It will be part of my recovery process to admit that I am … yes, I have to steel myself and say it out aloud: I AM A BOOK-BINGER.
There. Now you all know. One of my deeply personal flaws revealed. Finally, after a lifetime of over-consumption I have made a public confession for all to hear. Will you still like me? Still be my friend? Can you try to understand?
My addiction is not so glamorous as the world class cocaine snorters; nor so classy as the Big League Dipsos – all those famous British actors working on their under-eye-portmanteaux and gently slurring their cut-glass vowels as they consumed heroic amounts of Beefeaters’ Gin or single malt whiskey, and still managed to produce rave-worthy performances every night in the grandest of theatres. Nothing so elevated. Mine is a secret vice, kept behind a closed front door, feverishly carried out under the dim light of my eco-approved, low watt bulbs, my secret sin …. it is a solo guilty pleasure.
I’ve known its wrong. For years and years I knew it wasn’t healthy, but I couldn’t admit it to myself and I couldn’t stop. I lost all sense of time, all sense of responsibility, I cared not a fig for the morrow, when I knew – oh ! how I knew! – I would be less use than a zombie. I knew that the next day I would barely function, my strained eyeball muscles unable to focus, my social and civic obligations abandoned.
And worst of all, much worse than the damage to my eyes, my life and my blood-sugar readings, worst of all, my book binges led me to neglect of my cat. Yes: Cat Abuse. I have to whisper this one. I feel so ashamed. Forgotten meals, careless handfuls of kibble flung in the direction of the feed bowl, stale water in the dish, a smelly sand-box. My desolate cat roaming the midnight streets in search of a kind word, a warm bed. How could I have been so selfish, so neglectful of my cat ? As I write this, my cheeks burn with shame. I hang my head.
But my faithful cat always returned the next day, to cheer me through my binge hang-over, take my mind off the crick in my neck, my sprained eyeballs, my soggy brain, my sleep-deprived shambling.
Although once, possibly in a fit of exasperation, she fatally chewed the
corner of a hard-cover Library Book which I had to replace at vast personal expense, but a fitting punishment I suppose, for my selfish addiction.
But I am determined to be a better person, a disciplined reader, a caring cat owner. I have seen the light. I will no longer binge read. In fact I am planning a letter to the Ministry of Health suggesting that all books in the leisure category be branded with a warning on their covers. Like cigarette packets. Perhaps something like “Over consumption of the printed page is dangerous! Read with discrimination.” Or maybe something snappier “Binge Reading buys more Mercedes for Optometrists”. I’ll work on it.
Meanwhile, I hope we’re still friends. I have managed to forgive myself, and determined to make a fresh start. My magnificent cat has forgiven me, and I hope you can too.