Replacing One Addiction with Another

“Will you speak, or am I to silently examine you?”

The psychiatrist had waited for fifteen minutes before he finally spoke up. His patient or in better words, client, leisurely reclined on the couch, eyes shut, and a relaxed smile on his face. He came into the office at his parents’ insistence but hadn’t said a word besides a cheerful greeting.

“I bet Freud made people lie down so they’d feel exposed and vulnerable,” the client spoke, “do you want me to feel vulnerable?”

The psychiatrist was still new in his field, and excited to have one of his first ever patients come in. Despite the stigmas surrounding depressed teens, he really had expected some down-on-the-rocks kid, and in his fantasies, battling with sexuality. This kid, however, was monumentally different from his imagination. He wore his hair a little long, curling just below his shoulders. His glasses were golden rimmed, and slightly shimmered in the light, and he wore what the psychiatrist was certain a tailored suit. What teenage kid wore suits? That too, complete with worn leather shoes. The kid looked every bit a future social science professor in the making.

“I don’t want you to feel vulnerable,” he carefully addressed him, “I’d prefer you to be comfortable.”

“Well, my back has been hurting a little, but a massage…” he trailed off suggestively.

The psychiatrist actually blushed. He wasn’t unsusceptible to advances from men – he rather appreciated them – and his client was rather attractive. Client, he scolded himself, he’s a client and much younger than you.

“I can suggest a good masseuse, but that’s not what I’m here for. I’d like to help,” he insisted.

The client sighed at the genuineness behind his psychiatrist’s words and hauled himself into a sitting position. The shrink raised his eyebrows in what he hoped was an encouraging expression, but instead of speaking, the client began to scrutinize him. Why was he being made the object of scrutiny, when it was supposed to be the other way round? He could barely stop himself from squirming underneath that watchful gaze.

His client smile knowingly, then threw his hands up.

“I have an addiction, oh wise doctor. Will you cure me?”

The wise doctor barely hid his relief. Addictions could be dealt with; there were no less than a million methods to get someone to fight an addiction, including the new one he, himself was developing.

“What kind of addiction?” he asked distractedly; the patient was absentmindedly rubbing his thumb on his lips, back and forth, back and forth…

“The kind no one wants to admit they have,” he answered, eye-widening for dramatic effect.

“And why does no one want to admit they’re addicted?”

“Because it’s so much fun,” he taunted, “what do you think, genius? It’s because they’re all addicted to the same thing, and won’t get their head out of their asses to admit the truth.”

This client would be a handful, but he wouldn’t let it affect him, “And the truth is…”

The client smirked incorrigibly.

“Social media! We’re all addicted by the thrall of it all,” he paused to consider something, “that rhymed.”

“We’re so preoccupied with creating this image of ourselves for other people, who’re doing the same, and in the end, no one knows anyone. We cater to an audience that won’t think twice before turning on us, on itself, and yet, we schedule our lives so we can let others look at us in wonder and think: what a wonderful life, what a knowledgeable person, how woke, how beautiful,” he playfully leered, “how alluring! And all that for two minutes of publicity, before we’re forgotten and people move on to the next big thing.

We mindlessly scroll through the same things in repetition. Do you think anyone realizes how circular their life has become? They keep searching for people with similar interests, they look for music only to find similar music – and they’re happy with it – they look for meaning in things that disappear over the course of twenty-four hours, they look for love, life, lust, and in what, their phones? The electrically charged devices that can’t function without them, will betray them at the slightest of intrusions? How irreplaceably mundane, that I know this, and if it weren’t for you, I’d be lying back and doing the same.”

The psychiatrist was quiet, and then he blurted the first thing that came to his mind,

“Addiction is a disease.”

He had the impending feeling as if he’d said the wrong thing and walked straight into the spider’s web. The client smiled brilliantly.

“Are you thinking of a cure? Won’t you scam me like the pharmaceutical industry scams cancer patients, even sad little children?” He pouted in mockery of the sad little children.

The older man didn’t know if he had ever taken a single psychology lesson. It all just went out of his head.

He just quietly sat there, feeling like a child himself. Or better yet, like the clueless freshman who had entered into the classroom ten minutes after everyone else, on his first day; small, insignificant, humiliated.

“What do you suggest,” he bit out, anger getting the best of him, “if you’re so smart?”

Novice, the client thought to himself.

“I’m a big fan of replacements,” he whispered, walking swiftly and stopping to crouch in front of the doctor, “and I’m thinking you can replace one or two of my addictions.”

The shrink had no words, he could barely breathe. The client was balancing himself on the balls of his feet, by placing both hands on his thighs. Was he aware he was lightly caressing them?

“I did a little background check on you, doctor,” he said, mischief evident in his gaze, “I know you have a taste for the younger ones…”

“Those were sealed records,” he whisper-shouted at the boy

“When I say background check, I really mean I broke into your records. A friend of a friend of a friend,” he said offhandedly, by way of explanation.

“Now, are you going to help replace one disease with another, doc?” he teased.

The doctor knew he was in deep trouble even as he nodded.

The boy smiled, his intent evident, as he moved closer.

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