I have my TV on way more often than I should. When I get home from work I usually turn it on before I even kick off my shoes. When I wake up on the weekend, there’s a good shot I’ve turned on the TV before I even take care of my morning bathroom routine. After that, while I’m figuring out what I’m going to do for the day, I’m usually figuring it out while I’m sitting on the sofa, with the TV on. Then, there are times when that plan for the day never materializes because I’m too busy doing nothing while having the TV on. What do I watch on TV? Hell if I know. I wouldn’t even say I actually watch any TV shows or programming, I just watch television. I am addicted to TV.

Before we go any further, I want to take a step back and acknowledge that addiction is a heavy word to use, and shouldn’t be thrown around casually. I’ve known and seen people battle addictions which are way more serious than dealing with TV, and I’m not going to say that my personal behavior is anywhere close to being as serious or dangerous. When I think about addiction, I think about compulsively engaging in behavior that I know isn’t positive. With that said, I think people can be addicted to tons of things, from drugs to alcohol, video games, cell phones, and tons of other things in this world, depending on the person. So, I stand by my choice in using the word addiction, but I don’t mean any offense if anyone feels like I’m out of line using that word.

To me, the big thing that I noticed about my behavior with TV which bothered me was my compulsive decision to turn it on. It was rare that I would say, I want to watch . . . and then turn on the TV. Instead, way too frequently, I turn on the TV and think, well now that it’s on, what am I going to watch? The difference between these two courses of action might seem small if not entirely insignificant, but I find the devil—who himself is a huge fan of vices—is in the details. Going to the TV to watch a specific show or program is a conscious action. More often than not, I’ll watch said show, turn off the TV, and go about my day. On the other hand, turning the TV on for just the sake of having it on—that’s the trap of leaving the TV on for an unplanned and usually long period of time.

Sometimes I just put something on to have in the background while I’m cooking, cleaning, or doing some other chores around the house. But there’s also been many times when I’ve seen the flip side of that coin. Tons of times I’ll get to work after that commercial break, or just nap until that cool action sequence I’ve seen who knows how many times happens again. What’s the worst part of this kind of behavior? I don’t even care about the action sequence, and I really couldn’t give a damn about what happens after the next commercial break. Usually while making these arbitrary excuses to keep myself from doing something more productive, I’m playing on my phone, browsing the Internet, and generally even not watching the TV while it’s on!

What I have finally learned, or become comfortable enough to be honest with myself to admit, is that when I turn on the TV just the sake of putting it on, it’s not because I want to be watching TV, but because I don’t want to be doing something else. That something else could be any activity in the gamut of activities I avoid from time to time, such as chores, or running, or boring responsible things that nobody wants to do. I don’t care about the commercial break, I don’t care about the action sequence, but what I care about is avoiding something which is clearly more important for me to deal with.

What am I doing differently now to take more ownership of my TV habits? I force myself to become more aware of why I turn on the TV, and what I want to get out of watching it. Each time I want to turn it on, I ask myself if I’m watching TV because I want to watch something specific, or if it’s because there’s something I’m actively avoiding. Am I still watching TV? Sure. Am I still watching too much TV? Occasionally, but not as frequently as I was in the past.

Addiction is about doing something compulsively, even though you know it’s going to have a negative impact. So, I strive to be as mindful as I can about why I’m watching TV when I do it. Am I watching because I want to be watching, or am I watching because I can’t stop myself from doing so? If you ever find yourself not really watching a TV program, but just watching TV, I ask you to ask yourself about why you’re doing it, and try doing something else instead.