I have spent the last month unable to tear myself away from streaming a popular TV series that I didn’t watch while it was on the air weekly. There are 142 episodes and I am almost finished with the lot! Some days I have watched as many as 5 episodes. I am annoyed with my behavior and what a waste of time it is. Yesterday I tried to stop and couldn't.
Then it dawned on me that I am using compulsive TV watching to escape because I am going through withdrawal from my reading addiction! I have run out of books that interest me; most of the book stores in town have closed down; and the library is closed tomorrow. I guess that I will distract myself with a few more hours of TV and hope for the best while my Kindle is charging.
I am ashamed to admit that I am a book junkie. I mean the "hard stuff," the paper books, not the audio books. I love to lose myself in a good story or fascinating biography. The feel of turning the pages and the weight of the book is so satisfying. There is nothing like the sense of expectation I feel when I start a 500-page book!
I have been an avid reader since childhood. I remember how happy I used to feel going home from the local library with my arms filled with books. When I gave birth to my son I knew that I was going to have a c-section, so I went to the library ahead of time and made sure I put some books in my suitcase to take to the hospital since I was told that I would be there for up to one week. I knew that I wouldn't be able to get out for a while once we were home, therefore I needed a stockpile.
When I have nothing to read I experience withdrawal. I tend to feel antsy, anxious and sometimes get grumpy when away from my “fix.” My worst withdrawal experience came many years ago, before Kindles were invented, when my husband and I were invited to visit one of his friends who had moved to a nearby city. Chuck picked us up at the airport and drove us to his new home on top of a hill.
Once we were settled I realized that I had forgotten to bring anything to read, nor had my husband. While Chuck was helping his wife make dinner we looked around and discovered that there was not one book to be seen, not even a newspaper, and only one magazine! This was before everyone had the Internet or cell phones that went online. There was nothing to read!
Fortunately I was able to read the magazine as my usual bedtime relaxation, however when the next day dawned we found ourselves at the mercy of our hosts. They had made plans to entertain us at events that were nowhere near any place that sold reading matter. What would I do after sight seeing when they took us back up the hill to their book-forsaken house? I was frantic and felt near tears at the thought of being held like a prisoner in a tower.
I knew that I was truly addicted because I was embarrassed to admit the urgency of my need to find a bookstore to our friends. They would definitely know I was nuts if I asked to borrow their car to go find a bookstore since they were obviously people who didn't read… anything.
Thank goodness my husband shares my love of reading. He took pity on me. Without outing me he arranged for us to stop by a local mall to look around. I made a beeline for the nearest bookstore and got my fix. My panic abated, and I vowed to never let myself get into this kind of bind ever again.
In my psychotherapy practice I specialize in using Energy Psychology methods to treat people with compulsive behaviors like overspending, computer addiction, overeating, and other ways that people use pleasure to mask pain. However, I don't know if compulsive reading should be labeled as a psychiatric problem since the pleasure it brings doesn't harm the mind or body. In fact it enlightens and de-stresses in a positive way.
On the other hand, like all addicts, I don't want to give up this need for the pleasure of reading. I am happily married to another addictive reader so we get along just fine and don't think the other person is weird for rushing to the library or bookstore when we run out of interesting reading material. These days we even loan each other books via Kindle. We respect each other's love of books and reading. Or are we simply binge buddies?
You can find out more about the kinds of compulsive problems I treat and get a FREE copy of Creating Happiness at www.GloriaArenson.com/creating-happiness.