Sunday, September 09, 2007


The insidious addiction.

There is much concern in society about the health risks of drugs; even the legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco are blamed for their addictive properties, and the range of health risks involved. Those who seek altered states of consciousness through extreme sports are also criticised for the risks they take, and for ignoring the impact of their escapism addiction on their families.

I am here to tell you that there is another insidious addiction rampaging through our society. Less life threatening, but an addiction no less. I know. I am a victim.

This addiction actually is a health risk for those who can't control their usage. Sleep deprivation may seem trite as the prime health concern, but the latest research is ranking chronic sleep deprivation as a health risk up there with alcohol! Continuous uncontrolled participation can also have a dysfunctional impact on families, impinging on social interaction, and the normal functioning of a household. Especially if you're the mum.

What is even worse is that society exhorts us to partake in this activity! Parents are bombarded by material from teachers railing at us to get our children to do this. And to do it often!

What is this dangerous activity? It's reading!! I am a reading addict. I am a read-a-holic. There. I've said it. I have no control over my reading! When I get engrossed in a book time means nothing and family means nothing. I get sucked into an altered state of consciousness - an alternate reality. It's lights on, nobody home. "Muuum. Muuuum!" [no reply] "Hellooo! Oy!" .... "Huh?" I have no self control and no sense of self or family responsibility when it comes to the urge to keep reading. And reading. And reading. I have been known to attempt to cook a meal while reading at the same time. Hmmm.

So I know I have this inability to control myself, and so I limit my consumption of reading material - much like someone on a conscience kick resolves to limit their alcohol intake. Every now and then, though, I get hold of a good book, and watch out. Reformed a-holic on a bender. During the week I picked up the last of the latest Robin Hobb trilogy . To be honest it was a bit slow moving for the first half to two-thirds (plus it was so long since I read Book 2, I couldn't remember all the plot so far), so for a few days there it was easy enough to pick up and put down and still function fairly normally.

Not so the last third; I thought I'd read for, say, half an hour when I got into bed last night. Late as that was at after midnight (which happens when you are already mucking around with your sleep patterns by doing lots of late nights midweek - for no discernible reason - then doing the 10am sleep in on Saturday morning.)

Cue here 'moron' mode- where an otherwise reasonably intelligent woman gives herself sleep deprivation. Having done the no-choice lack of sleep thing after having three babies, it's not real bright to do it to yourself deliberately, especially when you are running close to the edge psychologically.

I finished the damn thing at 4am, and then took another hour to drop off due to my brain running riot reviewing parts of the plot and the great ending, and pondering how to introduce some sort of sportsmanship award at netball next year (my god woman, let it go!), and a periodic pulse of pain emanating from my back. There is also nothing like stressing yourself out about not being able to fall asleep when you start hearing the birds twittering with the break of day.

Lucky we had nothing planned for the day, and I managed to sleep till 11.00. That still amounted to only 6 hours sleep, which for me, at the moment, is just not enough. It also doesn't leave much time on a Sunday to do anything worthwhile with the day.

Now my children have inherited my reading addiction . Sure, it makes for looking good at school (except that I refuse to keep tabs on everything they read just for the sake of turning it into a OCD list-a-thon/reward programme.) Most nights we catch at least one of the older two still reading - sometimes at midnight. Zoe will read for hours on end, sometimes walking home from the bus stop and in the front door with her nose in a book. (Lucky she has no major roads to cross.) We hear stuff about how children and teenagers are not getting enough sleep to function properly during the day... and here are my children inheriting this insidious addiction. From me.

I know many of you will tell me it's all harmless, and that the benefits outweigh the ill-effects. I'm just not so sure anymore, because I can't seem to control it. Given I can't manage myself with my computer use.. and I find it hard to not have a 'drink' every night..and drink way too much instant coffee in a day, I probably do have a mild addictive personality. Who would have thought I would seriously have to include such a wholesome pursuit as reading as one of its manifestations.


Oooh - I know that one - have staved it of late by (a) not having enough money to buy books, (b) not getting too many books from the library, and (c) having a V to steal those books from me (and all that spare time I used to use for my reading addiction!)
I know well the addiction. As a teen there were times when I didn't go to sleep at all because I was so engrossed in a good book. During Hiigh School I'd actually read during my English and History classes. My English teacher didn't mind so much but boy oh boy did my History teacher!

Every lunch I'd be in the library reading rather than rough housing with the guys. At the end of the year I'd skip classes and help the Librarians clean and stocktake the library.

And just this morning I bought book number 20 for 2007 - I'm a slow reader and for some reason the books seem to be getting bigger (1200 pages!!!) so I'm not reading as many books as I used to but damn me I love it all the same!
I have been known to wander into work at 9:30 (thank goodness for flexible hours), having fallen asleep sometime after 4am because I couldn't put a book down.

I have, on occasion (although the last time would be a good 5 years ago now), pulled a sickie after being up all night and forgetting I had to go to work the next day.

Damn books.

Wouldn't give 'em up for the world.
Reading! why, reading's wholesome! and...and..educational sometimes! It's best enjoyed with a cup of coffee and....Reading is Fundamental! *sigh* I must read. I don't think I've ever gone a single day without reading something. Sometimes in the privacy of the bathroom. Is that a bad thing?
This is real and it is a problem. I do not have an addictive personality in any other way except for reading. I have a regular day job and I have to be at work by 8:00am. It is not unusual for me to stay up until 3:00am reading. Housework and family are minor irritants to be ignored when I am immersed in a good book. My oldest has inherited the problem and his schoolwork is suffering. There should be some sort of support group. (RA--maybe)
Just this past week I sat in the bathroom in my friend's bachelor apartment so she could sleep and I could read my book (oh, just a chapter or two...) I ended up finishing the book at 3am. Thank goodness for pillows or my bum would have been very numb! At least this time it was during March Break (yay teaching job) so I didn't have to be up early the next day.

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