Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wireheading?


I just read a nice mini-scholarly presentation on "wireheading."  Wireheading is basically addiction distilled down to direct stimulation of the parts of the brain that are (probably) the essence of what makes something addictive.  The article is intriguingly entitled: "Are wireheads happy?"  A great question.  I have been addicted, I think, to alcohol and little cigars at times.  I suspect I am addicted to food even now.  I think I work compulsively (although not all that much) and do the things I do on the internet in a sort of compulsive-addicted way.  Who knows for sure where the line is or even if there is a line.

I smoked small cigars, about 3 a day, for about 2 years.  This is 20 years ago by now.  I was quite content every time I smoked one, they pleased me in many ways.  I didn't stop because they stopped pleasing me, but rather because I realized after 2 years that I was de facto addicted and was concerned about the cost of smoking them (primarily health and disgustingness).  Since then, I have smoked cigarettes (my preference) or cigars at parties when drinking.  Probably never more than about once every 3 months, and now less than once a year.  But my feeling whenever I smoke them is pleasure and satisfaction.  I am happy to smoke them and look forward with pleasure to smoking again, even as I forego opportunity after opportunity to smoke.

When I diet food is extremely satisfying.  It would be hard to say I am not happy when I am eating.  When I am not dieting, I am not as happy at all when I am eating, but I still have the desire to eat.  I am obese and consider that my eating patterns have a lot in common with chemical addiction.

When I have allowed myself the pleasure of various video games I have taken pleasure from them for days at a time, but still felt the compulsion to keep playing them even when the amount of pleasure or happiness was way down from its starting value.  As with cigars and alcohol, it is much easier to not play them when I am not playing them at all then when I am trying to play them in moderation.  Even so, when I am not playing them I am fully aware of how much I will enjoy playing them if and when I take them out of the penalty box.

Decades ago, I saw before me two paths, one using drugs regularly to seek pleasure, another being engaged in real life with other people.  I felt the drug path would do a much more complete job of wiping out the real life path as a viable choice, whereas it would always be easy to switch to the drug path later.  More than 35 years after making the temporary choice against drugs, I am less attracted to the drug choice than ever.  Even so, I still miss drugs, if not every day probably a few times a month.

I don't know what the point of this blog entry is, which is I suppose why I don't add much to the self-help literature.  Its just a part of my story.