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Technology needs to have less of a focus in my life

Technology has overtaken my life. It’s insidious intrusion didn’t happen all at once. It occurred in stages over many years.

In Toronto because of multiple chemical sensitivity, I became a prisoner in my home. For those who don’t know what M.C.S. is it is a condition where one develops increasing sensitivities  from small amounts of exposure to things in their environment like vehicle exhaust fumes, perfume, cologne and chemical cleaners. For those with M.C.S. their exposures are like the filling of a rain barrel. As more and more exposures occur their allergy rain barrel gets fuller until after multiple exposures it overflows, often resulting in asthma attacks or at times even requiring intubation.

I have been intubated eight times likely because of this condition and what doctors think is a very rare mast cell (immune system cells) proliferation disease called systemic mastocytosis. The great news is that moving to northern Ontario away from the density of pollution in Toronto along with treatment with mast cell regulators, has resulted in great improvement to my health. I publically commend Dr. Jonathan Prousky, my intern, Karen Maloney and all the medical staff at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine  in Toronto, who are my supportive coaches in my journey to wellness.

As a result of being a virtual prisoner in my home  starting eight years ago,I became addicted to TV and the Internet. I deluded myself that I needed these things to help me cope with being trapped inside.

Going out most times landed me in the ER or even resulted in me being intubated. My body became so sensitive that when a home care nurse monitoring my asthma came wearing vanilla Dial soap I started choking because I was having an anaphylactic attack. Karen called 911. Three EPI (adrenaline) pens later and getting worse the ER physician intubated me.

In 2001 I was diagnosed with pernicious anemia a.k.a. B12 deficiency. One of its major symptoms is fatigue. In my case the condition is genetic because one of my blood relatives has also been diagnosed with it.

Here is a brief snapshot for you into how B12 deficiency was ruining my life.

I am a child of five. Mom tells me I must rest from playing so hard. I protest but  agree to do that. My parents take me to doctor after doctor. Not one of them runs a B12 level blood test.

I have many flus all through my school years. Some years I’m home for weeks at a time.

At the age of 17 I experience such a serious flu that my body temperature goes to 105 degrees farenheit. I am rushed to the hospital. They have to apply ice and put me on antibiotics to bring the fever down.

I am off school over a month. Thankfully, I am surprised when my teachers unanimously decide to grade me on the term work completed. They tell me it is their way of rewarding me for my dedication to my studies.

However, what they and all of us didn’t know is that likely because of how B12 deficiency was affecting my ability to remember, I stayed up often past 2:00 a.m. pounding facts,  concepts, dates in history and mathematical formulas into my brain.

I remain thankful to God for my teachers, who gave me such a gift in accepting my term work. They alllowed me through that gift the opportunity to graduate from Grade 12 with less than one point away from honors standing.

In my adult years I became  more and more depressed by these life-threatening and life-altering conditions. I used TV, watching DVDS  and the Internet as an escape from how miserable my life had become.

I couldn’t go to church. When my friends would come over to take me out, they were taking a risk. Exposure to vehicle exhaust fumes from their cars was enough to cause a severe asthma attack, that required yet another in a series of too many ER visits to count.

I was on a breathing steroid called Prednisone for over a year and a half from2008 to 2009. My optometrist in Toronto and here in nearby Kirkland Lake says I have developed cataracts as a likely result of all the times I’ve been on Prednisone. It kept me alive, but in the process I developed what we think is an addiction to Prednisone based on my symptomology. We’re not doctors, so they will need to make that determination. Just recently when I was given one dose of it because of breathing trouble from my sinus infection, I am still recovering from the insomnia it has caused for over two weeks.

I have also been battling a sinus infection for almost three months. In Toronto I had one so bad that I was on morphine for over seven months.  I ended up vomiting because that is one of the effects of long-term morphine use. It took me away from Karen more and more. All I had energy and the focus for was watching mindless TV and watching movies on DVDS.

In my opinion because the medical system in Englehart did not give proper treatment when I asked for it,  my sinus infection has worsened.

With the increasing stress, I found myself falling back into the way I was living my life in Toronto.  I began being on the Internet far much more than I should have. Not wanting to expose myself to other people’s bugs when I have this sinus infection, I have self-isolated myself.

Karen came to me a few weeks ago and said, “Darling, when you go on the computer I lose you in that world.” That was a real eye opener.

I say to her in this public forum, “Love of my life, next to God, please forgive me for not spending enough time with you. I’m so sorry for the hurt I have caused you. With God’s help and the wise counsel of others, I will do all I can to free myself of my need for technology.”

Our kitties, William and Catherine come up to me even putting themselves on our laptop. They put a double kitty pin on kitty daddy. I have to get up from our recliner to free myelf from them.

William looks at me with eyes filled with sorrow as if to say, “Kitty daddy, I need you. I need you to pet me and tell me how much you love me. I miss you so much. Please come back to us. Please, oh please, play with us! Give us lots and lots of kitty luvins.”

Karen’s words come back to my memory.”Darling, when you go on the Internet, I lose you in that world.”

Today, I make this  attempt with my Lord’s help that one day in the week I will not use any of the following:

1) Internet

2) TV

3) Radio

4) Phone

I can only make a phone call if it is a medical emergency or I need to help someone with a crisis. I can listen to music.

I will be honest with you about all the symptoms of addiction I experience. If I fail to disengage from technology, I will tell you.

I pray that if I am successful in this undertaking, I will then increase my disengagement from technology by going on a retreat where I will take on the discipline of no Internet, TV, radio, phone or the watching of movies on DVDS.

My Lord will also be calling me into silent retreat. I must do this to be connected more with the contemplative life of the spirit I am being called to.

When the first thought on my mind when I wake up is I need to check my email, that’s a focus I need to change immediately. I am being called by my Father to a more  spirit-directed life, that He would use me to call many others to that kind of life.

On several web sites I went to I discovered that  North Americans watch over 30 hours of TV a week. For those over 65 they watch TV as much as seven hours  a day.

We have become a world addicted to our technological caffeine. When there is a blackout the first thing we often  miss is our engagement with the Internet or ability to play online video games. Yet, many people discover that in times like these they become more connected as a family. They play board games together. They sing and share stories and jokes together.  They laugh and enjoy life and one another.

They get outside and exercise. You see families throwing snow balls at one another. You see children making angels in the snow as they lay down and stretch out their arms and legs.

Sadly, most times when the blackout is over and the power comes back on it’s back to their segregated way of living. Teenagers retreat into their Internet and gaming world. Adults go back to watching TV. It’s back to loving the Internet and being apart as a family.

We need to work together to change this destructive pathway we are on as a society.

More and more university professors are reporting that many students can’t write a proper sentence, let alone an essay. Before we are to quick to blame the educational system ask yourself this important question.  How much do you control the Internet activities of your children, the amount of time they spend on their cell phones and being involved with playing video games?

Why do we allow children the use of cell phones? Some people might argue that when their child has a cell phone theycan call if there is an emergency. You could give your child a cell phone that only allows them to make emergency calls.  Even if you find that too strict a measure to take, you could limit your own cell phone use as a way of teaching your children the importance of lessening theirs.

Let us talk more to our children. Spend time enjoying the blessing they can be. Perhaps, in engaging with play in their world the inner child in you will be re-awakened. You might even find yourself enjoying your life more.

Even the best teachers will tell you that if a child spends more time on the Internet than on their studies, it will affect their marks and their academic and career success. With only a high school education or even less than that your children can forget about being a teacher, doctor or being engaged in many professions requiring computerand/or technological skill.

I became infuriated with my stepson when I challenged him over his poor marks and continued absences from school. He told me he knew how to play the game to do just enough to pass. I said to him with loving concern, “You can pick your future or your future will pick you.  You decide. ” He laughed. He thought he was being smart, but he has come to see with time the truth of my advice. He is working two dead end jobs. He is still one course short of completing his high school diploma at the age  of24.

Please pray that both of my stepsons will focus more on their careers than playing video games or being on the Internet several hours at a time. One of them wants to join the Canadian Armed Forces. He has been an Army cadet. He rose in rank to be a supervisor of the training of other cadets. I think he would make a fine officer.

The other stepson was told by a church member that she could see him being a student at Harvard. He’s really good with his hands as well. With a quality education he could become a Math teacher or even a computer engineer.

Dr. Kimberly Young, a psychologist and an internationally known expert on Internet addiction on her web site, writes about the signs and symptoms of Internet addiction.  They are as follows:

Signs of Internet Addiction

Dr. Young developed the Internet Addiction Diagnostic Questionnaire (IADQ). Meeting five symptoms are necessary to be diagnosed.

  1. Do you feel preoccupied with the Internet (think about previous online activity or anticipate next online session)?
  2. Do you feel the need to use the Internet with increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction?
  3. Have you repeatedly made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop Internet use?
  4. Do you feel restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop Internet use?
  5. Do you stay online longer than originally intended?
  6. Have you jeopardized or risked the loss of significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of the Internet?
  7. Have you lied to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with the Internet?
  8. Do you use the Internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression)?

Other Symptoms Include:

  • Failed attempts to control behavior
  • Heightened sense of euphoria while involved in computer and Internet activities
  • Neglecting friends and family
  • Neglecting sleep to stay online
  • Being dishonest with others
  • Feeling guilty, ashamed, anxious, or depressed as a result of online behavior
  • Physical changes such as weight gain or loss, backaches, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Withdrawing from other pleasurable activities

Dr. Young’s clinical team can offer Skype sessions. If you think you have an Internet addiction, which could include addiction to pornography, online gaming and gambling and can’t break free of them, I urge you to get help.

If you don’t get help, it will destroy your life. I already know a close friend whose relationship is over with a beautiful woman of God, because he is addicted to Internet pornography.

Pornography will not bring you any comfort. It will poison and could even kill your marriage, as surely as the bite of a rattle snake or a cobra can be lethal.

If you don’t fix what is wrong with your car it will break down. You will be unable to drive your car until it is repaired. It will likely end up costing more to fix because you didn’t get it repaired soon enough. Please don’t allow this to happen with your marriage. The hollow, fleeting and false comfort of the Internet is not worth you getting a divorce.

The Internet will not give you loving arms to fall into when you need comfort. It will not keep you warm at night. It will not help you with your loneliness or your despair. Get rid of its intrusion into your life before it is too late.

Together, let us reclaim our marriages, our lives and all of our relationships .

Embrace the beauty and joy of a life more engaged with God and others than technology.

I offer this song for your spiritual reflection.