Friday, August 24, 2012

Internet Addiction: a Portrait of the Artist as an Addict

  There is much debate about whether one can be addicted to the internet, in the same way that one can be addicted to substances. For scientists, the argument comes down to dopamine, a chemical affecting neurotransmitters in the brain (our bodies naturally produce and regulate it; cocaine and video games turn it into an all night party). The addiction is not included as a disorder in the current  Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), but is being considered and debated for the next edition.
  For me, and for millions of others, the debate is academic. We have experienced it. It has destroyed careers and relationships. It has transformed personalities.
  An entire industry has been created to help those who struggle. Computers now have tools built into their operating systems to help users limit or control their use. A company called Covenant Eyes provides tools for users to report their activities to an “accountability partner,” a trusted friend, family member, or professional who functions just like a sponsor in a twelve-step program. Churches have established ever-expanding programs, and therapists specialize in it.
  I painted this life-sized canvas in 2008, in the process of rebuilding my life. The allegorical image actually plagued me for a long time before I decided to paint it, and it didn’t leave me until I finished the painting. Time and again as I awoke from sleep, as often as I while I fell asleep, I imagined this meat hook pressing against the sole of my foot. But the real nightmare was in my waking hours: my inability to control my media use and discipline my time. With a patient, understanding wife, and a network of friends, sponsors, and a men’s group, I face the struggle. With God’s help, we are winning.