Confessions Of My Secret Addiction…To Books! by Jean Marie Keenan-Johnston

I’ve always been an avid reader.  Growing up, my parents read to us often.  Each of us three siblings learned to read quite early, probably because we memorized so many of our books from reading them with our mom so often!  I can remember trips to the library as far back as when I first learned how to sign my own name.  Having a library card in kindergarten was a huge deal to me and a responsibility I took very seriously, and I really enjoyed putting it to good use during library visits with my mother and little brother.  When I got a bit older, my brother and I would ride our bikes along the bike path that started at a local school, cut through the woods, and ended at the library.  Later when I reached adulthood, being surrounded by books was a comforting experience for me.  When I found myself needing a place to relax and unwind, I’d visit the library or a local book store.  Just wandering the aisles, studying the shelves and seeing what titles caught my eye could keep my occupied for an hour or longer.  Part of this interest in the printed word I attribute to my mom who goes through a stack of library books faster than you’d believe.  I guess the rest of my interest lies in my creative side…my active imagination that enjoyed creating movies in my mind playing out the stories I was reading…the same part of me who has always loved creating works of art or writing poetry and children’s books.  This same side of me who enjoys blogging can probably thank the early reader in me whose love of books helped create the writer inside me too.

So it should be no surprise to anyone who knows me why I have had shelves upon shelves of books throughout various rooms in my homes  throughout the years.  I had a full bookcase in my bedroom as a child and the interest in creating and maintaining my own personal library just grew and grew the older I got.  Stocking these shelves was never a chore.  I loved checking out book sales at libraries and taking advantage of any bargain I could find.  My personal favorite way of getting many books for little money was the introductory offers with mail order books clubs that let you get six books for a dollar or so.  I knew every bargain book store in a 45-minute driving radius from my home, and I never left stores like Barnes and Noble without checking out the bargain book sections.  Fiction, nonfiction, cookbooks…books on learning languages, books of inspirational quotes, books about writing books.  How to train your dog, how to potty train your child, how to train your husband to be the spouse you need him to be (well, maybe not that last one!)…the list of topics covered by my collection is longer than my leg!  If there was something I wanted to learn about, I’d be sure to gather books on the subject.  It never mattered how busy I was…I would buy them pretty much the minute the topic of interest struck me, and it would be added to my “to read” pile until I found the chance I needed to tear into it.  If I couldn’t find the leisure time to read them, at least I had my own little research library to consult if I needed to.  I knew eventually I’d be able to tear into them.  And so the piles grew and grew.

My addiction to books changed me a bit.   It definitely made an already perfectionist personality even more so when it came to how I care for my books.   Once a person who would offer help to anyone in need, family or friend, I was now someone who wouldn’t lend books out to others because I had no way of controlling how they cared for them.   However this wasn’t just due to my perfectionist side…it also came from personal experience.  The one time I swayed from that decision and let myself share, I paid for it…I had lent out a large bag of math and science teaching guides years ago to a coworker who I saw as a friend I could trust.  When she returned them a few weeks later, it was with a story about how she left them on a window sill during a rain storm, and more than half the bag was ruined.  I don’t know what bothered me more at the time…my addicted self being aggravated by her cavalier way of returning them to me, telling me the story as if it didn’t matter that she destroyed my belongings that I obviously valued so much more than her or the attitude she showed when she said only a few were badly damaged when in reality, most of what I loaned her was almost totally destroyed.  I know my addiction to books made the situation worse for me…I’m seriously particular about how I care for my books.  (I don’t turn down pages to remember where I left off, if I highlight I try to use the same color throughout the book, and I’m always careful and neat when putting them on the shelf, for example.)  No matter the age, my books became some of my most prized possessions, and I cared for them in a way that was as perfectionist as could be. 

Now with fibromyalgia, my addiction has changed a bit but it’s still a strong part of me.  It combines with my bargain shopper side and eagerly claims any and all free Kindle books that can be found.  I wasn’t even sure I’d like using a Kindle because it didn’t have the real cover and pages that real books have, but my husband got me one anyway for a combined birthday and Mother’s Day present.  And I love it!  Even more importantly some days, my girls love it too!  I receive a daily email sharing highly rated free books on Kindle, and I rarely miss following up on the freebies!  I still love Barnes and Noble when I need someplace to get away for an hour and just relax and be me.  The main difference now is that “fibro fog” has worked very hard to destroy the avid reader that tries to survive inside me.  I haven’t read a novel in almost five years because the memory and reading comprehension problems I face make reading more of a complicated, anxious chore than an enjoyable activity.  I tried to continue with my usual reading before bed, but after days and days of reading and forgetting the next night what I’ve read, I just plain gave up.  Reading used to be pleasurable and now it was becoming annoying, scary, bothersome and any other negative word I could come up with!  How dare fibromyalgia try to take one of the interests I’ve enjoyed since my early childhood years!  So I’ve had to adjust…just like every other aspect of my life, fibromyalgia has made it necessary for me to do things differently.  Now my reading centers more around magazines and nonfiction books that don’t necessarily rely on remembering earlier chapters to enjoy them.  I may not be able to read all the best sellers that all the book clubs are discussing, but I feel happy about being capable of feeding the inner lifelong learner inside me!

So there you have it…my deep, dark side…the secret I’ve been keeping bottled up (although I haven’t exactly been able to keep it hidden all this time!)  Addiction usually denotes a bad thing, but in this case, my love of books goes so far that the word illustrates that love just perfectly!  And the best part?  Sharing all this with my children so they can become as addicted to books as I can!