Addictions and obsessions

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:

booksale books

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.”

Um, yeah.

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.

booksale books laid out                                                              

I’d love to know what your addictions are! What can’t you get enough of and does your family mind it?

12 thoughts on “Addictions and obsessions

    • It was an unusually good (and crowded) book sale…I don’t usually find so many great titles! I do have you to thank for at least two of them, because I picked them up specifically after having read your reviews/recommendations: A Midwife’s Tale (was on a mad hunt for it ever since I read your post) and The House of Mirth 🙂

  1. I’m guilty of having exactly the same addiction! I’ve been trying very hard to control it though. I think I’m actually down to only four on the reading list. But all of that goes flying out of the window in the face of e-books!

    • I knew there would be others with the same affliction! Four books is great, and to me that is a huge sign that you are ready to go out and get more books! Oh, yes, and the e-books…I have a library of those too, which I didn’t count…

  2. What a treasure trove! My addiction is books. I went to the library’s always-running sale on Friday and came back with 11 books — my husband just raised his eyebrows. I’m constantly shifting things around to make space for new (to me!) books, but I really think a new bookshelf is in order (I am so going to regret this come the next time we move . . . ). By the way, Wolf Hall is, I think, my favorite book of the last five years. The House of Mirth is amazing (features one of my favorite similes of all time), and Richard Russo is my contemporary lit-fic crush. Empire Falls is a winner (literally), but my favorite of his will always be Nobody’s Fool.

    Also, on the TRs on the shelves: I’m in the process of cataloging all my books; I think I’ve done about a third. Of those, I haven’t read 184. That’s what, five years of reading? Or, as I like to think of it, good preparation for the zombie apocalypse, when I might not be able to run out to the library.

    • 184 unread books! Okay, I feel so much better now and in good company 😉

      Thanks for your feedback on my choices. Richard Russo is a very new writer for me – I have never read his stuff and don’t even know how I first heard of Empire Falls, but I think there were other titles that day including Nobody’s Fool. Darn. Next time I’ll be on the look out for it (though I guess I should read Empire Falls first).

      I also picked up The Wife, which I’d read about recently on your blog. I had to put it back though, because there were too many stains (one of my pet peeves).

      Congrats on your batch of 11 books too! What did you get? (You don’t have to list them all)

      • Mmmm, Empire Falls won the Pulitzer and was made into an HBO miniseries, so it’s definitely out there in the cultural ether. Nobody’s Fool was published earlier, so it’s not as well known.

        Let’s see, at the library sale I found The Life of Pi (I think I’m the last person in the world who hasn’t read it), a signed copy of Thisbe Nissen’s short story collection (!) which I loved (I posted about it earlier this year — my friend loaned me her copy while I was in the hospital), Angels and Insects by A.S. Byatt, Robinson Crusoe in a lovely 1930s edition to kickstart my classics club list. And a bunch more.

        Plus, we went to a bookstore on the Cape this weekend, where I picked up The Round House in paperback and a sewing book and a book about the Victorian language of flowers. Excited about that!

  3. Oh, Cecilia, my husband and I had the same conversation this year about my growing number of books. He proposed that we build in built-in bookshelves in my office, but I could not wait. Instead, we bought a new bookshelf.

    I often joke with others that some women love to shop for shoes and purses, but my preferred addiction is buying books. My office is littered with books everywhere. I find comfort in surrounding myself with words.

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