What do you like doing? is perhaps one of the most frequent questions asked in elementary English classes (partly as an example of a grammatical phenomenon called “Verb Patterns”, I’m afraid). The point is that our favourite free time activities reveal more of our character than we probably think.
However, this innocent1 question may also touch the dark side of our personality — the skeleton in the cupboard. What if we love doing something too much? What if it becomes a passion to which we devote all our free time and thinking? What if we spend huge sums of money to feed our beloved hobby? What if we refuse to listen to common sense? Well, then our hobby has turned into an addiction2, and we are in trouble.

“It will never happen to me,” I can hear you say. That’s because our minds automatically link the word “addiction” to such issues as drug addiction and alcoholism. In fact addiction has a much wider meaning than that. Just think of the Internet, chatting, Skype, mobile phones, television or iPods!
Each addiction is dangerous, no matter what it is we are hooked on. The only difference is that there are addictions which are socially acceptable and there are those which are not.
Workaholism, shopaholism or chocaholism are addictions all right, however, their results and effects aren’t as devastating and dangerous as those of alcoholism, smoking or drug addiction.
By the way, have you noticed how opinions on smoking have changed over the years? Some decades ago smoking was tolerated, even fashionable. Nowadays, strict no-smoking policies have turned public opinion against smoking. It used to be referred to as a “bad habit”, whereas today nearly everybody feels smoking is far more serious than nailbiting3 or nose-picking4.

Stop to think:
● Do you agree that each addiction is dangerous, no matter what we are addicted to? Explain.
● Can you think of more examples of socially acceptable and unacceptable addictions?

I’m sure each of us has already got trapped in some sort of addiction in our lives. It usually begins with a kind of fascination and pleasure a thing or activity brings. It results in our strong desire to repeat the same positive experience over and over again. It gradually robs us of more and more time, money and energy until it swallows us completely. Gulp! We don’t control the activity any longer as it in fact controls us.

Even though it is impossible to resist all addictions, there are certain qualities which can make us more vulnerable5.

Are you a loner? 
Lonely people with few friends are condemned6 to spend their free time more or less on their own. Since they are left with very few options, it is highly probable that loners will focus on their favourite activity without any distractions7 and that may lead to addiction.

Do you have problems and wish to escape from them?
There isn’t probably any more serious condition for becoming an addict than the attempt to escape the real troublesome world for a world where you feel good. Frustration and despair may trigger8 all kinds of addictions, including the most dangerous ones.

Are you weak-willed?
The lack of a strong will is devastating when it comes to kicking a habit. Not only are such people unable to resist temptations, but they also find it difficult to get rid of an addiction as well.

Are you suggestible9?
If your personality and scale of values are weak, you can easily be influenced by anyone and anything. Being easy to influence might be dangerous since you aren’t able to estimate the potential risks.

Stop to think:
● Are you the type of personality who is more likely to become an addict? Explain.
● Can you add some more conditions for becoming an addict?

How to fight it?
The very first step is to realize that you do have a problem. Many a time people don’t want to admit they are addicts. (If you’re not sure whether you are one, how about a little test. Stop doing what you think you might be hooked on and wait. If withdrawal10 symptoms appear, you’ve got the answer.) Those who decide to do something about their problem have several options. Strong-willed people might try to change their habits suddenly to avoid the undesirable activity. However, abandoning an addictive hobby all of a sudden doesn’t always work. It is perhaps better to reduce the amount of time you devote to your addiction and get rid of it slowly.
When you feel you can’t do it by yourself, it is necessary to ask for help. The support of caring and understanding people around you could be motivating. Finally, it’s not a shame to seek professional help as well. After all, we are human beings with individual weaknesses and imperfections. The most important question is whether we want to fight them or not.

Stop to think:
● Do you believe it is possible to get rid of an addiction without any external help? Explain.
● Your best friend has an addiction problem but doesn’t want to talk about it. What can you do?

Miroslava Dubanová

Vocabulary: 1nevinný; 2závislosť – závislost; 3hrýsť si nechty – okusovat si nehty; 4špárať sa v nose – šťourat se v nose; 5zraniteľný – zranitelný; 6predurčený – předurčení; 7vyrušenie – vyrušení; 8spustiť, aktivovať – spustit, aktivovat; 9ovplyvniteľný – ovlivnitelný; 10abstinenčný – abstinenční