Discipline · Personal · Random Thoughts

Three Days Sober

That’s probably a laughable title. Who celebrates sobriety after just three days? And not even three total days, but two total days and half of a third? An addict does. That’s who.

What am I addicted to? Myself, mostly. Well, to be more precise I’m addicted to pleasing myself through a few specific indulgences, the chief of which is entertainment.

I know, I said the E word and a few of you just tuned out because you don’t want to hear anything that might guilt or bash you into change. I’m not here to make a single judgement about the virtue of Netflix or anything else in your life. I’m here to mention the effects of addiction in my life. And briefly at that. So you’re safe here. Read on.

The first warning shot I heard loud and clear was the fear of admitting/saying/writing anything regarding this entertainment addiction. I know my wife and I know she would be like, “SEE I TOLD YOU” (lovingly) and then more importantly she would hold me accountable to what I just admitted. She wouldn’t let me back track and later justify my excessive consumption without putting up a serious fight, because she cares for me. This warning shot was fired a very long time ago and yet I am only now formulating a response.

One sign that you’re addicted to something is the fear of admitting it because you can’t possibly risk losing it. That fear is literally increasing with each keystroke this very moment.

I’m afraid the next time I want to indulge I will hear this article whispering in my ear.  I’m afraid of the realities I will need to face when I experience a dramatic increase in free time. I’m afraid of what the inevitable boredom says about me. I’m afraid of quite a lot, it seems.

What’s the big deal with my Netflix (entertainment) time, anyways? Here’s what; The more I over-consume the less and less satisfied I am with myself and with the things that I know are meant to bring me true satisfaction. (Hint: God, wife, friends, etc) That may strike you as dramatic, but it’s my website and I can cry if I want to!

Dramatic perhaps but still not an exaggeration. I think it has something to do with Hedonism. Hedonism is defined as a pursuit of pleasure, self-indulgence (self-fulfillment) and/or sensual indulgence. And while I don’t get any sensual pleasure from Netflix or Playstation (cuz that’s straight up weird….) I do look to these things as a means of pleasure and fulfillment. So this is clearly a matter of hedonism. The greater problem lies however on the other side of the coin. Because while I look to these things for pleasure, I also look to them to numb the sensation that follows said pleasure. This sensation is a growing sense of meaninglessness because I continue to do such things that don’t ultimately serve me (or anyone) well. I’m not meant to be serving myself pleasure. Pleasure ought be derived from something greater (or at least other) than oneself. Or else it’s just an exercise in futility. This is a self-perpetuating cycle that requires intervention. I do to feel, but I feel worse from doing, so I do more to feel less, then I do to feel again. Yikes. I have a few of those kinds of cycles going on in my life. But I can only deal with one at a time!

I think for me (have I stressed enough by this point I’m talking about me, not you?) another reason for that sense of meaninglessness growing ever larger is because when the TV turns off, the world is the same and I’m worse. No hungry person has been fed. No church has grown. No poverty has been relieved. No disaster averted. It’s all the same. Jessica Jones was hilarious and Luke Cage courageous and Thor still my favorite. Kratos is stronger and more generators have been powered on. But me? I’ve over-eaten, under-accomplished. Muscles have atrophied. The brain has been left under-stimulated. The books unread. The chores undone. The wife unloved. The Bible untouched. And still more dust accumulating on the true treasures of my heart.

Understanding that most addicts relapse, I don’t have total confidence in my sobriety going forward. Maybe I’m not supposed to say that. I don’t know. I’ve never gone to HA (Hedonists Anonymous). But I do find comfort and hope in my ability to at least recognize I have a problem of catering to myself more than I care for others. Because really that’s what hedonism is all about. I’m spending more time ensuring I’m taken care of (entertained) rather than “considering others more important” than myself. I’m not putting anything God has given me to use for their sake. And my conscience knows this and I’ve too long sought to hush it into silence.

I do feel it necessary to say there is nothing inherently wrong with entertainment (especially Netflix!). I think the godliest and most productive/successful people that ever lived loved and appreciated various forms of it. I think it’s even necessary. The point of this post is to call attention to the fact that I fell into the whole “too much of a good thing is a bad thing”.

Here’s where I flip the article from focusing on me to you (que Admiral Ackbar “ITS A TRAP!”). But only in a small way, because I simply want to pose questions.

Are you hedonistic? If so, how? And are you okay with that? If so, why? Have you too fallen into doing “too much of a good thing” so that it has become a “bad thing”? 

I don’t expect you to answer in the same way I would (such as yes, entertainment, no, yes) but I do believe it to be a worthwhile question. I think we are all prone to this letting good things overtake us and therefore all benefit from reflecting on the matter.

Thanks for reading, and good luck.

Ps. By no intentionality of my own I just happened upon this text from John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion that so precisely minister to my needs today regarding this post that I feel obliged to share!! It was seriously a cool find. I picked up this book with a curiosity to refresh my understanding of Calvin’s eschatology, not at all the topic I happened upon! Woo! Enjoy!!

How to Use the Present Life, and the Comforts of It

“We are… well instructed by Scripture in the proper use of earthly blessings, a subject which, in forming a scheme of life, is by no means to be neglected. For if we are to live, we must use the necessary supports of life; nor can we even shun those things which seem more subservient to delight than to necessity. We must therefore observe a mean, that we may use them with a pure conscience, whether for necessity or for pleasure. This the Lord prescribes by his word, when he tells us that to his people the present life is a kind of pilgrimage by which they hasten to the heavenly kingdom. If we are only to pass through the earth, there can be no doubt that we are to use its blessings only insofar as they assist our progress, rather than retard it. Accordingly, Paul, not without cause, admonishes us to use this world without abusing it, and to buy possessions as if we were selling them (1 Cor 7:30, 31). But as this is a slippery place, and there is great danger of falling on either side, let us fix our feet where we can stand safely…. I by no means concede. that this liberty (he means a Christian’s liberty to enjoy the world’s possessions) is not to be restrained by any modification, but that it is to be left to every man’s conscience to use them as far as he thinks lawful. I indeed confess that here consciences neither can nor ought to be bound by fixed and definite laws; but that Scripture having laid down general rules for the legitimate uses, we should keep within the limits which they prescribe”

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