The Addict Brain.

Itchy fingers fumble their way into the bag, digging deep. Aha! A slim rectangle — and a slightly fatter one. Grab and pull, dragging keys, chargers and lipsticks. Shake off the excess. The box opens, click, flash and puff… relief floods in. Aah. A gentle breeze dissipates the purple smoke, taking with it the aching gums and mild headache. Another drag restores stability. The restless leg becomes steady. Thoughts flow in… and with it, the hate.

Not again. You did it again. Anger. Posture breaks, eyes shift downwards. Spread the ash around and it looks a little like dust. As if hiding will somehow make it as though this never happened. No one should see. Not even me. This never happened. Minty freshness mixed with ash and sanitiser. It never happened.

Two hours later… repeat. It never happened.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” she says. “I’m going to quit the sugar, I’ll start working out tomorrow, promise.” A few days later, she pushes the deadline for her launch. And a year later, the website is still not ready. “It got cancelled the first time because of COVID, it’s almost ready now. It’ll be done next week.”

He takes a long drag and continues, “I did a lot of things I’m not proud of back then, I don’t blame them for not talking to me.” The ash falls to the floor, he ignores it. “I have so much to do,” he says. “I’ve got the entrance tests, I’m learning guitar again.” A sheepish glance, almost begging for acceptance. “We won’t do this again. We’ll quit tomorrow. Don’t text me.” The balcony door closes, “Do you have gum? Where’s the sanitiser?” He didn’t get into his dream college and no one invites him to hang out anymore. They always feel used. “Just give me another please? What are you going to do with them anyway?” Wallet empty, “I’ll get it the next time.”

Addiction is a disease. It’s a disease of choice. Choices that morph into a sickness that can’t be cured by medicine. Choices that accumulate tolerance. Choices that fuel self-loathing. Self loathing gives way to worse choices. Rinse and repeat.

Every once in a while, inspiration hits and with a steely resolve, decisions are made. No more. Never again. This is the last time.

There are so many last times.

I live in Gurgaon, India. A city that has birthed many Unicorns. A city built out of the dust of the Aravallis. A city of concrete and glass. Within the walls of its skyscrapers are the homes of a generation of dreamers. Raised to be ever the best, by parents who struggled, saved and gave them all the love in the world. But in the glow of streetlights and dark alleys, there’s always a new high to chase. Success is in the blood, so a few stops on the way won’t hurt, right?

It starts small and for some, formerly the best and the brightest — the head girls, the sports captains, the toppers and the all-rounders, it never ends.

But it can. It will. It must.

Addiction is perhaps a part of the journey of life. We are all addicts in some way. Addicted to money, to ideas, to people — our brain produces the hits. We don’t need nicotine or THC to be afflicted.

But there’s something greater out there waiting for us, beyond the addiction. Beyond the hiding, beyond the lying, beyond the denial and the pain.

Maybe the addiction just needs to be fixated towards a new goal. The restlessness — only a symptom of unfulfilled expectations, a signal that something needs to be done.

Feel it, channel it and use those itchy fingers to create.

Remember, the addict brain works for you. And there’s so much it can do.

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