‘Hi. I’m Dave. And I’m a postaholic.” I scanned the small crowd in the drab hall. The phone in my hand beeped text alerts.
“Got yr back DAVE”
Touched, I continued. “I can’t stop posting. I can’t stop tweeting. I can’t ...” I fumbled with my iPhone. “Sorry. I lost track of what I was saying. I had to send a tweet.”
A stout hipster in a black T-shirt stood up, cleared his throat and read aloud the tweet I had just sent. “Admttd post-aholic @ PA meeting :-(.”
“A 39-character tweet! That’s good, Dave. It’s good to cut back slowly — to cut back one character at a time. Giving up emoticons is the hardest part.”
I was among friends who were as real as my Facebook friends. Stuart waddled up to the podium and looked me in the eyes.
“I’m Stuart. I’m a postaholic. Welcome to Postaholics Anonymous. I’m going to be your sponsor.”
He hugged me.
I sobbed. “I can’t stop pinning, tweeting or blogging no matter how hard I try to stop!” A woman with a cranberry Mohawk nodded. A teenager, gulping Red Bull, wiped his eyes.
“Every morning I wake up exhausted after posting all night. And what’s the first thing I want first thing in the morning? Wi-Fi! Next thing I know I’m posting, posting, posting. And one post is never enough. Oh no, it’s never enough.”
Just then I was gripped with an intense urge to take a selfie of Stuart and me; and more than anything in the world I wanted to post it and post it now. Email spam, subject line: uncontrollable desire, had appeared out of nowhere in the inbox of my soul. The group stared at me. I bit my lip, closed my eyes and deleted it.
“I can’t remember what I posted a minute ago let alone what I tweeted this morning. Status? What’s on my mind? I’ll tell you what’s on my mind. Cat videos. And the next post.”
“Remember honey badger?”
“Fly in my Chai!”
“Check out BuzzFeed link.”
“Awesome cat video!”
Stuart sighed and patted me on the shoulder. “We understand, Dave. I used to get headaches if I didn’t get a ‘share.’ There is a world out there. Google it, man. Better yet, don’t Google it.”
He smiled. “We’re here for you, IRL, in real life.”
I confessed I was on the edge of dragging my life to the desktop trash. In the front row, a girl wearing a Google Glass gasped.
“You ever get that feeling again, call a buddy. Call me. Use a pay phone. Like the warning says, you can’t undo that action, brother.”
Just this morning, my trembling finger hovered over the mouse. A click away from ending it, I was thinking there has to be a better way. And now, after a stop at Starbucks, for a grande, I was here telling strangers how I had lost my job, my family, my home and my laptop.
Laptop! The group gasped in unison.
“Now I live in the alley behind an Apple Store, just me, my 8 gig phone and my cyber wolf from ‘Minecraft.’”
Stuart asked to see my last post. “Fngertps RAW frm texting Lost al HOpe. :-(. ”
“Hope is what we’re all about, Dave. You can’t surf your way to happiness. You’ll recover, man. We’ve all walked in your shoes. Right, people?”
“By the way those are nice shoes. Where’d you get them? Amazon? Zappos? Whoa! What am I saying! See that? We’re all in danger of a relapse. It never ends! LOL, right, Dave?”
The next morning, heading for my meeting, I stopped to buy some smokes. Every postaholic smokes. As I fired up my e-cigarette I remembered they’re cheaper online. My mouth went dry. All I needed was a wireless connection. My hands were shaking. I cursed the ‘Free Wi-Fi’ sign. This wasn’t going to be easy. I called Stuart on a pay phone.
In the next couple of weeks I learned I was powerless to stop posting — I couldn’t do it on my own. I moved into a halfway house that used to be an Internet cafe. I made a “fearless inventory” of my pins, tweets, blogs and online comments. I made a list of all the persons I had cyber-bullied and made amends. I had been a 3-terabyte troll.
I never logged into cyberspace again. I went for walks, took my wife, Susan, dancing and learned my kid’s names.
One day, while folding laundry, Susan picked up a bronze coin that fell out of my pants pocket and asked me, “What’s this? What’s written on it?”
Our 9-year-old on the sofa, didn’t look up from his Game Boy, iPhone and laptop, when he said, “You only live once.”