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RIP addiction

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Phd Student at Indian Institute of Management Calcutta

At the outset, I lend my commiserations to all the addicts across the world. They, who often fell prey to their instincts earlier, have become scavengers of their desires now. They, whose existence came to a standstill sans their “essential goods and service”, have decided to move on. They, who brushed aside the doctor’s counsel, have learned to become patient. The due credit for this complete turnaround goes to a 120 nanometer Coronavirus.

The Corona virus has not only hit the health and economy of the countries but has also exposed the hollowness of addiction. The usual alibi for addiction has generally been that it allows you to think, ease the nerves and allows few moments to escape stress. In the ongoing lockdown times, all these oft-quoted alibis have been sacrificed at the altar of the virus. Yet the addicts are still thinking and surviving, as if to suggest that worldly celebrations have been substituted by sagely celibacy.

The “Work hard, Party harder” corporate allusion has gradually become an illusion. As employees are working from home, weekdays and weekends have converged. The weekly diversions through the joy of letting one’s hair down has proved to be ephemeral compared to the sameness of the lockdown times. Nature is teaching a punishing lesson of how not to cede to stress by staying indoors and with one’s own family. She is challenging the innate capabilities by forcing you to live in the existing inert times.

The addicts have often been loathe to realize their inherent weaknesses and instead implicated that addiction has been their road to strength. Now, there is palpable frustration at not getting an overnight drink of liquor, but for how long? Now, there are intermittent urges to have a puff of cigarette, but for how long? Now, there is an insurmountable need to consume drugs, but for how long? Alas! the Coronavirus has unwound the clock and refuses to allow a deadline for the lockdown. Their bosses tell them, “Either perform or perish”.

The Corona is commanding the addicts, “Either reform or relinquish”. This is when the helpless addict is compelled to clinch on to the small joys of life. He realizes how difficult it is for a child to stay indoors earnestly waiting for his working parents to reach home from their respective busy schedules. He understands how the retired and older generations have to lead restrictive lives. He pities the fate of the stray dogs and the cats who roam around to fetch their daily morsel of food. And, finally when the addict goes to bed, he still has a sound sleep having realized the futility of his unfulfilled addictions.

However, there are many who boast of having hoarded the necessary addictive substances well in advance, displaying tremendous foresight. One of my friends who managed to be an expert hoarder recently joked over a call, “I am planning to start a startup for sanitizers (as they are expected to have 70% alcohol content) considering the amount of alcohol I have hoarded.” While the hoarder addicts admire their skills, the society is certainly better off.

Quite paradoxically, a selfish act ends up being a selfless move with more and more addicts having less and less balance of their respective substance at the stores. Further, the apparent joy of addictions stemming from being in a social group gets disrupted due to the strict social distancing norms. Once again, the virus adds to its parable in explicitly showing how much of the addiction is a result of peer pressure and how the human mind is weakly immune in resisting the external shocks.

The Corona virus is actually re-aligning the differences among needs, wants and demands by indirectly hinting that you can demand only what you need irrespective of your purchasing power.  Essentially, the wants have been further trivialized and Nature is handholding you towards self -control. The acceptance of this realignment is not merely a resignation to one’s own fate but a universal show of mental toughness for the sake of survival. The regular addicts must have never imagined that abstinence from their favourite substance would be an indicator of toughness thus proving the veracity of the popular adage, “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going”.

While it is true that life would soon return to normalcy, the question still remains, “Will addiction subside?” Possibly not and the Corona would retreat unsuccessful, somewhat amazed at the human audacity and spirit for spirit. It will certainly inform its kith and kin to land on the Earth again in some other form to keep challenging this spirit. Thus, Nature would keep giving gentle reminders to obstinate human habits. She knows that the cigarettes would be back on stores, the liquor bottles on the counters, and the drug peddlers back to business. But by then, the virus would have certainly exposed the parasite in each one of us to addictions. The guilty human conscience would prick from time to time, lest the mind forget the effect of lockdowns on addictions. As far as the present is concerned, the virus has been latently successful in ripping apart some of the addictions. The future will decide if the addictions can RIP (rest in peace).

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Phd Student at Indian Institute of Management Calcutta
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