Why a Twelve-Step Program Just Won’t Work for Me
Hello! My name is Meghan, and I have a problem. I am addicted to books. I spend most of my time and money on books.
This all started when I was a child. I remember the first book that I “read” (I think I had memorized what my family said when they read it to me) on my own. My parents got me a “Children’s Dictionary” and I walked into the room where my parents were and started reading entries from it. I remember this clearly, because my family was so surprised when I started reading and the reactions were so rewarding. This was the beginning of a dangerous, life-long addiction.
As I got older, when my parents would ask if I would like to go to a toy store or the bookstore, I would almost always choose the bookstore. Every month when the Scholastic Book Order forms came home from school, I would hurry home and pull out the form. I would go through the order form and pamphlet with descriptions of the books and mark the ones that I wanted. I would calculate what my order would cost and take it to my parents. Most of the time I tried to mark every book that I did not have. Most of the time my parents let me get whatever books I selected. Every once in a while, they would make me narrow it down.
The book fair would come to the school, and my mom would come too. We would go through the books together, and she would let me pick books every time. Sometimes I had to choose between books, but I always left with a hefty stack of books. There was not a room in my house that did not have at least one book in it when I was growing up. My sisters often gave me books as gifts. On Christmas and birthdays, we often got books in addition to toys and clothes.
I was an incredibly privileged as a child to be surrounded by books. Other kids stayed up playing video games, I stayed up reading books. My parents would turn out the lights, and I would wait for their door to close and turn them back on and start reading again.
I also always bought far more books than I could ever read. As I got a little older, I spent the majority of my time out of school in the dance studio. Next door there was a neat little café, across the street a Subway restaurant, down the street a little a pizzeria (my sister worked there), and the other way down the street a candy shop across the street from a used bookstore. They had a beautiful golden retriever at the bookstore. I would go at least once a week and browse through the shelves. My mom would give me a few dollars, and I would buy a book or two and go across the street to buy candy with what was left. It was always books first.
As I have aged, my obsession has grown. I am drawn to bookstores of all kinds. We have a wide array of niche bookstores where I live today. There are several traditional used book stores, several chain stores, one two-story independent bookstore, a feminist bookstore, collectible bookstores, the list goes on and on. I should try to count the bookstores we have someday. It has to be close to triple digits. I always go in with the mindset that I will only look, or I will only buy one book. I typically come out with a stack of books. I also order them online (although I am trying to break that habit and support local businesses more). I buy far more books than I could ever read.
This need to buy more and more books stems from a fear of mine. I am always afraid of running out of things to read. I am scared that I will run out of books. My partner buys a new book when he is prepared to read it. He rarely has books in reserve. I can’t do that. When I had my house in Boston, we had books on the window sills. Stacked on the stairs. Books everywhere. Despite getting two storage units and filling those with boxes of books, the same book overwhelm is happening in my current house.
Another book obsession has emerged over the last five years. I have started collecting rare books, first editions, and signed editions. This new hobby has resulted in some extraordinary finds and has led me to meet some neat people at book signings.
I don’t think I will ever stop over-buying books. I am not sure I want to. When people around me ask why I don’t sell them or give them away after I read them, I look at them in horror. Those books are my babies. The one or two times I have sold or donated books, I have ended up buying the same book again later to re-read it. Instead, I intend to find a space for my expanding library. Perhaps we can find a property with an old barn that I can convert. I could use a writing studio as well. I am not ashamed of my book addiction. After all, there are worse things to be addicted to. Happy reading!