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Dissatisfaction With Life

MAA’s First Sign and Symptom of Media Addiction: Dissatisfaction With Everyday Life:

We depend on media as a way to avoid emotional discomfort, boredom, pain, and problems. Media has become our main source of relief, reward, relaxation, recreation, and relationships.

By Cindy B.

I have always felt that life was too hard. I wanted life to be easy.  There was something in me that felt I was entitled to be happy all the time, all the time. If I was not happy, if I suffered in any way, I believed something was wrong with me and with life itself.

I had an excessive need to feel perpetually comfortable. Even small discomforts made me seek out media or comfort food. My deepest desire was to feel safe in this crazy world especially to feel safe in my frenetic mind with its constant obsession with fear, shame, guilt, anger, jealousy, and self-hatred

 

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and subsequent studies on addiction tell us that compulsive behaviors are neurological. They begin and persist in the mind. Addictions, because they affect our brain chemistry and how we think, are considered “chronic conditions.

Fundamentally, life for me was a chronic condition of trying to find happiness and coming up short. My primary addiction is a chronic feeling of dissatisfaction with life and ultimately, dissatisfaction with myself.

 

How does one recover from chronic dissatisfaction?

As a media addict, I was addicted to fantasy, to the way I wanted things to be rather than the way they were. Because of my expectations, perfectionism, self-judgment, and judgment of others, I was chronically discontented. If I were to find peace in this world and stop using media for relief from my dissatisfaction, I needed to understand this kind of self-obsessed, existential unhappiness. Please allow me, as I am unpacking the question on how to recover from chronic dissatisfaction, to change the description of the alcoholic on pages 58-61 of the A.A. Big Book to reflect the “addiction to chronic dissatisfaction” with life, for this also fits me perfectly.

“Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely. Remember we deal with [chronic dissatisfaction] — cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help, it is too much for us.”

My thinking about myself and the world was too much for me. I was running around trying to make the world suit me and every time it didn’t, I would fall back into self-pity and depression, hating myself and my life, which of course eventually led to another media binge.

The Big Book then states "Our personal adventures before and after make clear three pertinent ideas:

  • That we were [chronically dissatifieed] and could not manage our own lives.

  • That probably no human power could have relieved our [dissatisfaction with life].

  • That God could and would if [God] were sought.”

What was I doing to create the life that made me so depressed and which led to getting drunk on media to numb out? What did I need to know and change in myself to find serenity and joy? The big book goes on to say:

“The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success…Most people try to live by self-propulsion. Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show…What usually happens? The show doesn’t come off very well. [They begin] to think life doesn't treat [them] right. [They become] angry, indignant, self-pitying. What is [their] basic trouble? [Are they] not really a self-seeker? ... [Are they] not a victim of the delusion that [they] can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if [they] only [manage] well? ... [Are they] not, even in [their] best moments, a producer of confusion rather than harmony? Our actor is self-centered—ego-centric, as people like to call it nowadays.”

One spiritual teacher gave me this definition of addiction:

 

“Addiction,” she said, “is just another name for the Ego.” (or Edging God Out). An addictive behavior is something you turn to that you think will make things better, but in the end, it always makes things worse.”

My unhappiness and my addiction lie in how my identity and ego collide with reality and other people.

“Selfishness—self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self, which later placed us in a position to be hurt.”

 

This truth, when I first confronted it in Step 3, offended me. I had enjoyed years of blaming others for my unhappiness. I was the victim of a traumatic childhood! How could I  be selfish and self-centered? I had plenty of therapy that proved that others, not me, were the creators of my unhappy life.

Had I been able to continue the torment I felt with the depression and subsequent suicidal thoughts I suffered with this kind of delusional thinking, I would have delayed the Big Book solution till the very end. Life may be short, but the pain of life is long. The pain of my addiction left me hopeless and I knew that I had to find another way to live or I would find myself suicidal yet again. So I set aside all I thought I knew about myself and my life and I got curious:

 

“So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the [chronically dissatisfied media addict] is an extreme example of self-will, run riot, though [they] usually [don’t] think so. Above everything, we [chronic dissatisfaction addicts] must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us! God makes that possible. And there often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without [God's] aid.”

What I needed to do was to stop playing God and trying to manage my life and others, including my addiction.

“First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didn’t work. Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director…This concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom. When we sincerely took such a position, all sorts of remarkable things followed. We had a new Employer. Being all-powerful, [God] provided what we needed, if we kept close to [God] and performed [God's] work well.”

Everything has a price. My media addiction exacts its price on my mind and health and recovery also has its price. Life is hard. My addiction and my recovery are both hard for me to manage. I had to decide which “hard” I was willing or not willing to pay for. This is a daily decision.

“A price had to be paid. It meant the destruction of self-centeredness. I must turn all things to the Father of Light who presides over all….These were revolutionary and drastic proposals. But the moment I accepted them the effect was electric…There was a sense of victory, followed by such peace and serenity as I have ever known. There was utter confidence. I felt lifted up. (BB p.14)…”

Bill Wilson (quoted above) found peace, serenity, victory, and confidence when he went through the process of turning his life and self-centered ego over to the God of his understanding.

My spiritual teacher, who passed away during the COVID-19 pandemic, once said to me, “You know Cindy, you have something that God does not have.”

 

“What is that?” I queried, imagining that I was in some way greater than God.

“Limitations.” He said. “You have limitations and God does not.”

Was I willing to turn my will and life over to a Power more formidable than my limitations, more enlightened than my ego, and more loving than my addictions?

 

Thus I was convinced that God is concerned with us humans when we want him enough." (Bill W., BB p.13)

 

Did I want God enough? Did I want God more than I wanted the numbing of media? The Big Book tells me that giving my life to God is the easier, softer way. Would I have it? Yes. I was willing to decide to do this to the best of my ability one day at a time.

When I choose to be God-centered rather than self-centered miracles start to happen in my life. I become less concerned with being comfortable all the time. I need only to listen to that loving inner voice and do my best to serve my “new employer.” I am more committed to being authentic and in reality. Trusting that “The Great Reality” has a plan for me, and I don’t need to know what it is today, I only need to be present and take the next right action. I also get to feel those subtle and surprising moments of joy and peace that come unexpectedly.

 

I treasure my morning quiet time with my Higher Power and I have found that God is my best drug of choice. This Power is where I need to turn when I feel discomfort and shame. My daily third-step prayer reminds me that I have a new director and a new employer:

“God, I offer myself to Thee—to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, (my Ego and my addictions) that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, (and dissatisfaction with life) that victory over them may bear witness, to those I would help, of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will, always!” (BB p. 63)

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