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Having found support on social media for her shameful dependency, Kathryn Stedman selflessly outlines the warning signs of fiction addiction.
My husband and I just recently went overseas for a wedding without the kids. Aside from attending the wedding, our plans included such child free luxuries as lounging around, swimming without getting splashed in the face, eating at nice restaurants, drinking (alcohol), sleeping in and going to the toilet without an audience. I bought a few books to read on the flight and by the poolside…another child-free luxury. I started reading the first book before we left and I was hooked, so I quickly went and bought the next four in the series before we left just in case I needed them.
This is where I have a problem. I can’t just pick up a book and enjoy it for a few minutes. I get so involved that I can’t bear to put it down. I have to know what happens next. I become fully immersed in the storyline, in the characters, in the fantasy. Less than two weeks later, I’m eleven books in and very sensibly (I think) have ordered the next book online so there will be a few days’ breather before it arrives.
I turn into a zombie. The lights are on but no-one is home. You can ask me a question, but you may not get an answer because my mind is a million miles away with my favourite hero/heroine waiting to go into battle to protect the clan from the evil Uncle Rothbart. This is not much of a problem if it is a stand-alone book, because once the book is over I snap out of my trance and get on with life, but if it is a series of books…whoa, we have problems. I will be mentally MIA until I have read the last page of the last book.
I love reading in bed, but my husband hates me doing it because apparently the sound of a page turning is deafeningly loud and annoying when you are trying to sleep. To overcome this I get him on the lounge watching TV. I turn it over to Lateline…once he is snoring I quietly tiptoe down the hall, book under arm, and I snuggle down into bed. Reading alone in bed is total bliss, and I turn the pages as loudly as I want.
As a consequence of my 100 percent commitment to fiction approach, I can’t read in moderation, so I binge read. I find binge reading doesn’t permanently ruin my relationships, just temporarily. So far.
Eight signs that you have fiction addiction:
You hide your reading addiction from your significant other
Just like an alcoholic hiding bottles around the house, you hide your current book. You are aware that there is a level of reading that needs to be hidden to still appear like you don’t have a problem. By hiding your book down the side of the lounge/near the toilet, it means you can down a few sneaky pages without anyone knowing.
You know what a reading hangover is.
Who would have thought that a quiet night in with your current book could lead to a hangover? “Just one more chapter and then I’ll go to bed” is the lie addicts tell themselves.
You just can’t truly be friends with anyone who starts a book in June with the aim to finish it by Christmas.
Pfft. Who are you? My Mum always said, “If you aren’t going to do something properly, then don’t do it at all.”
You sweat and get heart palpitations while reading an exciting book and consequently make an appointment with your GP to make sure you are okay.
This actually happened to me. I had so many heart palpitations I thought I had a problem. After 24 hours on a heart monitor I got the all clear.
You make changes to diet and food preparation.
You start feeding your kids “whole foods”, not because you’re trying to be a healthy hippie, but because preparing anything would cut into your valuable reading time. Plus you don’t even have to look up to hand them an apple.
You most certainly have an enabler.
This is a friend that is also an addict and together you delight in sharing and swapping your latest reads. You may lead separate lives, but when it comes to fiction, you are soul mates, bosom buddies, you get each other.
You put your relationship with your partner on the back-burner.
You’d call an ambulance for them if they needed it, but they can forget any kind of eye contact or intelligent conversation. Hopefully they’ll stick around until the last book.
You have become a potential danger, not only to yourself but possibly to others.
You have wondered if you can get pulled over by the cops for looking down at your book while driving, and you have certainly been honked at the traffic lights because you didn’t notice the green light…because you were reading. Yes, this happens people.
If you could relate to any one of those, you have a confirmed diagnosis of fiction addiction.
The good side of this problem, for me at least, is that literature seems to be my muse, and after I’ve emerged from the reading coma my creative mojo is at an all time high. The world around me looks bright and full of life. My batteries are charged and I’m ready to go on a new adventure…but maybe that’s a justification.
Comparatively, I admit, it’s not the worst kind of addiction to have. But please be wary of the signs.