I have spent the last month unable to tear myself away from spending hours on end 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! This behavior is now called “Binge Viewing” and I am hooked. I am annoyed with my behavior and what a waste of time it is. Binge viewing, like movie watching, is a wonderful way to escape the stresses of life.
I am ashamed to admit it, but I am also book junkie! I mean the "hard stuff," the paper books, not the Kindle kind or 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 felt trudging 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 so I needed a stockpile.
I recall that few years ago, due to the California state budget disaster, our local library was on furlough for the two weeks between Christmas and the New Year. Before the closure, I loaded up on books to tide me over because when I have nothing to read I experience withdrawal. I 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, Chuck, 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 in I realized that I forgot 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make dinner we looked around and discovered that there was not one book to be seen, not even a newspaper, and only one outdated magazine!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 by taking us sightseeing at local spots that were nowhere near anyplace that sold reading matter. What would I do after sightseeing 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.
At that moment 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 and took pity on me. Without outing me he arranged for us to stop at 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. We respect each other's love of books and reading. Or are we simply binge buddies?
I finally broke down and purchased a Kindle in order to make sure that I would always have the ability to bring books to me whenever or wherever I wanted them. These days we even loan each other books via Kindle. My life is much happier now that I don't have to worry about how to ge my next "fix."
Read more about my work with compulsive behaviors in my books: Five Simple Steps to Emotional Healing, Born to Spend, How to Stop Playing the Weighting Game, and Desserts Is Stressed Spelled Backwards.
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