Drop the Reader's Digest and Back Away Slowly
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There should be a Twelve Step program for people like me.

“Hi, my name is Gloria, and I’m a magaholic.” A chorus of similarly- hooked individuals raise their Styrofoam coffee cups and chant in unison, “Welcome, Gloria!”

I admit it. I’m a magazine junkie.

I need stacks and stacks of them. I have stacks and stacks of them. On the coffee table, the bedside table, the kitchen counter, the bathroom counter, the bookshelves and the pantry shelves. Piles of back issues of National Geographic, teetering mounds of old Pennsylvania Game News, copies of the Old Farmer’s Almanac giving me the weather for 1963-96. I have issues of Foxfire from the '70s with such inspiring down-home reading as “The First Day in the Life of a Potato Hole.” Could I possibly make that up?

I pick them up at garage sales out of boxes labeled "FREE." I take the leftovers offered by libraries. I paw through bins at the recycling center and realize what I must look like. But I don’t care. I’m hooked.

It began quite innocently, as most addictions do, with the neighborhood supplier--an occasional subscription bought from some sweet little kid down the block. They would say, “I can win an Atari game [yes, it began that long ago] if I sell just two more subscriptions for the fifth grade band.” These local pushers were so sly, looking up at me with such eagerness in their eyes, a stubby pencil poised over the subscription form, their mothers waiting in the car at the curb. Who could "Just Say No" to that?

Then it was the phone solicitors. Evil incarnate.

“Mrs. Slater, I’m prepared to let you in on a one-time only, never to be repeated in your lifetime, too good to pass up, you’ll kick yourself if you do, special offer. For only $247.95 a month, you can receive Bog & Swamp, Bourgeois Bride, E-Z Taxidermy, Simply Simple, Reptile News & World Report, Yakk!, and Cold Fusion Hobby Shop. You’ll also be entered in our sweepstakes to win a free trip to Pocatello, Idaho in the height--yes Mrs. Slater--the height of potato season,including complimentary hash brown breakfast. Now Mrs. Slater, may I confirm your address and credit card number?”

It was that taxidermy thing that got me. My magazine habit was getting expensive.

By now I was a soft-cover hardcore user. I could sniff out a newsstand a mile away. With sunglasses hiding the dark circles under my small-print strained eyes, I would slip into the public library. The periodical lounge had quickly become my own magazine “opium den,” only with better lighting. Or, I would invent reasons for another trip to the grocery store--“Oops, Honey, we’re out of okra”--just so I could thumb through the selections at the checkout line for a quick fix.

Is there a genetic predisposition in some people that creates this insatiable need for short articles and glossy advertisements? Will I pass the gene on to another generation of subscribers? Do we need stiffer penalties for offenders? Or is awareness the answer?

Perhaps you have a friend or loved one who exhibits magaholic tendencies. Be informed. Know the warning signs. Here are just a few:

-Psychosomatic illnesses in order to spend time in doctors’ waiting rooms.
-Paper cuts from those annoying little cards between the pages.
-Frequent trips to the bathroom for some extra reading time.
-Dilated pupils from trying to read those tiny ads in the back pages.
-Constant Calvin Klein odor from the perfume ad samples.
-Desperate, erratic behavior after receiving a Final Issue notice.

If you suspect that someone you know has a magazine problem, do not assume they can handle it on his or her own. They can’t. An intervention may be in order. It could be the kindest thing you will ever do. Though I must warn you, never confront the magazine addict by yourself. Violence is not uncommon when magazine withdrawal is anticipated. Take several others with you.

Expect denial. “Problem? I don’t have a problem, I can quit anytime I want.”

Expect deception. “This magazine? I’m only using it to prop up a wobbly table leg.”

Expect bargaining. “One more issue of Compost Quarterly, pleeeease!”

With patience and understanding I can fight this debilitating addiction, but I need your help. A little tough love and a gift subscription to Prevention magazine would be nice.

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