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Declan Lynch's tales of addiction



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I have written here about the great mistake that was made by the 'authorities' - whoever they are - in relation to the word 'binge'.

At some point, it became officially acceptable to change the meaning of that word from an epic bender which might go on for the weekend and beyond, to the consumption of a few pints, one after the other - I won't trouble you with the exact definition, because I consider it all so damaging to the cause.

To change the essential meaning of words in any setting is usually not a good sign. But with this particular error, a multitude of people with potential addiction problems were given a cast-iron alibi, whereby they could claim that by those modest standards, almost anyone could be regarded as a binge drinker.

So it has come to pass, that the word 'binge' is now used in a more meaningful sense, when we're talking about watching a boxset or a Netflix drama series. Indeed, it has been known for people to spend the whole day, and the day after that, binge-watching various programmes, which is more in keeping with a binge as it was originally and rightly understood - an extended orgy of indulgence.

By contrast, a 'binge' meaning a few 'units' of alcohol, is more akin to a quiet night of TV viewing - the Netflix binge, though, has a true echo of the 'lost weekend'. And on the surface, it is a harmless enough endeavour, except for the fact that it can sometimes accomplish the opposite of what is intended.

I'm not just talking about these feelings of guilt that you get, for supposedly 'wasting' all that time - it's more the sense that it's supposed to leave you satisfied, when, in truth, it somehow creates more anxiety for you.

For example, you've got to the fourth episode of the second series of Fortitude, and you realise it's just not as good as the first series, but you have now committed yourself to it - if you were to stop now, you'd be admitting you'd lost about four hours that you'll never get back; but if you keep watching, you'll probably lose another six hours that you won't be getting back, either.

Such anxieties were never in the world before, but they're in it now. The more fantastic the gifts that are placed in front of us, the more we feel a duty to gorge ourselves.

There are people out there who have never seen The Wire who have this feeling of inadequacy about their failure to make that commitment. Which is compounded by some irrational judgment that's it's too late to start now.

This undercurrent of self-loathing is familiar to anyone in addiction, as is the paradox that you now have the freedom to watch whatever you want, whenever you want, and somehow you end up worrying that there will never be enough time.

The more control you think you have, the more it seems to be getting away from you.

Sure enough, people talk about 'detoxing' from this arduous regime of incessant entertainment, exactly as they would describe giving up the drink for a while. This thing that is supposed to be making you feel better, for a while at least, has become like a job of work, a series of tasks that is gradually exhausting you.

You're dreading the moment when the latest brilliant series will 'drop' onto your platform, requiring you to make one more decision that you don't really want to make. In the desire to lead your best life, you find that you're starting to have no life at all.

Which may lead, in time, to a situation whereby you can only cope with this mounting sense of anxiety by availing of the ancient 'remedies' of drink or drugs.

Now you've got a real lost weekend, watching your boxsets in a haze of booze. Now that's a binge.

Sunday Indo Life Magazine