I’m an expert.
At least: that’s what the caption said when I appeared on national television, at 8 pm, during primetime news.
‘Marnix Pauwels, Addiction Expert and Coach.’
It was about one and a half year ago, and there was something going on with Apple and smartphone addiction and children.
So they called me, because I wrote a little book about screen addiction in 2016 (which actually sold extremely poor, but Googles very well).
After the item was recorded I reflected on this title, and it stopped making sense within a few minutes.
What does it mean to be an expert?
You know a lot about a subject, at least more than most people?
You’ve engaged with a topic for a long time, so you are pretty familiar with it?
According to that you could definitely call me an expert, but do I REALLY know a lot about addiction in the traditional way?
I’ve used alcohol and drugs and smokes for over 25 years to hide from life as good as I could.
I tried to quit many times, returned to the bottle and the weed again and again and again, and felt the intense powerlessness of not wanting to use anymore but not knowing what to do about it.
Until I just stopped, on October 22nd 2012, and never looked back (though this sounds a lot easier than it was, I can promise you that).
Most experts in the area of the ‘mental illnesses’ are people who can tell you fascinating stuff about the human brain and all kinds of neurological bits and bobs.
Many of them will tell you about the importance of genetics when it comes to being hooked on something.
They can talk for hours about human behavior and personality disorders.
Experts cherish the general idea that their topic of choice is extravagantly complicated, which makes them look even smarter.
I’m not one of them.
To me, addictions are just a way to get some relief from our painful thinking.
An attempt to feel a bit better in the moment, while dismissing the consequences of that action for the future.
It is all utterly simple, though the results of repetitive compulsive action can make life extremely complex.
When people ask me about addiction, I don’t put on my glasses while frowning deeply and intelligently: I just tell them it’s a misunderstanding.
The misunderstanding that discomfort is something we should get rid of, run away from, or drown in substances or activities.
I tell them that owning this restlessness is all it takes to stop what’s hurting you.
‘But that’s WAY too simple!’, many of them say.
‘All the experts say it is very complex!’
I guess it’s just a matter of time before I lose my title 🙂