The Invisible Battle

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I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions. I kind of hate them, actually. If you use them and they work for you, that’s great. In my experience, however, “I resolve to lose 36 pounds” inevitably results in me hopping on the scale at the end of January to discover that I haven’t even lost 3 ounces, let alone the 3 pounds I was supposed to, and consoling myself with a very large bowl of Bryers (because it’s better and cheaper than Ben & Jerry’s). I know all about SMART goals and how to set a goal properly, I’m just not all that motivated in the dead of winter with leftover Christmas goodies hanging around to overhaul my life, and the sense of failure when I get a bad start to a large goal can be crippling (though tasty). This year, though, I did make a big change. I actually did it mid-December, because you don’t have to wait for a new year, month, week, or even day to change your life. As I recall, I did it on a Tuesday afternoon. So what was this big change of mine?

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines addicted as “having a compulsive physiological need for a habit forming substance (such as a drug); strongly inclined or compelled to do, use, or indulge in something repeatedly”. Its’ definition for addiction includes “persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful”. Betcha didn’t see that one coming. Now, to clarify, I don’t have a problem with alcohol and I’ve never done drugs (well, besides a lot of Aleve… two year olds are LOUD). But I’d be willing to guess that the addiction that I’ve struggled with is even more common. You see, they are just so ubiquitous these days. Many Americans have multiple, some even have one for each room of the house. And now they even fit in your pocket! You can take them everywhere!

Yes, I went there. We are talking about screens, my friend. Isn’t it ironic that we talk about screen limits for kids but rarely address the issue for ourselves? Now you may be saying, “well, hold up, I mean, I know I use my phone a lot, but it’s not really an addiction! That’s too dramatic!” Okay, you may be right. But you may be like me, and it IS an addiction. How can you tell? Well, let’s go back to that definition. Ask yourself if any of these apply (if you can’t be honest with yourself, ask your husband. They’re great at this kind of thing). No, I’m not a physiologist, but this will give us a good jumping off point.

An addiction is:

  • having a compulsive physiological need (do you ever browse when you’re procrastinating? Bored? Hungry? Lonely? Do you ever find yourself in front of a screen and not even know why you got on it?)
  • a habit forming substance (do you check Facebook or other social media frequently? Is it the first thing you do when you wake up? Do you take your phone in the bathroom with you?)
  • being strongly inclined or compelled to do, use, or indulge in something repeatedly (Do you use TV to veg every night? Is it something you deserve whenever the kids go down for a nap?)
  • persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful (Be honest: how do you feel after binge watching a show/browsing facebook/spending two hours on YouTube/insert your particular screen time of choice here? I would always feel drained, tired, listless, irritable, and/or like a failure (either because I’d wasted an entire afternoon on something I didn’t really care about, or because everyone else’s life was so much better than mine- at least on Facebook)

Ouch, right? I know this can be uncomfortable to admit, because I was just (like, a few weeks ago) there myself. I had realized this issue on and off for a year or so (my husband would know how long) and I had always set vague, loose limits but they never really worked for very long. I knew I needed to get more extreme but I was afraid. So I’d set a small limit, do pretty well for a few weeks, then take a tumble and “overdose” on screen time. Hubby was so patient with me, though he could always tell when I had blown a day in front of a screen again.

Well, this is a problem…

How could he tell? Well, it was pretty easy for the poor guy. First of all, when he’d call to tell me he was on his way home from work (yes, he does this every day. Sorry, ladies, he’s taken), instead of an excited-about-all-she-got-done wife or a tired-but-happy-from-playing-with-the-toddler wife, he’d get an is-it-six-already-I-haven’t-even-started-dinner-yet-and-NO-I’M-NOT-STRESSED-STOP-ASKING-ME wife. Then, as I mentioned before, I was fairly emotional. I usually felt like a failure and was either depressed or angry because of that, plus I would be pretty crabby. I’d snap at him- and at Man Cub.

Speaking of Man Cub, HE noticed the problem, too. He’s two. He would get more crabby and emotional too (having a sensitive child is fun. It’s like matching sweaters, except it’s matching emotions. Every day). He would also resent (rightfully so) the time I spent on my phone when he was up (time I could have been spending playing, coloring, or discussing dinos because two is not forever). He would try to grab the phone from me and say “Mommy no phone!” or “phone off?”. While we are teaching him not to take things from people’s hands, this time he was right. I needed to put it down. So I did

What happened next?

As I said, I had to get more extreme. And I did. You can read all about it in How I Dumbed Down My Smartphone

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