Erik Proulx’s father died of a heroin overdose. Twenty-five years later, Erik wonders if his own addiction to technology might just be a slower kind of death.
When my father wasn’t escaping to the land of injected bliss, he liked to jump in his beater car for unplanned trips to Florida—to put those miles between him and whatever the fuck he was running away from.
My grandfather’s escape was more sedentary. He would sit on his recliner for weeks on end, watching endless hours of daytime television through a magnifying glass. Next to him was a mini-fridge full of Budweiser cans that my grandmother dutifully kept stocked and loaded.
My father’s death by heroin when I was 12 was all I needed to avoid trying pot until I was 37.
And somehow, I managed to skirt the booze habit that covered my grandfather’s nose in gin blossoms.
My junk of choice? Twitter. Facebook. Text messages. Email. Any electronic stimulation that gets my mind off the current state of chaos in my life. Like my father before me and his father before him, my addiction is rooted in escapism. I make a bee-line for altered consciousness the second I feel tension mounting.
Like any parent, I have kids that don’t eat or sit or play without yelling every single fucking word. There are mounting bills and debt I can’t seem to wrangle. Spousal conflict stemming from all of the above.
And try taking a shit in peace. It can’t be done. I don’t know why our bathroom even has a door.
When the going gets tough, I get on my iPhone. Nothing provides a dose of temporary euphoria like the long drag of Twitter. It’s exactly like the new Windows phone commercial, where all this life is happening and no one is paying attention. For us addicts who can’t seem to peel our eyes away from our palms, it hits home. (Though I’m not sure another phone is the answer. It’s like an alcoholic saying he’ll just drink beer from now on.)
Not to mention, my habit can cause eerily similar feelings of abandonment to those around me. “Where’s Daddy?” is something I said a lot as a 4-year-old. And it’s something my own 4-year-old says too often now.
I’m actually going through something called “mindfulness training,” which basically means I’m paying someone to teach me to be where I am and do what I’m doing. Little things, like leaving my phone in my bag instead of my pocket. And looking at people and trees instead of texts and tweets.
No, I’m not injecting a needle into my eye. Nor am I drowning myself under the weight of aluminum beer cans. But who’s to say that my addiction can’t be just as harmful? Like many techno-addicts, I’ve combined texting and driving more times than I care to admit.
Now that it’s against the law in Massachusetts, maybe I’ll be scared straight before fatally overdosing on escapism.
Just like the two generations of Proulx before me.