The first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem. So I will admit this. I am an addict.
I have known this for years. It has been evident to all of those around me, who are close to me, who love me. And many of those people have stood by in silence and watched me spiral into the insanity of my addiction. Some have tried to tempt me away from my fix. I have been flat-out told that I needed to get help, but I wouldn’t listen. Their heartfelt pleas fell upon my deaf ears and my dumb heart. And believe it or not, I have had people who have urged me on. Slipped me what I needed, knowing where that disastrous and dangerous road would lead.
You see I am addicted to books. I need to feel paper against my skin. I yearn to feel the stinging dry-eyed feeling that one gets from staying up way too late, just to finish a chapter (if not the whole book). I am comforted knowing that there are stacks and stacks of books around me, old and new, ones I’ve conquered and made mine completely and virginal ones that await my voracious appetite. I have had many, many books, some more meaningful and satisfying than others. The high of seeing the world through the eyes of someone else, the intensity of being in an alternate state of reality, the joy of letting go of your cares and disappearing into the pages of a book is intoxicating. So really, I am an addict. Some people use drugs, some use alcohol and still others may use sex. I use the written word. And not just any written word, but the written word with a generous helping of ink and a healthy dose of bond paper and cardstock.
You may be thinking “Wow Farheen, that’s all well and good, but why are you telling us this now?”. The reason is because I have for the past few years, been trying to kick this addiction. There were times I couldn’t avoid books, but unless it was for school or some other noble purpose, I avoided them. Several moves involving transporting vast quantities of bound material, the lack of fundage for important things like medicine and clothing due to my addiction and an overwhelming lack of storage space caused me to reconsider what I needed versus what I wanted in frivolous excess. Like a good recovering addict, I tend to stay away from what I want. Avoiding Barnes and Noble, staying away from Amazon.com and turning a blind eye to Half Price books and Target has been hard.
Two nights ago, however, I fell off the wagon. Whilst in downtown Naperville, where I was visiting the Apple store to get my iPod looked at, I stopped at Anderson’s Books. Immediately the smell of paper and ink and intelligentsia washed over me, dragging me further into the store. Slavishly, I staggered through aisles and aisles of books and miscellany, running my hands over the spines of books that would not be mine, drunk on the smell of the place.
Flashbacks to my time as a bookseller began. It was the best job I ever had, although it was not very lucrative. I was in my element, happily sharing my obsession with shoppers who wandered into my realm. The physical demands of working in retail didn’t matter. Surrounded by books, I had the strength of Heracles, the endurance of an Olympian athlete, and the wily mental abilities of Vizzini the Sicilian. I knew the books. And they knew me. Life was good then.
And as I wandered the aisles at Anderson’s, the hallucinations started… The books began to jump off of shelves and dance in pretty little circles around me as I watched bewildered. They were singing “Sigh No More Ladies” in high-pitched voices, and frolicking… I nearly fell to my knees in rapture and delight! Thankfully, I was snapped back to reality by a phone call from my Mom.
I left the store, having purchased only one book. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, a graphic novel about growing up in Iran in the 1980s during the Islamic Revolution. But I wanted them all. Even the badly written ones. The trashy romances and even books about business which hold no appeal for me.
My name is Farheen. And I am addicted to books and I am powerless over my addiction…