#276 The Bling Patch

In my 20s, I thought I was addicted to smoking, but I was actually dependent on nicotine, a nefarious chemical that hooks in many ways, not just by smoke. I learned this when I used a patch and was shocked when I didn’t care at all about “smoking.”

I eventually beat the habit, and in the process, I was able to understand addiction as “caving into irrational choices to appease irrational thoughts.” I then started seeing through my mind’s manipulative ability to misdirect my blame for “bad decisions.”

Having an addiction was terrifying, but also edifying, since I now make smarter choices about my habits. Moreover, that habit was so disturbing and disempowering that I started going out of my way to avoid and attack any potential compulsions.

I have only been addicted to one other thing since then, but it was just as distressing as nicotine (just less smelly and life threatening): It was my smartphone. It got so bad at one point that I would check the phone for notifications in restrooms.

I never saw that behavior coming, but I was quick to attack it upon detection. The problem, however, is that unlike cigarettes, I do need a phone, so I had to create rules to keep my addiction at bay in order to keep the “socially necessity.”

I thus deleted nearly every app that wasn’t utilitarian (social media and games got the axe, while email and Duolingo remained), and I turned off notifications so my phone didn’t buzz whenever someone texted me (that was my biggest addiction).

Despite that policy, I was still inexplicably attached, always fighting an urge to pull the damn thing out and look at it. Finally, a friend explained that I was not addicted to the apps (read: “smoking”); I was hooked on the sensory sensations (“nicotine”).

He said, “phones are like casinos, duping us with light and sound.” I was fascinated, and skeptical, but he had some advice: “Want to end your dependency? Turn on grayscale mode, and see what happens.” I love proving people wrong, so I did.

Two days later, all I can say is, “Wow.” If you’re like me, within an hour of doing this, your phone will become…a phone. I have no desire to play on my device. It’s now serving the only functions I want: communication, Spanish lessons, and e-reading.

I’m not a jerk. I don’t make personal changes and judge those who won’t, don’t, or can’t. I thus don’t shame smokers, tech-junkies, or the obese. But, I do hate being distracted from the present by a dependency, be it cigs, light rigs or figs (newtons).

So, I’m merely paying it forward to any readers with a similar disdain for their bond with their pocket pals. Take the “grayscale test.” Force yourself to go a day, and see how it goes. If you’re like me, you’ll soon agree: We dig the bling, not the ring.

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