Escaping the ugliness

There’s a precarious balance between wanting to know what’s going on in the world and becoming overwhelmed and disgusted with what’s in the news cycle.

Henry Miller said, “The aim of life is to live and to live means to be aware. Joyously, drunkenly, divinely aware.” That’s my goal (I don’t think Henry meant “drunkenly” literally). I’ve found that awareness is a two sided coin. Sometimes the state of things feels overwhelming or it just hurts or disgusts me too much to take it in.

That’s a big part of why, as a society we place such a high value on escapism. We’ve gravitated ever fully to our wired devices to check out. Netflix, video games, cable TV, and Facebook are amongst our most popular ways to leave the world behind for a bit. We “binge watch” and devote entire weekends to gobbling up every episode of shows like House of Cards – which I love as fiction but am finding it too close to the truth these days.

My clients who live with high levels of depression often present me with what they see as evidence that the world is now officially going to hell. I half jokingly explain that I’m confident the world has been slowly going in that direction for thousands of years. My choice is to focus on what I can do, accept what I cannot, and do my damndest to live by the motto of author Tom Robbins, “Joy in spite of everything.”

But I’ll admit, it’s hard to convince folks that the world has not gone to shit with Donald Trump as the Republican nominee.

We’re at the point in the election cycle where most of us just can’t stand it anymore. There are too many ads, too many memes, and even the debates feel like B movie quality horror flicks.

I know I’m not alone in wanting Bernie back, but that ship has sailed and there isn’t a lifeboat I feel good about getting in. I don’t bemoan choosing the lesser of evils. Realistically there are two electable options and my choice is to vote for a woman I find very reminiscent of Claire Underwood.

Now, perhaps that fills you with outrage. Perhaps you’re a Trump supporter or you’d like to explain to me why the two party system is horrible and I need to vote for the Libertarian candidate. Here’s what I notice about our political discussions and debates – at the end of the day, none of us seem to change each other’s minds and a few too many of us (myself included) seem to enjoy jumping up on a “soapbox” to express our truth.

I’m not a big Facebook scrolling kind of guy but I do notice more and more folks I know posting, “I’m sick of hearing about Donald and Hilary. I’m going to watch kitten videos.”

What I’ve found is that the more I consciously choose what to allow into my life and the more I find pursuits and people I love, the less I want to escape. My friends in recovery taught me long ago that the best way to overcome addiction (or excessive escapism in other forms) is to develop a life that’s so good you wouldn’t want to risk losing it through distraction or unhealthy pursuits.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.