But since last Wednesday, I’ve been burning through books. Not even engaging or inspiring books, but pure comfort books. A lot of Sherlock Holmes, and a fair bit of some 70s era fantasy. And, for the first time in a while, all physical books.
On Sunday I called my mom. I’ve been trying to call her about once a month or so, and with everything going on I figured it was a good time to check in. She’s doing well, but my uncle isn’t. He’s three days sober again, and it seems like he drinks every time things get stressful in his life.
After that call, I spent several hours reading and writing to finish up my Holmes essays.
There’s a thread running through these points.
The more stressed or depressed I am, the more I go back to the iconic image of sitting on a couch with a mug of tea and reading a good book.1 It’s my coping mechanism, my escape. It is, in many ways, my addiction.
But I struggle with the use of the term. “Addiction” implies some sort of abnormal reliance on something, and from that perspective there’s very little I’m addicted to. I am terrified of and fascinated with addiction. I have seen what it has done to my friends and family, and I don’t ever want to go down that road. I don’t think that will ever happen, but it’s something that I often think about, something that sits in the back of my head. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to a game about blood addicts.
Many writers I know drink and are workaholics. I think this is largely because many writers I know are driven to write. There’s a sense of relief when you write, a purging of the soul. Time and again when I’m upset, I read to calm down, and then I’m compelled to write. In this case, it’s blog posts and ranty, unfocused emails to my other writer friends. It’s a desire to finish up my Holmes essays so that I can point to a part of my life and go “Yes, I have control over that.” It’s finding new ways to harvest this experience and spill it onto the page, spinning straw into gold.
And maybe that’s my addiction, my abnormal escapist activity. No matter what I do, I just can’t stop reading and writing. I’ve just been able to turn my addiction into a career.
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- Given certain definitions of “good.” Considering some of the crap I enjoy reading from time to time, it might be more accurate to say “a book I enjoy.” ↩