The Addict Brain

A female addict drinking wine and smoking a cigarette

Last night, I really wanted to stay up and watch YouTube videos on my phone. I wasn’t tired enough to go to bed at my ideal hour: 10pm.

I recently listened to a podcast where a comedian talked about the Addict Brain. He was using it in the context of cocaine and cigarettes, but said it applies to almost everything we do.

To be clear, I have friends and clients who have been to rehab and have been sober for years because of their addictions. By no means have I experienced an archetypal, debilitating addiction to drugs or alcohol.

But the Addict Brain is at play whenever we are faced with something we know is no good for us but our mind tells us: “Don’t worry, it makes sense for you to do this!”

Logically, I’m 100% certain I will regret these things if I do them:

• DoorDashing a large Wawa sub with mac and cheese instead of cooking a decent meal.
• Staying up watching YouTube on my phone until 12:30 at night.
• Skipping my meditation, the gym, or jiujitsu.
• Watching porn.
• Playing video games instead of going to class (when I was in high school and college).

When I have been faced with these decisions, logic is never at play. The Addict Brain throws rationality out the window. I say I’m certain I’ll regret these things because I have mountains of evidence which prove that to be true. I’m never happy or fulfilled after doing any of these things.

So last night, when I had all the energy in the world to stay up later and watch my favorite chess streamers…I turned my phone off and tried to sleep. After 20 or 30 minutes of tossing and turning, I woke up this morning, slid my sleep mask off, and began my morning routine feeling refreshed and grateful.

Thus is the age-old battle between instant gratification and long-term fulfillment.

I’m fulfilled when I’m:

• Eating well.
• Getting great, consistent sleep.
• Active and mindful.
• Present.
• Productive.

The thing is, all this stuff takes time. It’s a slow burn. It compounds, meaning it takes a while to feel the effects but the longer we do it the stronger those effects are.

Example: I’m not just working out this afternoon so I can feel accomplished today. I’m working out this afternoon and then consistently after so I can look good with my shirt off, do fun and athletic things in the future, and be in great shape for my partner and family down the road.

But it all starts today.

It begins with our next meal, with tonight’s bedtime routine, with the next workout. And then the next one. Then the next. And so on…

The Addict Brain wants to keep us from being healthy and fulfilled. But fuck that.