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Confessions of a Sudoku Addict

 article about sudoku addiction

This article belongs to Addictions theme.

I'm not sure how I got started. I think I saw a friend doing one and it looked like fun. What could it hurt, it was just a puzzle. But when I put the last number into that final little square, there was no turning back. I wanted to do another Sudoku. I had never felt so good, so alive, so smart. I thought I was Einstein, or Steven Hawking or Mr. Wizard. I wanted to feel that way again. And I didn't care how.

At first I just did Sudokus when I was with my friends. I convinced myself that it was just a social thing, something we had in common. We would pass a Sudoku around, seeing who could get the next number but I really didn't want to share. Sometimes I would hold on to it. Do a couple of numbers but my friends got mad. They quit wanting me around. I needed my own connection. And I found one. The paper boy.

I even tried to do one during rush hour on the way home but a cop pulled me over for reckless driving.
Each morning I'd wait for him to ride by so I could score another Sudoku. Snatching the paper off the front porch, clutching it to my chest as if I was afraid it would get away, I'd make my way back to the living room to sit in my recliner rocker. Discarding the worthless sections like national news and local events, I'd find the section I needed, the one that held the puzzle, carefully tearing the Sudoku out from the page so all that was left was the 9 by 9 square that relieved the pain. This made the whole act more legitimate. More like a ritual than just an addiction. I would pull out my kit from the top drawer of the end table: pen, pencil, whiteout, the Sudoku paraphernalia I needed to get me through another day. As I filled in each number I felt smartness surge through my body.

Soon mornings were not enough. I would sneak out and buy papers during the day. The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The National Enquirer. I would go off by myself and do one instead of lunch or in the evenings after the kids went to sleep. Before I knew it I was up to three or four a day. Sneaking them between meetings, doing them in the men's room. I even tried to do one during rush hour on the way home but a cop pulled me over for reckless driving. Luckily I was able to slide the Sudoku under the seat before he saw it.

Eventually only the level fours and fives could get me off. I would take public transportation in the hopes of finding a discarded paper with a Difficult or maybe even a Very Difficult. I would pull papers out of the trash or off sleeping homeless people. I had trouble eating or sleeping unless I could score a really good puzzle. But the high was shorter and shorter and I needed more and more. All I could think of was my next Sudoku. And I didn't care how I got it. I was hitting bottom. I was hooked.

I panicked. I unfastened my seat belt to find another one but the flight attendants started yelling at me to sit back down.
I'm not sure exactly when it happened. I know I was in a meeting and I heard two guys talking about how boring travel was and how they hated just sitting on a plane. Then one of them said, "at least the in flight magazines have Sudokus. They even have one that is rated Diabolical." It is kind of a blur what happened next. I remember being at the airport, and then on a plane, there was an in-flight magazine in the pouch in front of me and I was tearing through it trying to find the Sudoku page. But when I found it, it was already filled in. Someone had already solved it. I panicked. I unfastened my seat belt to find another one but the flight attendants started yelling at me to sit back down.

I remember them restraining my hands behind my back. Large men were asking me questions I couldn't answer. "Where are you going?" "Where's your luggage?" "How did you get into the country?" The shame on my wife's face when she came to pick me up.

The "Farm" as they called it, was nice. I was surprised how many people like me there were. At first they would only let us do Jumbles and Word Searches. Nothing with numbers. Eventually they let us work on a level one then a level two. As soon as we demonstrated that we could keep our cravings in check.

It's been 4 months, 2 weeks and 5 days now that I have been straight. Sure I still do the sudoku in the daily paper, once a solver always a solver, but it no longer controls my life. I take the one in the paper and that is all I need for the day. No more hiding and lying and stealing my neighbor's periodicals. They say you are never really cured. You just learn to control it. So now I fill in the numbers slowly savouring each one knowing that this will have to last me for the day. Until the paper boy comes again.

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