Like many an addict, at first I couldn't admit I had a problem. I was in control, there was nothing wrong with me. Then I started hiding the telltale signs, wearing dark glasses to hide my bloodshot, weary eyes. Soon I was looking for support groups, desperate for help.

I'm a mailaholic, a person with a compulsion to actually read the mountains of material that arrive each week at home and office.

The problem began innocently enough. Perhaps it was when I received a Spiegel catalogue and enjoyed the opportunity to shop from home late in the evening. No crowds, no lines, no salespeople. I placed an order. It arrived like an unexpected gift a few days later. I think, why fight the malls again? I was hooked. To appease my guilt at the ease and convenience of it all I dashed off a check to a worthy cause.

And then it really took off. I can't possibly keep up. But I'm a polite person. To not read my mail would be like hanging up on someone, or slamming the door in somebody's face. I have been known to come back from vacation to find not one, not two, but four fat envelopes from Reader's Digest telling me of my very special status in the quest for their $5 million. Then there's the stuff from Publishers Clearinghouse. But you can't win if you don't play so I dutifully go through my packets, selecting the color for my new jaguar, deciding if I want my money in one big fat greedy check, or a mere $133,333 a month for the next 20 years. I carefully find my secret star to attach to the coupon. I wonder how other couples cope, how they handle the demands of jobs, kids, house, junk mail? What do Washington's rich and powerful, people who probably still receive real, first-class mail, do?

"Dan, did you send back that Publisher's Clearinghouse yet? Three more days and we miss the early-bird deadline."

Finally, I confess to my husband. I am missing payments on bills because I can't find them under the mounds of mail I haven't been able to get to. Like many of his gender, my husband has the empathy skills of a turnip. He is not sympathetic. He grunts, looks at me like I'm crazy and tells me to throw it all away. Just like that. But what about our chance to win $10 million dollars? What about the perfect dress waiting for me in one of these catalogues?

"Throw them away," he says. "Don't waste your time," he says, turning back to "Monday Night Football."

Slowly, it sinks in. I know he is right. I can't go on like this any longer. The next day I scoop up the mail from the floor and walk right to the trash can. You will control me no longer, junk mail. Goodbye, J. Crew. We've already bought our barn jackets. So long, Smith and Hawken. You are one of my favorites but I can't afford you.

After the catalogues, I toss in the rest. But wait. What is this? This envelope is fatter than your average junk mail piece. Curiosity gets the best of me. Just one more peek, my last, I promise. I open it. Oh no, they've sent me Christmas cards! Christmas cards I didn't pay for. Christmas cards drawn by adult children of unknown artists. I sigh, put the envelope back on the hall table, and reach for my checkbook.

I can see I'm going to have to take this one day at a time.