The Gong ~ Addiction and the sound it makes.

            ‘The times they are a changing’ and this author agrees whole heartedly.  Thanks in part to developments in just about every industry, things are indeed changing.  While the many changes we see are positive or have good effects, with them has come a new era of problems and addictions.  In my own community drugs like Heroin and Methamphetamine are nearing “serious problematic” levels and infiltrating our children’s schools and our communities. Addictions are not always slated to be chemical; they can be organic or even artificial and not as clear in their ill side effects as the ones we all know, such as drinking and driving or gambling.  I was sitting in my home, observing some of the things that teenagers do (my children’s circle of friends) and instead of turning up the TV to drown out teen chatter, I decided to listen and as I did, aside from the thousands of memories of my own that came flooding back, something came to mind that I shared with my children, saying specifically this, “Every addict has a gong inside them that only they can hear.” This being said in reference to some of the things I overheard about what was happening to others they know or friends they haven’t seen in a few years and had developed, including teen pregnancy or what I call babies having babies. This article will expand on those types of gongs, their potential effects and hopefully will bring about some conversations that lead to healing our poisoned minds and bodies.
            Merriam-Webster defines addiction as a compulsive need for and use of a habit forming substance (such as drugs or alcohols) characterized by tolerance and well defined symptoms upon withdrawal or more broadly: a persistent compulsive use of something by a user known to be harmful or cause harm to that user.  We are all familiar with the traits of drug and alcohol abuse, the behaviors, the broken families, the in depth reach the abuse has to not just the abuser, but friends and families as well, if not, you can watch less than a week’s worth of Dr. Phil or any sensationalized talk show and see it firsthand (if you aren’t already living with someone in that kind of trouble).  Let’s toss out the addiction to drugs or alcohol for a moment and look at the more broad definition of addiction, the persistent compulsive use of something known to be harmful to the person - if we apply this to say the video game addict, that person would likely think us nuts if we said, “Hey, we have a treatment facility for addicts like you, would you put down the controller and give it a shot?” or what about the social media addict, “Stop Tweeting, you’re hurting your family and we can help you to overcome that”.  Crazy? Perhaps, but nonetheless true and a part of our society today.
            To understand what may motivate this style of thought, we need also to look at the root word; Addict.  By definition (MW Defining again) to devote or surrender oneself to something habitually or obsessively.  Within the two defined realms, lies a common core, the habit or more perfectly a habit that can be or is harmful.  Harmful meaning - one of a few things, not just physical harm; perhaps mental, emotional, and psychological – the list of possibilities is lengthy.  For example, the person who spends most of their day on a computer or playing their video game consoles may become resistant to change when told “get up, get a job”, expressing anger, disgust, protest and other items, it is because their habit (one that like all others develops over a set period of time) is being disrupted and they are in fact in some way “addicted” to that behavior, the harmful effect being no motivation to become productive, upstanding citizens (yes parents, I can see a few head nods in agreement).  Another example could be the person who tweets everything, news, food, personal thoughts, all of it, each day they just can’t seem to break away from their phones including when they eat or are just sitting outside, the device might as well have an implant on their hip and lord help them if their candy ever gets crushed the wrong way, the saving grace against a rage quit is a shattered phone is costly vs. a game controller.  If we were to ask them to go without it for a couple of days, they may just turn pale, sweat or breathe heavily and protest or may even say sure but 2 hours later come knocking on your door pleading for the devices return, admit it, you know someone like this.  This habit / addiction is harmful, it robs the user of real interaction, of real emotions, let’s face it, if we could hear tone through text like the audible sounds we hear in conversation, there may be a whole lot less anger on the web. 
            In short in our opening basic look, addict and addiction share common threads and regardless of whether it’s drugs, alcohol, or electronics, addictions can come in a variety of challenges and while treatments are necessary and difficult for the drug or alcohol addict, how much more is it for the non substance addict.  As I mentioned earlier in this article, I said every addict has a gong inside them that only they can hear and when it rings out, the harmful behavior either overtakes their minds or their bodies or causes them to act or think irrationally and they just cannot help themselves, until they become strong enough to block it out or ignore its calling.  I will use a real life example for our first gong example, I am a tobacco user, I have been for a few years, when I first started, I was told, the habit will get harder to break, the longer you go – they are correct.  My gongs: Wake up to drink coffee have a “wake up smoke”, eat breakfast, “have a meal smoke”, go to work, have a “cig for the ride, smoke” and so on and so on, each time the gong to go smoke rang, I answered the call with no second thought, the habit now had developed a way of telling me, “it’s time to go take care of this”, this gong is always around, so, now that I am enrolled in a cessation program, I am hearing this gong even when I don’t necessarily wish it to be, the habit’s gong hasn’t forgotten me or its own wants.  Another example: You just had a bad day and learned you owe some money to the IRS, get upset, the brain grabs the mallet and “bwang! You need a smoke” to which the common phrase is, “I need a smoke break” or “I’m going to go smoke a cig and do some thinking, I will be right back” the gong is real and applies to every addict and addiction out there.
            Addictions are sometimes characterized by compulsion or compulsive behavior but they can also be psychological or medically necessary (prescribed).  Among the many substance addictions, there are a few you may not know about, that are a part of modern medicine, in other words, what was created for a treatment became or is becoming something that creates or causes addiction, a partial list is as follows: Actiq (A cancer drug used for pain not relieved by other normal treatment medicines); Butalbital (A barbiturate which reduces anxiety and is mostly prescribed to treat tension headaches); Clonazepam (AKA Klonopin, A drug used to control seizures or to help with panic attacks, withdrawal symptoms are somewhat similar to Meth or Heroin, including shakiness, vomiting and sweating); The gongs are loud in these three items, each as helpful as they are harmful, for the patient a blessing, for the abuser, hell on wheels.  Each designed to help with the pains or problems in life such as drug addiction, alcohol abuse, the effects of carcinogenic components and help with uncontrolled anxiety, each “out there” in the black markets and neighborhoods where our children play and friends we know live and work, each answering the calls of the thousands of gongs ringing out for the euphoric high or escape they can bring.
            Some gongs simply cannot be helped, these are known as impulse disorders, the gong sounds and anytime the answerer has an opportunity to satisfy the calling, they will or do, some by any means necessary.  Among these types of gongs are gambling, pyromania and kleptomania.  I have never met someone who had an uncontrolled impulse to burn things, but I have known many who will spend their last dime on a “sure bet” rather than eat, and have known a few whom stole half their wardrobe by simple sleight of hand; again, a harmful effect as a result of answering the call of the gong within, including destroying relationships, jobs and a self destruction that may bring about feelings of hopelessness or helplessness.  Don’t be afraid to reach out to them, point them in the direction of help, and let them know they don’t have to answer the call every time it rings out.  Remember, addictions do not have to be chemical or substance abuse, they can be behavioral and may include what we would call “everyday items”. Things like being addicted to food, sex, pornography viewing, the internet, social media, working, exercising, cutting oneself and yes, even spiritual addiction (not religious devotion).  Let’s look back a moment, to the broader definition of addiction, we can see that it applies to nearly everything we as a human race can potentially be or are addicted to, the difference is we see some of these as “not as harmful” and tend to miscatergorize them or make fun of the people who have those addictions, to the point that we don’t give the addictions or their grip the credit or power they deserve.   To this point, we have seen many examples of the result, of the gong’s control and callings that addicts and addiction know all too well, but I have yet to explain the gong itself, although I am sure you may have an idea by now of what it implies.
            The “Gong” Signs: 1 – Someone you know is struggling mentally or physically with the behavior or item that has them in their grips as a result of not being able to stop (without help). 2 – Relationships, whether or not intimate, suffer as the person who is wrestling with the problem they have, allows it to grow out of control; sometimes this spills over into their job environment, they may seem down or not themselves and work becomes taxing or toxic.  3 – The person’s total environment breaks down due to consequences not seen by the initial addictions grip (example, time spent focusing on addiction robs from quality time in other areas) and results in extreme behaviors, items like “you’ve stopped spending time with me” or “why haven’t you been around” become a conversation.  4 – Regardless of how harsh the punishment or stiff the consequences, the person refuses to stop, they refuse to listen to reason and insist what they are doing is okay or without worry (they are willing to lose their home, jobs, etc to get what they want, a big part of # 3’s side effects, this includes a lack of interest in relationships or a willingness to lose the person they love as they are just “getting in the way”).
             The Gong’s sounds: “You’re only 1 level away from beating the game”; A focus on a digitized environment that robs the person from work, they may or may not be motivated and usually can be found at home nearly all the time, resistive to chores or anything social other than a headset and a bag of chips; “You’ve got mail”; Notification or personalization audio specific to a function or result of digitized applications or internet item, which causes the addict to check every time they hear it or worse, place on social media every inch of what they read or do including making sure they haven’t missed a moment, even if that moment is literally one minute apart; “I’ve had a bad day, I need a fix”, Depression, Anxiety or Stress that leads the person to seek out the euphoric escape of a high in the form of alcohol, drugs or other “outlets” some would say, “Comfortably Numb”; “Come on, everyone’s doing it” or “You need to chill out, try this” Peer pressures or wanted acceptance that leads to behaviors you wouldn’t normally do; such as smoke some marijuana or take a feel good pill just to fit in or “be cool”; “If I don’t have it, I will get sick” A heroine or methamphetamine user’s nightmare, to combat the body’s physical withdrawal, they ‘must’ have it, their minds and bodies convince the abuser that there is no other way to overcome the effects, which bring new ones themselves such as depression from not being able to resist it or actually stealing money from friends/family to gain the fix they seek out (see article Heroin or Hell).  These are only partial examples of the many sounds the gong makes, but each time it sounds, the addict, regardless of substance or outlet used, once hooked answers it without a second thought and usually doesn’t realize the mallet used to strike the gong, is in their hands to put down.  I’ve seen relationships destroyed by text, I’ve seen addicts think they are immortal until they overdose, I’ve seen thieves think they couldn’t be caught and wind up embarrassed at their job sites by arrest and I’ve lived the gong’s call on multiple levels, including: you need a smoke, you need a drink, with help I have overcame alcohol by a 25 year sobriety, tobacco, well it will take some time.  Will the road be difficult, yes, will the road have moments of temptation, yes, will that gong sound, yes but in order for me to not answer it, I have to learn to recognize when it calls that I don’t have to beckon to its needs or wants and if I cannot do it alone, realize there is help available (such as the cessation program I am currently enrolled in).  If you are addicted to anything that brings harm to yourself or others around you, go get help and overcome the grip it has before your mind customizes the sounds of the gong you carry within and never forget, the addiction doesn’t have to be alcohol, drugs or substance, it can be something as “simple” as your smart phone.  Don’t Text and Drive, Be alert, arrive unhurt.  Thank you for reading, good day to you all. ~ Scott~

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