This is a true confession: I used to be addicted to soap operas.

I started watching one drama a day when I was locked in a small house with two small children. The soap was my big chance to have lunch with adults.

Soon I found myself tuning in earlier and earlier and turning the set off later and later. The hours went by, filled with love, lust and larceny. How could diapers and rubber ducks compare to the daytime TV world where high fashion mixes with low passion, where even the dying wear eye liner and where the good guys/gals and the bad are as clearly labeled as the products in the commercials?

Before I knew it, I was hooked. One life to live was not enough for me; I had become a multiple plot person.

The only way to wean myself from daytime drama was to leave the house. I went back to work but the love of my life lingered, and I felt lost without the daytime television world.

I soon discovered there were several socially acceptable substitutes other people use to indulge their addiction to daily drama:

Prime time television. What are Dallas and Dynasty but later and greater versions of the daytime serials? At night they skip the coffee cups and head straight for the cocktail glasses. But these shows have the same ingredients that have spelled success for their afternoon equivalents: the unspeakable do the unthinkable in their unmentionables.

Self-help groups. You can listen to the stories of other peoples' lives while expanding your consciousness or reducing your measurements. As a member of a consciousness-raising group, I quivered in expectation before each session. Would one middle-aged woman find fulfillment in the arms of her 18-year-old lover? Would another dump her dastardly husband in time to save herself?

Weight Watcher meetings were equally suspenseful. Would Sam survive his family's passion for bread sticks? Would Sally succumb to temptation and consume the entire cheesecake in her freezer just before she reached her goal?

Carpools. The carpool offers two installments a day of rolling drama as you weave through traffic and the fabric of each other's lives. How I worried about my fellow travelers! Would the single father survive--or would his crockpot crack and his life along with it? And how long can a dedicated epidemiologist survive in OSHA, working for an administration that refuses to call a hazard a hazard? Will she compromise or will she quit? I still want to know.

Coffee breaks. It doesn't take much to encourage the intimate confidences of your colleagues. A sympathetic, "How are you?" can ofen elicit enough information about illicit activities both inside and outside the office to make soap operas seem like the gospel hour.

After a while, I discovered that daytime drama is everywhere: in supermarket lines, on subway cars, in airports or bank lines, there are always strangers with stories to tell.

It's wonderful not to be called a mindless soap opera addict anymore.

Now people say I'm a good listener.