That time my Netflix addiction became a serious problem
Out of the blue, while watching my favorite Nora Ephron masterpiece, the screen went dark. The dreaded red wheel of doom spun a circle in the middle of my computer. I checked the wifi signal and the Internet modem—I called my mother for help. The Internet connection was fine and there was no visible sign that anything was wrong with my computer. Unless there were little green aliens on the roof intercepting my satellite signal, that was fine too. My mind raced. How could the Netflix gods do this to me? Have I really been streaming for the last five hours? I need to take a shower.
I felt as though I was in a scary movie in which the protagonist slowly loses his mind only to die a painful, agonizing death. I hoped this scenario would turn into a romantic comedy and a cute guy would waltz up to my door, computer loaded with Netflix in one hand, and a pizza in the other. Shockingly, that didn’t happen. Instead, I logged into a friend’s account and the day was saved.
My relationship to the Big N (as I call it) has always been one of unbridled merriment. Even before streaming was added, I was hooked. My mother ordered DVDs online and I monitored the queue like a seagull searching for junk food at the pier. When the delivery day finally came, I carefully unwrapped the Christmas red slip covers and popped in the movie. Netflix represented family time, comfort and escape.
In November, my boyfriend broke up with me, right before the holiday season commenced. I was a wreck and I turned to those things that gave me the most comfort. Netflix was one of them. That winter, I must have watched hundreds of hours of television, movies, documentaries, miniseries, telenovelas— anything I could browse for. I scoured the search section. Musicals. Inspirational Comedy. Foreign Films Featuring Talking Animals. Anything and everything. I neglected friends and avoided family members. My lowest point came when I was forced to choose between paying my credit card bill and renewing my subscription. As a fresh college grad, I was broke and it took all of my strength to choose the former.
My harmless affinity for curling up with a marathon of Breaking Bad had mutated into a crippling addiction.
“Are you okay?” my mom asked, catching me in the act.
I must have looked creepy sitting in the dark, the fluorescent glow of the screen on my face. She offered to sign me up for a group for people who struggled with media addiction. Addiction?! Who has an addiction to Netflix? And how could I possibly be addicted to something so frivolous; something that gave joy to millions. Being the hypochondriac that I am, I spent an entire weekend (in between streaming) googling signs you have an addiction. While Yahoo Answers didn’t exactly give me the insight I was looking for, I did find some great articles on sites such as Tiny Buddha. I learned that addiction isn’t always intrinsically linked to the activity, but one’s relationship to it.
The problem didn’t lie in my frequent use of Netflix, but in my yearning to use it. I needed it. Some days, I turned it on just to have it on. I couldn’t sit in silence. Repeatedly binging on episodes of Merlin was no longer my way of expressing my introvert tendencies, but a tool to fill a void within myself.
Recovery was slow. With new episodes from The Walking Dead and Revenge, the road to rehab was littered with many distractions. After relapsing (several times), I started focusing less on denying myself and on doing more of the things that made me happy. I put aside my ego, and went to therapy. I exercised more, I read more; I wrote more. When I felt that urge to watch one more episode, I did simple, yet fulfilling things like paint rainbows on my nails and walk my dog. Even during the times I felt crappy, I was more in tune with my emotions. I wasn’t drowning them in someone else’s storyline.
One Saturday morning, I woke up early and had my favorite cup of chai tea latte from Trader Joe’s. I sipped and read for two hours before realizing what I had done. I had gone through the quietist part of the day without needing the background noise of my favorite television show. I wasn’t completely done with the Big N, but my next streaming adventure would have to wait.
[Image via CBS.]