While I was finally getting rid of a 20-year addiction to cigarettes, I read a detailed description of what happens when a person tries crack. The description was so powerful that I would have tried crack if any had been lying around. Instead, I lit another cigarette, postponing my last tobacco day for several weeks.
A writer friend of mine just sent me an excerpt from her work in progress. The result: instant addiction. But, since the rest of her story wasn’t lying around, I had a bourbon and Coke instead. Better than nothing, but not as good as her writing.
Hello, addiction, my old friend. I’ve been there and done that and ought to have a tee shirt. Perhaps some will say that an addiction to books is a good thing, especially if those books are wonderful novels that are good enough to elevate the soul through the mere contact with the words.
Ever since I finished my recent work in progress, Eulalie and Washerwoman, and sent it to my publisher, I’ve lost all my discipline and have been reading books at flank speed. I know I have to come down off of this and get stuff done, but coming down is almost as difficult as giving up Marlboros.
Some suggest that addiction to a positive thing is good. They equate it with the oneness promised to the seeker who becomes one with the god of his or her heart so that the two are synchronized. I don’t think that kind of addiction is true enlightenment because with the dominance of the large over the small, the small is lost and no longer has the freedom to continue the relationship.
We’ve seen this dominating kind of addiction a lot during the Presidential race. Movers and shakers and every day voters have become so addicted to the candidate of their choice that they can no longer think for themselves. So, they are lost and have neither arrived at Nirvana nor a meaningful psychological balance–much less a logical political decision.
Some days, we need to put down the book we’re reading and do something else. No, it’s not easy. That’s why it’s called addiction and it represents a loss of free will. Even the “most positive addictions”–love, God, freedom, justice, compassion–can steal souls and render us less than ourselves.
As a reader and a writer, I know how easy it is to lose oneself in a book or a cause. Saying “no” really doesn’t fix it. It takes a strength of will to be oneself and get rid of the best of things that have entrapped you.