Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Media and my mind

There's a flood of new shows about additions on TV lately. Pretty much everyone is familiar with Intervention, a show that's best summed up as a gut wrenching look at addition, but only certain types of addicts are profiled on that show. For example, any type of addition that involves binging isn't shown. It would be too difficult to film. See, only a specific kind of addict can receive treatment on that show, because with TV, it's about ratings. The incident where an episode of Larry King Live received the highest ratings in the history of the show by having Paris Hilton as a guest while two natural disasters pummeling Pakistan went unnoticed by the American viewing public comes to mind. Why talk about one of the most devastating times for an entire country when Paris Hilton has something to say, right? But look at those ratings! But now shows about addition are becoming the norm, so every addict can have their 15 minutes of fame. People want to see train wrecks. The media has shoved shows of the bizarre and strange down our throats so much that it's what we have come to know and crave-the more severe the wreckage, the better. So while we eat too many Doritos while watching the My Strange Addition marathon, we can say, "At least I'm not that bad!" On the other hand, if one looks beyond the sheer strangeness factor, there are some things to be learned by watching these shows.

Even in the most bizarre of the bizarre shows out there, a better understanding of why people do what they do can occur. One of the strangest shows I've seen recently is Bridalplasty. Women actually compete for plastic surgery. So now, not only do we get an impossible idea of perfection shoved in our face by the media, we are told the best way to get there is through plastic surgery. And the sad thing is that the girls on the show are pretty to begin with. What kind of message does this send to young girls? Does anyone remember that show called the swan? There's something really wrong with this concept that cutting up your face and body will make you happy. Forget working on your personality or appreciating your accomplishments, as long as you look good, that's all that matters. In an interview, one of the actresses on Desperate Housewives once said that her job was to be thin. And here I thought it was to act. What's strange is that in the real housewives shows, these women have almost become a parody of beauty with their bodies that have endured liposuction, their duck lips and their daily heavily applied make-up. My question is if anyone actually finds this beautiful, or if it has just become the norm because everyone else is doing it. I see far more beauty in my mom who has aged gracefully, without any plastic surgery. 

But, moving away from the shows about beauty, lately there are shows about all kinds of addicts, from hoarders to nymphos and everything in between. Sadly, it seems the more fucked up one is, the more publicity one can get. If you're 16 and pregnant, you get to be on TV! And if your desire to look like a fucking super model is stronger than your desire to share a day with the guy you love and who loves you, you can compete for a nose job! Still, intervention stands out as the one show that gives people a real idea of what addition is all about. For anyone who has lived through any kind of addiction, and for those who have had to live with someone who has an addiction, the show can be difficult to watch. Addition and bipolar disorder seem to run in my family. Also, for whatever reason, I seem to be drawn to those who struggle, so many scenarios on the show seem almost too familiar. Watching people's lives get ripped apart by addiction is upsetting. There's no doubt about that. Even though there is a sense of knowing that some of the people who have to step out of the addict's life do so to protect themselves from heartbreak and emotional damage, it's difficult and painful to see. And while it's easy to understand on an intellectual level, it's not as easy to apply in real life. Sometimes I'm convinced that there are no set rules around the best way to recover from an addiction. There's at least one theme that seems to run through the show though- it's that the addict generally feels tremendous guilt, feels helpless and generally feels unloved, despite often having many family members and friends who care.

Yesterday I had a rare rough day. I wasn't feeling well, and let it get to me on all levels. Today is better. Still, I somehow think that because I came through an addiction, I should be able to help others through one. But I'm finding out it doesn't quite work that way. Then again, one never knows what it will be that will trigger something in an addict's head. I was thinking back, and while everyone will tell you it has to be the addict's choice to get well, I think for me, I just got tired of hurting those around me. It was a conversation with my sister that really triggered something in me right before I had this urge to change. She expressed her anger and sadness at losing her sister all those years to a terrible illness. Rather than feeling a perceived disappointment that I had always assumed my family members felt toward me, I felt her sadness. And my mom had been dealing with my crap all along too. I can only imagine how tired she must have been. Things were different with my dad. We could tell him how his alcoholism affected us, but, because he was so drunk much of the time, I don't think he experienced his episodes in the same way as those around him did. There was an emotional disconnect or something, so that an episode wasn't experienced by him in the same way as actually being fully present. I'm guessing he didn't even remember much of the things he did, so how could he have an emotional response to it? My dad never gave up drinking, but I'm convinced that there's always hope. I don't know if this is foolish or sensible optimism, but I know that there are people in this world who are addicted to everything from heroin to food who overcome their addictions. Never lose hope. Even when the doctors told my mom that I wasn't going to make it through the night, she held onto a thread of hope. And I did make it.

This is a bit disjointed, but that's kind of how I'm feeling lately.The one thing I need to do is not get too caught up in TV, and get some fresh air. Those shows can be incredibly depressing!

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