Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Junky - Chasing That High

Addiction is strange. At its heart is the pleasure released when opiate chemicals flood the brain. Addicts' brains have certain chemistries in common, even though their pleasure-triggers can take many, sometimes weird forms. It seems strange to me that moments of pleasure can create lifetimes of damnation.

Most of us cross that dark threshhold in a rush of warmth and light. We spend the rest of our lives comparing every dull moment, every blunted, habituated high, to those early, golden days when the high was still new.

For me, it started with Batman comics. Spiderman and the X-Men figured in there too. And Wonder Woman, who woke other, darker pleasures in my four year old breast.

Once I learned to read, I moved on to harder drugs. The way a heroin addict can tell you about their first really good high, or a hard-core alcoholic remembers the early days when every beer was his friend, I remember a book called Splinter in the Mind's Eye, by Alan Dean Foster. And Octagon House, by Andre Norton.

Those were the first books that really shook me. The ones that made the life outside go away, that cut me to the bone, that gave me that rush.

Today, I'm still chasing that rush. Trouble is, same as the drinker, the junkie, the problem gambler all habituate to their highs, I can't get that same rush in the places I used to. I get pleasure, sure. Quite a lot of pleasure.

But what I'm looking for is that serious, major, insane high. That up-all-night-call-in-sick-the-next-day-because-I-can't-close-this-book high. There are a handful of places where I know I can go for it, but those bastards right so damned slow! And too many of them are dead.

I've just finished Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child, Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson and COld Flat Junction by Martha Grimes. Mighty fine, all of them, but none cut too deep. Today I'm returning to James M. Cain and Joe Lansdale's masterpiece, The Bottoms. The Tiny Dynamo is flying through the Harry Potters once again.

A little more leather and a little less bathing, we could be a literary Sid and Nancy...

Check that apply:
___ I frequently (once or twice a day) find that my
conversation centers on books or reading experiences.

___ I read to deal with tension or physical stress.

___ Most of my friends or acquaintances are people who read.

___ I have lost days of school/work because of reading.

___ I have had the shakes when going without a good book.

___ I regularly read upon awakening, before eating, or
while at school/work.

___ I have been arrested for Driving while reading.

___ I have periods of time that can't be remembered while
reading or buying books.

___ Family members think reading or book purchasing is a
problem for me.

___ I have tried to quit reading but cannot. (A good test
is voluntarily going for six weeks without a good book
and not experiencing physical or emotional distress.)

___ I often double up, reading two books at a time or
regularly read more books than others.

___ I often read to "get ready" for a social occasion.

___ I regularly hide books and reading material from those
close to me so that they will not know how much I am reading.

___ I often read by myself.

___ My reading or book buying has led to conflict with my friends
or family members.
Three or four 'yeses', you may have a problem. Five, get thee to a counselor!

In fact, go anyway. They have *great* promotional literature....


Charles Gramlich said...

I think you've been listening in on my conversations, Steve. This post is so right on the mark. For me it was Louis L'Amour, and ERB. But I tell you I got a bit of that feeling back from the ending of the Harry Potter series. I'm still feeling the melancholy that comes from finishing such a good set of books.

writtenwyrdd said...

Hahaha! I had to check yes for eleven of these. I am in trouble!

Of course, given that I read several books a week a lot of the time, one could assume that anyhow.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the reminder of when books carried me away - it does still happen thankfully just not as often!

Barbara Martin said...

I am guilty of many of these. Ever since I first got a taste of the magical worlds available to me as a child my reading has not stopped. There are still authors who can grab my attention and I fly through the pages wanting to know how each next conflict is solved.

cs harris said...

Okay, I have to admit that I have hidden books so that family members wouldn't know that I'm reading. That is hilarious!

Do you think you've become jaded with the passing of the years, or that writing has taken some of the magic away from the process of storytelling by making you more analytical?

And I love the thought behind this line: "moments of pleasure can create lifetimes of damnation"

Sidney said...

I think I could say Yes to most of the questions. I am always looking for one of those books that will make you want to stay up all night.

Steve Malley said...

Charles, I think you and HTMtGaTD discovering and rediscovering Harry Potter may have inspired me!

Writtenwyrd, I once got a ticket for reading while driving. I couldn't help it-- the book was so damn exciting!!

Liz, did you read and drive too? :)

Barbara, it was a crazy day when those little black marks on the page starting telling me stuff about the pictures above...

CS, I'm feeling you!

And I like to think it's more a matter of my enjoyment deepening. THe more I've learned to paint and study the great paintings, the deeper my appreciation.

I will say this: it's a rare book that so sweeps me away I *forget* to analyze!

Sidney, we could form a 12-step group or something, except this is one vice I don't want to quit! :D

RK Sterling said...

You forgot "I've neglected to pay bills and feed my family so I can support my habit" and "I've sold family heirlooms to pay for my habit."

Not that I'd *know* about this, of course. I've just heard about it...

I can stop anytime I want.

Lana Gramlich said...

*LOL* According to the test, Charles needs to be locked up...Probably in a library.