Shift Happens

Musings on the mind and the perennial capacity for change

Addicted to Law & Order

The loss of one addiction can lead to another...but after 23 years?

Sitting around in a group session with clients who have had serious addictions to drugs and alcohol and were on their second stage of rehabilitation, I asked each of them to tell me about an addiction they had that was not a drug or other substance.

It is well known that often the deletion of one addiction leads to another. For example, have you ever gone to an AA meeting and watched during the break just how many people smoke? Would it surprise you to know that many of those did not smoke before kicking their habit? Red licorice seems to be a placebo for certain drugs. You can pretend to smoke it but the results are hardly the same. And then the group turned to me. OK, Susan, what is your favorite addiction? I have a list of more than 340 possible addictions. Mine didn’t make the list. The group knew it’s never been drugs or alcohol (red licorice, maybe) or cigarettes. It happens to be the TV series, Law & Order. For some reason I am so addicted to this series that I don’t even bother to look at which of the franchise I am watching. There’s the “mother ship" Law & Order, then Law & Order: Criminal Intent (the criminals are just more criminal), Law & Order: SVU (probably my favorite, as I’m a Mariska Hargitay fan), and the short-lived Law & Order: LA.

Law & Order in some form is in its 23rd season, having beaten out the all-time winner, Gunsmoke. The difference here is that Law & Order changed casts so many times and it never made a difference. Trust me, if James Arness was not playing Matt Dillon, there would be no Gunsmoke. So why is it that it makes absolutely no difference to me who is playing the various roles? The casts of these shows have changed more often than the normal person’s underwear. The show is well written. I like the plot lines. I’m hooked on the “dun-dun” music and simple graphics. But what I really like is that just about any time of the day you can find an episode of Law & Order on TV even if you do not have Tivo. It is all over the place. Move over Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Warren Buffet. I think the residuals paid to the Law & Order group probably have you beaten. But they’ll never tell.

So am I embarrassed? Yes! I have never had an addiction to anything. I know that walking in on my daughter while she is watching Gossip Girls or Pretty Little Liars could get my head chopped off for the interruption. I feel the same about Law & Order. What if I miss a fact or important moment? Who am I kidding? I’ve seen most of the episodes and many of them more than once. I don’t even mind knowing the outcome. Is it strange for a therapist to have creator Dick Wolf as a hero? I mean, he writes about death and sexual anomalies and brutalization. Following his freshman airing last year of Chicago Fire, he now has a new show using a crossover of the SVU characters. Now that will get me to watch.

We all have our weak spots, our comfort zones, and our favorite things. I’ve read all about “copycat” issues with TV. Life imitates art and in many episodes of Law & Order, art imitates life. But having an addiction makes me feel normal working in a world where I am often the odd woman out. Dick Wolf, you rock! Here’s to 23 more years of whatever—and I don’t even care what it is.

 

Susan Winston, LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a television producer and writer in Los Angeles.

 

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