Addiction to cell phones is a real problem

The hurt and destruction caused by addiction is often undeniable to the loved ones of the person engaging in addictive behavior. It’s difficult for families to understand why the person of concern doesn’t see what they see. Imagining addiction using a cell phone can give a little insight into understanding the challenge. Reframing addiction in terms of our cell phone habits may help us better understand the situation from the person of concern’s point of view. 

Think you’re not addicted to your cell phone? What if I asked you to drop your phone in the mailbox and send it to me? Would you be able to do it? After years of habitual use, we’ve become reliant on our phones, constantly checking for new messages, reading the latest news, scrolling through social media. Now here I am, telling you to give it up. Difficult, right?

This is one way for families to better understand what it’s like when we ask someone to quit drinking. They’re being asked to relinquish something they’ve relied on, a tool that’s habitually worked for them, just like your phone is to you.

How would you feel if your phone was gone forever?

Imagine your phone was confiscated today with no promise of it being returned. Would you feel:

  • Anxiety that something important was gone from your life?  
  • A physical sense something was missing from your hand?
  • Worried you’re missing out on an important text or email?
  • Concerned these feelings would never go away?
  • Like you don’t know how to function in the world without your phone?
  • Angry at the person who took your phone away in the first place?

Suppose you decide to make the effort to try this life-without-a-phone thing. Remember, people under 40 have never lived without a phone and the majority, life without a cell phone feels unimaginable. Those of us who remember living without a phone would still need to dust off skills from decades ago. Remember maps?

Social media and gaming apps are designed to be addictive

Having to learn new skills or revisit old ones, like map reading or programming an answering machine, can feel strenuous. In this situation, we would likely start to wonder why everyone else is allowed to walk around with cell phones in their pockets while we have to do all this extra work. Resentment and comparison would begin to creep in. How would we check our emails? How would we get through life without a phone? We might even head over to the Apple Store and buy a new one, reaching out for what we know has gotten us through life in the past.

If we’re able to make it past those initial thoughts and feelings, we might start to become accustomed to life without a phone after a few months. Our brain would start to rewire itself and we might start to convince ourselves that less social media access is healthier for us, that our phones were retracting from our quality of life.

We could even have a landline installed and start making phone calls at home, relying on a phone book, instead of a digital contact list, so we could stay in touch with loved ones.

Although this method comes with some extra steps, it would be a great sense of relief to know we’d be able to make it through life with this new way of communicating. We’d start to feel confident in our ability to adjust and thrive in this new way of being, proud of ourselves for unleashing that power within us.

Addiction manifests in lots of different ways

I use this analogy to help people better understand addiction because most of us, unknowingly, have a strong dependency on our phones. Think about your own habits: do you check your texts/emails before you get out of bed in the morning? Personally, I know when I misplace my cell phone, I exhibit withdrawal symptoms, such as frantically tossing around sofa cushions and being short with my partner. In these moments, my phone is the only thing I can think about until it is found again.

When we ask someone to quit using, we are taking away something important to them, a safety blanket that they have relied on for years.  Just as it takes time to adjust to life without a phone, it takes time to settle into a new way of life without drugs or alcohol. In the establishment of this new way of life, we would inevitably find moments of contentment without our phones, slowly recognizing the peace that mindfulness brings. Similarly, the person of concern will also find these moments of joy and contentment within their recovery process.

As the person of concern releases these old patterns of behavior, patience will be required from those closest to them. We collaborate with families and friends as well, as the person of concern to help temper expectations and guide all parties through this transition from floundering in addiction to blossoming in recovery.

About Suntra Modern Recovery and Adam Banks

Adam Banks is a certified interventionist at Suntra Modern Recovery. After receiving an MBA from the University of Chicago, Adam built a company that was later acquired by United Health Care. His discipline and attention to detail comes from his former career as an airline pilot, holding an ATP, the FAA’s highest license.

Today, Adam is dedicated to helping others achieve long term sobriety. His work as an interventionist has guided executives, pilots, and physicians on paths to recovery. Adam brings families together through a loving and inclusive approach.

Adam recently co-authored Navigating Recovery Ground School: 12 Lessons to Help Families Navigate Recovery. In this lesson book Adam and John Roesch walk families through the entire intervention process. Suntra also offers a free video course for families considering hosting an intervention for a family member. 

Suntra Modern Recovery provides medical treatment for alcohol and opiate addictions via video visit with medical doctors. Treatment for alcohol, opiate and heroin addiction, including Suboxone treatment, can start today. Suntra’s alcohol and drug intervention services are available locally in New York, Long Island, the Hamptons as well as nationally and internationally.

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