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Starting the 90-day challenge


white cloud
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Hi all, 

Today is Day 0! I woke up early, around 3 am, and ended up gaming until 6:30 am. I had been on and off with gaming my whole life, at times playing 16 hours a day, and at other times going without. These other times my addiction to gaming was simply replaced by an addiction to something else (typically work). But gaming always seems to come back as the primary addiction. I have tried joining CGAA before, but at the time it seemed like the disease model of addiction was very prevalent, and again, would often see people there replacing their gaming addiction with something else. I've done enough research and am ready to try a 90-day challenge. I like this approach because it doesn't require labelling myself as an 'addict' that can never game again (even if this is true, I don't personally think it is helpful to carry this negative label around like a cross). Although, I won't rule out the possibility of trying the Twelve Step model again. 

Life is an experiment, a grand adventure, and we can't guarantee anything about the future, but we can try things and see how we feel afterwards and continually experiment and iterate. The key part of the process is to be brutally honest with yourself and accept the consequences of your choices. A big part of my staying locked in the addiction was dishonesty. The hiding of how much I was playing, the mind telling me that everything is under control, and all the secrecy around it kept me feeling very shameful about the whole thing. Being open and honest is a huge step in accepting myself, and in accepting myself I have an opportunity to change. It sounds like a paradox, but I've found that when I've resisted accepting myself and when I've tried to actively hide (from others as well as myself) my addictions, I become more and more dependent on my addictions to cope. It's kind of like the Chinese finger trap, when you pull away you get more and more stuck. When you lean into it and accept it, it starts to relax. 

 

Cam describes 4 benefits we derive from gaming on his YouTube channel. Let's explore how they apply to me and see how I can replace them with more beneficial activities:

1) Temporary Escape (Dealing with Stress): I am becoming more and more aware of this - noticing the emotion that pops up right before I feel the impulse to play. Oftentimes it is fear. Fear of failure, rejection, and not being good enough. I have been working with a therapist to uncover and process some of these feelings, as I used gaming when I was a child to not have to face these troubling emotions. Instead of gaming as my escape, I can journal, go for a walk, do 25 jumping jacks, simply breathe a few deep breaths, or pick up a book instead. 

2) Social (Community, Friends): I haven't played multiplayer games in a long time, and have been disconnected from my old online gamer friends for many years now, so this one doesn't apply to my situation. I am however actively improving this area of my life as it has been neglected for a few years. Some things I have done in this department include: having friends over for dinner, attending church and bible study weekly, getting involved with the local pickleball community, reconnecting with my meditation community, and being more present with my immediate family. 

3) Constant Measurable Growth (Triumph Circuit, Sense of Progress): This is a huge part of gaming for me - the feeling of accomplishment, and getting better at something, and having the difficulty scale as I get better and better. Until I reach a plateau, delete that specific game, then download a new one to start the journey again. One of the things I have been using recently to replace this with is pickleball. Although I was addicted to pickleball for a couple of months, it is a physical sport and my body has limitations! I've managed to settle into a more regular routine of doing drills and playing recreational games once a week. This can also be replaced with exercise (also starting the Miracle Morning today) and writing, which will be covered in the next point. 

4) Challenge (Sense of Purpose, Mission, Goal to Work Towards): The ever-elusive purpose, or meaning to life. I am a philosopher at heart. Addicted to the mind, and using the mind to try to sort out life. The mind is great at practical things. Calculating, measuring, evaluating. Gaming really does a good job of entrapping the mind; there are lots of problems to solve and lots of stimulation to the senses to keep you engaged. The mind is not so good at dealing with emotions, or understanding happiness. It's hilarious how bad we humans are at predicting what will make us happy. Well, happiness is a bit of a fake goal anyways. It's temporary, and it's the seeking of it that causes our suffering. Uh-oh, my Buddhist side is showing. Lol. The Buddha showed us that lasting happiness (happiness without conditions) comes from the elimination of desire (cravings). That doesn't mean we aren't allowed to want things - it is natural to want food, water, shelter, warmth, and love. The problems begin when we start chasing the things we like and running away from the things we don't like. Sound familiar? We do this all our lives, and we condition ourselves to experience misery and suffering. Emotionally what this looks like for me is when I have a negative feeling (let's say fear), instead of actually experiencing the emotion and allowing it to pass through my body, I block it out. I distract myself. I run. Or, let's say I feel a positive emotion. Excitement. I cling to it. I don't want it to leave. I want to continually experience more and more of it. And when I don't feel it? I am dissatisfied. The chase begins again. Chasing good feelings, wanting them to last, and running away from bad feelings, not wanting them to exist. So getting to the point here... the ultimate goal to work towards for me is enlightenment. Other ways to describe this are: experiencing unity-consciousness, becoming one with the Tao, being filled with the Holy Spirit, or realizing Brahman. Allowing the natural goodness that is inherent within me (and all of us) to flow out freely.

A more practical goal for me to work towards is becoming a freelance writer. I believe I have been a writer my whole life, it's just that my connection to my voice has been weakened. My belief in my ability to write, and have meaningful things to say, authentically and purposefully, is growing stronger and stronger. I am reminded of something Jordan B Peterson says: "If you can think, speak, and write, you are absolutely deadly." 

 

I intend on writing every day in this journal. It definitely won't always be this long (I think I've spent over an hour so far on this) but it'll be consistent. I'll be honest, and raw, and take you with me on this journey of self-discovery and healing. All the best, and if you've read this far, thank you. May we find hope, support, and encouragement in the sharing of our stories. 

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Hey, white cloud! What a great, high-effort post!

I love the comparison of your addictions to a Chinese finger trap. I definitely have had the same experience where the shame I had for wasting days on gaming or the anger I felt for myself after procrastinating on an assignment with video games did not lower my screentime, but actually increase it. When I had all these negative emotions that resulted from my gaming, the only way I knew how to "deal" with them was playing even more and distracting myself from what my mind was telling me. Such a phenomenon has also been described by psychologists. As you (and the study) say, the best way to move forward is not to ruin yourself with negative and self-destructive thoughts, but by accepting your history, so I think you are on the right track!

I'm looking forward to reading your diary entries and seeing how you experience the 90-day challenge!

Edited by WritingFuture
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Today is Day 2! I missed journaling here yesterday as my day was quite busy. We had a holiday party the night before and I got home way after my bedtime, woke up a bit late and rushed through work to make an appointment in the afternoon. Then afterwards I made and ate dinner with my wife, then passed out. I slept for a few hours, woke up around 10 pm, then went back to sleep after doing my evening hygiene routine. 

I did notice a couple of times when my mind thought about gaming in response to some stressor popping up. Most notably when I feel overwhelmed at the amount of work I feel is looming ahead. I identify with the feeling of being incapable, that I'm not good enough, and that there is no point in even trying. It's better to not try than to try and fail, says my over-cautious, fearful mind. It's ok, I trained it to function this way. It simply takes awareness and trust in the process of change to get better. It's funny, in these moments I grab my phone, realize there are no games on it anymore, and just stare blankly at it for a while. Scroll through some apps, then put the phone down. There is always the temptation to distract myself in other ways than gaming; it's so easy to get lost in an endless reddit session, research some topic to infinity, or link jump on wikipedia. 

In the past, when I would decide to stop gaming, the first week was really easy - the willpower and determination and emotional energy from making the decision carried me through. Over time though, I would slide back into gaming just a little bit here and there, and eventually, it becomes too much. Usually, this process would happen over a month or two. The power of journaling is being able to notice these things and write them down and track them in a way. Also, it holds me and my mind accountable. The mind is so good at lying, manipulating, and just doing whatever it thinks it needs to do to protect me. The mind is the primary addiction... and gaming is a great outlet for the mind to exercise its functions of control, judgement, calculation, and reward. So I'm leaning more toward relaxation when the mind starts doing its thing, trying to solve all the world's problems and the ultimate problem of self-identity. Just step back and observe. Come back to the body and see where tension may have arisen. 

I'm looking forward to today. It's another day filled with activities, meetings, play, work, and community. I woke up at 5:30 am this morning and did my first miracle morning routine. I got stuck a bit on the affirmations as I haven't formally written them out yet, but I said what felt right to me at the time, and I can develop them more today. Also, I fell asleep for a bit after my meditation session, which I extended from 20 minutes to 40 minutes, but that's ok too. 

I feel grateful for everything that life has to offer. For all the experiences that have shaped who I am today, and for the possibility of change with a few key ingredients that can be cultivated: awareness, trust (faith), and intention. May you enjoy peace and love wherever you are in the world today. 

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