I got my first BlackBerry about three months ago. I decided to get one because a journalist convinced me how useful they were and Orange made me an offer I couldn't refuse - an almost free phone in exchange for a reasonable monthly subscription.
Immediately I was hooked. Gmail works beautifully on BlackBerry and for the first time in years I was able to get on top of my inbox. I found myself dealing with emails on the street, in corridors, in the cinema, in meetings, even in bed. It's also great for updating Twitter.
I would feel a sense of pride in having dealt with the latest influx of messages and found myself looking excitedly for that little red light to start flashing, announcing the arrival of new emails. Other activities seemed to pale into insignificance. At this stage the idea this being addicted never once crossed my mind - just as a heavy drinker may overindulge for years before admitting he may have a problem.
BlackBerry's little keyboard is wonderful. One Saturday I went to a school where my boy was part of a public speaking contest and I typed in his speech. I also wrote my first article for Huffington Post on it.
But the best thing about the BlackBerry is its instant messaging service, a form of text messaging that is completely free between BlackBerry users - wherever they are in the world. I was in constant contact with my BlackBerry wielding brother, who works in Pakistan and lives in Portugal.
And then I got into an overcrowded train and suddenly it was gone. The honeymoon was over. For a moment I felt completely lost, as if someone close to me had just died and I was experiencing the shock before the grief set in. Fortunately this moment of shock passed rapidly and I never progressed to the withdrawal or anger stage. I told myself "It's just a damn phone, I will go to the Orange shop and get another one."
But the people at Orange were unsympathetic. Gone were the friendly words of advice they had used to get me to sign their wretched two year lease and out came the real price list. And the starting price was now about £500. My love for BlackBerry was rapidly turning sour and I left the shop with the cheapest and simplest Nokia I could find.
Then a few things happened that made me realise that perhaps I was being dragged into a vortex of addiction. I was compelled to get a replacement BlackBerry with the energy of a desperate addict. I'm sure I could find someone who had an old model lying around. I wrote to friends, I asked around, I advertised in newsletters.
I still don't have a BlackBerry but now several weeks have passed and so has the compulsion that I simply must have one. I've become quite attached to the bog-standard Nokia (no camera, no bluetooth, no data cable, no internet) and now realise that simplicity was the secret to Nokia's success - before the iPhone pulled the rug from beneath them. I feel like an alcoholic who discovers - with a sense of amazement - that tap water is the best drink in the world.
What really got me thinking was that a couple of close friends said "whenever I talked to you recently you would be typing on your BlackBerry". I tried denying this but what really worried me was that I don't even remember doing it (surely I'm not so rude as to type when you talk to me?). I asked a therapist at the alcohol & drug rehab clinic where I work if forgetting things like this is a feature of addiction. He smiled knowingly as if to say "what a silly question, of course it is."
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