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NEW VIDEO: I Quit MMOs and THIS Happened

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90 days complete.

Cross-post from the Main Room.

The past 90 days have been an eye-opening experience for me. Before the detox, I would regularly lose 4+ hours of time gaming and not realize it, to the detriment of my career and social life. After the detox, it feels like my life is finally moving forward again and I can interact with the world around me. I'd like to take this opportunity to share my story and thoughts about the detox program.  

I've learned more about myself in the past 3 months than I have in the past several years. I had always believed that if I put my mind to something, I could accomplish it no matter what. This fallacy finally became apparent when I had gone 6 months barely working on my dissertation while logging in somewhere between 700-1000 hours of game time (around 40 hours per week). That number is both staggering and sobering to me, as at a writing pace of 1 page per hour, I could have finished my dissertation about 8 times over. But instead, I was just gaming.

At the end of that period of time, the stress that had been accumulating from my ignoring my dissertation finally started to manifest as physical symptoms. My night vision was gone due to my pupils not dilating properly, I had constant anxiety which I never had previously, and I started having what I can only describe as panic attacks when I would lay down to sleep at night. This problem got so bad that at one point that I had to wake up my housemate at 2am because I thought I was having a stroke. 

In July of this year I had a revelation about my situation. One day while planning to work on my dissertation I instead started gaming, as was habit at this point. The first time I looked up from that particular game session about 4-5 hours had passed. What was different about this event was that I noticed something. I had started the day feeling pretty depressed and overall sluggish, and after that particular binge I was feeling amazing. It felt like I had finally accomplished everything I ever wanted in life. In that moment, I took a step back and asked what had changed? Why did I start the day feeling terrible and now feel like a champion when the only thing I had done was play a game that wasn't even a favorite of mine.

Suddenly, like a whirlwind, it all fell into place. In that moment of elation and confusion, I was able to recall an article I read about videogames and dopamine (here's one such example: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-compass-pleasure/201110/video-games-can-activate-the-brains-pleasure-circuits-0 ) The physical symptoms I was experiencing felt EXACTLY like what is described in that article. It all made sense. As a scientist, my role is to research and find the facts. So I started researching. What I found was a wealth of information about, and people that were experiencing, the same phenomenon with gaming. I was not unique, not an isolated case. Now that I knew what the problem was I could start to address it directly.

My internet research eventually led me to Cam Adair and gamequitters. After watching Cam's TED talk, I knew I was on the right track. I proceeded to the gamequitters forum, and began to read people's stories. It was a rare moment in my life where I felt I resonated with their stories and Cam's. I felt a connection that was both surprising and uplifting. A change had to be made, and I signed up for the Respawn program. H-o-l-y-s-h-i-t did that document describe everything I was going through to the letter, and provide sound advice for moving forward. Realizing that I was no longer in control of my habits, I did the only logical thing. The next day, on July 31st, 2016, I sold/uninstalled every videogame I owned. The driving force for this was multifaceted: I was upset at myself that I had let the problem progress this far, I was emotional about feeling a unprecedented connection with strangers, and I was ecstatic about finally finding a way, after what felt like an eternity, to move forward. 

The 90-day detox went smoother than I had expected. Still cruising off the high of finding a solution, I didn't really feel the craving to game during the first 2 weeks. Following the advice I found here, I filled my time with other enjoyable activities; such as going to the gym, playing guitar, watching anime (though I later realized this was a gaming substitute for binging and eliminated it as well), and going to sleep earlier than I had in years. Daily meditation via the Headspace app (amazing) also proved incredibly helpful in managing the anxiety, which disappeared completely over the course of 2-3 weeks. I did start feeling the urge to game toward the end of the detox, but this again proved to be a valuable learning experience. Now that I was aware of the problem, I was could recognized when I was triggered and determine the cause. My trigger turned out to be nothing more than medium/high levels of stress related to work deadlines. I could predict those to an extent, and now know how to manage the stress better. The 90 days I went without games is the longest period of time I've gone since I started gaming at age 4. Thats 25 years straight of gaming weekly, if not daily. This fact still blows my mind. 

So here I am, 91 days later, and my life is finally moving forward again. I'm in better shape than I have been in 8+ years, my social skills are improving, I'm defending my Ph.D in less than 2 weeks, and already have my first job out of school. I feel alive again after a 1.5 year period of feeling hollowed out, depressed, unmotivated, and not knowing how to move forward. I have to give a shout-out to Cam here, as without his words and efforts to build this community, I may not have found the answer in time. Thank you, and everyone on gamequitters who shared their stories and gave advice. I owe you all a debt of gratitude. 



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