Our understanding of the word ‘addiction’ is often subjective to our own individual experiences. It could be from watching our loved ones struggle with addiction, from struggling with it ourselves or a misunderstanding that stems from a lack of proper orientation of what the term ‘addict’ actually means, hence clinging to a demonized perception of it.
An addict has been defined in the Merriam Webster dictionary as a person depicting a habitual or obsessive surrender to certain things or actions. The problem with this devotion is that it leaves a lot of room for subjectivity because it is not quantifiable, providing no clear boundary as to when a person can justifiably be called an addict. It begs the question, ‘when is a person’s devotion enough to be classified as an addiction?’. However unclear the boundary, when said devotion/surrender has become obvious to everyone, irrespective of whether or not it has gotten to an extreme or the individual views it as such, he or she can then be correctly called an addict.
In one way or the other, everyone devotes themselves to certain activities that they indulge in habitually and/or even obsessively. Although not always to an extreme, but in most cases, these things deny us peace. Hence following the definition, everyone can be said to regularly be dealing with addiction as a societal problem.
Understanding moderation as the opposite of addiction
Within this context, moderation can arguably be considered to be the opposite of addiction. Looking at the same Merriam Webster definition, moderation is defined as avoiding extreme behaviors and expressions by observing reasonable limits. This definition phrases moderation as a continuous act; as a lifestyle rather than as a state of being or a destination. With moderation, the individual is consistently avoiding extremes related to addiction hence observing reasonable limits. It is not abstinence but rather knowing reasonable limits.
Three types of addiction and their opposite – moderation
A broad classification of addiction can be made which will divide it into three major types of addiction; the physical addiction, psychological addiction, and moral addiction. Each of them is discussed below alongside the opposite character of moderation.
Physical addiction compared to homeostasis
The human body carries out homeostasis which is the ability of the body to manage independent elements to all be at a state of equilibrium. To do this, the body takes two approaches (resistance or tolerance). With tolerance, it means that any of the elements that are pushed to an extreme level, the brain sends a signal to the necessary organs and then regulates other body elements accordingly in order to maintain said equilibrium. With resistance (also called withdrawal in this context), the brain sends signals of an imbalance and the need for a balance to be restored, hence physiological changes are made in an attempt to achieve stability.
Physical addiction can now be seen as a lack of homeostasis. Physical addiction involves an addiction to substances like sugar, salt, caffeine, drugs, food preservatives, etc. up to a state where the body needs to carry out homeostasis in order to keep internal systems at equilibrium (tolerance). If excesses are discontinued, the body sends physiological signals in an attempt to return to homeostasis (withdrawal).
In this context, physical moderation refers to not ingesting substances to an extreme level that will require the body to adjust just to maintain balance. Whether it be sugar, fat, carbohydrate, or recreational drug. Hence, everything is kept at a balance and not taken habitually or excessively that it will disrupt the balance and the body will need to carry out homeostasis.
Psychological addiction as opposed to balanced mental energy.
Psychological addiction involves habitually devoting to a particular thought pattern up to a state of obsession. Often times, obsessive thought patterns manifest in or are correlated with behaviors – but not always. We can practice moderation physical but still devote a lot of mental energy towards unproductive or harmful thoughts. Psychological addiction can be obsessive about the future, about our image, about playing video games, about current events, etc. which could lead to anxiety, lack of concentration, panic attacks and so on.
Psychological moderation (mental moderation) is not completely abstaining from these thoughts but rather indulging in them in a way that leaves room for other things. Hence you avoid being obsessive. For example, with mental moderation, you do not avoid thinking about your problems, rather you only think about your problems when it is relevant to do so and only at a productive time.
Moral addiction as opposed to a balanced moral code
Mora addiction is taking an extreme adherence to our moral codes whether consciously or unconsciously. This could be either selflessness or selfishness and many people are not aware of when it crosses the boundary to excessiveness. You could adhere to a moral code of selflessness to an extreme point that it becomes dangerous to you i.e. you give until it hurts you. You can also adhere to being selfish to a point where it becomes dangerous as well when you only consider yourself before doing things, seeking gratification until you harm yourself or people around you in the pursuit.
Moral moderation is knowing when to draw the line. It is understanding reasonable limits and creating a balance between being selfish and being selfless so that you engage just enough to keep you healthy without shutting the door completely on one side.
Addiction vs Moderation
Addiction and moderation are lifestyle choices. We need to continually and consistently make the choice to maintain a balance physically, mentally and spiritually. Doing this in such a way that we are never obsessively reliant on anything to a point that a lack of results in unhappiness. Avoiding the highs and lows of an addictive lifestyle to find balance, self-reliance and true happiness in moderation.
In conclusion, I need to ask myself questions to stay focused on moderation. Questions about what I could be engaging in that I have become obsessive with, whether physically, mentally or spiritually. The closer I get to achieving a moderation lifestyle, the more peace I find and so while we may never achieve perfect moderation, the journey through staying focused on the goal is always worth it.
Philip Markoff (Associate of Science) is an online influencer and thought leader on addiction education; he is known as his alias “CG Kid” who’s obtained a large audience primarily on YouTube as a vlogger and journalist. His current sobriety date from polysubstance chemical dependency is June 9th, 2013.