I have spent the last few days unable to tear myself away from watching a dreadful series that I am streaming instantly on TV. There are thirty-two episodes and I am almost finished with the lot. I am annoyed with my behavior and what a waste of time it is. Yesterday I tried to stop and couldn't.

Then it dawned on me that I am using TV to escape because I am going through withdrawal from my reading addiction! I am ashamed to admit that I am a book junkie. I mean the "hard stuff," the paper books, not the Kindle kind or audio books. I love to lose myself in a good story or fascinating biography. The feel of turning the pages and the weight of the book is so satisfying. There is nothing like the sense of expectation I feel when I start a 500-page book!

Due to the California state budget disaster our local library is on furlough for the two weeks between Christmas and the New Year. Before the closure, I loaded up on books to tide me over because when I have nothing juicy to read I experience withdrawal. Unfortunately, I did not choose as wisely as I thought and my reading stash is almost depleted. When I have nothing good to read I feel antsy, anxious and sometimes get grumpy. The library isn't set to open for four more days and I am very worried about how I will last.

I have been an avid reader since childhood. I remember how happy I felt going home from the local library with my arms filled with books. When I gave birth to my son I knew that I was going to have a c-section so I went to the library ahead of time and made sure I put some books in my suitcase to take to the hospital since I was told that I would be there for up to one week. I knew that I wouldn't be able to get out for a while once we were home so I needed a stockpile.

My worst withdrawal experience came many years ago when my husband and I were invited to visit one of my husband's friends who had moved to a nearby city. He picked us up at the airport and drove us to his new home on top of a hill. Once we were settled in I realized that I forgot to bring anything to read, nor had my husband. While our hosts were making dinner we looked around and discovered that there was not one book to be seen, not even a newspaper and only one magazine! This was before everyone had computers, the Internet or cell phones that went online. There was nothing to read!

Fortunately I was able to read the magazine as my usual bedtime relaxation, however when the next day dawned we found ourselves at the mercy of our hosts. They had made plans to entertain us at events that were nowhere near anyplace that sold reading matter. What would I do after sight seeing when they took us back up the hill? I was frantic and felt near tears at the thought of being held like a prisoner in a tower.

I knew that I was truly addicted because I was embarrassed to admit the urgency of my need to find a bookstore to our friends. They would definitely know I was nuts if I asked to borrow their car to go find a bookstore since they were obviously people who didn't read… anything.

Thank goodness my husband shares my love of reading and took pity on me. Without outing me he arranged for us to stop by a local mall to look around. I made a beeline for the nearest bookstore and got my fix. My panic abated, and I vowed to never let myself get into this kind of bind ever again.
In my psychotherapy practice I specialize in using Energy Psychology methods to treat people with compulsive behaviors like overspending, computer addiction, overeating, and other ways that people use pleasure to mask pain. However, I don't know if compulsive reading should be labeled as a psychiatric problem since the pleasure it brings doesn't harm the mind or body. In fact it enlightens and de-stresses in a positive way.

On the other hand, like all addicts, I don't want to give up this need for the pleasure of reading. I am happily married to another addictive reader so we get along just fine and don't think the other person is weird for rushing to the library or bookstore when we run out of interesting reading material. We respect each other's love of books and reading. Or are we simply binge buddies?

Author's Bio: 

Gloria Arenson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Diplomate in Comprehensive Energy Psychology. She is passionate about helping people help themselves be free of negative emotions and compulsive behaviors such as overeating, spending, internet addiction and procrastination using EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques). Her unique visualization method called The Phoenix Effect Process repairs difficult relationships effortlessly.

Gloria is the author of the award winning Five Simple Steps to Emotional Healing, Desserts Is Stressed Spelled Backwards, How to Stop Playing the Weighting Game, Born to Spend, Freedom At Your Fingertips, and EFT For Procrastination. She is in private practice in Southern California.