Students reveal struggles with willpower

Some students must use willpower to overcome their addictions.

Thomas Carroll “TC” Barnett, a theater major at UNA, said at one point in his life he was addicted to pornography and other types of sexual imagery.

As a young child, he said he was exposed to sexual situations and had no way of understanding the things he witnessed.

“The things I found strange and confusing, I tried to find normalcy,” he said. “My addiction grew from there.”

Barnett said he would experience binges of pornography behind his parents’ backs and even lost sleep because of it.

“It was like warfare going on inside my head,” he said. “It took me away from life. It gave me pleasure, but I eventually felt disgusted.”

Barnett said what changed his life of addiction was his ability to strengthen his willpower to the point that pornography was no longer a problem.

“It’s still a part of my mind,” he said. “I just have the willpower to not act on it.”

Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Beyond Good and Evil” states that the will to overcome a passion is in the end merely the will of another or several other passions.

Addiction is defined as the state of being dedicated or devoted to a thing, an activity or occupation in a compulsive way, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The way to overcome a passion—or addiction—is to develop a will that is stronger than the addiction itself, Nietzsche said.

Dr. Matt Fitzsimmons, professor of philosophy at UNA, said people have to develop habits of consciousness to know how to act.

“The idea is we teach kids habits,” he said. “That way, when they find themselves in situations, they have guidance to help them through it. However, this is something that can’t be taught. We must make it part of our character by repeating it and understanding it.”

Fitzsimmons said willpower can only be strengthened by practice to the point that it becomes habitual.

Some UNA students are trying to overcome their own addictions.

Tasha McKinney, a chemistry major at UNA, has been a smoker since she was a young teenager. Last year, her mother had surgery to remove an unidentified growth from her vocal cords. The growth developed mainly from smoking approximately half a pack of cigarettes a day.

“After mom’s surgery, I tried to quit smoking,” she said. “That lasted about three months until finals hit. I started smoking during finals, thinking I could stop again when they were over, but I fell back into that habit.”

She said her mother’s surgery gave her motivation to stop smoking, but so far she hasn’t be able to stop completely.

“When the results came back that it wasn’t cancer, it took the edge off the fear, and it became easier for me to justify smoking again,” she said.

She said her willpower is weak when she leaves packs of cigarettes out in the open.

Some people, however, have no desire to give up their addictions.

Florence resident Bertha Rodriguez’s addiction was so unusual that it attracted the attention of TLC’s “My Strange Addiction.” She was featured on the TV show because she drinks up to six bottles of nail polish a day.

“I don’t want to stop,” Rodriguez said. “When I go to bed, I think about nail polish. When I wake up, it’s nail polish.”

Her addiction started almost five years ago when she stepped into a nail salon and the smell drew her in.

“It makes me feel better,” she said. “When I’m depressed, I drink more. It makes me feel stronger, like an energy drink.”

She said she has visited a doctor who told her if she did not stop drinking the nail polish, it could kill her. Her addiction, however, is so strong she won’t stop.

“I was like ‘whatever,’” she said. “I didn’t care.”

People have the ability to overcome addictions. However, it takes the use of willpower to achieve this goal, according to Nietzsche.