When Asked What They're Addicted To, Men Boast Instead

Men confessed their "horrible" addictions: aftershave, and being great dads!

Posted Nov 14, 2010

We're in a funny position where the DSM-5 Work Group has designated compulsive gambling as an addictive disorder (as I described in the September issue of Psychology Today), but most people mock the idea that something besides heroin, or drugs, or alcohol, or cigarettes can be addictive. Especially if you ask them what they're addicted to, they tend to react with two sorts of things - things they're actually proud of which they pose as addictions (like "I'm addicted to honesty"), and habits which (as with coffee) might actually be addictive but are so accepted in society that there's no harm in admitting to them.

Recently, Benoit Denizet-Lewis - who has confessed his sexual addiction in spectacular fashion on the pages of the New York Times, has created a publication - The Good Men Project Magazine - and recruited a group of men (including me) to confess our addictions. In his introduction to the on-line publication, Denizet-Lewis describes addiction in the most dire terms, and calls for addressing it as a national priority:

Today, nearly 23 million Americans - 9.2 percent of the population 12 or older - are hooked on alcohol or drugs, another 61 million smoke cigarettes, and millions more are slaves to gambling, compulsive overeating, and sex and pornography.

. . . . .

"Can you imagine the power of millions of recovering addicts walking on Washington, demanding that the government devote as much money to addiction research and treatment as they do to breast cancer and AIDS?" wonders addiction expert Patrick Carnes. "I predict it will happen, but I wonder how many more addicts will have to die before it does."

But the prominent people he consulted for descriptions of their addictions made a mockery of his concerns! (Except for some "real" addicts - usually ones who don't provide their last names.) Here are the answers they gave (whether mine meets his concerns any better, you can judge for yourself):

Typical is superstar James Franco, who confesses to being "addicted to coffee, and to school, movies, books, and art." What a guy!  Franco's "contribution" actually vitiates the whole purpose of Denizet-Lewis' magazine:

As if these obsessions are taking me away from my "real" life. They are my fucking real life, so if I spend all my time on them, good, I'm glad I'm addicted.

Franco obviously fancies himself a fully engaged intellectual - except when he falls asleep in one of the four academic programs he's enrolled in (he seems not to be addicted enough to coffee). I wonder why he seeks intellectual validation so strenuously - is a deep-seated sense of inadequacy the root of his addiction to school? (Note he doesn't say that he's addicted to knowledge - you can get that from reading.)

Here are other men speaking about their "addictions":

Rob Gould, Director of Social Media & Agency Communications, VIA:
I'm addicted to talking about myself. [This sounds like he is serious, but he immediately undercuts it with his next humorous line.] Usually accompanied by wild hand gestures. I'm also now addicted to pretzel M&Ms.

Wyc Grousbeck, CEO and co-owner of the Boston Celtics:
I'm addicted to ... winning, but I am even addicted to losing, because even the pain of losing a game is much better than the dullness of playing it safe and not risking anything. ["I'm a risk-taking winner, unlike you risk-averse losers reading this."]

I'm addicted to Clubman aftershave. [This is so inane, I left the ID until after - a religious figure - so much for "confession is good for the soul"]:
Joel Ives, rector, Church of Our Savior, Brookline, Massachusetts

And here's the most self-serving "confession" of all (one that is actually bizarrely at war with itself).

Derek Markham, writer and digital media consultant:
As a dad, I'm addicted to the sweet smell of my toddler's breath, the warmth of my 5-year-old's snuggle, the sound of my 12-year-old daughter blurting out "Papa!" in an exasperated voice, and the soft quiet place where my head fits on my lover's shoulder. As a man, I'm addicted to dark-roast organic coffee, oversharing with social media, compulsively browsing on my Android phone, and top-shelf Scotch. [Translation: "I'm a perfect dad, I share deep intimacy with my partner, and I love high-quality Scotch" - hey, buddy, guys who are really addicted to alcohol are called alcoholics, and they lose their children.]

Reading these interviews, I deduce that talking about addiction is another way for men to fan their egos.  (BTW: Is that an addiction?)

Picture: man deeply addicted to school - not addicted enough to coffee