Saturday, December 10, 2011

Step One: Admitting I Am Powerless Over My Addiction

"I'll just stay addicted and hope I can endure..."
performed by B.J. Thomas, written by Mark James

Like most addicts, I've had nagging doubts about my ability to control my urges when it came to my drug of choice, but it wasn't until this week that I was forced to admit my life had become unmanageable in the face of my addiction. I have joked about it, minimized it, hidden it and even, sometimes, boasted about it in what I see now was a desperate attempt to cover up the devastating extent of my disease.

All that's over now--the protective armor of my deep denial was shattered this past week when I found myself standing in the rain at 11:14 p.m. in the parking lot behind the library with my right arm up to my shoulder in the mouth of the after-hours book drop. 

After work Wednesday night, I had a pile of books on my front seat that I casually (but gently) tossed into the book drop on my way home from work. It wasn't until I started to get out of the van at home that I realized that the book I was in the middle of reading--Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire--was not where I had left it.

Of course, I had left it on the front seat of the van and when I'd gotten into the van at work, I'd reached into the back seat to grab the return pile to move them up front--my oh-so-clever attempt to not forget to drop them off--setting them on top of Out of Oz.

So that, rather than forgetting to return the books needing returned, I flippin' returned a book I not only wanted, but, in my humbly addicted opinion, desperately needed.

In hopes that the non-addicts among you may at least partially understand the depth of my distress at having accidentally returned this book, a few facts:

1. I am such a fan of the Wicked Years series, that when I unexpectedly found the third book (A Lion Among Men) on the shelf at the library (I'd had no "warning" it was coming out), I literally jumped up and down at the sight of it.

2. I have been eagerly (and impatiently) awaiting this fourth (and final) volume since I closed the third book in 2008--and even more impatiently since I found out the release date (Nov 1) a few months ago.

3. I was about fifty pages from the end of the (500+ page) book and all kinds of things were going on. I fully expected to finish that evening and was greatly looking forward to doing so.

4. At the time that I got the book, the library here in town didn't yet have a copy so it was ordered through the interloan system. If the book was actually removed from my account and sent back into the system, it could be a week or more before I could get the book back--longer if there were other patrons waiting for it. A week or more, people, of not knowing what the hell was happening to Rain and her cohorts. Simply unbearable.

So, for these reasons, when I realized I had inadvertently returned the book, I absolutely panicked. I immediately drove back to the library to see if it was possible to retrieve the book from the book drop.* I looked into the maw of the terrible beast and saw only darkness--and a metal grate that looked maybe a little like teeth. The grate was tilted toward the back of the book drop to ease the books gently into the bin at the back.

If I could just get my arm to the back of the grate, maybe my books were high enough up for me to reach a corner of Out of Oz. Maybe...(reach)...maybe...(stretch)...maybe...(ouch!)...

Maybe this manufactured emergency was about to become an actual emergency. Maybe I not only wasn't going to get the book back, maybe I wasn't even going to get my arm back...After the physics defying act of rotating my elbow in one direction while rotating my shoulder in another, I popped free and started to realize the wisdom of accepting what I clearly could not change.

If I couldn't get the book back right now, maybe I could stick a note in the book drop and ask the nice Library Ladies not to "return" it so I could pick it up in the morning. So I penned a quick note full of desperation and dropped it into the box, being careful to remove my arm as quickly as possible.

I am not sure what happened to the note--the Library Ladies never saw it, and it may still be hung up somewhere on the innards of the book drop monster. Regardless, the book was returned into the interloan wilderness sometime before the library opened at 10 the next morning.

Through a miracle of timing, though, I got a copy of the book back the next morning anyway because our library had gotten its own copy that very day and the fantastic Library Lady who answered my frantic call (two minutes after they opened) took sympathy upon me and set it aside for me to pick up.

But, you know, none of this means I have a problem, really. I mean, I can quit anytime I want.

Besides, what options do I really have? A twelve-step program? Where do you think all those steps come from?

That's right, a Big Book.

*I am not at liberty to explain why I know this, but it was possible to retrieve some books from the former book drop system--which was a little hatch in the front door of the library that dropped into a cart with a spring-loaded bottom that fell further as it got fuller. So, if your arm was long enough and your book hadn't slid too far down or back (or if, for a purely hypothetical scenario, the snow brush from your car was long enough to nudge a too-far-back book forward into arm's reach), it could be gotten back. Hypothetically. Ahem.


  1. A. I am so glad that your library had a copy for you.
    B. I got the DTs a little bit while I was reading this post.
    C. I have never, ever, ever stuck my arm into the book drop to retrieve a mistakenly returned book.
    D. Never.
    E. Ever.
    F. I will have to remember the snow brush trick.

  2. But it all seems so reasonable....who wouldn't stick their arm in to try to get back a book?

  3. ...or the smallest child you have handy.

  4. Hypothetically. *ahem* HAHAHAHAHA!

    There is an episode of The Simpsons during which Homer gets his arm stuck in a soda machine and the paramedics can't get him extracted. Finally someone thinks to ask, "Homer, are you still holding on to the can?" And he says, "Your point being?"

    That's when you'd know you had a problem *laughing*.

  5. Love it! I have to admit, the snowbrush is rather clever:) My vice is the Outlander series, by Diana Gabaldon. Junk food for the brain, but written by an erudite woman, so I don't need to feel guilty reading it- I actually learn things. That's why I keep reading it. Honestly. *Ahem*

  6. I have an addiction to reading as well - mine gets fueled by way too many book reviews and then I don't have the time to read..... Why do I do that to myself?

  7. S. Stauss--Snow brush was very effective, but I'm sure the smallest child at your disposal would be FAR more entertaining. Not to mention provide said child with a story to tell all his or her friends as well as, perhaps, a therapist or two in the future. ;)

    Michelle--The secret to any long-term addiction is the enabling, er, support an addict receives from her friends. Thanks. :)

    Jane--I love every episode of The Simpsons I've ever seen, but I don't know if I've ever watched it on purpose. I might need to remedy that sometime--between books.

    cdn--I read the first three of the Outlander series (along with my sisters and, believe it or not, my husband) but when the fourth came out, I was so awash in the chaos of my life, I couldn't get into so I lost the thread and urgency of the books. I keep meaning to go back and get "caught up." She really elevated what we used to call "smut books."

    And seb--I feel your pain with the list thing--I have FOUR (and counting) 3x5 notebooks FULL of stuff I plan on getting to SOMEDAY.