Addicted to Election TV -- Benjamin Svetkey explains his fears of election coverage detox

By Benjamin Svetkey
October 31, 2008 at 04:00 AM EDT

Addicted to election TV

They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. I have one. I’m addicted to Chris Matthews. I get the shakes if I miss a day of Campbell Brown. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I’ll creep out of bed for a tweak of the east coast feed of Morning Joe.

I’m an election junkie. And I’m not the only one, despite the fact that the two strains of addiction — Obsessive Obama Disorder and McCainaholism — aren’t recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. A colleague down the hall got so hooked on tracking poll websites he couldn’t sleep at all. He had to give them up cold turkey, and now wanders around the office trying not to think about the election (”One news cycle at a time” is his recovery mantra). Soon enough, of course, we’ll all be going cold turkey — and that’s terrifying. Because no matter who wins November 4, you can bet the withdrawal symptoms are going to get uglier than a pig in lipstick. For me and other addicts — the millions who got a buzz off the Democratic primaries, who were mesmerized by the Sarah Palin pick, and who are now feeling an amphetamine-like rush in the final stretch — the party is almost over. Once the votes are counted, it’s campaign detox.

”It sounds like a mild obsession,” offers addiction specialist Dr. Morteza Khaleghi, author of the new book Free From Addiction: Facing Yourself and Embracing Recovery. ”But whether you’ve gone too far — I don’t know. When your wife tells you she’s leaving because you’re waking her up watching politics, that’s when you know you’ve got a problem.” The coils of my addiction don’t go that deep (most nights), but Khaleghi says a form of post-election depression should be expected anyway: ”You’ll wonder how you’ll fill the vacuum.” Withdrawl is going to be tough even for the winning side. Those first few days will be filled with the euphoria of victory, and for a couple of weeks there will be the soothing methadone of inaugural planning and media speculation over cabinet appointments. But then what? How can life have the same kick without the thrilling jolt of the daily Rasmussen tracking polls?

Fortunately, Dr. Khaleghi has a simple one-step program: ”Wait four years.”