Elphick. I didn’t realise he was only 55. I remember not long before he died he had a part in Eastenders and he looked terrible, it must have been the drink taking its toll on him.

    I think I could be a bit addictive but luckily I’m also lazy so my addictions don’t last long. Although I’m a bit of a reckless spender so can identify with people who get into debt. I don’t think I’ll ever be rich as money trickles through my fingers like water. 🙂

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  2. Hello EL, you can’t be lazy to do a job plus write all those books and tweet as well. Yes, I read about Michael Elphick’s part in Eastenders, never saw him in it, but I know he got overweight, due to the drink. And, I gathered, he only started drinking heavily because he was alone on tour so much, away from friends and family, the drink was a kind of company. Did you read Terry’s post about alcoholism? Very moving.

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  3. I did read Terry’s post and agree it was very sad and thought provoking. I suppose the problem with addictions is that we all think that we have them under control but then they take over.

    I’m very lucky because I don’t work all the time. I’m currently in one of my “reflective” phases so have loads of free time. I’m probably going to have to get a job in September though due to my ridiculous spending habits 🙂

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  4. Geoff, this is another excellent post.

    My cousin died of alcoholism when he was around 55 years old. So sad, especially for his children and my aunt. It’s common for people to think of addition in terms of drugs, alcohol, gambling, and sex, but like the examples given in your post, addition comes in many forms. I’ve also noticed that people with addictive personalities generally replace one addition for another. Like an alcoholic who gives up drinking, might end up with a gambling addiction, their rationale being that alcohol kills but gambling doesn’t. They lack logic in knowing that both are destructive.

    I myself don’t have an additive personality, but I do display compulsive behavior. Everything in my house or vehicle must be neat and orderly and if it isn’t, I develop anxiety. My desk, where I write, can have file folders, writing tables and various other things on it, but if they are not neatly placed, I cannot write or think until everything is in its place.

    I think some people see addition and compulsion as the same thing. However, the major distinction between the two has to do with the individual’s awareness of reality. When people have a obsessive-compulsive disorder, (like me) they are usually aware that their obsession is not real. They are often disturbed by feeling the need to carry out a behavior that defies logic, yet they do it anyway to relieve their anxiety. For example, if I see dust on my furniture, no matter what I am doing, I will stop and get the Pledge and a dust rag to wipe it all off, otherwise I can’t feel relaxed.

    Some people say I’m addicted to cleanliness, however, people with addictions are often quite detached from the senselessness of their actions, feeling that they are just having a good time, and that other concerns aren’t that important. It’s known as denial because the addicted person denies that his or her use or behavior is a problem. With me, I admit to having a compulsion!

    So, to answer your question with another question…could I be addicted to compulsive behavior? Yikes!

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    1. Hello Rose, how interesting, and sorry you have that compulsion. I have a friend who has OCD, but he rationalises his as a kind of fear of germs, and of course there’s the ‘ritual’ aspect, of worrying about leaving the house without locking up etc etc. And of course with OCD you can’t ‘give something up’ as you can with standard addictions, you must be driven by the need for order and cleanliness. I am the total opposite, which perhaps is worse: I am generally disordered and scruffy, and happy to live in untidiness. I suppose the ideal is to be somewhere between the two extremes.

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  5. Aaaah addiction… well, you have probably read on my blog that I used to have a binge eating disorder which I overcame with Paul McKenna’s amazing positive suggestions on his CD ‘Easy Weightloss’. God only knows what state I’d be in today if I hadn’t found him.

    I also had what many would call an ‘unhealthy obsession’ with a world famous singer/actor which flared considerably in the late 1990s and early 2000s during a particularly lonely period. Being ‘with’ my idol transported me back to my childhood when I felt more safe and loved than at any other time in my life. So I surrounded myself with like-minded friends, spent ages online talking about him, finding new pictures, watching footage, contributing to discussions about him, etc.

    Both of these addictions coincided too and I do think there’s always a trigger – mine was losing both my parents at age 34/35. Filling the void, the empty emotional space they left behind, with a ‘love’ for someone unattainable and with mountains of comfort food was how I chose to handle the situation. Thankfully I got lucky and found a way out. I try not to judge people who get addicted to something. Let’s face it, no one wants an addiction – if they were easy to break there would be no need for rehab centres, etc. I think the trick is to identify what the trigger is and work on resolving that issue, not necessarily pumping people full of meds. There is emotional pain at the heart of any addiction which has to be addressed and confronted in order to move forward and leave the addiction behind. That’s MY opinion, I’m not saying I’m right. It was correct in my case though.

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    1. Hello Alice, thanks for sharing that. Of course, no one wants to have an obsession, it’s a terrible thing, and I’m very glad you got over yours so successfully. I think if you;re fit and healthy without terrible problems it’s easy to judge an alcoholic or drug addict, or binge eater harshly. But without knowing how they feel, or what their problems are, you should always show understanding, as you do, never condemnation.

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