Sunday, April 29, 2012

Reading addiction

Several years ago, a friend proposed that education could be addictive, and that she and I were both addicts.  More recently, this topic came up in a writing class and I drafted this piece about reading addiction. 

Addiction can take many forms.  Best known are the chemical additions such as alcohol or drugs.  But humans are capable of making their own drugs called endorphins which can cause behaviors to have addictive potential.  Running, gambling and video games are well known behavioral addictions.  But there are other, less common, though equally severe addictions which can disrupt lives.  One of these is the addiction to books, which can take two forms:  the addiction to owning books, where a person may literally fill their entire home with books, such that they can’t even find a large enough book free zone to take a nap, and where they may bankrupt themselves by the purchase of so many books; and second, the addiction to reading to the point of neglecting self care such as eating, bathing or interacting with other humans.  

There is even a facebook page, “I have more books than friends,” dedicated to those with this affliction.  Unfortunately, this page does not discuss the downside of addiction.  Certain locales even cultivate such clientele.  Libraries are one of the primary sites dedicated to the second type of addict described above, and to those of the first type who have bankrupted themselves and need a place out of the weather where they can read for hours.  Bookstores with coffee shops cater to those who still have some financial resources to be exploited, and link the book addiction with another addictive problem, that of caffeine addiction.  Similar to drug addiction, this is evidence of the addictive personality where people may suffer from multiple addictions.  It is also reported that many writers of books, most of whom also suffer from book addictions, may also have tobacco, alcohol and occasionally other drug addiction.

There is certainly a significant degree of overlap between these two types of behaviors, so they will be considered together.  Lest some say, what harm is there to books, I would suggest the situation of a parent who cannot interact with her children, has lost her job and is on the verge of bankruptcy due to reading addiction is harming both herself and her children, and setting a very bad example of what can happen to readers.  Reading while driving has even been observed and is extremely dangerous.  Even audiobooks, while safer, can distract a driver and cause accidents or death.

I would thus propose that a twelve step program be developed for such people.  Like with other 12 step programs, they need to be able to see the damage that their addiction is causing in their lives and those of their family.  Support groups similar to Alcoholics Anonymous could be formed to help people see that they are not alone in fighting their addiction to books or other reading material.  

Similarly to food addiction, simply avoiding the offending material is difficult, if not impossible, which makes relapse more likely.  Reading material is available from bookstores, libraries (often associated with schools or supported by public money), bookstores, on airlines, through the mail (often at discounted postage rates) and shockingly even in doctor’s offices.  Thus, support from others is essential to recovery.

In conclusion, many people suffer from book or reading addiction and need help now.  We need to join together, acknowledging our problems and work to help each other to overcome them, with the help of a greater power.  Lives may hang in the balance.

OOPS!  I'm a writer now.  Perhaps I should appreciate readers, regardless of their addictions.

1 comment:

  1. Even available in doctor's offices! Shocking indeed!