The nine squares of misery

I’m giving it up.

A time comes when you have to accept the impact that addiction is having on your life. Either that, or ever more rapidly find yourself reduced to a drooling imbecile.

My wife says that’s just my age. It’s not; it’s the addiction.

But the world conspires to lock one in to the cycle of abuse. There are beguiling opportunities in every city centre, in shopping centres and suburban streets, in newsagents, newspapers, magazines and books.

And if that’s not enough, I actually enjoy it. I know Sudoku isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s certainly mine. It’s also my toast and butter, not to mention whisky and heroine.

I’m even making excuses to go to the toilet where the next set of little paper squares waits to tantalise me – and I’m not talking toilet rolls. I completed a very complex one in bed last night and I kissed the page in delight. My wife said that if I’m kissing Sudoku puzzles in bed, something is seriously wrong, and she’s right.

So I’m giving up.

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t know what I’m talking about?

I doubt it. Sudoku is the little puzzle of nine squares, each containing nine squares, that you’ll find somewhere in the pages of the Townsville Bulletin every day. They’re an exercise in logic that’s supposed to keep the brain supple and the mind active, which may be true; but it plays havoc with your muscle tone. Kids are berated for sitting all day playing on computers; yet adults can sit all day doing Sudoku and get away with it. It’s hardly fair.

Sitting on the toilet trying to fill in a total 81 squares with the numbers one to nine without any single digit being repeated in one line is certainly not mind-numbing, but only takes half an hour before your bum can’t feel a thing.

I have no idea if cocaine does that, but in other respects I suspect there are similarities: the euphoria when you get it right; the deep and abiding depression when you stuff it up; the vow never to indulge again and the irresistible urge to pick the paper up and try just this last time.

Except that if you get it right it won’t be the last time, till you get it wrong, then it will be, except that it won’t be.

Every night I go to bed and I finish a Sudoku, if God is feeling generous; or I stuff it up, if not. But, either way,  I think to myself afterwards: I should have read a book. A book would have enriched my life. Or I could have written one, which might even have enriched my pocket!

But instead I frittered away my life on a square of little boxes, filling them up with numbers, as if it mattered, for heaven’s sake!

What’s the gain, tell me?

Is my mind improved? Is the world improved? Have I proved anything, except that I’m not very good at it?

The answers are no, of course. I suppose it’s possible that I might for a little longer have stemmed the inevitable loss of intellect, and the dribbling (my my wife says, no, I haven’t).

And anyway: Addiction is Bad for You. It’s a well known fact.

So I’m giving it up.

And I’ve found a cure.

Does anyone know a of a six-letter word. meaning hooked, fourth letter: I?