Are all Artists Addicts?


This post had been a long time coming. And I do mean a long time. Usually I think of blog ideas and write them down in a couple of days, getting rid of my thoughts as soon as they formulate. I heard on Joanna Penn‘s latest podcast episode that she writes to figure out what’s in her brain and I couldn’t agree more.

But this topic has been swimming in my head for a month or so, existing as a sticky note on my desktop, constantly reminding me that maybe I should go ahead and write about it. I can’t predict what will come out of this topic, but fuck it – if that doesn’t make life interesting, what will?

Any of you who follow my podcast or blog (this site) or have ready any interviews know that I do not drink. This is a self imposed exile due to the fact that clearly I cannot be trusted with something which I view as “should be fun.” Let me explain myself:

Back when I was around the age of 16 (and that’s the legal drinking age in my country) I discovered booze and was told that this is something fun. This foul-smelling, petrol-tasting, asshole-creating liquid was supposed to make it all better. Back then I was a lost soul, like most teenagers, still looking for some purpose to my life. And it wasn’t peer pressure that got me drinking – it was my desire to find the fucking answer.

I did not find the answer, no matter the amount drunk. My strategy had several key problems with it, the first of which is my tolerance. I did not, could not, get drunk. To this day I have never had that feeling of loss of control, something which terrifies me.

Problem number two: money. I would buy booze, drink the booze, finish the booze, wait for enlightenment, find none and then realize that my accomplishment for the evening was wasting my hard earned money on fuck nothing.

Problem number three: I am a funny, insane person. And if you listen to my podcast, that is what I sound like everyday. Here’s what I found out about my head. I have this hyper sensory thing which allows me to observe more than the average Joe and often be overwhelmed by a lot of sensory input at once. This is why I cannot stand loud ambient noises or flickering lights. To me a nightclub is hell, and yes, I do retreat into a corner or just run away.

There are papers upon papers on how to treat this thing but I think it’s all bullshit. The premise is that your senses are out of control – I on the other hand firmly believe that nature does not hand you something you cannot live with. And the way I learnt to live with this is by immediately turning anything I observe into a joke. When all I’m thinking of is how to make people laugh, I’m not overwhelmed at all.

Why do I bring this up? Alcohol made me quiet, hiding inside my shell rather than bray out louder than the rest of the asses. But my brain still kept going – being tipsy meant sitting in corner almost in tears as my brain got overwhelmed by sensory input and I could not filter it out. As such, when I was forced to talk, nothing good came out. I was mean to friends, I lashed out and I was a dick.

Thus, my cold turkey exile at the age of 19. Until I began writing I never thought about this.

Don’t kid yourself – we are all addicts to something or other. Some of us cannot live without three or four doses of caffeine. Some of us need that daily processed food intake at Burger King or a fast food joint to make it through the day. I once knew a guy at University who could not make it through more than half an hour at a lecture before he excused himself for a smoke.

We tend to associate addiction with hard drugs, when in reality, addiction is simply a ritual that is taken far beyond it’s intended purpose. Humans are addicted to ritual, to our daily, hourly, routines. This makes our brains healthy, so long as it’s controlled. Addiction is nothing more than that schema taken far beyond it’s intended purpose, into something dark and twisted.

We all have our demons. We all have that void that we are trying to fill – however some people have a bigger hole than others. Philosophers have spent the past three thousand years trying to figure out what is the meaning of life, when the answer is simple. Life, in it’s spiritual meaning, is filling the emptiness inside of you.

Artists, I believe, are all subject to an addictive personality. There is an archetype that we all seem to fit. After all, people who become artist do not do it for the money. Sure, we all like to become rich (who doesn’t?) but we mostly do it to fill this void inside of us, to find the answer to our existence.

Which is why you’d find artists who spend their entire lives working harder than anyone else. Sure they have bills to worry about, but compared to finding the answer to that burning question, to the empty void – it doesn’t even compare.

Most famous classical artists are in fact addicts to more than one thing. Apart from substance abuse, of which there are many cases, you’ll find that an artist’s biggest addiction is their own work. You see they know that the answer lies there, within the path they began excavating. All that matters now is how deep they dig.

And if they happen to dig their own graves in the process, then so be it.

So, is this the behavior of an addict? If so, are all artists intrinsically addicts?

But then, how does one search for answers without losing themselves in the process?

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