Sudoku, the puzzle game with nine rows of nine digits, where one fills in the blanks without repeating a digit horizontally or vertically, or within a 3x3 cube, has a frightening underbelly.

"I am an alcoholic, a cocaine addict, and a Sudoku addict," says "Jeff" who would speak only on the condition of anonyminity. "I haven't taken a drink in seven years, I haven't scored a line in ten years, but never a day goes by when I don't think about solving a puzzle."

"Carrie" says "I lost my first marriage to Sudoku and almost lost my current. I would go out at night and sneak around, on the prowl for a new puzzle to solve."

Jeff adds, "During the peak of my addictions, I would stand in front of a mirror naked, and spit on the man in the reflection. I would yell, 'This is what you've become, you sick monster!' before solving the puzzle in today's paper. I would cry for a little bit after trying to get the thoughts of 1 through 9 out of my head, take a couple of drinks and go cruising for a book. I would find a book in a beverly hills grocery store, solve it in eight hours, pick up a new book in the Compton Swap Meet, solve all of those and end up in a back alley with a street person, scoring a book of half finished puzzles. I needed the challenge, day-in and day-out."

Carrie's addiction was not as powerful, but difficult to control. "I would go to the drug store and eye a puzzle book from across the store, and think to myself, 'I could solve you in under ten hours!' and that sometimes solved it. Other days I would go on a rampage, picking up as many as three, maybe four puzzle books. The daily puzzle in the newspaper just wasn't enough after a week."

The Dangers of Sudoku addiction go beyond the time lost during puzzle solving bouts. "I developed nasty callouses on the two first fingers of my right hand from holding the all day long" says Jeff. "The doctor said surgery was the only answer. I knew then that I had no choice but to stop, this was affecting my health in a very negative way."

"The cure is worse than the disease" says Carrie. She had gone into the depths of a word-find and crossword nightmare. "It just wasn't the same. I had to quit all puzzles cold turkey before they, too consumed me. I spent countless hours on them all. I finally talked to my husband and asked for his help and forgiveness. He gave me more of both than I ever had expected."

Godfrey is a new Sudoku addict. "Oh yeah, I spend 40-50 hours a week playing Sudoku online. My friends and family have no idea. I look for new websites all of the time. It's better than sex."

Godfrey has since sought counseling, but he admits he really needs a girlfriend.