Romance Novels and Heroin

“It’s funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools – friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty – and said ‘do the best you can with these, they will have to do’. And mostly, against all odds, they do.”
~ Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

When I was growing up heroin (the opiate) was the drug of choice for those who wanted to escape their life and forget for a while. At school we were taught about the evils of addiction, and the shameful weakness of the addict. To let ourselves fall to heroin? Goodness, that was never going to happen.

And then there are romance novels.

Romance novels?

You might ask what they have to do with addictive drugs.

Everything, really. Romance novels are heroin for the mind. Cheap, nasty, bad for you. A weakness. I never read one.  They are genre fiction, and at school and university this kind of story, that kind of writer, were frowned upon. I trusted my teachers and lecturers. I stayed away.

Now I am grown up, and I have a mind capable of critical thinking and analysis. I am also a grown up with an overflowing plate. Family dramas, terminal illnesses, clients needing major support, and in my psychic work recently some truly shocking and upsetting things that I can never quite shield myself from feeling and thinking about long after the work is done.

I am not the kind of girl to go shoot up some heroin. Or drink myself into a stupor. Or take ice or valium. Those things are never going to be adequate solutions to life’s pain and problems.

But romance novels? Genre fiction? Yes. Yes to them. Yes to losing myself in another world for a time. Yes to worlds that allow me to escape, to live vicariously, to really feel my emotions, and for, dare I say it, positive resolution and happy endings.

To all the romance and genre fiction writers out there I say thank you. You’re the best feel-good drug I know for helping me escape for a while and come back to life calmer, more rested and more ready to face the world.

The best thing about your kind of drug? I have you beside my bed, I have bookshelves full of you, and a kindle app loaded and ready to go should I need a quick fix.

I get it now. There’s a reason you’re so popular. You deliver on your promise.

And that feels oh-so-good.