Tattoos and Addiction

All I want for my birthday is a new tattoo, new tattoo, new tattoo… Oh wait, that’s not how that song goes. Never mind.

So I’ve officially completed the 11th month of my 29th year on this planet (which is probably 29 years and 11 months too long on this planet truth be told) so the countdown starts to the big 3-0 (Will I really be 30 years old 28 days from now? Ugh, gag me with a spoon!). Of course, how does an ink junkie celebrate (well, if birthdays are even worth celebrating to begin with) his birthday but with some new body art? I’ve already got my artist drawing something kickass up for me around a general idea I shared with her and I just have a feeling what she comes up with will be out of this world (she’s always done great by me).

Which brings me to my topic for today: tattoo addiction. The question non-inked or minimally-inked folks always seem to ask is “why do people go back for more and more tattoos?” Well, I can only answer for myself obviously but the looming question seems to be if tattoos are really in fact addictive or if it’s just an excuse people use to decorate (or, in the view of a few conservative religious assholes, mutilate) their bodies?

Well obviously with tattoos you’re not dealing with anything physically addictive. That much is plainly obvious. There’s nothing in tattoo ink that could cause a physical addiction to a substance (at least not that anybody is aware of). However, there are other types of addictions rather than just to a physical substance. Take for example gambling. Gambling addiction is recognized as a legitimate addiction and there are prescribed treatments for it. Obviously there is nothing physically addictive about shitting your money off (or is there? who knows?) but there’s something about it that brings gambling addicts a certain level of satisfaction or a euphoria and thus they seek it out.

Tattoos are the same way. Now, again, I can’t answer for anyone else but myself but yes, I do personally crave the feeling of sitting in the hot seat. Ironically when I’m getting tattooed is when I’m most at peace. I usually refer to it as “ink therapy” actually. With my everyday hectic life, a shitty job with asshole coworkers and bosses and not really having much to look forward to in my life it’s that kind of inner peace is that I actively seek out. It’s a hard feeling to describe but the best way I know of to describe getting tattooed is a strange sort of meditation. You have the buzzing (coil) or rattling (rotary) noise of the machine sort of in the background that is soothing in a way (it really helps you zone out) and the impact of the needles on the skin obviously causes a certain level of discomfort (varies depending on location and your own pain tolerance) but it keeps coming so your body releases endorphins which are not only a rush but also soothing at the same time (strange I know). It really helps to center me for a few hours. Then when it’s all over you see the artwork at the end and hopefully it’s pure bliss (if, of course, you’ve reviewed the art and made sure it was to your liking).

I will say there’s nothing on this planet quite like it and every time I walk out of the studio I long to feel that again and I’m already thinking about my next tattoo. Sometimes I don’t figure out what I want for a considerable amount of time but the wheels are always turning. Of course, we only have a limited amount of canvas so you’ve got to pace yourself also but yes, I do experience withdrawals in a way. It’s been nearly six months since my last tattoo and I’m like going nuts.

So in conclusion, no, tattoos are not physically addictive but for some there’s a psychologically addictive part to them. When my mom asked what I want for my approaching birthday I responded, “The sweet sting of a tattoo machine reminding me that I’m still alive and suffering.” Well, it’s true. It’s the only thing that I can take the sting (pun intended) out of a day I otherwise wish I didn’t have (as if I didn’t have a birthday I wouldn’t have ever existed, which more often than not I do wish would have been the case).