Literary Disease

Today I was triumphantly carrying an armful of used books back to my car when it occurred to me… I am totally addicted to books. No, not in the way that people say they’re “addicted” to Grey’s Anatomy or chocolate fondue or whatever; I’m talkin’ honest-to-god Addiction. Capital A.

Which then got me wondering about how far down this slippery slope I’ve gone already, and if there’s any hope for me any more.  I mean, sure I have enough books to fill a small warehouse, stacked up haphazardly in my office because the three bookshelves we already have aren’t anywhere close to enough. And yes, I did get in trouble in school for reading when I was supposed to be doing something boring. Like paying attention. And sure I’ve been known to read while walking through downtown Manhattan, blatantly disregarding any common sense notions of personal safety. But where does it actually become disease?

You know how Scrooge McDuck had a vault of gold he liked to swim through? I wonder if that same concept could be applied to libraries…

The Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th edit.) apparently thought something as mundane as “addiction to literature” was beneath it, but it does have a nice clear explanation of alcohol/drug addictions:

The criteria for addiction to alcohol and drugs are typically diagnosed using the criteria for substance dependence. There are seven criteria for substance dependence. To be diagnosed, the person would have to have at least three of the criteria within the same year.

The seven criteria for substance dependence are:

(1) Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:

(a) A need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or desired effect.

(b) Markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance.

Seriously? This just describes the process of LEARNING. As you get better at reading yeah, you need longer and longer books with bigger and bigger words to get the same kind of fix you used to get with Clifford the Big Red Dog, but that’s just natural!

(2) Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:

(a) The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance (refer to Criteria A or B of the criteria sets for Withdrawal from specific substances).

(b) The same (or a closely related) substance is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

You really REALLY REALLY don’t want to be stuck with me on a long plane ride if I don’t have a book to read. Consequently I always carry at least one backup book with me at all times. Just in case. Which means I never go through withdrawal, which means this doesn’t apply to me, which means I’m perfectly normal, right? RIGHT?

(3) The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.

Okay, who didn’t accidentally stay up till 6am when Dumbledore died? Sure, it’s not fine literature or whatever, but DAMMIT, I LOVED THAT MAN!

(4) There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use.

Finally one I can just say “no” to and leave it at that. Who wants to stop reading, right? Can I get an Amen up in here?

(5) A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance (such as visiting multiple doctors or driving long distances), use the substance (such as chain smoking) or recover from its effects.

The excessive time I compulsively spend in every bookstore I pass by is relaxing to me… much like nicotine is relaxing… or heroin… oh…

The tragic result of my bookstore loitering

(6) Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use.

That depends on whether you consider reading itself to be an important social, occupational, or recreational activity. And whether you really think it’s more worthwhile to spend times with “friends” and “family” when Papa Hemingway calls. He sure as hell didn’t, and look how great he turned out!  

(7) The substance use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance.

Again, this depends on your interpretation of “problem.” Have I lost all ability to just sit quietly without a means of self-entertainment? Yes. Am I probably slowly destroying my eyesight by focusing on small words close up (according to my eye doctor)? Yes. Do I sometimes develop shoulder problems because the books I’m carrying around are too heavy? Doesn’t everyone?!

…is there a Bookworms Anonymous?

One thought on “Literary Disease

  1. There is an Enabler’s Club.

    There’s also the part where lots of addicts hang out with other addicts, and then they lose those friends when they stop being addicts because now they can’t enjoy their addiction together.

    Which is to say that if you stop hanging out with me in bookstores I will cry.

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