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blaisem

Relapse threatening: How long until cravings go away?

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I played video games all throughout childhood, from pre-kindergarten into high school, pretty much starting from when school ended until I went to bed. I managed to stop for college due to being on a one-year foreign exchange, where video games weren't accessible and I was surrounded by a strong social network as a distraction. I was great in school, finished with a 3.7 gpa.

In grad school, gaming came back with a vengeance. I've lost years of my life to failure at this stage. The stress during semesters was vastly increased. My isolation due to the ~60 hour week workload (and studying in a foreign country) has been high. I needed a creative outlet as a distraction, and video games are my most comfortable fall-back.

Video games are so comfortable, because I can quickly understand and appreciate all its nuances from so many angles. It's like a language I speak, or maybe like a fanatic of football or other hobby, aware of all the technical details and strategies that make it so rich to engage in. It's a passion.

But it's a passion I can't control. The video games lure me in, but the problem is how they catalyze a general behavioral pattern of stress avoidance. I finish one game feeling destressed, but then my brain is wired to seek out other activities to maintain the destressed state (another game, social internet usage, watching shows etc). I stop working. I can get away with not working for weeks to months at a time, because in my grad school there's no one keeping tabs on you until the date of an exam/assignment.

It's nearly cost me my graduate school. I might still not make it. I'm struggling to reverse the damage already done. I should have graduated 2-3 years ago. My peers are all finished. The shame and guilt have at times felt insurmountable, yet paradoxically—and perhaps the greatest shame of all—these negative feelings weren't enough to motivate me to overcome my problem sooner.

This past June it finally did become too much. In desperate frustration, I abandoned dreams of coexistence with games, elevated my perception of them from a hobby to a full-blown addiction, and committed to a cold turkey quit. After some inconsistency, by July I had officially ceased all video game and problematic internet usage. For the following 5 weeks, I had a major cumulative exam to prepare for, which helped me focus. I completed this exam 7 days ago. Success! 10 weeks of quitting, and I was rewarded by passing a huge exam. I thought I was a new person who had overcome his addiction.

However, with the exam past, I've no longer had an urgent obligation or deadline on the near horizon. My thesis isn't due for 6 months.

3 days ago, video game cravings returned as a small desire. Every day since, the urge to play has grown. Today I reeaally want to play a video game. I have the time available. It wouldn't cost me anything in the short-term. I could binge all day, even tomorrow as well, and it wouldn't matter. My thesis doesn't begin until Wednesday.

But I am scared to allow video games into my life once more. I've been down this rabbit hole in the past. I know what it means to be handed a lifeline, only to test the waters of addiction again and fall right back in as deep as before. I know from many futile attempts that compromising on some form of coexistence has never worked for me. I know I can't afford to check out for 3-4 weeks, obsessing over a video game every hour of my free time or binge-watching a series in my evenings. I need that free time to maintain a healthy structure for my life. I can't afford these risks until my life is stabilized again, which is probably 4 years away.

It's been about 10 weeks since my decision to quit cold turkey.

Is this craving normal? Does it go away? Have others experienced this? How did you overcome it?

Thank you.

Edited by blaisem
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The craving is absolutely normal. I've quit and relapsed probably 10 times by now. It wasn't until my most recent commitment to quit, about 1.5 months ago, that the cravings have been largely non-existent. To give you some perspective, I've been trying to quit for almost 6 years now.

That doesn't mean it'll take you that long to be successful. In fact, I would say you have a much more vested interest in it succeeding than I did in the past. It sounds like passing graduate school for you is a matter of whether or not you can keep video games out of your life.

The key is to find some other activities to fill the time, so you'll be distracted by those things and won't have time to even think about video games. Find some activities you enjoy. Check here for some ideas: https://gamequitters.com/hobby-ideas/

The key is to not immediately pass on some of those ideas because they seem boring. Of course they're going to seem boring. You're coming from a life where you slay giant monsters, fly seemingly at will and get to look at absolutely wonderful landscapes at every turn. It's going to take time for your brain to rewire itself to lowering the expectations of fascination. Once you find a couple of things to try out, keep working at them until you really know whether or not you enjoy them. Then proceed as the situation dictates.

Good luck! Just know if you have any questions or need support, we've got your back!

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I downloaded the hobby list. Thanks Jay. It's nice to know someone understands and has my back. Good luck to you as well on your latest quitting. If there's anything I can do to support it, let me know.

If I can remember, I'll write back in a month to see if we're both still going strong.

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12 hours ago, blaisem said:

I downloaded the hobby list. Thanks Jay. It's nice to know someone understands and has my back. Good luck to you as well on your latest quitting. If there's anything I can do to support it, let me know.

If I can remember, I'll write back in a month to see if we're both still going strong.

Sounds good! I've posted a journal so feel free to check in from time to time if you like:

 

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@blaisem

Hey there!

From my point of view having cravings is totally normal... and they suck... and they are quite critical when it comes to your success in quitting games.

The issue is most people do not know how to deal with these. I sure as hell didn't for a long time during my recovery process.

There is a technique I use which turned out to work quite well for me. It may sound a little counterintuitive and strange at first, but I'll explain:

When experiencing cravings, don't try to "shake it off" and focus on something else immediately - instead, try to really "feel" your urges and desires. Try to locate in your body where these feelings originate from and try to increase the intensity of your cravings without moving. Hold on to this feeling of intense craving for a moment. Start to breathe slowly and consciously and then try to deflate the craving.

The reason why this works for me is the following: When I first started out experiencing cravings I thought I have to satisfy them in order to make them go away or to "shake them off" ASAP because they are "evil". But the result is similar to an object of fear or discomfort you don't dare to face: It continues to be scary or uncomfortable. Submerging yourself in cravings is like diving into cold water for me - horrible at first, but when you do it your body and mind start to be able to handle it. You subconsciously gain the ability to handle your cravings when you dare to work with them and do that on a regular basis.

I hope I managed to explain my technique and my assumption as to why it works properly. I'd love to get some feedback on it, so please let me know if you're interested in trying and how it worked out for you.

Cheers,

Max

 

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On 10/2/2018 at 2:53 PM, MaxHofbauer said:

@blaisem

Hey there!

From my point of view having cravings is totally normal... and they suck... and they are quite critical when it comes to your success in quitting games.

The issue is most people do not know how to deal with these. I sure as hell didn't for a long time during my recovery process.

There is a technique I use which turned out to work quite well for me. It may sound a little counterintuitive and strange at first, but I'll explain:

When experiencing cravings, don't try to "shake it off" and focus on something else immediately - instead, try to really "feel" your urges and desires. Try to locate in your body where these feelings originate from and try to increase the intensity of your cravings without moving. Hold on to this feeling of intense craving for a moment. Start to breathe slowly and consciously and then try to deflate the craving.

The reason why this works for me is the following: When I first started out experiencing cravings I thought I have to satisfy them in order to make them go away or to "shake them off" ASAP because they are "evil". But the result is similar to an object of fear or discomfort you don't dare to face: It continues to be scary or uncomfortable. Submerging yourself in cravings is like diving into cold water for me - horrible at first, but when you do it your body and mind start to be able to handle it. You subconsciously gain the ability to handle your cravings when you dare to work with them and do that on a regular basis.

I hope I managed to explain my technique and my assumption as to why it works properly. I'd love to get some feedback on it, so please let me know if you're interested in trying and how it worked out for you.

Cheers,

Max

 

What you resist, persists.

I've also found that accepting negative feelings and working through them works much better than trying to push them away.

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I quit about 7 months ago and there is still craving but i found out it is triggered by certain things. I have bought a laptop so i dont have to use my gaming PC for normal internet stuff ect. But there are certain times i need something from this PC. Sitting at it alone with my gaming mouse in the hand triggers me. I then start watching my gaming recordings. Then the craving comes. And i need a lot of willpower to shut this down. I am now thinking of maybe selling the gaming PC so i dont get those triggers anymore. What i wanted to say is, craving is normal and everyone has a unique technique which fits to stop it once you found out what works best. For me its eliminating the triggers so the craving does not have a chance to come out.

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