My current grad school class is on addiction and assessment. The assignment is to give up something I dearly love for two weeks. This is the story of how it went and the journal I kept nearly daily regarding my new abstinence. It is not written to be aesthetically appealing…it’s just my raw thoughts, unedited.
I have chosen to give up all social media for these two weeks. This includes for me, Facebook (the biggest offender), Snapchat, Instagram (on these two to keep up with my kids and nieces), Twitter (to keep up with an old boyfriend’s articles) and all online dating sites (to meet ‘those’ connection needs). Even thinking about doing this for two weeks made my belly clench, so I decided it was probably the direction I needed to go.
Although we were not required to begin our abstinence until the morning of the class, I had been prepping myself for a couple of weeks. I’ve not decreased my social media time but I did let my Facebook world know what I would be doing and why. I was surprised at the positive responses I got and at the people who thought they might ‘try’ it too at some point. I know a slip up is a possibility but I don’t want to disappoint them. (or myself) I asked my best friend to help hold me accountable and I know she will. I decided yesterday (Thursday) afternoon to go ahead and disconnect. It had been an emotional day and I was doing lots of introspection…it just seemed like the right time to do it. Later that night, at home, I opened my laptop to do homework. Silly think was opened to Facebook from the last time I had used it. I was mortified and made Audra (we were working together) sign out for me. In no less than 5 minutes, I got a text from my best friend telling me to get off Facebook. Geez! She’s normally such an enabler for others, lol! Anyway, we called her on speaker because I did not want her to think I really was on Facebook. I struggle anyone questions my integrity…always have. The internal struggle when my insides and outsides aren’t matching up is significant so when someone else questions that, it hurts me probably more than it should.
Nathan (my ex-husband), left for the second time in June, 2016. My Daddy died in July, 2016. Going back even further, I had a stroke in 2009. There was an affair in our marriage in 2013. I think each of these events strengthened the relationship I already had, especially with Facebook. (lol! I just noticed how easily I referred to this possible addiction as a relationship).
That leads naturally into my next point…why is social media considered my friend? I don’t think I use it as my only way to connect, but it definitely is a way to connect. I’m super relational and I love to write. I post way more than I even look at things. But, looking back during those times of trauma, Facebook was an outlet for me to escape from my own reality, see how others were doing and post my journey…all of which were healing for me at the time. In hindsight, Facebook became a grounding connection when I felt lonely or afraid and it was always there for me. It was a way to disconnect from my own reality sometimes, and other times I shared my reality…but it was always there. I love the safety knowing that connection is always there and won’t abandon me. That’s really dumb. It reminds me of a client I had who struggled with serious mental health issues and constant loneliness. He told me that he hated when his cable wasn’t working because the people on t.v. were his only friends and they were always there. I get it buddy, I get it!
My addictive behavior of constantly checking Facebook…I look first thing in the morning and know that this ‘friend’ is there when I wake…even though my husband is not. Now I remember toward the end of our marriage the emptiness I felt when I woke miles away from him in the same bed…we didn’t connect but I would connect with Facebook on my phone. I check it throughout the day and at night and at bedtime, as well as when I cannot sleep. I check it when I’m reading a book or doing homework or paying bills…no wonder I feel unfocused. I can see things that connect me, I read things that make me think or annoy me, or even touch my heart. It gives me a sense of being in touch when there is no one there to touch me. It fills my empty voids sometimes, other times it’s just positive, and often it’s only a distraction from life. So, I guess it appeals to my senses through the provision of memories of sweet times, tender touches, comforting smells; I can even hear and see the memories play out it my head. This is triggered through my own Facebook memories and also through current people and what I see. This refers to the constant clicking and scrolling part. Honestly, Facebook is also a way to keep up with the guys I date. Have they been on and they aren’t talking to me? Are they just talking to me? Are they honest? I’m validating my already existing walls and keeping score, whether they know it or not…and I’m feeding my insatiable curiosity. Writing this out, I feel like a voyeur and like I’m cheating myself from truly moving forward.
I think I have already addressed a foundation for how my behavior provides healing or is a balm to my emotional wounds. Now, as I am really healing, I enjoy reflecting on things I once wrote and seeing how far I’ve come. Yet, those memories that pop up can sometimes sting a little bit. As I just realized above…how much am I healing and how much am I holding on? I guess there is a fine balance. In sharing, I always hope that I am offering someone else healing and I hear often that I am. Hearing I am an inspiration is lovely but not what I seek. I am who I really am on social media but I find it’s easier for me to get my full feelings out in the written word sometimes, easier to find vulnerability there than in person which is probably part of why it continues to heal. I should be sharing that by working more on my blog or a book, like I always dream of. I am seeing though that I need to see how much social media is a true healing mechanism vs. how much social media is a band aid.
I don’t know that my social media addictive behavior really makes me feel helpless, but entrapped, yes. I guess because I realize it’s such a thing I reach to without even thinking and also that it made me nervous to think about giving it up, even for two weeks. That means it manages me more than I manage it and I don’t like that. That’s where the feeling of entrapment comes from. As I reflect on this with as much self-honesty as I can muster, I am wondering how many feelings social media helps me keep confined.
My consistent relationship with social media, Facebook in particular, costs me perhaps more than I have considered. I have goals and one of them is managing my time intentionally. Facebook clicking and scrolling steals from my time, and time is not a forever guaranteed thing. I heard somewhere recently that the average person spends seven years of their life on social media. Seven years. I don’t want that. In those terms, it kind of freaks me out. I could be writing, praying, connecting with my kids and others…instead I’m staring at a screen. How much of my life am I giving to the blue screen and what will the payoff for that be? Ugh.
Well, welcome official day one, although I started abstaining yesterday afternoon. Last night, as I was going to sleep, I missed you. The kids were with their Dad, Audra left, it was just me and the fur babies and it was ultra-quiet. I felt restless and wondered who I could call. I decided I was being silly because it was late and I needed to sleep. I talked to God…a little bit. I wondered why it’s easier to scroll Facebook than even to connect with God. This morning, I woke and reminded myself sternly that there would be no looking at social media. I had removed all of it from my phone yesterday, so that’s helpful. But you know…I want to know what the rest of the world is doing this morning and who do I tell Happy Friday to and who even cares that I didn’t happy Friday them? Fingers crossed for today. Class tonight. Homework and work today. I have plenty to do, even pay bills. But I can’t check social media in between. L
It’s 12:22 a.m. I had class tonight and also have had a shitload of coffee. After class, I went by the grocery store and then home to make dinner for tomorrow night’s company and clean up a bit. I am wired and I am feeling a bit like not being alone…it’s really too late to call people and I’m maybe not even wanting to talk. I want to look at Facebook and see what everyone is up to. I haven’t heard from Jason all day and I’m not going to text him, but if I could check Facebook I’d know what he was up to today. This is annoying. Also, in class tonight, our professor asked that we all not be on our phones during class and just be present. That’s totally fair and I know I tend to get distracted and play on my phone. So then I’m asking myself…am I addicted to social media, really? Or is it my phone that makes me feel some false sense of security. I’m actually feeling a little bit pissed that I chose this. Maybe it’s a good thing that if I were to sign on Facebook, someone would see and ask me about it. Plus, I want to keep my commitment to myself. Honestly though, I even thought about if I signed on from a separate account with a different name, no one would know. I wonder if this is how someone with SUD begins to justify and keep secrets. Not going to do it but I sure thought about it. For what? I guess there is some sense of control in knowing what’s going on…again…unreal.
I went through a whole weekend of class without playing on my phone. Our professor had requested we unplug and I wanted to honor that. I always do want to honor that but my desire doesn’t always match my actions. Well…this weekend it did. I think it’s funny that some of my closest friends keep asking me how it’s going without social media. It’s not comparable to a craving for alcohol, I don’t think…but it does leave me feeling empty not to have it. One of my research articles asked if we are addicted to social media or our telephones. This is a great question. I can almost feel panicky at times without my phone but I’m trying so hard to detach from a piece of material and attach to my surroundings. It’s a real struggle. My phone, just like social media, is always there so why would I want to take it away?
I couldn’t sleep all night. I woke several different times thinking it was time to get up and get ready. It wasn’t. Each time, I wanted to look at Facebook. I woke realizing I was the only one home. Kids at their Dad’s and no one in bed with me for sure (except the fur babies…but…) Anyway, I wanted to tell the fb world I couldn’t sleep. When I have done that in the past, someone also says #metoo and I know I’m not alone. On this night, I very much knew that I was alone. Why did I forget to talk to God? I guess I thought he would be on Facebook.
Oh my gosh. Today, at work, I accidentally clicked the shortcut to Facebook. I didn’t really realize what I’d done until it opened up and I saw the home page. I freaked out and shut it quicker than I could blink but I HATED doing so. First, I felt really guilty…like I had somehow cheated although it truly was accidental. I’ve also started eating Keto’ish again within this journey. I notice I am imposing a lot of rules on myself lately in addition to the social media restriction. Like, if I am abstaining from that I ought to be able to abstain from other things too. I wonder if this is one end of the spectrum an addict falls on. I’m very all or nothing in my thinking when I don’t watch it, very perfectionistic. Then, when things don’t work out like I had planned, I tend to want to throw in the towel. I don’t do this often like I used to but as I write this it’s like a slippery slope…if I mess up once why can’t I just go ahead and fall in the black hole for a while and hide? Like, if I had chosen to stay on that Facebook page I probably would’ve spent way too long looking at it because if I messed up, I should do even that right. I’m glad I don’t struggle with alcohol addiction especially because I can see how allowing myself one drink as addict would very quickly give me permission to just binge since I’d already f’ed up. All or nothing. Gaaaa.
I’m tired, whiny and would like to get on Facebook. I thought about writing on my blog or journal but I tell myself that I don’t have the energy for that. Getting on fb, I can just click and scroll and stare without having to participate. Wow! I didn’t even realize the truth of that statement and the power in it until I read what just flowed out of me. I can observe without participating. I hope that’s absolutely not a mirror to my life. My first thought upon waking this morning was pertaining to when I get to get back on Facebook in a week and a half. All day, I have considered what I want to say. Do I want to just look and not say anything or do I want to share part of my journal or what? Tonight, I ran into a friend who asked when I am getting back on Facebook. She said she misses my posts. She’s like the fifth person to say this in a few days which strikes me as a little bit funny and also a little bit nice. I’ve watched addicts in my life who need to completely abstain from a substance, and instead they talk about how they can manage and still have their drug of choice. Have their cake and eat it too. If Facebook were cake and no one could see, I’d be eating the whole damn thing tonight. Another thing that bothers me…why do my friends get to be on social media but I don’t? I guess that’s relative to addiction too…how many times have I heard my beloved alcoholic brother ask why we are all on his case about drinking a drink but don’t bother each other about it. It really doesn’t seem fair, no matter which way you pitch it. Six days down, nine more to go. Blech.
So…ugh. I just ordered an Ipsy bag for Stella and the only way to get the two free extra items was to share on Facebook. So I did. It went to my fb page and I glanced long enough to see that I had over 20 messages in my inbox. I quickly clicked off but I just want to say that I desperately want to see what those messages are. Are they important? Do people miss me? It feels like a compulsion how bad I want to look at those messages. I’m telling myself that looking will not do anything but be a temporary pleasure and I will be so disappointed in myself. I’m not going to look. I want to though. Not three minutes after I logged off, my friend Edward called to check in and see how my social media thing was going. He saw me online and wasn’t calling to ‘get me’ but he knew this project was really important to me. It’s easy to be accountable when everyone can see what I am doing, and I have enough guilt even over my thoughts and accidental exposures. What would I be doing if my abstinence were coffee, sugar, drugs or something that no one could see me indulge in? Would I still have the guilt and seek accountability? I like to think yes but I don’t know.
It’s a lovely thunderstorm tonight, my kids are gone…the house is quiet. I want to look at what the whole wide world is doing. I actually am in such a mood to snuggle but there is no one here to snuggle. My puppies and kitty are clean…I guess I can snuggle them. Sometimes these nights are awesome and sometimes my heart feels super empty. Getting on Facebook right now would allow me to avoid journaling or blogging about the sadness my heart feels right now. Empty. I guess if I were working with a client, I might challenge them to a little questioning…’what would happen if you leaned into your feelings right now instead of distracting yourself from them?’ That client might respond by telling me that if they did that, they may cry. I might ask them what would be wrong with crying. My client would tell me that they are feeling alone and just so tired of crying. No pity parties here. Facebook helps me shove those ickies down deeper sometimes. One of the reasons addicts use is because it numbs. Guess what? Facebook helps me in the same way sometimes. Six more days of abstinence. I wonder what I am going to do at the end of this. I don’t want to give up social media but I don’t want it managing me either. I need a plan to find the balance. There are a lot of things I do to distract myself from life. Facebook is only one consideration. Gaaaa.
I’m feeling super grumpy today. It’s cold and gray and the snow that was supposed to come no showed…again! My dogs are shedding no matter how much I brush them and I am shoulding all over myself no matter if I know better. I have fought the urge to peek at social media all day long. Maybe I am a little bit bored with myself. I’ve had a lot of coffee, two bubble baths, written a blog post, done a huge part of my homework for this class and laundry. In my mind, I am really trying to justify just a little time online. If no one would find out today, I know what I would be doing. I’m also committed so damnit, I will get through this assignment without cheating but there are no promises after that. My sister called to see how it was going and tell me she’s proud of me. She said she is thinking about taking a break too because she is annoyed with the amount of time she wastes online. I assured her I was not giving fb up but that I was going to definitely limit my time on it. She also said she rarely posts but loves to look. I’ve decided that she is worse off than me…I share more than I stalk. Justify. Justify. Justify. Lastly, I’m getting bored with the men I am dating and I would like to explore options on dating sites. Now…no one but me would know if I did that. I don’t know why I have to be sooooo well behaved. Damnit. One more thing…I cannot tell you how many times I have clicked on the Facebook shortcut and opened it without even thinking about what I am doing. Freud would say I have three drives…sex, aggression and Facebook. Every time I do it I have thought about looking but I have opted to stick with my guns. I don’t think I am enjoying this. Finding the value, yes, enjoying…no.
I didn’t make an entry yesterday. I thought about it several times but I’m telling you right now that had I opened my computer I would’ve clicked on Facebook, or Bumble, or POF or anything. I was upset with my ex-husband, I was upset with the guy I’ve been dating, I was ruminating on ugly thoughts about myself and listening to a headful of hurtful lies in my head. I’ve been journaling more but I didn’t journal yesterday. I wanted to escape. I woke up feeling the same about it this morning. I did consider (repeatedly) that no one would know if I was on any social media except Facebook but I know I would know and that it would bother me immensely that I didn’t keep my commitment. It’s not even been two weeks and I think about what I can’t do way too often. I did something new today though…actually it’s something I used to do years and years ago but stopped doing somewhere in the midst of life. No one was home but me and I turned my music up and danced around like a wild woman! I danced until I was sweaty, red and feeling all the feels. I yelled at Chad at the top of my lungs (matters not that he wasn’t here) for what he did to me. I didn’t realize that was even inside of me. Tonight, I am feeling sore and also very proud of myself. I didn’t give in to the numbing. It’s not about social media. It’s about the avoidance and drowning out of the feels. Does that mean with an addict in therapy that the focus should be on the why more than on the drug of choice? Something to ponder.-
I did some super hard grown up stuff yesterday. I wrote the prologue for my book. I did laundry. I danced and danced and danced today, scheduled interviews, saw a movie with my family and prepared for my first internship staffing tomorrow. I didn’t get on social media one time. My Momma marvels at what I accomplish without Facebook. My sweet niece texted me from college to tell me she misses me and when would I be back on Facebook? Now I am getting in a bit of a panic about how to set appropriate boundaries for myself when I resume social media. I considered the ‘if’ I resume social media but honestly, there are a lot of positives there. I just have to figure out how to manage my time better and certainly learn that social media sites are absolutely something I want to make a priority and allow it to be a thief to my real life. I’m actually looking very much forward to resuming the activity but even that fear comes with anxiety and fear about how I will manage it instead of it managing me. I’m thinking the multitude of drugs of choice. How does an addict live in real life, very possibly surrounded by their substance or behavior and make the decision not to use? It’s got to be a constant stressor…is it possible for a true addict to not always deal with this struggle whether they take on a substance abuse label or not?
Welp! Tomorrow is the big day. I can be on Facebook and other sights again. Actually, I started one day early and so I technically was allowed back on today. In light of self-discipline and thinking through things, I have made the decision to not get back on Facebook until tomorrow. (This means midnight, ha!) I did put one dating sight back on my phone today because I have a date this weekend and I wanted to study him up, lol! I have gotten so much value out of this assignment. Of course it has given me insight into the world of addiction; moreover, it has given me insight into my own patterns of behavior. I am astonished at how much I have achieved not on Facebook, and at the feelings I have let myself feel. I will write about this is detail in my summary, but I am thankful for this two week stint. I’m thinking of questions that I will ask myself before I utilize social media on a regular basis…I am not sure how they will be framed but it will be my goal to get at the why of what I am doing and if I would benefit more from another activity in that moment.