About addictions (embarassing ones, that is…) and how to control one with the other
So, I realize now how nicer, illustrating and all around more awesome this blog would have been if I had a camera, or even a scanner ad decent drawing skills, but I don’t. So for the moment, and until I’ve perused the copyright rules for web images so I can paste images without fear of copyright lawyers putting out a contract on me: This blog will be text only.
That of course means I have to deal with my two main addictions without illustrations, but that’s OK: That just means I will work harder on textual imagery. So, I’ve been fortunate in not developing alcoholism, I always was too wimpy to manage to start smoking, and frankly where I grew up there were too many junkies for me to be tempted by hard drugs later in life. So later on my biggest problem was overeating (pretty much like 90% of people in the industrialized world, really) and unless you rate sugar craving an addiction (as some people in fact do) I got away scot-free in the addiction department.
Unless you count cats. I love cats. A lot. Now one can say it doesn’t count as an addiction, as I have not owned a cat since my late teens. Simply put, everywhere in the world I have lived since I was 20 were places you could not keep a cat in. All renters were firmly “No Pets Allowed”, and for different reasons I never lived more than a year in any place where actually having a pet could be possible. Cats are a lot more territorial than dogs and I once knew a cat that had walked back some 277 kilometers when his family moved town, ‘adopting’ my friend who had moved in meanwhile. That cat had worked hard to keep its turf and he’d be DAMNED if sentimental reasons like his human family moving should keep him away from it!
So, if I got a cat I’d either lose it or get a neurotic ball of fur that never got attached to anything (not to mention when I moved between countries). I guess that puts me of the “Crazy Cat Lady” demographic (well apart from being male), but every time I see a cat in my neighborhood I want to become friends with it. Cat being cats, they usually act cagey. It takes time to make a cat trust a new person. Especially if that cat is a fresh mother. Like my neighbor cat. In the garden next door there is a cat who gave birth to four kittens. My room mate saw then through cracks in the fence, and melted immediately. Now I did too, obviously. The affection was not really returned.
My other roomie also saw the kittens and we all got concerned: We have not seen any activity in the house, and more and more it seemed the cats were abandoned to their fate. So I bought a big bag of cat food and put it out for them. After convincing the cat mother and kittens the food was for them and that the garden is a safe zone, slowly they would sneak over in a feline caravan. It should be said that my two other roommates are women, and one of them a small blonde as well so she seemed less intimidating than me. Having said that, the mother looks at me making me feel like the human equivalent of an old Dodge van with no windows in the back and “FREE ICE CREAM” spray painted on the side. If not actively threatening, then lugubrious at best and not something you want your kids anywhere near.
The solution was caravans: One or several kittens would sneak across the fence while mommy cat (or Bianca, as we decided to name her) stood lookout near the veranda door. We all regard this as a first step. So, what has this to do with addictions? Well, some of us spend inane amounts of time making strange cats love us. Now: As long as it does not stray over into “Crazy Cat Lady” territory one might be fine you could say. But still, some people just like cats and at several occasions I have annoyed friends by interrupting foot trips by stopping by and cuddle every single cat we passed in the neighborhood. And cat lovers (as well as dog lovers) might say, “Well that just means you like them! How is that possibly an addiction?” Well I like dogs, and can possibly live without cats. But not voluntarily? And I call ADDICTION on that one!
So, onto the more serious addiction I want to talk about: Video games. This one is something I’ve struggled with for decades, to be honest. There is something tremendously alluring to the little virtual world one can understand completely, and eventually control to ones own satisfaction. The more depressing life is, the less you feel you can control the circumstances of your life, the more tempting it is to retreat to a make believe world where you can win if you do it right, get another go if you mess up, and not least do whatever you want without consequences.
This is something a lot of people have been very concerned about: Violence in video games and so on. Now I have yet to hear of a study actually linking violent crime to video games. As one who has dropped nuclear bombs on cities, wiped out scores of civilian settler expeditions, and probably killed more police officers than a mid-size Mexican drugs cartel while gaming I’d say I am a big evidence against that theory. What I do plead guilty to however is playing games 8 hours in a row at times. And that again is addiction territory as far as I am concerned. The Sims. World of Warcraft. Minecraft. Thes are games I actively avoided not because I believed I’d find them boring but precisely the opposite. These are games I saw as threats to my social life. before my inner eye (which was very often set to Worst Case setting, I concede) I saw myself using every waking hour not occupied by work or studies planning the perfect nuclear family, creating the ultimate 80 level Dwarf Engineer character, building a world literally of my own in Minecraft. Then I was introduced to Minecraft.
My friend wanted to hook me and Oh My God he succeeded. Minecraft is literally a sandbox game: You are in a randomly generated world where at day you can dig at literally anything (dirt, sand, rock, wood) and use combinations of resources to build or craft things. By using blocks of mined rock or dirt, or with planks fashioned from chopped wood you can build houses (of literally any shape) with doors, windows, and so on… Which you need, because at night the creepy crawlers come out!
My friend and I spent the better part of a night fashioning our makeshift cave in a hillside into a fortress with a moat, trapdoor drawbridge and underground cave system. We called it a night before building the planned railroad. Yes, you can construct railroad lines with motorized bogie wagons in the game. Think a game that combines the pleasure of playing with Lego and building sand castles as a kid, and you have it.
The game costs only 15 € as a one time fee, but the horror is in the gameplay: My friend could loose a whole nights sleep playing this game. I have no problems imagining that myself. If video games are drugs, I say Minecraft is the equivalent of smack. So: How to counter my addiction? Well, another addiction might work?
When a cat grows to accept and to love you it will get a little jealous. It wants you to know it is the cat who is ignoring you. If you ignore a cat, it will go to great lengths to get your attention so you can see how much it is ignoring you. Or just to cuddle, that works too. So, lets for the sake of argument say you are alone in the house with the cat, having played Civilization or something four hours straight. Whether or not the cat is an outdoors type he will start cuddling with your legs, and eventually jump the keyboard. My friend the Minecraft dealer had this situation often, as there were up to four cats living in his house when he grew up. And at least one of them was clever enough to use door handles. So there he would be (lets call him Fred for simplicity), playing WoW for the fourth hour going, and the door behind him would open. In the kittens would come, trying to get Fred play with them instead of the slutty PC (who was just giving it away for free anyway. Cats’ love you need to WORK for, suckah!) Then, as the kitties realized Fred wouldn’t play, they initiated Attack Plan Alpha.
Wild cats are solitary, fiercely territorial and can generally live without man love. House cats can and will work in packs. So, one would jump the back of Fred’s chair and walk onto his shoulders, another the side of his desk, while two would climb up his pant legs and sit in his lap before jumping on top of his keyboard. At this point Fred might as well save and pause, or save and quit: Because the kittens were having an intervention on Fred. That is a good wake up call for anyone, actually. When the animal who can hide a whole day in an apartment (and be IMPOSSIBLE to find if you search) decides to openly cuddle you, you need to take a break. Then of course you can nurse your other addiction with good conscience. Because I firmly view cuddling cats as social life.