I remember a student presentation I heard in grad school about 12-step programs and the spiritual component in them. Someone asked the professor, "Aren't these people just trading one dependency for another?" The professor stroked his scholarly beard and sagely announced, "Well, not all dependencies are equal." True dat, I thought.
Perhaps he wasn't as wise as I believed at the time. I'm starting to think a dependency is a dependency is a dependency. An addiction is an addiction no matter how benign the object.
Case in point: I'm addicted to puzzles. Seriously. I just discovered a game on my laptop: spider solitaire. And suddenly I can't stop playing it. I've promised myself every day this week that I wouldn't even look at it -- and yet I've played over 70 games of spider solitaire in the past few days. Pathetic.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg. I have a history of getting hooked on such games. Solitaire, mah jongg, game cube, sudoku, Rubik's cube -- if it's a puzzle that I can possibly find the solution for, I'll do it . . over and over and over . . .
Another: jigsaw puzzles. There's one on my dining room table right now that has been laying there since the beginning of the summer. No, it hasn't taken me that long to complete it. I've probably completed it a hundred times or more in the last five months. In fact, just last week I did it upside-down -- as in, no picture showing. That's right. I'm a junkie.
Once again, I find myself a fascinating psychological study. There's something soothing to me about these games. Each puzzle has a solution -- a solution that I already know or can easily find. So unlike real life. During a particularly stressful time a few years ago, my pastor asked me how I was coping, what I was doing to take care of myself. Well, I was doing jigsaw puzzles. The same ones, over and over and over again. Better than drinking my woes away, right? (I'm starting to think it was the grace of God that kept me away from alcohol when I was a teenager -- Lord knows where I'd be now.)
But even if puzzles are significantly less harmful than, say, cocaine . . the fact is they are an addiction and they interfere with my life. When I think of all the stuff I could be getting done while I'm stacking virtual playing cards on my laptop, guilt consumes me. (It's a considerable list -- Keith could detail it for you.) More than that, I'm sure God has another healthier way He intends for me to soothe whatever anxieties I'm dealing with -- and I'm sure his method is better than mine in countless ways.
Gotta wonder what I'm missing. I mean, what could be better than spider solitaire?