Overcome Addiction: get pleasure not pain
Can pursuing pleasure make us miserable? (Weird concept.)
Have you ever felt all-movied-out?
After a chocolate or drinking binge, do you feel sick?
Do you secretly wish you could give up smoking?
Ever argued with someone because you drink or gamble too much?
Do you ever feel bad because you’ve manipulated someone for your own gain?
If any of these are you, then you know what it’s like to go for pleasure and end up in pain. Pursuit of pleasure is costing you. (WTF???)
Many people crash and burn while pleasure-seeking: addicted, broke, miserable. As a psychiatrist, it’s heart-breaking to see so many beautiful people go for pleasure but end up in pain.
I’m not enjoying internet games. I just go through the motions like I’m supposed to. Twenty-three-year-old Hal indulges in internet combat for four hours nightly while he fails at college. He’s depressed.
So much good beer, and so little time to drink it. Jack can’t hold down a job and argues with his parents.
I’ve had it. Overload. Too much. Shut-down. Thirty-four-year-old Samantha stopped her life and slept for ten days. Now she’s seeing me for depression.
Josh, twenty-five, and his family, have had a living hell while he tries to give up amphetamines.
Katie, twenty-seven, is giving up sex. Some of it’s been great. But now it’s just a dull routine. What’s wrong with me?
All these people went for pleasure and found pain. In the USA nine percent of people over twelve are addicted to something.[i] Nine percent! That’s a lot of people wanting pleasure, but finding pain.
Pleasure has many health benefits[ii] and I encourage people to enjoy their pleasures. I’ve never had anyone say Doc, I’m watching too many sunsets. Or I’m overindulging in playing with my dog. Or I’m addicted to good conversations. Or I’m addicted to golf. These people really enjoy life. Their pleasure is connected to purpose. But alcohol, drugs, internet gaming, well, that’s a different story. They promise massive pleasure without effort, without purpose. They trick your brain. But don’t be tricked into going for instant, artificial pleasure and forgetting about long-term, real pleasure.
Make good choices for pleasure now and the future. To do this, you’ll need to delay gratification.
Instant & delayed gratification
Adam’s childhood was sweets, treats, and soft drinks. Obese. As a young adult, he’s still overweight and expects reward without effort. Now, his mother can’t get him out of his bedroom. God knows what he does in there! Playing, I don’t know. Adam’s life is four walls and a screen rather than sunshine and job satisfaction. It’s a small world of ho-hum instant gratification.
A great life awaits him, but Adam doesn’t know how to delay gratification. This is his Internet Use Disorder. He needs to say no to instant gratification and delay gratification.
I want it and I want it now is instant gratification.
I want it but I’ll wait for it and work for it is delaying gratification.
The more an activity satisfies instant gratification, the more addictive it is: drugs, sex, gambling. The more it delays gratification, the greater the long-term contentment: building a house, working on a relationship, playing ice-hockey.
Imagine an ice-hockey team winning a competition. After years of painful training, victories and losses, hopes and setbacks, they raise a well-earned trophy to an admiring crowd.
First the effort, then the reward.
Imagine the pleasure of friends mountaineering in the Andes. After months of planning, working on fitness, and honing skills, they’re on top of a snow-covered peak, overlooking a vast, beautiful world. Wow.
First the effort, then the reward.
If you’re like me, you’ll want to be part of something worthwhile and enjoy instant pleasures. Go for both. Here’s the trick:
Enjoy short-term pleasures,
but don’t let them get in the way of long-term goals.
Learn to delay gratification and your whole life can be better.
Listen to our first podcast on pleasure and addiction to learn more:
[ii] Tobias Esch & George B. Stefano. “The neurobiology of pleasure, reward processes, addiction and their health implications.” Neuroendocrinology Letters No.4 August Vol.25, 2004.