On Addiction

Like the last two participants in musical chairs circling the final remaining seat, my son and I hover over my laptop. Yesterday our 20” desktop iMac put itself to sleep – actually, knocked itself out completely by shutting down – and when my son approached to do his homework, it refused to wake up. I tried to come to the rescue, but none of my tricks worked. I suspect exhaustion and a condition of under-appreciation (the computer, I speak of.)

The power supply on this machine went out once before and needed to be replaced, so I figure we are going down that road again. Only this time there is no old backup computer waiting to be called into action. That one died an overdue death months ago leaving behind its unsheathed hard drive on my desk like a tombstone.

With the iMac off in repair land, the sole remaining computer in the house is my laptop, which I guard like it’s my third child after teenaged son and undersized dog. I share my son and pet more easily than I share my laptop, for it is my personal zone, the guardian of my two-dimensional life. A virus here would knock me out more than one in my own body.

But homework really did call, so I relinquish my machine to my son and then go into full-blown withdrawal. While I’m not on my computer all the time, knowing it’s out of reach makes me start to salivate just like when you declare a lover off limits and (s)he suddenly becomes more appealing. You may not call this person for weeks, but just add the mandate that ‘You can’t!’ and the jonesing begins.

I tell myself, “This is good. I can’t go strolling endlessly on the internet. I’ll pick up one of the many novels piled on my nightstand. I’ll file papers. I’ll redesign my bedroom. I’ll do sit ups – yes, sit ups – and stretch my hamstrings,” because in an act of positive thinking I’ve been visualizing my hamstrings loosening and allowing my hand to wrap comfortably around the bottom of my foot as my forehead rests relaxed upon my knee. Yes, with less time on the computer, I could achieve that.

The other half of my brain rejects the vision of loose hamstrings, instead having a vision of laptops, more laptops, endless laptops, saying, “This house cannot exist on one computer. Buy your son a laptop!” Apparently my alter ego is a consumer.

After hearing of this fantasy, my son has the good sense to suggest that a second laptop is a mighty pricey backup for the desktop computer, but then I mention the words “built-in iSight camera” and the consumer side of my brain has an instant ally.

We are spoiled,” I tell my son. “We are whining about sharing a computer.” Actually, I’m whining. He just grabs the laptop and runs. I can call him back, but then I’ll have a brooding teen to add to the drama, so I let him go. The computer is his lifeline to his friends and without this connection he could literally go into shock. I have books and pen and paper and really shouldn’t be suffering such severe withdrawal.

But that’s the funny thing about addiction. It doesn’t listen to logic. And now with all the gadgets in our lives, we have so many more things to be addicted to and so many more things that can break to test our resilience. Cellphones that go silent, cars that won’t run, elevators that sit still, DVRs that reject our programming. Simple life can barely be remembered.

I feel the absence when my luxuries abandon me. But when I abandon them, when I travel to distant lands where these tools are better replaced with a Swiss army knife and a map, a comfortable pair of shoes and a well-designed backpack, I feel liberated. I just don’t know how to locate that feeling in the fast-moving world I inhabit daily.

Word finally arrived that our iMac will be on vacation for another “three to five days,” a casually tossed off declaration from the technician surrounded by more computers than he can dream of. In the span of my life, that’s not much time. In the span of my teen’s, an eternity. And while I could challenge his addiction and deny him access to my laptop, instead I will challenge my own.


Anonymous said...

your words are so delicious deezee and i hear your withdrawal. now that our daughter is of the age to use the computer, there's 3 of us wanting 2 and often my husband is sent to his dickberry, i mean blackberry. this morning on the today show, there was a family that went for a week without modern appliances and at the end of the week, the one thing she absolutely couldn't live without was the washer/dryer....i guess i agree.

LittlePea said...

And here I was lamenting the fact that I haven't had any babies yet! Now I can rest assured -my computer stays all to myself :O)
This thing is like crack to me too.

QT said...

I am on a computer all day at work and then for a few hours at home. I know how hard it is to leave it alone and do what you are "supposed" to be doing. I think it is the endless possibilites, the search for that feeling we have whenever we find a site so good and perfect it feels like a comfy old pair of jeans.

fringes said...

The batteries to my daughter's remote for her TV died. She had to get up and manually change the channels for four days until I replaced them. It was turing into a fun game for me, watching her almost start to cry every time she wanted to watch something else. Does anybody remember the days when the remote was tethered to the TV by a wire? Or when there was no such thing and we had to get up and turn the dial? My daughter thought we'd died and moved to the stone ages.

Emily said...

Oh the simple life! It does seem like being in another place helps with this addiction to things. Godspeed to the iMac!

Anonymous said...

Another machead! 12" iBook here.

My cable modem went out (briefly) during a storm yesterday. I sat there and stared at the modem till the little lights started flashing again. I may need an intervention to break my online addiction.

Anonymous said...

I endured a painful macstraction that lasted 10 days. I felt like I was Amish. BY day 9, my house was SERIOUSLY clean.