For a recent assignment in my addictions counseling class we each had to consider something in our lives that we are addicted to and give it up for 14 weeks during this semester. Nothing major; we don’t want to actually ruin anyone’s lives during grad school. But something that we are addicted to enough that it would sufficiently sting in the process of abstaining from it.
(Which, by the way, makes me ask: is there any such thing as being marginally addicted to something? Or is any addiction an addiction indeed?)
I learned about myself last semester during a particularly trying cross-section of difficult counseling classes and real life that I require the built-in escape mechanism of TV to cope with the drama of being a grad student. I require drama on my television to serve as a surrogate for my own drama, allowing the catharsis of the unfolding storyline to be my own catharsis when I otherwise had no outlet for such. So. No way was I giving up TV altogether for this entire semester. I had done that for Lent a few years ago, which was hard but decidedly doable because I wasn’t a student at the time. And I very much appreciated what I learned from the stillness and quiet of being detached from the stimulation of TV and movies.
In an exercise of compromise with myself I decided that I would still allow myself the freedom to partake in the release of stories, but I would instead turn off the TV at 10pm so that I wouldn’t be falling asleep to the bright glow of my iPad screen and the lull of a familiar episode of whichever favorite show I was currently re-watching. Just a minor cutback in my story consumption.
All well and good, right? A healthy compromise with myself?
And yet, I simply have not been able to stop. Abstinence lasted all of one week. What is it about the patterns of storytelling that enrapture me beyond my ability to detach, disengage, and distance myself? The very idea of being without some form of story—be it shot through my veins visually via the glow of my iPad or through the tactile weight of the pages of a book—causes no small amount of anxiety for me.
All that to say: I fancy myself a story junkie. Story is in the very air I breathe; Story is the glasses through which I see and interact with the world. The task is to discern the veil between where I end and where Story begins, to discern the influence of Story in the very minutiae of my life. Call me an addict, call me attentive—but either way, I have lashed myself to the ancient mast of Story. Here’s to the ride.