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Sick & Addicted

It hit me like a freight train. As a kid who had strep throat at least once a year, the ol’ immune system has really shaped up and I cannot even remember the last time I ‘lost my lunch’- other than perhaps a few immature nights back in college but we won’t talk about that now. It was the ‘bug that is going around’ and it brought on all the usual symptoms- cramping stomach, hot but cold, extensive sleeping, and throwing up. I was only out for 2 days and likely sound like a big baby but that is not the point. This post is not about how miserable the flu can be- you've probably endured it already this year. It is the side-effects that came along with recovery.

Without the physical or mental willpower to do anything else, I turned to the almighty Netflix and Social Media to be my companions on the road to recovery. This would entail popping on a show while simultaneous browsing on my phone and drifting in and out of sleep for the duration of the day. To numb the pain of the body, I opted to numb the brain as there was certainly wasn't any real work getting done.

I would say this was all fine and dandy for the 2 days I was curled up but the problem really started as I was just getting over the last of the symptoms. The energy was back, the knot in the stomach had untied, yet every idle moment was still occupied by a screen. Sure, some of it was necessary like emails, course maps, and spreadsheets, but a majority of it was mindless garbage. Junk food for the brain. The same content I used to numb body and brain had continued well past its usefulness. My idle moments were eventually occupied by reaching for my phone or typing “f-a-c-e-“ into the browser and waiting for the URL to autofill. I was addicted. I had made a habit that every free moment must be filled and that the latest YouTube “Not Top 10” needed to be watched or news article needed to be read. For me personally, I thought what could be the big deal? I was able to catch up on my work, I wasn’t slacking on my responsibilities, so why shouldn’t I deserve a few minutes to indulge?

However, like most of us connected to the web with every device, it merely starts with just a few minutes here and there. It eventually creeps into every moment of downtime turning that brief pause of relaxation into another stretch of the day where your brain cannot wander or shut down. Your 15 minutes of solace is now occupied by junk food for the brain. This is tolerable at first but it grows. Worse and worse until you finally feel like you have no free time and your day seems to just never ease up. Every task appears to blend into the next.

This is all speculative, of course, because this is merely how I felt. I was finally recovered and back on my feet yet felt like I was being pulled and stretched in 10 different directions. So how did I break this? Well, I did and I did not.

The day after I was finally able to move again without hating my ever-cramping stomach, I went for a run. And in the most corny and run-spirational moment ever, I had realized just how addicted I had become. This was the first time I was without my phone or an electronic device and my mind was actually able to wander. And the best part? It felt good! I don’t know if it was the endorphins or the Cleveland sun that we all dream about for 6 months out of the year, but it felt good. I finished the run with a refreshed mind and a goal to limit my screen time.

Now this isn’t a happy ending- albeit it isn’t a sad one either. The reason I say, ‘I did not (break the addiction)’, is because the battle didn’t end. It’s daily. It’s when you wake up in the morning and the first thing you do is see if any Instagram photos were posted through the night. It’s when you get up to use the bathroom and their most certainly is at least one news article being read while you do your business. And perhaps the worst of all is that it’s when you are actually watching a show while simultaneously browsing on your phone. The addiction to mindless content is not over with one fight. It is overcome by a constant mindfulness that your brain will love you so much more if you simply let it wander rather than endlessly indulge.