A New Addiction Takes Hold

by Bill Brenner on February 21, 2013

During my vacation this week, I’ve been playing a lot of guitar. I picked the instrument back up over the summer after a 20-year break, and I haven’t looked back. My addictive personality has latched onto it like a starving lamprey. But it may be one of the best outlets I’ve ever had for calming the mind.

Mood music:


I now own two electric guitars and an acoustic. I’ve acquired a Marshall amp and a multi-effects pedal. Sean calls me a guitar hoarder.

I’ve been taking guitar lessons, and my instructor has taught me songs like Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” and Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin ‘Bout Love.” I learned a few on my own, too: “Foolin'” and “Hysteria” from Def Leppard, “Rock You Like a Hurricane” from The Scorpions and several Black Sabbath riffs.

I’ve also been putting together chords that sound good to me, which will lead to some songwriting of my own in short order.

I’ve learned a lot of mindfulness techniques in recent months, and all have helped. But the guitar playing is the tool I don’t have to throw a lot of concentration into. The action itself soothes.

Binge eating used to soothe me, but only for the first few minutes. Then shame followed. Smoking was soothing, but it smelled terrible and was making me a time bomb for cancer. The e-cigs — vaping, as it’s now called — help, but the idea is to eventually stop that habit, too. It’s a temporary crutch.

Read more about what the addictive process is like in “Anatomy of a Binge.”

The guitar sustains me for much longer, without the shameful, smelly byproducts.

It’s an addiction I think I can live with.

Bill's guitars

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Pete February 21, 2013 at 9:36 am

OCD, addictive personality, perfectionist — call it what you will, but it often seems like a super power that can be used for good or evil. I see a lot of stars have this same kind of aim to master their domain, and sometimes falter to addictions. It’s always important to remember to take that special energy and put it toward a good hobby like playing guitar. Thanks Bill!

Tina Barbour February 21, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Perhaps the guitar playing is just a different kind of mindfulness. When we’re focused on what is at hand, what we’re doing or seeing or hearing, etc. in the moment, then that is a type of mindfulness. I’m glad it’s helping you!

Eli February 23, 2013 at 10:51 am

Love it! Keep playing my man.

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