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The Main Thing

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” This quote comes from a rabbi’s sermon and was told to me. I don’t know the substance of the sermon, but I do have some ideas of my own.

This seems to me a pithy remark. It grabs the attention, and conveys meaning in a catchy phrase. As soon as the words are spoken and seem to echo redundantly, the message is clear. Yes! Focus, keep your eye on the ball and nose to the grindstone, don’t get distracted, keep on task--persevere.

Isn’t that the main thing relevant for anybody with an addictive habit? And doesn’t it apply to anything from video games to sex to alcohol, gambling or chocolate? For in addition to all else we could say about addictive patterns--and it’s been said--the addiction is a seducer and distractor: the lure of the substance acts like a magnet. The main thing, the task at hand, gets pushed aside when the addictive behavior beckons and takes hold. Time ceases to be an anchor to reality. The resolutions to “quit” fall by the wayside. The “I don’t care” side gathers strength until, lost in a momentary bubble, there is only timelessness and numbness. Ah, bliss. 

It is a temporary state where time and pain cease to exist. What has been troubling, frustrating, frightening or saddening falls away and is replaced by an intense concentration on the addiction. While in the bubble, when troubles seem to melt, there remains a sense of calm, if reason and anxiety can be kept at bay.

So what’s the problem? That it IS only temporary, alas. When the binge or sexual encounter is over, the bubble bursts and the feelings that propelled the diversion in the first place not only return, but are magnified. Floods of guilt and remorse accompany promises NEVER to do this again.  For a time, the main thing was the escape, but the escape ends with a thud and the voice that says, “You’re a loser,” takes over. Ouch. So begins the climb back onto the wagon, once again.

Breaking a repetitious cycle requires help.  It requires another who can be accepting, nonjudgmental, and remind us of our humanness--and help us to keep the main thing the main thing.

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