A little about me. I grew up playing lots of video games. Most of my life, I've had long periods of being addicted to games like Maple Story, Halo, Magic the Gathering Arena, League of Legends, etc. There were times when it created lots of problems for me, whether it be relationships, school, sleeping, emotional, or other things. There were also times when I did it without many consequences, which is part of why it became such a sustainable addiction in the past.
For context, I'm a 29, year old medical student. Until about April of this year, I hadn't played games for about a year, I was doing pretty well, going to the gym, painting, eating healthy, chasing my dreams, and taking care of myself. In the past, most of the gaming I would do would be on Christmas and Summer break when I would have lots of free time. But when I played during those breaks, I would play excessive amounts of games, like 8+ hours a day. Definitely meeting all of the categories of addiction. I would fall into a sort of slumber, where I was just in maximal dopamine indulgence mode, justifying it as my break time. Then I would go back to school, usually struggle with giving up gaming, for 2-4 weeks into school, and then eventually cut it off. My gaming patterns have been on a cycle like this for about the past 3 years. Before those three years, it was hell, and I was always struggling to not play games for like 10+ hours a day, for as long as I can remember. The past 3 years have been relatively good, because I've been in medical school, and there's not much time for games. However in April, we got pulled from going to the hospitals at my school, due to COVID.
The first couple of weeks, I was doing really well. I painted, I studied. I met with some friends to play board games, I called other friends. But then, many of my gamer friends started reaching out to me. Many people who I wouldn't have as much time to play games with normally, asked me to play games with them. At first, I was resilient, and declined. However, being inside and quarantined, constantly with the temptation of knowing that all my friends were playing games and having fun without me, while simultaneously not being able to do as much with my medical school friends, was too much. One of my friends, we have been friends since we were 5, told me I should play Animal Crossing with him. He is someone who is able to play games in moderation. I gave into the temptation and bought a Nintendo Switch, and jumped on the Animal Crossing Bandwagon. The next month, I lived and breathed Animal Crossing. If I wasn't playing it, I was watching people stream it. If I wasn't playing or streaming it, I was looking up guides and things like that. For awhile, it helped to deal with all the fear and unrest that is going on because of the virus, but then it became out of my control. A voice in the back of my head kept saying, "Do you want to play games today?" and I responded "not really but there's nothing else to do." And eventually it became a habit where I was just doing it all the time.
Slowly but surely, I have been climbing my way out, back to where I was before all of this. I was able to sell my switch, but got hooked on Runeterra for a few weeks. Yesterday, I was able to set up passwords that I don't have access to, so that I can't reinstall that on my phone or laptop. Anyway, being able to watch myself go through this process made me realize that I don't ever want to have the potential for things like this to happen again. I lost about 2 months of my life that I could have used for lots of different things, instead, I build a virtual Island that doesn't mean anything. Even if there are other stressors in the future, I don't want gaming to be a coping mechanism that I ever go back to because its too risky. I don't know when or if I will come out of the gaming coma.
The problem that I had in the past in giving up games completely, is giving up my friends. I worked with my therapist on this account, and we decided I could still be friends with them. But now, I run into an event (COVID and being pulled from school) where if all my friends weren't gamers, I would have had a better chance of not going back to gaming. It's like a direct example of how I am easily brought back in by them. Also, my friend that I mentioned earlier, is my oldest friend. Other friend groups that I have, I have known since high school. It's really hard to be able to say that giving up gaming is more important than friends that I have had my entire life. And I know that I don't have to completely get rid of them, because they are important to my life in other ways, and we do have other things in common besides gaming. The problem is that like 75% of the friendships are based around gaming or Magic the Gathering. So it's probably better to find new friends. It's just really hard. I think that's the thing I'm the most worried about. I know I'll be fine without the games. It's hard to say that I'll be fine without friends, even if its only temporary. Loneliness can sometimes be a trigger for me, something that I have used games to cope with.
Anyway, I'm excited for the future, and for actually doing something concrete to give up gaming for good. I've read many of the other introduction stories that I found on this forum, and found them inspiring and I think I have things in common with people on this forum. Hopefully, we will all be able to help each other in the ways we need it most.