364 Days ’til 40: Addiction Versus Habit?

23 Feb

Addictions.  We All have them.  Many of us hate them.  Many of us love them.  And, yes, many of us LOVE to HATE them.  Addictions are a tough subject to tackle because there can be a fine line between a healthy habit and an unhealthy addiction.   The reality of the spectrum ranges from health-promoting habits to death-inducing addictions and everything in between (such as being annoying as he**).

First of all, I should differentiate a bit between habits and addictions.  I personally like to divide it into categories of health versus harm… though, even this is not a “clean” definition and there is lots of room for gray areas.  Because of all of the gray areas, I think it is best to give a few examples.

Smoking cigarettes.  This is an addiction.  It has the potential to cause a great number of health issues and is of little value to the smoker.  Over time, the smoker may need more cigarettes than initially in order to achieve the same nicotine effect, causing the stakes to get higher – something typical of addiction.

Daily exercise.  This is a habit.  While many people feel a deep inner desire to exercise and may be addicted to a “runner’s high,” exercise is something that promotes health.  Over time, as a person continues to exercise, they build endurance, strength and skill.  This betters themselves through the exercise habit.

While the above seems logical, there are already gray areas.  What about smoking marijuana?  Cancer patients and AIDS patients will often get permits to smoke marijuana medicinally as a way to control weight loss when their bodies are very ill.  They may be addicted to the marijuana as a way of calming themselves and increasing their appetite, but they are using it as a tool to attempt to restore health.  In this circumstance, it would not be considered an addiction, but a smoking habit necessary to maintain health.

Similarly, exercise is usually seen as a health-promoting habit.  However, sometimes individuals exercise too much or for the wrong reasons.  An example of this would be exercise bulimia.  A person who feels the need to jog an hour after eating a meal with minimal calories is not promoting health, but is addicted to exercise in a way that could cause physical harm.

When is an addiction okay, when is a habit not okay?  The fine lines are ones we will always have to carefully walk.  I crack my knuckles on a regular basis (I have since I was in third grade).  It is a bad habit, but it is not causing me any medical issues.  The sound can annoy people, but there is no immediate harm to myself or others when I choose to engage in knuckle cracking activities.

My daughter bites her nails, sometimes so low that they bleed.  This is not a good habit as it hurts her and has the potential of causing more harm than good.  She is harming herself and has to be taught how to self-regulate and stop.

I am always saddened when I see celebrities die as a result of their addictions.  They have so much going for them in life that is literally thrown away because of their desire to numb themselves.  I would hope that celebrities, our role models, would be able to find the balance and set an example with their lives.  I would hope that they can be the first to admit that there is nothing wrong with getting help for addictions and habits that cause harm.

I LOVE my writing habit, and I will continue it for another 363 days.



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