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sinirad

First time admitting I have an addiction

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Hello everyone, this post marks the very first time I've admitted out loud (at least in digital form) that I have a gaming addiction.

Coming to this realization and admitting it publicly has been really difficult, and I still feel torn up about it, just because of my relationship with games, the relationships I've formed over games, and the person I've become. But this marks the very first day of a new chapter, and so I intend to start a daily journal here soon, but for now I'll begin with my story and how I got here.

My very first contact with video games was from my mom's Nintendo. That's right, my mom's. My dad bought my mom the very first Nintendo console when it first came out in the 80s. I can't even remember the first game I played, but since I can remember, I do remember playing the NES classics with my mom and my older cousins. I grew up with video games and a family of gamers. Our weekend routine would be to go down to the video store and pick out a couple of games to play over the weekend. It became such a habit that sometimes after a few weeks, we had rented every game that that store had had, and we had to move on to the next rental place. We rented and bought so many games that my cousins and friends would come over to my house every weekend to either play them with me or watch me play them. Even now, those memories are filled with warmth and happiness and I can definitely see how they brought me to the unhappy place where I am now, but I can't deny how happy I was in that moment.

I'm the oldest child with 3 siblings, two sisters and a brother. Growing up, we played a lot of video games together. When the N64 came around we spent hours playing 4 player games together getting excited, laughing the night away. Being the oldest, my siblings always looked up to me and seeing how immersed in video games we were, they looked up to how good I was in video games.

At that time, if my friends or family had asked me to go outside and play, I was just as happy to do so, but when I had nothing to do I just played nintendo for hours on end. I never really could get enough of it, and I never seemed to get bored of the games I played. Even if I had beaten the game, I would just mess around with the things I could do, try to find bugs, or secrets, or give myself mini-challenges like doing an entire level without getting hit. Among my friends and family, they started to recognize me as “the video game guy.” Although this didn't have any negative connotations, I was always active as a kid so I was never overweight, I had a lot of friends and an easy time talking to people, so I was quite popular at school. I just became the cool kid on the block who had played practically every NES / SNES game available in that neighbourhood and was really good at games. As a kid, this definitely was a huge source of pride for me and it became a part of my identity. I had a subscription to nintendo power, nintendo merchandise, a huge collection of games. Other kids would call my house and ask for tips on how to beat this boss, or cheat codes. Some kids would claim that they were good at a certain game and my friends would retort “you're not as good as “him” (me)”, kids would come over to my house to try and challenge me and lose, I had my own little fan club. Despite the fact that I probably spent 20-30 hours a week playing games, nobody would have guessed that I was an addict, and I definitely didn't feel like an addict, because throughout elementary and high school my grades never slipped, I played sports, I had a lot of fun, and I was genuinely a happy kid, I just also happened to play a lot of video games but no one saw it as a problem back then. I started with the NES, and went on to the, SNES, Sega genesis, N64, playstation 1, playstation 2, and then PC gaming.

Trouble hit in college when I started playing online games. Even when I had first started playing PC games, I had been really good at binge-playing and then getting stuff that I needed to get done, done. The first game that had really started to disrupt my unhealthy balance was Ragnarok online. A friend had introduced me to a private server and so we were able to play for free, and at this time one of my sisters had stopped gaming, but my other sister and brother still gamed and they played with me. Even before this, the three of us had really bonded over video games, and Ragnarok online took it to a whole new level. Eventually we got other friends to play with us and with me as the guild leader, started a guild with the majority of members being people we knew in real life, at one point even my mom played with us. For a year and a half this game became life. The alliances and rivalries between guilds and players became our drama, our romance, our comedy, everything. I spent every waking moment in Ragnarok online. Even at this time, people didn't realize I was addicted because I had always been into martial arts and so I still made an effort to dedicate some time to training (I was committed to the idea of “levelling up my body”) so I was still fit and had a lot of friends. Online and offline, friends would come to me and talk to me about their problems, their lives, their relationships and trusted me as someone they could get advice from. People in our guild started dating in real life, we would study together in guild chat, we even met up for barbecues in real life, it really was a blast. But for the first time my grades started to slip. I had always thought to myself that I was a smart person so I would always convince myself that I could get away with doing the bare minimum and I went from 90s A+ student to 60s just barely passing student. My girlfriend at the time started to notice how much time I was spending on Ragnarok, and was shocked how she didn't notice it before. “I think you're addicted” she said and I wasn't even angry, I just laughed at her. “How could I be addicted?” I have friends, I'm fit, people trust me, and rely on me, it didn't even dawn on me at the time.

The first time I really failed at something was when I started to apply for University and was denied, because I had graduated with low grades. At the time I still didn't think this was because of all the video games I had been playing, instead I just thought “okay I need to work a little harder at this (level-up my mind).” I managed to get into a general program and dedicated more time to studying until I was able to switch. Even then I hadn't made the connection that I needed to play video games less, I just convinced myself that I needed to study more. But as soon as things started to go well again, some of my friends from Ragnarok had moved onto Guild Wars, and so as soon as it seemed like I had free time again, they encouraged me to join them there, and then the whole process continued.

I'll fast forward a bit to today, because in between I would go through these cycles and manage to get stuff done and then just repeat the process. Today, I'm 31, married and working as a teacher and I finally have to admit that I am addicted to video games and I have been for a long time. I think the reason why it's so hard for me to admit that I'm addicted and why it took me so long to realize this is because I would look in the mirror and feel like I just don't fit the mould of someone who is an addict. I'm still fit, good-looking, I'm married, and as a teacher I'm admired by my colleagues and students, and I still fulfill that role as a person that people rely on. In a weird way, I think I've been a high-functioning addict. I'm very good at appearing like a “normal” person and I can get the stuff that I need to get done, done. But at the end of the day, whenever I have free time, or a moment to think to myself I'm just thinking about video games. A lot of people have tried to tell me that I'm not addicted, because I don't look like an addicted person, or I just play moderately. But the truth is, I wanted to do so much more with my life, and looking back now I think I could have done so much more with my life. I never dreamed of being a teacher, and I'm not trying to bash or put down people who are passionate teachers, but I definitely had wanted to do other things, but I managed to pull of the bare minimum and ended up here, and while some people might think my life is “not so bad” I've definitely reached a point where I can see clearly that games are no longer serving me, they're not making me happy, in fact they're making me sad.

It's so hard to admit this because I grew up in a family of gamers, and while my mom and my sisters don't play video games any more, even though we're adults, my brother and I only really talk about video games and video game news. Some of my best friends still play video games and I feel like I'm betraying them. I know these people in real life and they're all good people, but they don't see the harm that video games cause me.

Recently I've had opportunities to take on some jobs as a writer, which is something I actually do want to do. But when it came time to sit down and focus, all I could do was think about escaping to the world of video games. I had no problem going about the daily routine of teaching and doing the bare minimum to get through my day, but now that I actually have to take some creative initiative, I just can't do it, the urge to play is just too strong and I finally see how much it is, and has been holding me back. For the longest time, I also believed that I wasn't an addict and that I could play moderately but now I can finally see that I just can't live with video games anymore.

I still haven't told the people closest to me that I'm going to quit. I plan to do that by the end of this week, and by next week I'll begin writing in my daily journal. If you made it this far through my post, I want to say that I truly thank you for taking the time to read my story. For the longest time I felt like admitting that I had a video game addiction was like admitting some kind of weakness or flaw, but even just writing it here feels empowering, like I've put something out there in the universe and that struggle that had been in my mind for so long doesn't have power over me anymore.

I'm looking forward to becoming a part of this community.

Thanks again for your time,

Sini

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Welcome Sini! Wonderful to have you join us here. Thanks for sharing your story, I know how challenging it can be to truly admit this all to yourself, but that's the most powerful first step - getting honest. A lot of what you've shared reminds me of why I still choose not to play, even 7+ years later. i would merely do the bare minimum in my life in order to maximize the amount of time I have to game, and I have bigger ambitions than that. I wrote about it here.

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Thanks for taking the time to respond Cam. I also want to say thank you for creating this community and all the videos you've created. Right now it seems like no one really understands why I'm quitting and it's nice to know I'm not alone. I just read the article you linked and it really reaffirms my belief that there simply is no such thing as "gaming in moderation" at least for me.

Do you have any advice about how to deal with the people who disagree with you? Especially when they're close friends? It's really hard because these are people I still care deeply about, but for them my decision just doesn't make any sense and I find myself constantly kindly denying their attempts to try and get me back in. 

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Always focus on doing what's best for you - and if someone doesn't understand that or isn't willing to respect it, they aren't really your friends. It's a harsh truth but something important to remember. This video can help too:

 

 

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Thanks Cam! It's amazing how you have a video for every question! You're absolutely right. It's tough because some of these friends are people I've known since I was 10, so over 20 years of friendship, but you're definitely right about what a true friend is, I guess this will be the ultimate test!

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Cam, I totally needed that video.  I came out and told my friends I was struggling with my gaming a few weeks back and most of them got offended and tried coming up with reasons that I was having issues other than gaming.  It's crazy.  I did have a good amount who supported me, though. It was very nice to hear support after I put myself out there like that.

Edited by Matt S
Forgot to mention another key piece
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Hey Sin,

I think we have pretty similar stories.  I really agreed with what you said about the recognition of gaming addiction.  You're a normal human with a good life, friends, a career, and a family.  But yes,  it's shocking that you're in this predicament.  You have an issue with gaming and other people might not have one at all or just fail to recognize it.  I think it's amazing how much backlash we get with other gamers who disagree with how we feel.  That ignorance is not going to make them friends for long, but there will be people who support you.  I also wanted to say that although you are 31, you still have the chance to do other things.  Gamers are great at planning, multi tasking, and achieving their goals.  I think with training your mind to think like that with real life achievements, career goals, and life goals, you can become as dominant in life as you were as a gamer, but be able to enjoy the rewards on such a more tangible level.

 

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Thanks for sharing Sini, I read through the entire post, that was well written and detailed.  You've probably helped others more than you know by writing that out.

I commend you on having the courage to come here and seek help.  As Cam mentioned, being honest with yourself about it being a problem is a huge first step.  It's taken me a while to realize that with some things it's better to just go cold turkey than try to control them.

 

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