Dr Phil will have you wondering
As we all know, there is no greater authority on psychological matters than Dr. Phil. And according to that particular straight-talking Texan, there are 10 key signs of suffering addiction.
- Recurrent failure (pattern) to resist impulses.
- Frequently engaging in those behaviors to a greater extent or over a longer period of time than intended.
- Persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to stop, reduce or control those behaviors.
- Inordinate amount of time spent in obtaining the object of addiction and/or engaging in or recovering from the behavior.
- Preoccupation with the behavior or preparatory activities.
- Frequently engaging in behavior when expected to fulfill occupational, academic, domestic or social obligations.
- Continuation of the behavior despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent social, academic, financial, psychological or physical problem that is caused or exacerbated by the behavior.
- Need to increase the intensity, frequency, number or risk of behaviors to achieve the desired effect, or diminished effect with continued behaviors at the same level of intensity, frequency, number or risk.
- Giving up or limiting social, occupational or recreational activities because of the behavior.
- Resorting to distress, anxiety, restlessness or violence if unable to engage in the behavior at times.
Looking at many of these indicators I can't help feeling they describe my attitude toward motorcycles and motorcycling. In recent weeks especially—as the weather has slowly improved and the length of days increased—I've found it very difficult to get motorcycles off the brain.
But do I really have an addiction to motorcycles? I mean, that first one: A recurrent failure to resist impulses. An impulse to ride? Who can resist that? Especially when the sun is shining. Surely, it's perfectly rational and healthy —a sign of a balanced mind. Unless you're having sex, it's perfectly normal for you to want to drop everything and go for a ride.
Equally, how is it wrong to frequently ride a motorcycle to a greater extent or over a longer period of time than intended? I'm pretty sure that's just par for the course. You're supposed to tell your wife you'll be home at 7 and not show up until 10. There's nothing weird about that.
What is weird, though, is the third sign of addiction: A persistent desire to stop the behavior. I definitely don't suffer from that. What sane person would want to stop riding motorcycles, or even reduce his or her exposure to them? That's wrong, man. That's sick. If you're in that state of mind, seek help at your nearest motorcycle dealership.
I guess I'm guilty of the fourth sign of addiction, though: spending an inordinate amount of time obtaining motorcycles and motorcycling experiences. Cleverly, I have incorporated this behavior into my lifestyle. I write about motorcycles. So of course I have to spend a lot of time pleading with manufacturers to let me ride them... nervously phoning up Honda or Indian or Moto-Guzzi, etc., in hopes they'll be able to help me get my fix...it's my job.
Similarly, then, it makes sense that I can relate to the fifth symptom of addiction. I do have a preoccupation with motorcycles. I get up in the morning and search out the latest news and opinions of them, then I spend the rest of my day riding or writing about them. Maybe, as a result, my perspective is skewed, but I'm pretty sure that even if you aren't a moto-journalist this behavior is fine.
My unique career choice means I again have a loophole when it comes to the sixth sign of addiction: I don't choose motorcycles over my career, they are my career. But, I will admit that in my previous job it was sometimes a problem. I used to work for an organization that had offices all across the country and my eagerness to visit those offices was often a little too transparent. I once tried to convince my boss it would be a good idea for me to hand deliver a flash drive to Glasgow (400 miles away) rather than just send files via WeTransfer...
The seventh sign of addiction also fits. I'm definitely guilty of persisting in motorcycling despite the knowledge it's doing me no financial good. You know that thing we tell people when we're trying to convince them to start riding, that they'll save money? Of course that's a lie. Motorcycling begets motorcycling, and that begets a need for more gear. Every time I manage to save up a tiny lump of cash, I spend it on some piece of kit, a farkle for my bike, or to cover the cost of some bike-related adventure.
That eighth sign, though—the need to increase the intensity, frequency, number or risk—again seems like normal behavior when it comes to motorcycles. Personally, I'm not that hot on risk, but I can at least understand why so many people enjoy track days. While increased frequency is just a natural side-effect of riding. It's similar to the way increased frequency of breaths is a natural side-effect of physical exercise. That's what's supposed to happen.
A reasonably sized motorcycle collection
Whereas, increasing the number of motorcycles one owns is just an example of a life well-lived. I only have one bike at the moment, but my most persistent daydream is of owning a great fleet of bikes, one for every conceivable scenario. I don't see that as an addiction; it's ambition.
The ninth sign of addiction is the one I can most honestly claim to not suffer. Motorcycles are at the heart of my occupational and recreational activities, and the people I've met as a result of riding have actually increased my social interaction. Bikes don't keep me from those things, they provide those things. Indeed, if I knew someone who was suffering from the ninth sign of addiction my advice to him or her would be to get a motorcycle.
Finally, yes, having to live too long without riding does lead to the tenth sign of addiction: distress, anxiety, and restlessness. Just thinking about not riding gets me uptight. I need to get out and go for a ride just to calm myself down after thinking such a terrible thought.
So, I suppose, if you add it all up, perhaps I am addicted to motorcycles. The question is whether that's a bad thing. I don't think so. And besides, man, I could quit anytime I want to.
I just don't want to.