A Costly Trade You Might Not Know You’re Making

He felt over the ring box in his pocket a thousand times that day to the airport. She drove; he imagined: the warmth of the sand as he knelt down, the sound of those four words spilling out of his mouth, and the burst of joy on her face when he asked. This was the trip they had both been waiting for, the adventure they dreamed of together, and the turning point in their relationship that would change their lives forever. When they parked the car, he smiled. This is it.

“Welcome to Tropical Airlines,” a voice came on over the intercom as they were waiting to board their flight. “We will begin boarding in 10 minutes for flight 1474, non-stop to Hawaii.”

As soon as the intercom clicked, something overcame him. A weight dropped on his chest, and he felt like he couldn’t breathe. He ran to the bathroom and immediately vomited. Not again, not again, not AGAIN! He thought between heaves. He couldn’t shake the pure sense of panic that pinned him in that stall. He was hugging the rim until he heard the intercom once more, “Last boarding call for flight 1474; the final gate will be closing momentarily.”

The sensation finally subsided. He cleaned himself up in the sink, and he walked out of the bathroom, embarrassed. He missed the one flight he knew he couldn’t afford to miss.

In American Ultra (2015), Mike Howell is an experimental agent created by the CIA. He was trained to be their highest-skilled operative, and just when he had successfully accomplished that, they shut his program down. In doing so, they brainwashed him, erased his memories, and gave him a new life as a mediocre gas station employee with a stoner girlfriend. Moreover, they gave him a new mental association that leaving the town would induce uncontrollable panic attacks in order to keep him stuck there, out of trouble. The worst part about it for him was that he and his girlfriend wanted to adventure together, to go and see more of the world. And on this particular trip to Hawaii, he was going to propose to her. Because of these panic attacks, he wasn’t able to do any of that, and they returned home to their typical work, go home, get high, hate life routine.

While that might seem drastic—terrifying panic attacks and uncontrollable vomiting keeping him from leaving his town—I realized while watching that movie that our addictions and habits are a lot like that. As we approach what we want in our life, they kick in and keep us from it. Our habits and addictions are like a thermostat: as the room gets hotter than the set temperature, the air conditioning kicks in and cools off the room; as our lives get better and we approach good things, the temptation to use, avoid, or sabotage ourselves gets greater. I noticed that it keeps us from experiencing fullness in three key areas:

1) Life (fullness of adventure and experience)

We all have dreams. Dreams of traveling the world, of helping others, of living out our passions. And all of our dreams require massive action to actually live it out. Have you ever noticed that when you start to research or plan out your dreams that you start to get side-tracked, lose motivation to keep going, and want to just slip into a bad habit instead of facing the overwhelm of actually living out your dream? Our dreams aren’t unattainable. Not for you, not for me. But we are keeping ourselves from actually living them out because we are replacing the action we need to live it out by spending it on our vices.

2) Relationships (fullness of love and intimacy)

We all want to love and to be loved. We want to be selfless people who give of ourselves to the people we care about. And we want them to do the same for us. To know every part of us and accept us for who we are. To adore us right here and right now. But have you ever wanted to do something for someone you care about and found yourself not doing it? Just imagining what you could do? A romantic date, a kind gesture, a selfless act? And then instead of actually living it out, you do something else? Avoid, excuse, justify, or follow your temptations elsewhere? Vibrant relationships take sacrifice, and if we are sacrificing for our vices, we end up with a dull intimacy that leaves us unsatisfied.

3) Yourself (fullness of growth and pride)

We all want to be proud of who we are and continuously grow as well. It takes guts to look inside of ourselves and begin to untangle the mess that’s formed over years of pain, mistakes, and avoidance. A lot of the times, we think it’s easier in that moment to use and just numb the problem than to actually go in and solve it. So instead of spending our energy on creating solutions, we spend it on disguising our problems.

Our life is stinted when we use. Our addictions cage our ability to experience the fullness of what we could have in this life. It’s like chaining a bird to a tree. Yeah, they can probably fly around some, but nothing like it was intended to. They can’t experience what it feels like to soar over forests or in between mountains or on top of lakes. They can’t experience the rush of diving two hundred feet and pulling up just before the ground. They can’t experience the exhilaration of the hunt or the excitement of the catch. They can’t experience the coolness of the breeze as their wings spread wide and cut through the wind.

Every time you use, do you really know what you’re trading? It’s important to count the cost, because if you do, you might just find the cost to change is better than the cost to miss out on the fullness of what you could experience in life.

You were meant to soar.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Don’t miss out on anymore in your life. You were meant to soar.” quote=”Don’t miss out on anymore in your life. You were meant to soar.”]


Leave a Comment


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.