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 LS Story 
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Joined: Sat May 17, 2014 4:04 pm
Posts: 323
Location: Detroit, MI
Yikes...this turned into a monster post...sorry. Here's the story with more of the gory details than perhaps you wanted, so feel free to skim or read, whichever pleases you most. :)

I'm LS, and I'm a gaming addict. Looking back on things now I realize that I first began to show signs of gaming addiction at the age of 6. My parents limited my time on the computer to 20 minutes of games per day, so even though I had a lot of siblings, I was pretty limited in terms of how much screen time I got. I never dreamed of trying to disobey them in terms of play time, but since there were no rules about playing at somebody else's house, I would not uncommonly wind up playing with a friend of mine over at his house. He would pretty much always ask me what I wanted to do when I got over there, and although I was ashamed to just say straight up "let's play (game of choice)", I always bounced the decision back to him with the fervent hope that he'd choose the computer. We wound up playing games together on a somewhat regular basis, but every time he suggested something that wasn't the computer, or any time his mother insisted we do something else, I felt a very keen sense of disappointment. It would be a long time before gaming got out of control enough to start causing clear and obvious damage in my life, but the early warning signs were in place from the very beginning.

Things first started getting out of control to a noticeable extent in the fall of 2005 when I moved into a house with some guys in my current city of Detroit. My first order of business was to find a job, but fear of being rejected by a potential employer was bad enough that I would not uncommonly stay back in the house, playing games. I didn't like how much I was gaming, and it bothered me that I was so clearly using games to hide from something I knew I needed to do, but it wasn't until I was faced with either getting a job in the next month or moving back to my parents that I finally was able to start looking in earnest. The fear of looking like a failure was great enough to overcome the fear of rejection, and I got busy. I didn't like doing it, but I did it, and got a job a few weeks later. Once that source of fear was removed, gaming mostly faded back into the background unless I went back to visit my family. Every time I visited my family, I'd spend hours gaming (the 20 minute limit no longer applied to me). I'd always use the excuse "there's nothing to do" (a mostly true statement), but I was concerned about the seemingly addictive nature of my gaming, and at one point tried (successfully) to not play any game of any sort for a whole 2 weeks (which included a weekend at my parents). It was NOT a pleasant 2 weeks, but it proved (in my mind) that I couldn't be an addict because I'd been able to quit successfully. I was going nuts the whole time I was abstaining, but it didn't take long after the 2 weeks were up for me to forget all about how unpleasant that time had been.

Once I started undergraduate studies, gaming began to accelerate. I pulled my first all-nighter playing a game, and then I began gaming while in classes instead of listening to lectures (if the lecturer was boring or the class was easy, that is...good lectures in difficult subjects got me to take notes). I began gaming between classes while at school, and eventually got a work-study job that involved a fair bit of free time. I could have used it to do homework, but mostly I used it to game. Things finally started to get really nasty in late 2011 and early 2012. At that point I was nearing the end of my undergraduate studies, and my course load had dropped somewhat in intensity (giving me what felt like loads of free time) while still retaining enough difficulty to feel stressful. I began gaming at pretty much every available opportunity, and started showing more symptoms of gaming addiction. I started showing up late (or almost late) to classes when I had before showed up 5-10 minutes early for pretty much everything. I started barely being able to finish my homework on time instead of my usual several days early. More significantly, my life began to be increasingly filled with depression, self-pity, and suicidal thoughts. No amount of effort on my part seemed to make a difference in my playing time, and the more unavoidable my powerlessness became, the more my emotional state deteriorated.

The first few weeks of January 2012 were the worst. I was so miserable and depressed that if my mind wasn't being forcibly occupied by something, I was thinking about suicide. I was doing first-hand research on what it means to feel hopelessness, and to this day that remains probably the single most miserable experience of my life. In the middle of that, one of the guys in the house gave me some changes to make in the way I was living. They didn't seem like much...get some exercise at least 3 times a week, pray more, and start keeping a gratitude list. I was pretty sure that doing this wouldn't make any difference, but I also knew that what I was doing wasn't working, and I certainly didn't have anything to lose at that point, so I took all three suggestions. To my astonishment, I was suddenly able to stop gaming. It wasn't a white-knuckle thing that made me miserable, it was just the ability to not start playing a game today. When I look back on it now, I realize that this was the first time in my adult life where I did something that I didn't want to do because somebody else told me I should...aka, the first time in my life where I wasn't my own Higher Power. Before long I noticed that I was consistently waking up with a pleasant but almost entirely unfamiliar feeling, and eventually realized that it was the feeling usually referred to as "happiness". Sadly, this would only last for a short while, as one of the relationships I'd had for years with someone in the house went south in a big way.

I realize now that the relationship was unhealthy from the very beginning, but since I didn't know at the time that the relationship had been controlling and manipulative from the very beginning, the shift into an abusive relationship was both shocking and incredibly painful (it would be close to 2 years before I was finally able to accept the realities of how that whole relationship had gone). The pain of experiencing regular verbal and emotional abuse eventually combined with the intense stress of the masters program that I'd started that summer and lured me back into playing a game. At that point I saw myself not as a gaming addict, but simply someone who played games addictively. I knew that playing the game was a bad idea, but at that point I'd been game free for around 6 months, and I had long since forgotten just how miserable I'd been back in January. All I knew was that I was miserable RIGHT NOW, and there was a game that looked interesting...

The next year was one of slowly watching my life go downhill. Happiness gradually became nonexistent, suicidal thoughts returned to their former place as regular companions of mine, and gaming slowly became an even more consuming obsession than it had been before. I began attending chat meetings for recovering gaming addicts around April or May of 2013, but despite getting a sponsor, calling him nearly every day, and attending a meeting most days, I continued to relapse. Eventually I found myself pulling multi-day binges in which I would game in excess of 16 hours a day for multiple days in a row. My brains turned into complete mush and I lost all ability to perform anything even remotely approaching abstract thought, For two months I was essentially incapable of doing anything more mentally taxing than surviving in the moment. Food and water I could handle, but anything else was just beyond me. My entire life I'd felt smarter than the people around me, and I trusted my mind more than anything else I knew. Having that mind taken completely away from me was one of the more awful experiences my addiction brought to me, and provided a big catalyst for getting as serious as possible about working the program.

I began calling my sponsor pretty much every day, but despite doing my best, I still couldn't stay away from games for any length of time. I'd get a few weeks, or maybe even a month or two, but then I'd relapse and spend a day back in the addiction. Some of those relapses were fed by my other addiction (which I discovered when I first got serious about quitting games), but most of it was fed by pain and self-hatred. A relapse would make the pain go away for the moment (which I desperately wanted), but it would also harm me in the long term (which, in my self-hatred, was something else I wanted). I remember a point in early to mid December of 2013 in which I was just about ready to give up. No matter how hard I tried, I always went back to the addiction, and nothing I'd tried had been able to stop me. I was talking to somebody in the program and asked "how do I stop relapsing?" (or something along those lines), and was told that maybe I just needed to go do some more "research". I felt completely misunderstood, because my question had been serious, and the answer had felt flippant and dismissive. I talked to my sponsor about it, and he disagreed, but the damage had been done. I decided that I would make one last try, using the "act as if" principle, in which I act as if something were true until the day comes that it actually IS true.

I decided to act as if I WANTED to do all of the recovery things I was trying to do. I would make extra phone calls and go to more meetings, and if that didn't work I would have nothing else left to try. Suffice it to say, it didn't work. I gamed again on December 21st, and decided that there was nothing left for me to do that I hadn't already tried, and none of it had worked. At that point I had moved back to my parents' house for financial reasons (I was broke, and had no job), and for the next two weeks I stayed off of games by reading fiction in excess of 16 hours a day. I made no phone calls and went to no meetings. Toward the end of those two weeks I could feel the gaming urges getting stronger, and realized that if I kept going as I was going, I was going to game again, and I badly wanted to not game. I sent my sponsor a text, and he just replied with "call". I called, and started going to meetings and making phone calls again. It hadn't stopped me last time, but it had been more effective than what I'd just been trying, and I knew it.

I started going through a much more thorough Step 1, and began to discover the depths of my self-hatred and the way that pride and self-hatred fed into each other in my life. I got hired by a moving company back in the Detroit area, moved back, and although they decided to let me go (for not being strong enough) after my second day, didn't bother telling me until I went to pick up my first paycheck. I moved back to my parents' a second time, and I was rather discouraged to say the least. I kept working on Step 1, and soon after was hired for a full-time position at the company I work at today. The job was (and is) totally mindless about 99% of the time, but it was back in the Detroit area, would pay enough to pay my bills, and I didn't really want to think anyway.

I commuted in from my parents' house for the first week (~1.5 hour drive one way) just to make sure that yes, I could do this, and didn't have to worry about another embarrassing hire/fire scenario like I'd had last time. After that weeks was up, I moved back to Detroit, and a week later had my first big breakthrough in recovery. The short version is that God took my self-hatred away from me, and for the first time in my life, I was okay with being exactly who I was. It was epic. Life didn't hurt in the near constant way it always had in the past. Staying sober took work, yes, but I no longer had times where I had to deal with both an unbearably strong urge and a suddenly non-existent desire to stay sober. I began to accumulate some sobriety that didn't feel like the white-knuckle variety, and happiness once again became something that I experienced on a regular basis.

The "pink cloud" didn't last forever, and I've had to face some pretty significant challenges (some of which are still with me) since then. Thankfully, I've been able to face them all sober. As I type this, I'm less than 48 hours shy of 18 months game free, with my other sobriety counter only six weeks behind my gaming count. Life is often hard, but I rarely find myself dealing with the kind of regret and shame that used to dominate my life during my active addiction. It's pretty much amazing, and I have to stop and remind myself of this fact from time to time, because I'm such an addict that I can very easily forget what it was like when I was gaming my brains out at every available opportunity.

I'm glad to be here. I'm glad to be sober today. I'm grateful for how working this program has helped my relationship with my Higher Power (Jesus), and I'm grateful for the fellowship of recovering addicts that helps me both stay sober and remember my HP and how much I need Him. Thanks to all of you for being here. I very much doubt that I'd be sober today if you all weren't here helping me. Thanks for letting me share. :)


Sat Jun 20, 2015 6:13 pm
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Joined: Sat May 17, 2014 4:43 pm
Posts: 343
Location: Cleveland, Ohio
State/Province/Country: Cleveland, Ohio
Thanks so very much for sharing your storing LS! I can relate too much to the way your mind works. I too have relied too heavily on my intelligence/mind to the point where I expect myself to be able to think my way out of everything and am merciless with myself when I fail. My pride has caused me repeatedly to fall, usually due to my thinking my Higher Power is either moving too slowly with things, is busy with other things, or isn't doing things the "right" way, since I of course know the right way (lol). Hearing you share has, from my very early weeks, given me the ability to see someone share in language that is similar to how my mind assesses things but then you end with the uncanny ability of showing me the fallacy and actual comedy of the way my brain acts. I will forever and ever be grateful to you for that because you gave me the true gift of being able to laugh at myself which opens the door for acceptance and the permission to not have to have all the answers. It does give true meaning to the passage "except ye become as a small child, ye shall in no way enter..." and to "lean not unto thine own understanding but in all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall guide thy path".

_________________
Hugs,

Lisa


Sun Jun 21, 2015 12:49 pm
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