Walking across a dormant grass field, I am out today looking for a geocache, my 536th find to be specific. From the cold ground, a weathered telephone pole juts into the sky. Wrapped around the base, and flowing upward, a healthy vine is reclaiming the physical footprint of the telephone pole. The growth is overtaking the structure, establishing roots and shoots of its own, smothering every living organism in the track of progress.

The illustration of the vine provides a clear object lesson for today’s analogy and direction for the following snippet of wisdom: any activity, regardless of harm OR of benefit, can grab hold of you—in a most unhealthy capacity—and strangle you, metaphorically speaking, of course. Lights out.

The activity of seeking hidden containers in the forest once dominated every waking moment of my day. Well maybe that’s an exaggeration to some extent, but mostly rooted in fact.

My kids officially became disenchanted with the hobby based on the high frequency of “Hey, a gas station kids, let’s check for a cache!” statements in their lives. Eventually my “Hey, who wants to come with me?” questions were countered with “Nope, not me. Me neither. Na, next time.” answers.

As a self-employed individual, I found time in my workday schedule to drive through the park (same one in which I find myself today) looking for any newly minted “boxes of treasure” lodged under a log, hoisted in a tree, or placed in a guardrail. Once a month or so, the local geocaching community would host picnics in the park, to gather and talk shop. And while I was invested in the related geocaching hobby of those people, it was yet another distraction within my life, and time subtracted from that of my family. In fact, I was spending so much time in the hobby of geocaching—in both seeking and hiding—that I had to walk away from it entirely for a reasonable amount of time: two years.

Stranglehold (noun) 1: an illegal wrestling hold by which one’s opponent is choked; 2: a force or influence that chokes or suppresses freedom of movement or expression

Does anyone else remember the deadly stranglehold from professional wrestling? Maybe that’s just me, and a small portion of you that choose not to acknowledge your secret passion for 1980s World Wrestling Federation televised matches. Whatcha gonna do when Hulkamania destroys you?

Some individuals possess a propensity for addictions—or, at least, some type of addictive behavior—and I certainly qualify for such a label. I’m curious to where and when and how I acquired this personality trait, but that’s a question for a mental health professional.

The truth is that any activity can become a stranglehold on your life, claiming time or money or resources that could otherwise be allocated to something else. The Big Biggies are obvious, and all parents warn their offspring of such follies: drugs, booze, premarital sexual relationships. Those are three, fairly easy for me, checkboxes to maintain a record of personal good behavior, but maybe for others, those three are major characters in their own life story.

I do know close friends that wrestle with such high-profile demons, however there are other sneaky intruders that will kick the feet out from under us:

  • the world of obesity, overeating, and impulsive behavior;
  • unending ambition, collecting of the Benjamins, and the long steep climb of a corporate ladder;
  • the quickness of tongue, gossip, or slander;
  • the desire for recognition and satisfaction through physical appearance or materialism;
  • an entitlement to happiness in the form of emotional or physical affairs;
  • a pursuance of more Comments, Likes, Shares, or Retweets;
  • or, a justification to purchase that best-new-thing or I-just-gotta-have-it item.

None of us are immune to these most basic of human impulses, for better or for worse, none of us.

What fascinates me about addiction and obsessive behavior is that people would choose an altered state of consciousness that’s toxic and ostensibly destroys most aspects of your normal life, because for a brief moment you feel okay ~ Moby

You may be wondering why I am here in the first place. Why, if already identified as a vice, am I reengaging in the same pattern of poor behavior? Well, it’s not like that at all now. An important distinction is now crystal clear to me, from a healthy distance and time away from the hobby.

I originally discovered that geocaching provided a fantastic opportunity to get out of the house, off of the couch, and to walk around in nature. On the most basic level, that is entirely true, and a positive attribute of the hobby. That’s what I seek now, after reintroducing myself to the hobby: simple solitude in nature, with the optional seeking of a hidden container in the forest—it’s not about the accumulation of Finds or Hides, nor the personal recognition for any type of geocaching-based accomplishment.

It is only once the gotta-do-it-everyday mentality sinks in that you find yourself in a harmful, repetitive habit that you cannot break. And such is true for any vice that slowly wraps around us, gently constricting without us even noticing, consistently clamping down on the inevitable stranglehold.

So the question remains, for you dear reader: what currently has your life in a stranglehold, or what activities can you identify as problematic? Now’s the time to make changes, big or small, in your daily repertoire. Before it’s lights out, for you too.