I am a total addict. There is no 12-step program for me. I am on my own as the veil of addiction settles over my life.

I know others who are addicted, just not as bad. I cannot stop. I cannot help myself. It isn’t alcohol. It isn’t drugs. It isn’t even Ben & Jerry’s vanilla bean ice cream.

It’s solitaire. Now you don’t even need a deck of cards to play, just a smartphone.

Solitaire is one of my earliest memories. I was playing solitaire in a cottage on Lake Widgeon in Plymouth, Massachusetts. We were there for the end of World War II. So you can guess how old I am.

I was at the rickety card table shuffling the cards when my father came up behind me. “Red jack on black queen.” I hate that. Why does everyone have to kibitz?

When we got computers at the Bangor Daily News office in Rockland, we couldn’t wait for Bureau Chief Ted Sylvester to leave for coffee. As soon as the door closed, we were right on solitaire until we saw him coming back.

Of course we took a great leap forward when we all got smartphones. We could bring solitaire with us. If you were at the Honda dealership killing time for a three-hour, $1,200 “checkup,” you had your solitaire in one hand.

Most people keep it under control. They are not real addicts, just fans. This week, I decided it was time to go to a Betty Ford Clinic for solitaire abusers.

It was an all-time weekend on television. I had a touch of the flu, so I sat in front of the tube while the rest of the world celebrated New Year’s.

It was marathon week. First there was “Breaking Bad,” the best show ever, except for “The Sopranos” and “Lonesome Dove.” I watched Walter White disintegrate from a respectable high school chemistry teacher to “Heisenberg,” a killer drug maker in a dilapidated RV in the desert.

During the whole show I kept my iPhone in my hand, playing solitaire. I would look up for the gunshots and crashes, of course. I stopped out of respect when they buried Hank, the DEA agent.

Another fabulous marathon started a few days later when PBS showed the entire reruns of “Downton Abbey,” one of the best shows ever — except for “The Sopranos,” “Lonesome Dove,” “Breaking Bad,” you know.

I usually hate the snotty English, including Grima, and I hate the aristocracy even more. Naturally I sided with the Irish chauffeur who ran off with the rich, beautiful daughter. As Bates killed his wife, then some other guy, I watched carefully, all while playing solitaire. Hey, I had already seen most of the shows, and the solitaire gave me something to do during the interminable fundraiser messages.

It was a fabulous football weekend. Alabama took Washington to the woodshed and won a spot in next week’s national championship game.


As soon as that ended, Clemson — I love that paw-print logo — actually shut out Ohio State, which will keep the Buckeyes quiet for another year. Despite the lopsided score, it was a great game.


Hey, it’s not just me. When Blue Eyes and I are watching television on her couch, she often pulls out that computer. I can hear those whooshing sounds. Once she starts, I cannot be accused of ignoring her, and I can pull out my solitaire game.

I remember when I stayed with Mark and Jane, two of my very favorite people, in Spring Hill, I can remember when all three of us would play computer solitaire at the same time on three different computers. Ah, progress.

I made the mistake yesterday of checking the “stat” part of my solitaire app. Sadly, I had played 1, 477 games. I had wasted 146 hours, 23 minutes and 57 seconds. I won only 128 games, which is far under 10 percent. My best winning time was 3 minutes, 30 seconds. I sure don’t remember that.

Now that I have seen my grim, under 10 percent figures, I realize I could use my father’s help again.

“Red jack on black queen.”

Emmet Meara lives in Camden in blissful retirement after working as a reporter for the Bangor Daily News in Rockland for 30 years.