Am I Going Into Withdrawal Again?


I am addicted to distraction and, apparently, bathrooms. I grew up sitting on the toilet immersed in the Encyclopedia Brittanica, because the bookshelf was next to the bathroom door and I needed to distract myself from a life I found both confusing and boring. Yes, I do realize that is counterintuitive and contradictory. Welcome to my brain.

The encyclopedia was good for my grades; the perch was bad for my hemorrhoids. Eventually, I ended up in the bathrooms of cool nightclubs snorting coke with cool people. In between, I would occasionally have sex in a bathroom stall because it was rebellious and dangerous and, well, sexy. Like I said, distraction and bathrooms. The cocaine and the sex were a delivery medium.

The drugs and the random hot dudes are well in the past, and I am kinder to my poor bottom these days. But the need to distract myself remains. I am constantly listening to podcasts, for one thing — I have deep and meaningful relationships with a British statistician, a gay comic book historian, and Terry Gross. (They have no idea we’re in a relationship, of course, but this is hardly news to any love addicts listening. We frequently fall into deep and meaningful relationships with people who have no idea who we are.) I only remember 10% of the information I take in, but being left with only the company of my own head is too awful to contemplate.

Also, I tap away at Words with Friends like a chipmunk on meth. At least, I did. I generally had 6 or 8 opponents simultaneously (I don’t know if that’s a lot, but it was a lot for me) and rarely an hour would go by that I wasn’t shuffling letters around looking for a better score. If an opponent didn’t play back in a decent amount of time — if they had, God forbid, a job or a hungry child — it was all I could do not to poke them. Poking is rude. Impatience is a defect of character. Sit on your hands, Ethlie.

I made the decision to quit about a week ago. It was a time suck and people noticed that I paid more attention to my phone than to them. I noticed, finally, that I was hurting their feelings. So I informed my opponents I was leaving and deleted the app. If any of them tried to talk me out of it, I didn’t hear them because I had deleted the app.

This also works with lovers who drive you crazy and people who can’t quit you, by the way.

Guess what? I’m fine. I really expected a nasty withdrawal, the same kind of withdrawal I got after I flushed my last bindle of coke down the toilet, or tossed my last pack of cigarettes in the trash. Headache. Stomachache. Sleeplessness  Depression. Craving. The same feeling I got when I blocked the number of a highly attentive and highly inappropriate man — think six-foot-five-inch bindle of coke with a penis — that I was unwise enough to give my number to in the first place. It felt just like I imagine an alcoholic feels after pouring that bottle of Jack down the sink. 

This does not mean I’m immune from addiction to distraction, of course. I still listen to too many podcasts, although I am trying to tap the Music app before the Podcast app at least some of the time. And I have no plans to fall in and out of love in the next week. But I no longer have to keep an eye out for a notification that someone played back, and can look in your face instead of at the screen. And I did it without a single stomachache. 

So far.