Escape From Reality

I can’t remember when I first became addicted to books. I am sure it was something light, though, with a little gold spine to catch my innocent eyes. (Either that, or a colorful collection of rhymes by that notorious pusher of literature, Dr. Seuss.) It is fruitless to speculate. The first book that hooked me is unimportant, as the reality of my problem remains.

I feel I can safely blame my father for my voracious reading habits. While my mother would sometimes read me a bedtime story, my father was the real reader of the house. Every evening he would crack open a book and disconnect for an hour or so. Sometimes he would even sneak a paperback into the bathroom with him. (I assume this was to keep the extent of his habit a secret.) The house was littered with books of all sizes and content. He even had the audacity to keep a collection of his previous reading material on a bookshelf in his study.

I was surprised my mother never said a word. Maybe she was too busy, what with being left with all of the housework, seeing as my father had his nose fastened to a book. Or maybe she felt books were preferable to say, football or golf. Whatever the reason, though, I learned to read from my father’s knee. No one ever stopped me. I can even remember my father’s pleased grins, as he would find me huddled under blankets with a book. Maybe he, too, felt an affection for books was preferable to the myriad of other addictive hobbies, such as (God forbid) philately.

Whatever the case, this lack of action had dire effects. Before I even reached middle-school I was a book junkie. My parents supported my habits with periodical purchases from book fairs and used-book stores. My father was more than willing to share some of his more accessible cast-offs. Soon, I was reading in the bathroom as well. My room became littered with magazines, scrawled copies of lyrics from my favorite bands, and paperback upon paperback. Still, my parents did nothing.

My already insatiable lust for new reading material received a boost after the divorce of my parents. Wishing to escape from reality, I dove headfirst into any and all books at my disposal. There, I could forget about the painful truths of the world. I could live another life and share in a different story. Even if these stories held no happy endings, they still ended well. As for the crushing disappointment after those endings, well, needless to say, the only cure was another story. At the height of my escape, I was reading two, three, four books a week. When I ran out of new books, I would start all over again with the old ones. It was a vicious cycle.

Even years later, this cycle has yet to end, though it has certainly slowed down. Reality, the bastard that it is, takes precedence over fiction. Keeping a roof over my head while maintaining some semblance of a social life eats away at my free time. Now, I am only able to read a book or so a week, depending on the length. I still get jittery when I don’t have a book to read, though, so chances are I have a few to choose from. They litter my tables, and bow the shelves of my bookcases.

They are a salve. They keep me sane, if not exactly happy. They are my favorite drug.

Given the chance, I would check out of this mediocre existence, and read for the rest of my life. Being lost in books is infinitely more enjoyable than being lost in reality. Maybe it is my lack of creativity, or my innate fatalism that makes Fantasy and Science Fiction preferable to any life I could possibly lead, but either way the situation holds true – give me make-believe over this puerile existence any day. I sometimes wonder if this is how heroin junkies feel. If I could mainline the feeling that a good book gives provides, I’d do it in a heartbeat. It may be my father’s fault for setting my on this path, but I thank him for it. Without my beloved stories to distract my attention, I would have written a tragedy ages ago.

So yes, it is an addiction, a pathetic escape from reality, but one I am grateful for.

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