Written by Morag

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This week, BUM News blows the lid off of a little known addiction that affects one in eight people in the UK.

I first met Christine, lets call her Anne, just after she had returned from rehab. Forty eight year old Anne, who has never married, lives with her widowed mother in a council house on an estate just outside Leeds. Anne's addiction has meant that since leaving school she has been unable to work and is officially classed as disabled.

Unlike some celebrities, who regard rehab as some sort of badge of honour, Anne was thoroughly ashamed and at first found it difficult to talk about. After carefully and gently coaxing her to open up, all to no avail, I got her piss-eyed drunk and she then sang like a canary.

"My problem started when I was still at school," she explained tearfully.

I asked if there was any bullying involved that may have triggered her addiction.
She agreed there was an element of bullying when she was at school but she didn't attribute her addiction to that. And certainly had no intentions of using that as a convenient excuse.
"Besides," she said, "I quite liked being a bully and beating up on younger kids."

There was a silence while I finished filling out my lottery ticket.

"If the blame lies anywhere, it lies with felt tips," she suddenly blurted out.

I sensed the bitterness in her voice and that she was about to throw up that last rum and coke I'd plied her with. But she was talking freely now. I moved my chair back slightly.

"Solvent abuse?" I inquired.

"Oh no, nothing as glamorous. Heroin addiction, alcohol addiction and prescription drug addiction seems to be very much in vogue amongst pop stars and movie stars these days. They can't wait to reveal all to the tabloids to keep themselves in the spotlight. But my addiction is not so well known and tends to be swept under the carpet," she slurred.

"Have you ever heard of....doodleism?" she asked.

"Yes," I replied reassuringly, "I just made it up in the line above this one."

She looked relieved and went on to tell me about the day she took her first doodle. "Like most kids I was bored. I noticed the girl sitting next to me was doodling and thought I'd like to give it a try. It made me feel grown up. One of the crowd. At first it was just a giggle. But as the other kids grew out of it I found I couldn't stop. Adults were beginning to notice, especially when I doodled all over my younger brothers head. I became withdrawn."

"Soon felt tips no longer did it for me. I needed something stronger to get that same buzz. That's when I discovered paint and my first brush (no pun intended) with the law. Paint doodles needed a larger surface than schoolbooks or desks or my brothers head. That's when I was caught by a teacher doodling on the bike sheds. I can still remember the shame. As a punishment I was made to mark out the tennis courts. But I couldn't help myself, straight lines were never my forte, and I doodled all over the court."

"The police were called after Lilly Jean King, the schools up and coming tennis star, fell awkwardly and broke her leg after getting lost in a doodle. Stupid cow! It was a simple return shot."

"I was taken to the police station and they threw the book at me. Charging me with wilful doodling, doodling in a public place and doodling in the book they threw at me. There was no offer of counselling back in those days. Had there been, things may have been different. There I was, expelled from school, with a criminal record and breasts not fully developed yet."

"I turned to harder and harder paints. When matt emulsion was no longer doing it for me, I moved on to silk and eggshell finishes. All colours, not just brilliant white any more. I sank so low I even used 'Summer Blue' on one occasion."

"Just when I thought I couldn't sink any lower, a fellow doodleholic introduced me to liquid gloss and non-drip paint. I found that by cutting it with white spirit I could not only get the high I needed but had enough to sell some to fund my habit. Before long I was dealing paint to half the neighbourhood."

"Unbeknown to me my house was being watched by the police's elite hardware squad. They raided the house and seized my stash of doodles. The choice was jail or rehab. How things have changed in 20 years. With the help of the pipe smoking, corduroy trousered, elbow patched counsellor from an earlier article, I'm clean at last, well, apart from the lingering smell of turpentine and pipe tobacco."

Anne is typical of many sad losers in Britain today. She was lucky. She was one of the few that have overcome this embarrassing addiction. Until more people become aware of doodleism, these addicts will go unnoticed and unloved. It could be a member of your own family, a co-worker, even your milkman. Don't let them suffer in silence. Remember, they need understanding, they need a voice, they need help. Failing that, they need some pens and plenty of paper.

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