“Denial is a big part of drug matrix of addiction. And I certainly deluded myself a lot during active addiction. What I believed of myself. And what I believed of others, which included being deeply distrustful.”
In The Matrix, young hacker Neo is in search of the truth about the world he lives in. Finally, after he makes contact with the mysterious Morpheus, he’s offered a choice: the red pill, which will show him what Reality really is, or the blue pill, which will allow him to live the comforting lie he always has.
I think addicts would have taken both pills. We being all about excess.
Now living in Recovery, thanks to the help of Houghton House, I need to control my desires for excess. Too much sex leads to carpal tunnel syndrome. Too much gym leads to too much real sex, which leads to too many crabs. Too much cake in the morning leads to insulin injections. Too much broccoli leads to too many hippy-flavoured farts.
Too much time on my computer leads me to feeling like I’m living in a virtual world, same as Neo. But that’s okay. Being an addict, I’m a natural blue piller, and I prefer that “reality’.
But that was taken away from me recently. I discovered I had a particularly nasty bit of malicious code (malware) on my laptop. Trying to get rid of it nearly drove me over the edge of sanity.
This actually happens, for one reason or another, fairly often. Imagine, if you will, a ninja. Dressed from head to toe in black, with only cruel eyes showing, and an ability to hide completely in the shadows. Able to bypass the guards at J.D Castle, while going about the business of espionage and the possible assassination of your financial affairs through stealing credit card details.
That’s a rootkit. Called “root” because they gain access to your root directory, they can make changes on your computer as if they were you. They also, like that popular (but dangerous) kid from high school, will organise a party at your house while your parents are away – the kind of party that makes you think, “Maaaybe this wasn’t a good idea.”
Then they invite the most unsavoury bunch of delinquents they can think of. For instance, viruses, those replicants who infect your machine much the same way as floating bits of DNA would infect your body and give you a cold. Or, if you’re a guy, man-flu.
Agent Smith was very much a virus in this respect. Hugo Weaving, the actor who played him, is Australian. And as anyone who follows the Hollywood scene would know, the Australians have been multiplying like viruses there for eons.
Viruses on your computer are just part of the line-up. Think also keystroke loggers, trojan horses, adware, spyware, elopewithyourdaughterware.
My machine would constantly go on the fritz. Applications I’d load up would hang. Haaaaang for a very long time. Or the screen would flash, as if to say: “I’m about to explode in your face!”, and then go back to normal: “Juuust kidding!”
This is incredibly stressful as my computer is how I make my living. I can’t go back to typewriters. What would I do without spellcheck? Ut wouldm’t look prretty.
Back to the rootkit metaphor, finding the f#$kers is really difficult. Deleting them more so. And they hide the existence of all the other malware so it’s like your parents are now back from holiday. They see their prize poodle floating away on a dagga cloud, but they don’t see the circle of reprobates puffing on the porch. They can’t understand why the pool is the colour of beer with a floating crate in the middle (and it isn’t that colour just because of the beer). Your parents certainly don’t see the cause of the broken bed in the guest room. They just know they never, ever want to take a blue light in there.
I spent a lot of time and energy trying to get rid of this thing, which I was barely able to detect. The logs your Windows system keeps will have their entries deleted by the rootkit to hide its nefarious activities. But Karspersky, my anti-virus programme, does keep its own logs, and they appear as incorruptible as an isolated government official on Mars. Through them, I saw dodgy entries of executable files being downloaded and run, files with names like imperfectlylegithehheh.exe.
I took it to a company I for the sake of decency won’t name here, but let’s call them Incredibly Incompetent. (Wait for my post on Hello Peter for more.) A gent there was asked to do a clean reinstall of the operating system. That’s when a copy of Windows is booted up through an external DVD drive, and the entire hard drive is formatted before placing a completely fresh installation of Windows on it.
Clean reinstall. I think that’s a lot like what Houghton House did for me. My own operating software was faulty thanks to the rewiring that happens through drug abuse and addiction. They performed the reboot I needed, to take me out of The Matrix-like fabrication I had spun myself into.
Denial is a big part of drug addiction. And I certainly deluded myself a lot during active addiction. What I believed of myself. And what I believed of others, which involved a deep distrust of them.
If anything, I’ve become a bit too trusting of people now as I walk the journey of recovery. This chap didn’t do a clean reinstall. He merely hit a button I could have pressed, and reset my system. Heck, I could have done the clean reinstall anyway, I just didn’t have access to a clean computer to download the Windows install files needed.
Enough of this technical talk. I found out later he lied, because the rootkit came back and when I revisited him, he let slip. Rootkits have this ability to hide in another section of the computer – and a system reset isn’t going to kill them. So they can then reinfect you. But, they “blue pill” you into thinking everything is fine. For awhile. Eventually, just as Neo sensed something was wrong with his world, I sensed something was wrong with mine.
Finally, I found my Morpheus. He wasn’t as suave as Lawrence Fishburne, but he wielded the screwdriver that opened my laptop’s casing like a katana, and after removing the hard drive, he cleansed it in a bullet-time salvo strike that decimated all enemy code into ashes. Of course, there could still be a rootkit lurking in the motherboard’s firmware. It could be blue pilling me into thinking I’m safe. I don’t trust oddities in my laptop’s behaviour anymore. I am more suspicious of sudden quirks than a counsellor at Houghton sniffing naughty behaviour (oh yeah, you’re not allowed to insert your “USB” into anyone’s port at any treatment centre – one of the reasons is, it could ruin your chances of keeping clean, more on this in a different blog post).
But at least I don’t live in the manufactured (by chemicals) world of active addiction. Like Neo, I’ve been liberated from my personally made Matrix.
Because at Houghton House, they teach you the truth about your matrix of addiction.