I’m a chocoholic, like many addicts, quick with denials: I hurt no one. I buy fair-traded, 80% cacao, organic, vegan. I seek charity-loyal companies. Dark, smooth, rich, creamy squares at 6 a.m. nudge me awake. Necessary, right? No harm in a little a pick-me-up after lunch, and a nightcap at dinner.
Note the dazzling promos of my Valentine’s Day hidden stash: My favorite says, “Enjoy this blissful trifecta of tart, crunchy, and chewy.”
My jumbo choice tugs the heart, “10% of profits save wildlife.”
A gold foil wrapper names another bar for an ancient goddess, touts a stress cure, and invites luscious bites.
The 1.5 ounce one seems to promise health, “indulge in these rich, smooth anti-oxidants any time of day.”
See? “Death by chocolate” is good.
Some of us choose other shiny things: adding four overtime hours of work; scanning thousands of cherubic baby videos; buying hundreds of CDs; stalking Amazon Prime; ceaselessly posting photos; rolling the dice yet again. We all yearn for something and defenses for our habits abound: “Routine addictions aren’t serious.”
Yet, these everyday passions inhabit us, rearrange our mental and emotional furniture and occupy acres of psychological real estate;
* Obsessional loops spin the brain: “Shall I sneak out for more? Yes? No? I will. I won’t.”
* Fantasies of how-to-get it replace the sounder sense of, “how would I care for myself and others if didn’t fixate on……(fill in the blank)?”
* Compulsion hijacks our bodies: “I need it. I want it. Now.”
Neuroscientists’ research shows that the brain is wired to get hooked and that everyone gets hooked at times with today’s seductions. Like crooked fingers pointing to us then curling in, addictive substances and processes lure us. Netflix. Facebook. Instagram. E-mails. Aisles at Big Buy. Late-night trysts with popcorn. Extra plants from Walmart. On-line shopping. Two Cross-Fit sessions a day. Three more phone calls.
We claim, “My common cravings are risk-free.”
Yet psychologists call these default dependencies, “weapons of mass distraction.”
Weapons of mass distraction are not harmless. Caving to craving, whether to binge-watch all Seinfeld seasons in one night or to text while driving might–in just the teeniest way of course–sap our life force. Not always, maybe not a lot. And, yes, sometimes we do need time-outs. But don’t we want to be more present, less distracted for, say, Valentine’s Day?
Experts differ about remedies. One touts, “Stay abstinent. Don’t partake, and the desire fades.”
An inverse idea states, “Fill your house with more chocolate (or CDs, or books, or TV screens) than you could ever devour. Cravings will subside.”
And maybe Winnie the Pooh simplified a treatment plan worth trying. Author A. A. Milne wrote: “’Well,’ said Pooh, ‘what I like best,’ and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.”
To create Pooh’s pause, I’ve carried my secret stockpile to the basement freezer. This Valentine’s Day, during the impulse to devour, I will saunter down the thirteen stairs, breathing in that just-before moment. That gap will create space between gotta-have-it and whether I reach for a fix or not, and remind me of the true intent of this holiday.
On February 14th, I will practice Pooh’s stop-and-think because Valentine’s Day calls for sweetness, real sweetness, big sweetness, life’s sweetness. Maybe if we stop in that “better than” moment, we will remember love.