E-mail junkie's confessions

Those addicted to communicating find new outlet in today's technology

Posted: Wednesday, February 11, 2004

"Hello, everyone. My name is Sandra and I am an e-mail junkie."

Thinking back, it's amazing how little time it took for me to reach this level of addiction. I suppose it really shouldn't surprise me, given my extreme need to communicate with virtually anyone who will stand still long enough. My whole life has been spent watching people's ears fall off after having been trapped in the corner of a Laundromat.

I should have joined Talkers Anonymous years ago and relieved those I love from the burden of living with a woman who tells her whole life story to perfect strangers.

I'm not really sure when I learned to talk, but it had to have been early. I would imagine that by the age of 4 or 5 I was probably already on a roll. Then again, maybe not. I was actually shy for many years of my life. My addiction crept in slowly like so many others. One day I was discussing the weather; the next, my first son's circumcision.

As an addict, it's so easy to miss the telltale signs that your current victim is reaching the saturation point. You know, the eyes are glazing over, they're beginning to squirm as if they haven't used a restroom in 12 hours, they're frantically searching for the nearest exit, abandoning clothes, children or spouses in a desperate attempt to escape.

I'm the kind of person who hardly remembers what I've worn to a function, much less what anyone else wore, but I'll remember every word that was spoken either directly to me or any conversations occurring in my general vicinity. Words are like breath.

A few years ago, I found myself in the unenviable position of having nodules on my vocal cords due to acid reflux. It became terribly frustrating trying to project my voice. I don't know how many times I was on the verge of passing out from lack of oxygen while compulsively talking away. I hadn't as yet entered the computer age and discovered the wonders of e-mail.

You'd think that modern technology would make it easier for my victims to get relief from my onslaught of verbal diarrhea. Unfortunately, I have to confess to inflicting even more suffering on the world through this medium.

I can accept the first couple of ignored e-mails gracefully. By the third or the fourth, my palms are beginning to sweat. When I've checked for the 20th time in a four-hour period I'm hyperventilating.

That's when I start morphing into PSYCHO GIRL. It is not a pretty sight and the resulting e-mails become increasingly hysterical until weak-minded individuals close their addresses and don't leave forwarding ones. I'm continually searching for new friends and family members who haven't been warned.

Given this new level of communication freedom, you'd think I would be satisfied. I'm not. Like any addiction, the more it's fed, the more it requires.

I've begun to notice when I enter a room, people who are doing nothing, become suddenly industrious. I may need to move to a larger town and start over. The entire population of my small community knows more about my family than my youngest children. My husband comes home and says he heard something from the neighbor that he wasn't even aware of.

You know it's getting bad when our small, local library has a sign on the community computers that reads "Anyone but Sandra may e-mail from these computers." It's enough to give a normal person a complex.

Fortunately, I'm not normal, just ask my kids.

The severity of my problem will become abundantly apparent when I admit to having checked my e-mails at least once during the duration of time it has taken me to write this confession.

No, I didn't have any and, yes, I will be giving my e-mail address at the conclusion of this dissertation. Write to me, talk to me!

Which brings me to why I'm here today. I need to come clean. Wipe the slate and begin to control this compulsive need to communicate. I'm admitting I need help to overcome my problem. The first step in healing. Oh and by the way, I will be asking for everyone's e-mail address before I leave this evening!

And just in case anyone else shares my addiction, here's mine: alaskaselena@yahoo.com.

Sandra Ehlers is a married mother of 10 children ranging in age from 5 years old to 27 years old. She and her family have lived on the Kenai Peninsula off and on since 1980. Since all her children are now in school, she is able to spend more time pursuing her other passion, writing.

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