I have amusing memories of having seen my dad sometimes sneak past the kitchen and up to the attic when he used to come home from work. He was a clothes horse and a bargain hunter, and he was sheepish about letting my mom know so he would hide his purchases in the attic.
My dad’s “addiction” was never harmful, though; he was always dutiful to his family and financially responsible. But he worked long hours and had little in the way of an outlet. I think that he found it therapeutic to shop.
I had had my share of addictions and obsessions growing up too: books, boys, Gone with the Wind, celebrities, women’s magazines, Culture Club. I tended to go all out and spent a little too much time in fantasy land. For me I do think it was bordering on unhealthy, since I was constantly creating escapes for myself; the addictions served a definite purpose.
As an adult I’ve had interests (fashion, photography, yoga, Japan, writing, wicker baskets…), but nothing obsessive. Of course, the real killer has been the internet, and maybe that fits best the definition of addiction. Unlike my childhood addictions there is little that’s pleasurable about not being able to unstuck myself from the computer at 11 at night. My eyes are glazed over, my neck and shoulders are stiff, and my lower back aches. And I get on Facebook the way I used to bring my tray over to sit at a table with people I didn’t really like. Yet I won’t unfriend or block certain people because I don’t want to appear rude, and then I don’t want to miss the posts by people I actually do like. I’m on the computer for hours past my actual need, and once I’ve managed to log off and get myself into bed, I then proceed to check my iPhone a couple of more times before actually turning out the lights. The internet is my technological potato chips; after gorging I usually regret it.
On the other hand, a fun and good addiction can make life so much rosier. A couple of years ago, I started to develop a gradual addiction to books (followed by coffee), which is what led me to buy all this at a local library sale last week, maybe the fourth one I’ve gone to this year:
I can’t explain why I have this compulsion to attend these things knowing that each time I go I will find something, and at this point I already have a year-and-a-half of reading (at least) on my shelves. I can’t stop. At one point the thought of adding to my to-read pile actually caused anxiety, but I got over that pretty quickly.
Fred said to me the day before my much-anticipated trip to the book sale (I had been counting down), “Mommy, you have too many books that you haven’t even read. You shouldn’t get any more until you are down to 4 or 5 on your shelf that you haven’t read yet.”
You know you’re addicted when you can’t even care if you are setting a bad example for your child. I told Fred that I really needed to go.
Then there’s the issue of my husband. He reads occasionally, but he doesn’t fantasize about books. I hold my breath each and every time I walk home with another bag of books and am surprised when he doesn’t complain. In fact, after he picked me up at the sale this last time he actually agreed to get another bookshelf, and to turn our family room into a home library lined with shelves of books. He has become my abettor! I think he’s just grateful it’s not shoes.
My dad used to explain his addiction to clothes to my mom this way: “You know, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t go out. I just work, and I like my clothes.” I guess there are worse things in life than finding joy in clothes…and in books. I’ve never met a book that made me feel badly or judged or lonely or rejected or just negative in any way. And they will always wait quietly and patiently for you.
I had to lay them all out, the way my son lays out all his Pokemon cards to admire.
I’d love to know what your addictions are! What can’t you get enough of and does your family mind it?