Here’s my second blog post on the topic of addictions. Last time I defined addictions as “a compulsive habit with negative, pervasive physical and psychological repercussions whose origin and triggers lie in avoidance behavior and stress relief”. I also detailed my addiction to gaming and how it fit the criteria of my definition of addiction. But I ended that post at a couple of big questions: how do I turn my life around in the face of this addiction? How do I develop positive coping mechanisms?
My answer is some basic concepts: time, effort, and perseverance. I will not be able to turn my life around in a day, not completely. In fact, I think large, sudden changes could trigger another round of addictive coping mechanisms. But each and every day can be a step in the right direction. And over time, I’ll get where I want to be. But that will also take effort – not only effort in moving forward, but also fighting to avoid making mistakes and backpedaling into my addiction. And it takes perseverance because I will fail, from time to time. No one is perfect, and no one can be. But I will need to forgive myself for my lapses, stand back up, and keep trying to move forward. I can’t give up, nor can I indulge in a quagmire of self-criticism.
But these are all abstract answers. They’re not as helpful as a concrete plan, though they’ve helped me create some. Taking care of my physical health is important – it will improve my strength, my self-image, and my overall health. I will have more energy, even though I’ll feel like hell along the way. So I’m visiting the gym again. My goal is cardio training (running) two to three times a week. I also purchased a discount pass to a local yoga studio, and I plan on going as often as my schedule allows me. I’m seeing a massage therapist once a month to help me recover from the strain I’m putting on my muscles. Finally, I’m trying to set up a schedule for stretching, yoga, and exercise at home – though I’m having difficulty with that at the moment. I’m going to keep trying to find a way to fit that into my routine. But this is my plan for improving my physical health. And if I stick with it and don’t give up, I will get stronger and healthier.
Improving my career is harder for me to conceptualize. I’m less experienced and familiar with thinking about it (says the thirty-one-year-old), but the same abstract concepts should still apply, with a little modification. I need to work on improving my current situation, as well as making plans for the next step in my career path and for the long-term (the now plan, the one-year plan, and the ten-year plan).
So step one is updating my resume and looking for work I can do right now. I need to work on that – I’m being bad about it, and I need to do better. There isn’t any other answer – I just need to get out there and do it. I’m lucky enough to be in a situation where I’m merely hurried and not desperate. It means I can be selective with which opportunities I pursue, and not just shackle myself to a new, potentially-negative situation merely because it pays more. The next step involves where I’d like to end up in ten years (ten-ish, the plan is flexible). I would like a career as a writer, and the only way to get there is to write, write, and write some more. I need to study other writers’ works and writing theory. And then I need to write a lot of crappy stories, some good stories, and a few fantastic ones. That will all come about through time and perseverance. But until then, what can I do to make myself more marketable?
I’m currently teaching myself The Chicago Manual of Style, a book/style of writing, editing, and notation I saw requested for several editor positions. Learning this book will improve my writing (ten-year goal) and allow me to apply for and freelance proofreading and editing jobs in the interim (one-year goal). I would also like to have a professional website for my writing on a custom domain, rather than a .wordpress or a .tumblr. Those services are good for starting out, but with where I want to go, it would be good to teach myself how to own, operate, and maintain a personalized website. Learning this would make me more marketable for technical positions (for which I already have a degree), and a well-made final product may add a level of professionalism to my writing. Learning skills like this allows me to double-dip my time and chase two goals without the risk of losing either. And I need to do skill training concurrently with job searching. Focusing on either too much will sabotage my efforts towards the other. So the plan is look for work now, double-dip my learning when possible, and write as much as I can. This is my plan for improving my professional life and my career.
Which brings me to the final part of my planning: leisure time, stress management, and gaming. And I’m going to be honest with myself – playing games all the time, even if it helps stabilize me, will ruin all the plans I listed above. I cannot fall off the wagon on this point. But at the same time, I don’t feel like I’m strong enough to quit cold turkey. This is a crutch I’ve been using to protect myself, and ripping it out from under me will probably cause me to fall flat on my face. So, I think I need to slow down rather than slam on the breaks.
Meditation classes I’ve been taking like to talk about mindfulness – being aware of what you’re doing and feeling. And I feel like this it a tool to cope with a crutch that I both need but cannot rely on. I need to set limits, and stick to them. I need to go to bed at a reasonable time, and pay attention to when I feel exhausted. I need to set alarms reminding me to shut down and sleep if I must. But I have to set those boundaries and adhere to them as much as possible. And when possible, I need to get out of my home, socialize, and engage in other activities which will both help me de-stress and keep me away from the games. But what about my progress in this area? At the moment, I’m in a local cafe spending a third consecutive day writing a twenty-four hundred word blog post. The game is here with me, and I have been playing today, but right now it’s sitting next to me while my fingers are busy building my future, one day at a time.
And now I’ve made three days of progress, taken three steps, and that’s not nothing. And as long as I don’t give up, I can make something out of that – and out of myself.