Addiction

Addiction

A Story by JayG
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For those of us drawn to this site, this is extremely relevant. As they say, "There but for the grace of God, go I."

"
 

ADDICTION

 

 

 

The meeting room was small, with that seedy drab sameness possessed by service organizations the world over. Its graffiti flecked walls were a dirty pastel green and mildly in need of paint, and the dusty light-fixtures absorbed rather than reflected what came from the old bulbs.

The audience, scattered among rickety chairs, numbered less than twenty. As a group they were unexceptional, a cross section of American culture, though something, perhaps a tenseness around the eyes and a reluctance to indulge in conversation, said this was not another Monday night literary association or religious group. These people were gathered for more serious purpose.

A rickety podium presided at the room’s front, while a coffee pot burbled to itself at the rear, preparing for the social period at meeting’s end.

 

The ritual of opening the meeting completed, it was time to introduce the newest member.

The chairman checked behind him, to verify that the man hadn’t fled. Those who stood to testify couldn’t be coerced or cajoled into speech. When it was the right time for them they would know it. Until then, nothing on earth could drive them to stay, and Sam appeared to be someone on the edge.

He was typical of those on who spoke for the first time: poorly fitted and and patched pants sagged below a shirt that displayed a menu of his encounters with life. He wore shoes of a sort--cast off sneakers with gaping holes through which his toes peered. Socks were a luxury he obviously couldn’t afford.

His eyes, too, gave him away--the shifting distrustful eyes of the street-person, overlaid with the driving urgency of his need. He’d hit bottom, and in his despair had finally admitted to himself that he couldn’t go it alone. At last, he was ready to turn to others for help.

 

The chairman turned back to the podium, choosing his words with care. The man sitting behind him needed reassurance that could find both understanding and support from those in the room.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a new brother with us tonight, a man who needs us, and the help we can give. I’ve explained that each of us in this room have stood where he does now…that we have each taken the step of unburdening our souls to those who understand our suffering.”

He turned, motioning the man forward--urging him, when his resolve seemed in danger of giving way, with, “Even I took my turn here, Sam. It’s easier than you think.” He smiled reassuringly. “Believe me, only the first few words are hard.”

The man hesitated. Then, seeming to steel himself against what was to come, stood and moved to join the chairman who patted his guest on the shoulder, whispering reassurance as he motioned toward those seated and waiting.

“Go on, Sam. I’ll be right here.”

 

With an effort of will, Sam forced fear aside and centered himself behind the podium’s feeble protection--approaching, while at the same time distancing himself from, those in the room.

After a moment in which he fought to keep from running he slumped. There was nowhere to run. All he could do was clamp down on emotion and hope that kept despair from his voice.

But be that possible or not, he was committed, so he took another breath, and said, “My name is Sam, and I’m…” He sighed, then bowed his head, shaking it in shame. “… I’m a writer.”

The words were said at last, and they hung over the room, the shame in them almost a living presence. He raised his head then, and stared at those facing him, daring someone to laugh. But there was no laughter, only the warmth of support for his pain. Shared pain.

He had named the devil, though, and now the words came easier.

“I started small: letters to the editor and stories for my kids. They….well, they never published the letters, but I assumed it was because there were many responses on the same issues.” He hesitated, shaking his head at his own stupidity, then squared his shoulders and forced himself to go on, with, “I couldn’t see…wouldn’t see…that it was because I have no talent for the written word.”

Ignoring the stir from the audience he plunged on. “I tried to improve the quality of my letters--to add humor and insight that might have been missing. It took a year, but then a disaster happened: I was published.” He leaned forward, gripping the podium. “My words had appeared in print! No matter that the letter was heavily edited, it had been printed, and read by thousands. I was no longer a writer, I was an author.”

He snorted in disgust. “That simple letter was my undoing. After that it was just a matter of time. I began carrying a notepad, so I could capture story ideas and thoughts for articles. I bought a computer, and writing software, and learned to type. Slowly, the devil began to rule my life.”

He paused, breathing hard, the chairman’s steadying hand on his shoulder helping to maintain control. Now that he was started, the story was bursting to be freed, a catharsis of his agony.

“I began to write short stories in the evenings, ignoring television, and my family, submitting my work everywhere.” He laughed “I wasn’t rejected, I told myself, there were simply too many other stories that month, written by a closed circle of published authors. I…I couldn’t see.” He sighed, unable to meet the eyes of his audience as he added, “I didn’t want to.

“I'm sure you know what came next. I turned to writing novels, and spent even more time at the keyboard. Soon a few hours in the evening became entire nights, as my life began to center on my addiction.” He shook his head. “Though I could never see it as an addiction. I still thought of it as a hobby.”

He sighed. “One by one I lost my friends. Not only did I stop returning their calls….” He spread his hands. “When I did see friends I saddled them with manuscripts that I expected them to praise.” He couldn’t hold back the bitter laugh that came with that statement “They began to avoid me. I can’t say I blame them.”

He hung his head for a moment, before continuing, his voice devoid of emotion.

 “My job performance began to suffer as I daydreamed plots and story lines instead of paying attention to business. As time went on, and I sank deeper into addiction, I began to sneak a half-hour here and there to make story notes. Finally… Well, in the end I abandoned all pretense of work.”

He closed his eyes in remembered pain. “When I lost my job for the first time I tried to put writing behind me. I knew what it was doing to me, even then. But I’d sunk too far…too far. By that time I was carrying short stories with me, maneuvering conversations with strangers to the subject of writing and then forcing copies on my unsuspecting victims.” He looked at nothing for a moment, lost in memories, then snorted, adding, “The money I wasted on printing them, alone…”

He pressed his face into his hands as he gained strength for what had to come next. When he lowered them he made no effort to keep the resignation from his voice.

“It went quickly after that. My family left me, of course. They still loved me, I think, but they really had no choice. I know it was hard for them, but I, well, I hardly noticed when they left.

“With no job, and no other source of income, I found myself on the street, begging for food money, but in reality, using it to buy paper and pencils to feed my addiction.

“Even that didn’t last… It couldn’t.” He stopped for a moment, eyes focused on nothing. Then, returning to the present, he shook himself awake with a short bark of a laugh. “I woke this morning to find myself under the platform of the subway. I tried to make myself get up and get something to eat, but I couldn’t. I had to write something first!” His voice was a reflection of the darkness inside. “Do you know? Have you felt the soul-searing need that grips your very being?” He stepped around the podium, arms stretched forward in supplication. “I-wrote-on-a-wall! I had no paper, but still…I couldn’t stop writing!” He sank to his knees, reaching out, pain a tearing shriek within his words. “Please…please help me before I write again.” He collapsed on himself then, a miserable figure of a man, alone in his need, sobbing, face pressed against his hands.

But he was not to remain alone. Heedless of the stinking filth of his clothing, a woman hurried forward to gather him in her arms. Quickly, the others came forward to form a human bulwark against his pain, helping him to his seat and remaining for a moment, whispering individual words of encouragement before slipping back to their places.

 

Once more the chairman stood at the podium. He spoke to the group, but his words were really meant for the man behind him, as he said, “We all share that affliction with Sam, and well know his pain. For so many years, the disease of writership was unknown, masked by the success of that small group of people who possess an actual talent for writing. It was assumed that those of us who suffered and starved for the written word were simply misguided. It has only been a few years since Stafford’s great discovery that writing is an addiction, one as darkly destructive as alcohol or drugs…one that destroys more lives each year than even tobacco.”

He paused, nodding. “But now that the sickness has been identified for what it is, we can treat it, and even identify it in the young, preventing its taking hold in children…possibly the worst tragedy of all. With understanding, faith, and help such as we can give, those of us who have fallen may rise once more, to control those terrible urges and become productive members of society.” He leaned forward, his eyes bright. “There is even hope that in time we’ll find a way to allow social writing by addicts without triggering a relapse.” That statement brought a stir of interest from the audience. He held up a warning hand. “Nothing definite yet, I’m afraid, but in the latest issue of Writer’s Anonymous, there was an article on just that possibility.”

 

The meeting dragged its way to an ending, the closing prayer signaling a release from the hard chairs. With a final comment of, “Don’t forget to feed the coffee kitty,” the chairman turned to Sam, only to find him gone, unable to face the group on a personal basis. He shrugged, then turned to the podium to collect his things. But the podium was bare. His notebook and pencil were gone. For a moment there was a flick of anger, but he suppressed it. This wasn’t really unexpected--though he had hoped the man was ready. Still, it was a start. There always had to be that start: admitting that the problem existed. When Sam was ready he’d be back. They always came back.

 

***

 



Author’s note: Please, help me. Stop me before I write again.


Jay Greenstein

https://jaygreenstein.wordpress.com/category/the-craft-of-writing/

 

© 2018 JayG


Author's Note

JayG
This one is just for fun...but might be written for any of us.

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Featured Review

This was very vivid...I expected, of course, a story about drug or alcohol addiction. The idea of writing as an addiction was surprising to me. That is, until I stopped to think about it.
After all, for as long as I can remember, any time a piece of paper and a pencil or pen found their way into my hands, I began to write; a story, a poem, even a song.
I had dozens of composition books filled with my stories and poems by the time I was grown enough to strike out on my own, and when I left home at 19 (1972), I left these books behind. I returned home in 1975, and they had all been destroyed.
I began again.
In 1980, there was a fire in my apartment building, and everything was lost--again.
I began again! I had still not recovered!
I wrote a book in 1985. I had just managed to survive breast cancer, and now, with a double, radical mastectomy, baldness due to chemotherapy, and a year of hormone therapy behind me,I had a story to tell.
I was dissatisfied with what I wrote. Nonfiction was not what I wanted to write.
Years passed, and I sold stories to magazines like TRUE ROMANCE and REDBOOK. Nothing important, nothing very memorable.
In 2003, I wrote FOR THE LOVE OF JOHN, a book spanning 50 years in the fictional life of an actual friend. Two years later, I wrote NOWHERE MAN, a book in which my friend, who had been killed in 1980, survived his shooting and began a new life elsewhere.
Now I was writing the sort of thing that I wanted to be remembered for.

Does all of this mean that I am addicted to writing?
I think it just might.
Moreover, I think that's okay.
In fact, I think it's pretty great.
Just like your story here. I can see your tongue, wedged firmly in your cheek, and I appreciate the humor.
I'll tell you one thing, though.
If Sam goes back, he'll be sorry. Being cured of writing addiction--perish the thought! Heaven forfend!
Writing! It's the very reason that a guy like Sam is living.

Posted 8 Months Ago


3 of 3 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

Haha very fun story, Jay ! I loved the descriptions you used, very good :)

Posted 2 Months Ago


Your powers of description and depiction are very vivid and well written, sometimes I find, the text can be a bit too long between dialogue therefore confusing the reader when it is brought back up. But maybe that's just me. I enjoyed reading this. Thank you for posting..

Posted 2 Months Ago


so he took another breath, and said, “My name is Sam, and I’m…” He sighed, then bowed his head, shaking it in shame. “… I’m a writer.”

As I reached the end of this part, I began to form an idea of what this story was about. A smile spread across my face and, frankly, I sympathized with the addict on a deep level. This desperation, anxiety and inability to stop thinking about writing is real. The struggle is real, and so is the pleasure. When the chairman began to search for his pencil and notebook, suppressing his anger, I laughed out loud. And I was still laughing after I finished reading. I love the flavor of both depression and humor in this story.

You are a wonderful writer.

Never stop writing!

~Aysha.

Posted 3 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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Joy
To begin with, I do not think I can help you to quit writing. In fact, I suffer a similar writing addiction as Sam does. At first I always thought it was a hobby as well, having begun since i was very little, writing stories on paper. But eventually my keyboard sucked hours away, and my daydreaming even more. And I couldn't stop. I enjoyed writing even though I did not want to. Even though I did not know why. I wanted to be like other people, away from my computer. I was stuck on my laptop, thinking myself weird, and soon I thought myself addicted as well. I fell behind in school and lost sleep as I progressed in my stories. When I felt stuck and had nothing to write, i would often grow really bored and felt bad. I had to keep writing! I do not have many friends to begin with, so my writing really did not affect that part of my life. And my family really supports me, and for that I am very grateful. But I can definitely say that I have thought writing an addiction as well. So as soon as I read that writing was the addiction, I found myself agreeing and relating very much.

Well done on this story. Writing truly, whether or not it is a good thing, is an addiction. I can't stop, and I do not even try to anymore. I just want to become better at my addiction.

Posted 5 Months Ago


After havin my own demons, in the illicit side o chemicals ,i was expecting something along those lines ? You could of been writing bout Me, only in a past life ....Dont truly know why ,it just touched a nerve ,well done !!!

Posted 6 Months Ago


Just remember that you're powerless over this destructive habit...

Posted 7 Months Ago


This was very vivid...I expected, of course, a story about drug or alcohol addiction. The idea of writing as an addiction was surprising to me. That is, until I stopped to think about it.
After all, for as long as I can remember, any time a piece of paper and a pencil or pen found their way into my hands, I began to write; a story, a poem, even a song.
I had dozens of composition books filled with my stories and poems by the time I was grown enough to strike out on my own, and when I left home at 19 (1972), I left these books behind. I returned home in 1975, and they had all been destroyed.
I began again.
In 1980, there was a fire in my apartment building, and everything was lost--again.
I began again! I had still not recovered!
I wrote a book in 1985. I had just managed to survive breast cancer, and now, with a double, radical mastectomy, baldness due to chemotherapy, and a year of hormone therapy behind me,I had a story to tell.
I was dissatisfied with what I wrote. Nonfiction was not what I wanted to write.
Years passed, and I sold stories to magazines like TRUE ROMANCE and REDBOOK. Nothing important, nothing very memorable.
In 2003, I wrote FOR THE LOVE OF JOHN, a book spanning 50 years in the fictional life of an actual friend. Two years later, I wrote NOWHERE MAN, a book in which my friend, who had been killed in 1980, survived his shooting and began a new life elsewhere.
Now I was writing the sort of thing that I wanted to be remembered for.

Does all of this mean that I am addicted to writing?
I think it just might.
Moreover, I think that's okay.
In fact, I think it's pretty great.
Just like your story here. I can see your tongue, wedged firmly in your cheek, and I appreciate the humor.
I'll tell you one thing, though.
If Sam goes back, he'll be sorry. Being cured of writing addiction--perish the thought! Heaven forfend!
Writing! It's the very reason that a guy like Sam is living.

Posted 8 Months Ago


3 of 3 people found this review constructive.

I really enjoyed this one, you defiantly
can paint descriptions with words very well. and i liked the concept.

Posted 8 Months Ago



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Added on October 22, 2018
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Tags: Humor, writing

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JayG
JayG

Philadelphia, PA



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