TITLE: ADDICTED TO READING...
By Christina Summers
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This is my first attempt at writing a magazine article (or anything else) for publication.
I can almost hear the scoffing. Reading, an addiction? Reading is harmless! Well, yes, it should be. I became a slave to it in my desire to escape from my life into the lives of others’.
I’ve loved reading since I was a child. My mum often used to find me curled up on my bed devouring the latest Baby-Sitters’ Club, or an Enid Blyton story. When I was a teenager, I moved onto the more adult Mills & Boon and Harlequin like my mum used to read.
At first she would screen them to make sure they weren’t explicit, but eventually I was reading every kind of romance story I could get my hands on.
Unfortunately, they gave me unrealistic perceptions of men and what a relationship with one was supposed to be like. My hero went from being my Dad to whoever the hero was in the latest story. I put unfair pressure on my boyfriends and later my husband, to be for me a hero like in the novels I was consuming. I wanted them to fill the void that rebelling against God created.
I couldn’t walk past a book without wanting to pick it up and read it. My reading interfered with my life, and everything that took me away from a story was a chore: housework, cooking, eating – even caring for my baby. I would get irritable when I couldn’t read and moody, which I blamed on hormones. My long-suffering husband was, as always, loving and gentle with me.
By the time my addiction was in full swing, it wasn’t unusual for me to check out 20 books from the Library and have finished them by the week’s end. Needless to say, I checked out of my (wonderful) life and into the lives of a made-up world.
The lowest point was when I got angry with my toddler for wanting to have a drink of water. He’d been trying to get my attention.
To say I was ashamed and guilty would be an understatement. I saw for the first time the kind of mother I was becoming, and I knew it was because of my selfish reading.
This had to stop – I definitely had a problem.
I vowed I wouldn’t read any more. The void which had been fed with escapism seemed to consume me. I spiralled into a depression.
I continued to go to church every week, I went to bible studies and life on the outside was normal. Most people wouldn’t have thought something deep within me was wrong. Things would’ve gotten worse if I didn’t get help. I spoke with my mum’s best friend and brought the darkness within me into the light.
With the sharp focus of 20-20 hindsight, I know that I was searching for something more. I’d turned away from God as a teenager, and tried to fill my need for God with a false romance found in my novels. I put that need onto my boyfriend and also later my husband. Over the years I tried to fill that void alternating between books, food, and relationships. After my depression, I turned to the escapism of novels, again.
I knew I had a problem. Dr Dobson confirmed it for me while listening to his program, Focus on the Family. He talked about two different types of addiction. One was an addiction to substances, like tobacco, alcohol and other drugs; but the other one was an addiction that was a form of escapism: reading, TV, video games etc.
I was addicted to reading. The solution, of course, was to stop reading. I was tempted and at times felt the pull of a book as I walked past. By the grace of God and strength He has given me, it’s been about a year since the beginning of my abstinence.
Unfortunately, as one who has to go back around the mountain (as Joyce Meyer says), I didn’t know to ask God to fill my void, and I tried to fill it with food and greed instead.
God is good, and gracious and kind. Although I’ve been around this mountain so many times I’m getting dizzy, still he promises that He will never leave me or forsake me. I confessed and repented of all the ways I’d tried to complete myself.
I turned to God and He is faithful. In all my troubles He has never left me. He warned me to talk to someone when I was depressed and has been there through all the shadowy times in my past.
He filled me full of His Holy Spirit and called me to fast. At every craving, I stopped and asked God to fill me instead.
I’ve grown so much in my faith. I am a new creation – the old has gone and the new is here. I’ve still got a long way to go, but if I keep seeking God with all of my heart then I will be content and satisfied in whatever circumstance I’m in.
I’m reading my first book since my abstinence, ‘A Woman After God’s Own Heart’ by Elizabeth George. It had been sitting on my bookshelf unread for almost ten years.
I have hope that one day I will read novels again, my dream of being a novelist depends on it. I’m not ready yet. God will show me when it’s time. He has a plan for me, and a future. He promises that when I call on Him and come and pray to Him, He will listen to me. I’ll find him when I seek Him with all of my heart (Jer 29: 10-14). The Lord rescued me from my captivity.
He’s the Hero of my story.
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