I felt myself vibrating a little, some biological tuning fork struck and left to ring and shiver. A sense of agitation. A sense of standing just outside myself, just a pace or two, just enough to feel the world suddenly skewed, tilted, tipped to a new polarity.
I licked my lips. My fingers were nervous, dancing and flipping and tapping out rhythms, ten little Fred Astaires on ten invisible little chairs. Excessive blinking. Dry throat. Dreams of crocodiles, chasing crocodiles, yes, always chasing, always chasing and smiling.
I read the label on a cereal box and it made me over-excited. Trisodium Phosphate! Yes!
My thoughts tumbled. They were clouds blown apart by the wind and scattered across the sky. Little ships lost in a vast blue sea. An arid sea.
Thirsty. Oh yes, thirsty. That terrible need.
You see, it had been over a day since I last read a book.
It all happened innocently, of course. I finished one book and didn’t have time to pick out another book right then. And the next morning was busy, too, and the next afternoon. And what happened then? Things got a little twitchy.
Fred Astaire fingers. Crocodile dreams.
And yet wasn’t this a little odd? These reactions to booklessness? It wasn’t even that I didn’t have books. I had twenty thousand. But I hadn’t started reading one yet. Worse, I hadn’t even picked one out.
The world, three degrees off kilter and tilting quickly.
But what was this? It seemed almost like these were symptoms of withdrawal. Which was silly. Right?
Withdrawal Symptoms (via About.com)
Mild to moderate psychological symptoms:
• Feeling of jumpiness or nervousness
• Feeling of shakiness
• Irritability or easily excited
• Emotional volatility, rapid emotional changes
• Difficulty with thinking clearly
• Bad dreams
Okay, yeah. This is moderately spooky. So basically I’m addicted to books. I needed a book. Right away.
Let’s go a little further…
Mild to moderate physical symptoms:
• Headache – Okay, yeah. Headache was there. I mean, there was no book!
• Sweating, especially the palms of the hands or the face – Well, I always sweat. I admit it. How to measure the changing volume capacity of Niagara Falls…? Beyond my ability.
• Nausea – I did read Sartre once.
• Vomiting – Luckily, no. But I did find a book fairly soon. Who knows if I hadn’t?
• Loss of appetite – Hungry for words and words alone.
• Insomnia, sleeping difficulty – Around the crocodile dreams, yes, sleep was tricky.
• Paleness – Well, I’m Irish. It’s hard to tell.
• Rapid heart rate (palpitations) – I was getting there.
• Eyes, pupils different size (enlarged, dilated pupils) – I try not to look in the mirror too much. It never says I’m the fairest one of all.
• Skin, clammy – I’ll check next time.
• Abnormal movements – Sort of a book version of the I-have-to-pee dance.
• Tremor of the hands – Fred Astaire fingers.
• Involuntary, abnormal movements of the eyelids – Blinking. Maybe there will be words there when my eyes open…
There are severe symptoms, too, but it was a short withdrawal period. No hallucinations. Unless the crocodiles count.
So… this is strange and a little troubling. I mean, if I’m addicted to something I’m glad it’s books. But what do you think, Fellow Sophisticates? Book addiction is healthy? Book addiction has some downsides? Check yourself into a hospital immediately, Ink?
And what about YOU? Book addicts, anyone?
Here’s a checklist to help you out (slightly modified from the one by the helpful folks at Helpguide.org):
Common signs and symptoms of book abuse
• You’re neglecting your responsibilities at school, work, or home (e.g. flunking classes, skipping work, neglecting your children) because of your book use.
• You’re using books under dangerous conditions or taking risks while reading, such as driving while reading, using dirty bookmarks, or having unprotected Kindles in the bathtub.
• Your book use is getting you into legal trouble, such as arrests for disorderly conduct, driving under the influence of audiobooks, or stealing to support a book habit.
• Your book use is causing problems in your relationships, such as fights with your partner or family members, an unhappy boss, or the loss of old friends.
Common signs and symptoms of drug addiction
• You’ve built up a book tolerance. You need to use more books to experience the same effects you used to get with smaller amounts.
• You read books to avoid or relieve withdrawal symptoms. If you go too long without books, you experience symptoms such as nausea, restlessness, insomnia, depression, sweating, shaking, and anxiety.
• You’ve lost control over your book use. You often read books or read more than you planned, even though you told yourself you wouldn’t. You may want to stop reading, but you feel powerless.
• Your life revolves around book use. You spend a lot of time using and thinking about books, figuring out how to get them, and recovering from the book’s effects.
• You’ve abandoned activities you used to enjoy, such as hobbies, sports, and socializing, because of your book use.
• You continue to read books, despite knowing it’s hurting you (or your pocketbook). It’s causing major problems in your life—blackouts, viruses, mood swings, depression, paranoia—but you read anyway.
Support group, anyone?