Sunday, 4 February 2018

Addiction to drama

Drama can be very addictive, I've found, for several reasons.

Firstly, drama is exciting, and excitement is itself addictive. Sometimes I have felt more alive when there is a drama and have feared boredom, banality, and the flat, unremarkable plains of ordinary life. Unless fun, joy, and satisfaction are found in those flat plains, excitement will start to seem attractive, whatever the cost.

Secondly, I would need more and more drama, higher and higher stakes, to get the same effect. Over the course of the first few years of my sobriety, two things happened: (1) I increasingly and deliberately manufactured scenarios designed to generate drama; (2) I became increasingly preoccupied with these scenarios and this drama. This one might call 'the drama about the drama'. I would find that, even in the absence of actual drama, I could take ordinary everyday events and create a dramatic narrative about them. No one else could see what the problem was, but I could.

Thirdly, addictive processes place me at the centre of my universe: 'king for a day' (to quote an article by Harry M. Tiebout). Drama acts similarly. Drama says: 'I am in danger, and I need to fix it'. I become preoccupied with the threat and my response. All other thoughts are blocked out. You see why this is addictive? The virtual reality of the widescreen drama allows me to escape from the subtlety, complexity, uncertainty, ambiguity, and emotional kaleidoscope of actual life. A single, simple, albeit monstrous dose of fear is actually easier to process, because there is only one thing going on at a time.

Fourthly, playing a role in a drama elevates me as the star, thereby separating me from others. It is a protective mechanism. When I'm playing St. George fighting the dragon, I'm elevated above the rabble. No one remembers the names of the villagers the dragon was threatening. But everyone remembers St. George, or at least the mythical, heroic figure. Everyone knows the story, the drama, but no one knows what he liked for breakfast. You see the armour but not the man. And he's on a horse: on a higher level than all of the people around him.


Fifthly, in my case, drama and attention-seeking are linked. If there is no drama, I need not seek attention, and I might be ignored or disappear altogether. In my memory, being left alone and ignored were associated with danger. When I created a drama (either externally or in my perception) and got others to buy into it, I was no longer alone and no longer ignored. The pain of drama was actually less painful than the pain of solitude or isolation. If something was persisting, it was because I was getting a payoff at some level, and the payoff was the avoidance of a greater ill: invisibility, uncertainty, and the insecurity of being in the hands of a God I trusted less than my own neurotic control mechanism.

What's the solution?

Mistrusting my own perception, assessment, and judgement of situations and trusting more sensible people's perception, assessment, and judgement (both qualitatively and quantitatively); refraining from worry and obsessive thinking through three mechanisms: distracting myself with engaging activities, substituting meditative practices, applying calming, blocking mantras; placing every situation in God's hands: even if there is a genuine threat, even more good reason not to place the situation in the hands of a neurotic worrier (me) and to place it instead in God's hands, asking God only for the next right action; and (almost) lastly:

Being willing to experience whatever discomfort comes my way by following God's path instead of circulating endlessly on the Formula One loop of my own dopamine-driven drama circuit.

Plus not taking myself so seriously: 'Rule 62'.