They say that the first step towards recovery is admitting you have a problem. My hope is that by telling my story I might encourage others to avoid what has become a serious problem for me. I’m hooked on “crackberry.”

It started innocently enough. About a year ago I was having a meeting with my local Nextel representative to discuss some new options in our Nextel service package. We’d just recently made the jump to upgrade to GPS phones for all of our technicians, and even purchased software that functions as a time card so the techs can clock in and out on their phones. Pretty cool stuff. The meeting was about to wrap up when my rep, a seasoned pusher, pulled out a Nextel BlackBerry and slid it across the conference table.

I’d seen other people using BlackBerries, and to be honest, these people scared me. One morning in Starbucks I made the mistake of asking a guy I was standing next to in line how he liked his BlackBerry. For the next 30 minutes I had to listen to him explain how BlackBerry had virtually saved his life. As I walked away, cold Vente Breakfast Blend in hand, my instincts told me to stay away from BlackBerry.

But now, with this brand new BlackBerry sitting teasingly on the table in front of me, I started to wonder what I was afraid of. After all, it was just a little hand-held phone and e-mail thingy. If I didn’t like it, or if I started acting crazy like some of these other “users,” I could always get rid it. That’s what I told myself.

Now look where I am. I’m sitting in my car waiting for the light to turn green, responding to less-than-urgent e-mails by typing with my thumbs on a preposterously small keypad.

The last several months have been a total blur.

BlackBerry is now the center of my life. My first thought every morning when I get up is “Where’s my BlackBerry?” and my last thought each night before I drift into a fitful sleep is “Did I check my BlackBerry?” I don’t remember what life was like before BlackBerry. I rub my eyes and try to remember when, exactly, this high-tech little tool stopped working for me – and I started working for it.

If this story sounds at all familiar, it may be time to check the warning signs that you have exceeded your personal communications capacity (PCC). Here are some of the most obvious signs:

- You start taking your PDA or cell phone into consideration on every decision about your life. For example, I recently changed vacation plans when I found out there was no Nextel coverage at my hotel. I went home. I had a lot of stuff to do around the house anyway.

- You’re in a meeting and the speaker pauses briefly to take a sip of water. Not only you, but everyone else in the room takes that as a sign of “It’s time to check my BlackBerry.” The more polite folks will check their e-mail discretely under the table, while others are more overt. But it’s clear that everyone in that meeting is only mentally half-aware.

- You have five different ways to “stay in touch,” but everyone keeps telling you that you’re the most difficult person to get a hold of.

- You feel compelled to share every waking moment of your life with others via constant updates on the cell phone/PDA. “I just left the store and can you believe they are totally out of grape Snapple?”

- It feels weird to sit in your car and do nothing but drive.

If you’re experiencing at least two of these warning signs, you may not be far from addiction. Right now, you may be living in the same fantasy world I used to live in. “Hey, I can quit any time, man.” Wrong!

Even if you’re a heavy cell phone abuser, or perhaps you dabble in a little bit of Palm Pilot from time-to-time, I’m telling you, those are kids’ toys compared with Crackberry.

Editor’s Note:

SDM wants to hear your opinion on this and other issues that affect the electronic security industry. If you have a strong viewpoint that you’d like to share with your peers, contact the editor: Laura Stepanek, SDM Editor, 1050 IL Route 83, Bensenville, IL 60106; tele. (630) 694-4027; FAX (630) 227-0214; e-mail stepanekl@bnpmedia.com. The editors will consider all serious submissions.