I've noticed some similarities among people's large-scale "problems" and how they're typical dealt with. Whether somebody has a problem with their weight, drinking, drugs, or even clutter, this pattern seems to develop:
- One or more friends approach the person for an intervention.
- The person is sent to a group of people with the same problem.
- The person finds out quick that their problem is not NEARLY as bad as some of the other people in the group. It's easy to find somebody who has the same problem, but ten times as worse.
- The person either gets better, or goes into some weird relapse, or just trades one compulsion for another.
For the record, #1 has never really happened to me. I've have people who whined about my pack rat habits or made similar little off-hand comments about my apartment, but never had somebody spring a convention on me. As I've said before, this whole blog is about ME dealing with my problem as an individual. It's pretty simple: I saw something in my life I wanted to change because it was hindering my earthly enjoyment, so I'm doing something about it. And having some strange fun along the way. Even if it's not a change that can take place within a day (it's not only about eliminating stuff, but stopping bad pack rat habits themselves), it's not something I'm seeing a 12-step program for, nor would ever want to. 12-step programs are essentially founded on self-loathing, which ain't my bag. Yes, I know that when I said "Hi, my name is Bill and I'm a pack rat", it sounded like a 12-step thing, but that was intentional and partly to be humorous.
I suppose #2 applies in the sense that I've gotten books, articles, and videos on the subject to try to educate myself on the matter. Though I still don't take it all dogmatically. When I bought Clutter's Last Stand, I underlined the parts that I liked, drew little stars next to quotes that were exceptional, and wrote other margin notes. I thought some parts were horrible. But the parts that were helpful greatly outweighed those bad ones. I'll talk more about #3 in tomorrow's blog.
Now #3 is a really interesting one, and it's the one that got me thinking into making this whole blog entry to begin with. People who weigh 500 pounds go to a fat camp where they meet some people who are 800 pounds. Some alcoholic who blacks out every weekend goes to an AA meeting and meets people with a twice as worse liver who've tried drinking mouthwash or isopropyl alcohol for a fix. Now that doesn't mean the first person doesn't have a problem; he or she certainly does. But again, wow...you realize just how deeper the spectrum goes. I do wonder if this makes some people say, for better or worse, "Well damn, I can't have THAT much of a problem if SHE'S supposed to be the average example."
As for #4, well obviously I'm shooting for a happy ending! But I've most certainly seen people who try to get rid of one addiction, only to replace it with something else. A real popular example is the alcoholic who trades the bottle for the Bible. They go from mindless drunk to mindless Jesus freak, compulsively holding on to ideologies they never would have pushed a year ago, and are just as self-loathing and disconnected from the world. Not to mention downright annoying. At least drunks pass out!
Penn & Teller did a great episode on 12-step programs in their second season of Bullshit!. The episode seems to get uploaded and deleted from YouTube from time to time (it IS, after all, copyrighted work that you can buy in a store). But hopefully this clip is still running by the time you read this: