I started smoking cigarettes with wreckless abandon when I was about 17. For nearly ten years I smoked a pack or two a day. I loved the nicotine, but I also loved carrying the pack and lighter around with me. I liked having to always make sure I had my smokes. They were like my security blanket.

I smoked pot pretty much all day long during this time as well. Same deal. I loved having my kit with me, having to make sure I always had weed, and reveled in doing all the things I did while high.

Together I had a solid foundation of habits that I depended on emotionally and physiologically.

At some point I switched to smokeless tobacco to give my lungs a break. I got some sort of bronchitis every year and I knew all the smoking wasn’t healthy. When I started grad school and getting my shit together I quit smoking cigarettes altogether. That was 1997. But since then I’ve maintained an off again/on again relationship with nicotine.

As for the weed, I quit pretty hardcore for several years also when I started grad school. I mistakenly believed scientists were serious types who would never meddle in such things. Quitting pot opened the door for full-blown anxiety which I dealt with in various legal ways for the next decade. I think I was always anxious but the weed, and not taking life very seriously, helped keep it at bay.

Once the anxiety ripped open I leaned more into the dip and less into the weed and found a new friend in craft beer. For sometimes years I would go nicotine free but mostly chewed nicotine gum because I knew dip, like smoking, could cause cancer. And by this time I had spent over a decade of my life putting some sort of carcinogenic form of nicotine into my body. And I pretty much drink a beer or two every night.

I am currently nicotine-free and smoke weed very occasionally though I like my evening beers. I have probably chewed nicotine gum for nearly a decade but, again, do not currently. I will probably go back to it at some point but I am trying to stay off all forms of nicotine.

But my point is not just about nicotine. It’s about my need to have that security blanket. When I am not smoking/dipping/chewing gum I am more restless. Now, even when I use drugs I am a bit restless, but much more so when I am trying to be clean.

I still drink a cup of coffee or three a day and would freak the hell out without it. And I’m cool with the amount of beer I drink. But I remain disturbed by my seeming inability to resist checking my iPhone.

I got off of Facebook years ago because I had such a compulsion. I have removed most of my phone apps that update regularly including all forms of social media except twitter that I use for my business. I disabled all of the notifications so my phone only tells me when someone is calling or texting. But I STILL fucking check the damn thing hundreds of times a day. I don’t honestly know how often, but too frequently for my comfort.

I check my email a lot. I’d estimate I get a new mail about 1/100th of the times I check to see if I got a new mail. WTF is up with that? And I even removed the Mail app. I have to go in to safari and check my mail on the web.

I check the weather app maybe ten times a day. Does it change? Nah.

Now that I am blogging and on Medium I have those apps and check my stats more than I should.

So what I wanna know is why do I do these things? Is it related to my history of addiction?

In general I feel restless and so I think I’m looking for a distraction or for a ‘fix’. Sometimes I’m uncomfortable and am looking for an escape. But mostly I’m bored (and restless maybe). Am I still looking for a high?

And I don’t know what to do about the restless. What I do know is that when I’m inspired, creating, and working on a meaningful project I am far less restless. And that carries beyond the time spent actually doing those things. I think I am ‘missing something’ and, as such, trying to find it on my phone. Or in a sack of weed. Or a pack of Marlboros. Or a can of Skoal. Sometimes I think I am looking for esteem in these other things – from outside myself. Instead of self-esteem, am I dependent on other-esteem?

The only thing I know to do is to keep myself busy. And not crazy busy like some obsessive compulsive (though I may have those tendencies). But is that the solution? From whom do I seek counsel for my restlessness? I discuss it with my therapist but we have yet to go too deep. I am relearning how to esteem myself and maybe in discovering how the restlessness will subside?

And really, I should be proud that I am choosing healthier outlets for my restlessness, but the phone obsession is annoying. And embarrassing. And to the point where I consider daily trading my iPhone in for an old flip phone with no internet. But there are things I love about my iPhone and the problem is not the device, it’s ME.

I want to address the personality traits that lead me to do these things. But what are they? Am I sick? Am I bored? Am I a spoiled brat? Is this a thing?

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