The first gig Charlie Dennis ever played on stage was with a Texas Bluesman called Johnny Clyde Copeland. Charlie was 12 years-old at the time and from the way he tells the story, he stood at the back of the stage, playing his guitar as timid as could be. Sometime during the set, Johnny Clyde came back there and grabbed that guitar right out of his hands and says, “Boy, that is not how you play the gi’tar. This here! This is how you play it.” And he commenced to pounding on the strings like he meant every stroke of it. When I asked Charlie what that felt like, playing with somebody like that, so young. Charlie said it was great, but it was so embarrassing to have his guitar pulled out of his hands like that. It was a lesson he’d never forget.
Charlie laughs when he tells the story. Pretty much the same as he laughs when he tells any story about his life in music. Like even a bad day playing is better than a good day not. Besides, is there any better baptism to playing blues guitar than that? Johnny Clyde taught him to trust his guitar. Taught him how to trust himself playing it. What better lessons to learn when you’re only 12 years old? And Johnny did it all without words.
I’m learning to trust me and my guitar a little bit, too, now that I’ve been playing and learning for a few weeks. I’m finally at a point where I don’t have to stare at the strings while I’m playing to make sure they’re where I expect them to be. It’s a damn good feeling, to realize that my fingers know right where to meet them (at least some of the time). It gives me a kind of confidence I never had until now.
Isn’t that the thing with trust? Every single time we learn a lesson about it – whether it’s a new way we trust ourselves, or an old friend we learn to trust in a new way – that feeling can’t help but add to who we are. It adds to the confidence we have in ourselves but also our confidence about where we fit in the world.
There’s something else about Johnny Clyde Copeland; I didn’t think to ask what he meant when he told Charlie, “This is how you play.” Maybe it’s just me, but I wonder if he meant to teach little Charlie Dennis that if you’re gonna do a thing, then DO it. Don’t mess around, just go on. Then once it’s done, so what if it wasn’t quite right? It’s already over, and you always have next to time to do it better.
Maybe those are just my imaginings after watching Johnny play this song called, Flying High. But I wished I’d had a chance to ask him – If you’re gonna do a thing, just go on about it, right Johnny?
Don’t get me wrong, addiction is no joke. I have dear friends and relatives who have suffered with/through/around addiction and I know the heartache and struggles addiction brings with it. If you have or know someone with an addiction, get help! Start with a simple google search, like I did for this post, on “overcoming addiction” and go from there.
The rest of this post is not intended to be quite as heavy as life threatening addictions can be – it’s more a self-lament and, hopefully, step toward freedom.
I am a Facebook addict. Really. Checking Facebook is one of the first things I do in the morning and last things I do before bed at night. When I’m bored I’m most likely to grab my phone and tap that app, that beautiful, giant blue F. But I hate it, generally. I really do.
Everyone has an opinion about everything, but more and more frequently those “opinions” are no more than a bashing of the opposition. That’s not helpful, nor does it further any sort of intelligent discourse. Then there are the cute dog videos and kitty pictures – I’ve been guilty of posting my share, plus a few of my adorable bearded dragons – these are mind-numbingly redundant; likewise baby pictures. I understand you’re newest bundle of joy just simultaneously turned 268 days old and spit up a Picasso-esque clot of pureed vegetables, but we saw the same picture three times last week. Oh dear, the reposts, the political angst, the stupid memes!
I’m trapped, though. I am a co-conspirator to all things evil in social media and I hate myself every time I log in. So, it’s time that I figure my way out of it. Of course I started with some research about addiction.
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is, in short, “an inability to consistently abstain” from a given substance, behavior, or activity. And by that definition, I am, indeed, a Facebook addict. I have gone so far as to delete the Facebook app from my phone, only to find myself logging in over Safari. In case you’re shaking your head, it’s okay. I am, too. I found some helpful information, though, when I searched the term “overcoming addiction.”
The top 10 google results included a few Christian-based advice sites, an article in Psychology Today, advice from Dr. Phil, and even a 13 Step wikiHow article. There was even a link to advice for beating your addiction to pornography… I chose not to click on that one. I’m no prude, but I’d rather not have that come up on my list of visited sites if the NSA ever takes an interest in my internet activities.
I’ll jump into the variety of advice with Dr. Phil. He’s a big advocate of self-assessment when it comes to addiction. One helpful question I found on his list was “What are you using your addiction to avoid?” Well that’s a loaded question, now isn’t it? My guess is most addicts aren’t prepared to answer such a question without a little coaxing. In turn, you may see my analysis of the question as a direct avoidance of answering it. And you would be correct. The truth? When I sit down and scroll through post after post of Facebook fluff, I’m avoiding my writing. I have some hangups about my writing and Facebook lets me ignore them. It also gives me a place to write silly little blurbs about some of the things that I really give a damn about, AKA the things that I should be turning into blog posts or articles or books. So yeah, it’s a place to hide from my fears.
There, I said it. And the Psychology Today article “Overcoming Addiction” reinforced that point for me when it advised that “the awareness of the relationship between addiction and symptoms of … anxiety is essential.” The more anxious I get the more likely I am to partake in my addicting behavior? Well now that’s a pattern I’ve seen before.
One of the more interesting revelations I had during my research was a kinship with the advice of Joyce Meyer on the Christian Post site: “True freedom is knowing who we are in Christ and that we are valuable because Jesus died for us.” Without delving too deeply into religious territory, I’ll rewrite that statement the way it sounded in my head – “True freedom is knowing who we are and that we are valuable.” To be brief, I am too much of a skeptic to be a good Christian (or any other structured religion) believer. Here’s the kicker for me: toward the end of the article this statement appeared, “Don’t try to do anything without praying.” I know prayer gives a lot of people strength and direction, but I’ve never found that, so I’m not a subscriber. Plus, I happen to believe that as I grow and improve as a person I am capable of what I put my mind to. Which is not to say I have any issue with those who are fervent believers. I like the gist of that quote, though. Having a deep understanding of ourselves and an equally deep trust that we each have our own intrinsic value is unquestionably important. Also, I’m pleased to know I appreciate good advice no matter whether I agree with its context.
Of course, there were some repeating themes, like, “the hardest part is deciding to change,” or “admitting you have a problem is the first step. ” True, but not very helpful in a practical way. wikiHow had some good advice in it’s 13 Steps. For example, “brainstorm a list of all the negative side effects” and “make a list of positive changes.” I like those. They’re good action items (for those of you in the corporate world, or up on the Top Ten Hippest Business Buzzwords).
One reassuring finding is that addiction has a genetic link. So when I claim to have an addictive personality, the Harvard Health article on overcoming addiction supports me in my belief. Why is that reassuring? Because what I’ve seen over and over again in my own family is this: addictive behavior isn’t the problem, truly. The problem lies in what you become addicted to and how that choice affects your life. There are far worse things to be addicted to than Facebook, to be sure, but I’d prefer to be addicted to my writing. That’s an especially helpful perspective to have since another recurring theme was finding other activities to replace or distract from the addiction you’re trying to break. I like the idea that the end result of my replacement behavior is the creation of new, never seen before material. Whether it’s good or bad is beside the point. To have spent my time in the research and then creation of a piece of written work that slakes my curiosity should prove to broaden me as a person. And that, ultimately, is what I’m looking for – to learn about life and my unique place in it. Is there any better reason to break an addiction than that?