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Hey pdallair!

It's okay that you have chosen not to post everyday, others in this community don't post everyday. Additionally this is your journal, you do what you want, it's your journey. None of us are here to dictate what you decide to do. However, we are here to support and help you with any conflicts you have!

Best 

Jason

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Day 5 - Meh

God damn, the cravings are strong right about now.  I haven't been taking good care of myself today and now I feel like shit.  I feel drowsy and gloomy.  I don't wana feel drowsy and gloomy.  I wana feel good, REAL GOOD.  Give me that stimulation baby! Yeaaaaeeeuuuuh! ... *sigh* Are things always going to feel this benign?  No.  Probably not.  There will be moments like this, when my desires/expectation far exceed what I can handle.  However, they too shall pass.  Seriously.  It's hard to believe but for all I know, I might feel great tomorrow.  I didn't sleep well last night.  I didn't eat well throughout the day.  I didn't fulfill all my daily goals/tasks but I did do some.  I don't need video-games.  They are not part of who I am.  I will learn to enjoy other things if I keep trying; I just need to persevere — i.e. give myself more time.  I resorted to games to find a delusional sense of comfort (safety and pleasure) for years, it will take time to find and nurture an authentic version of this sensation elsewhere.

I can do this.  I don't have to.  I choose to.  May I feel safe, happy and healthy.

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Day 6 - Distress Tolerance and Tibetan Buddhism

The module that I am going through with my Dialectical Behavior Therapy group, recently, is centered around Distress Tolerance Skills.  During our last session we went over the Radical Acceptance skill and that's when I realized that I hadn't fully accepted my addiction to video-games.  Sure, I admitted I was addicted and tried to moderate my usage.  Regardless of the countless failed attempts however, I had been neglecting for a lto to take that final step and resort to abstinence.  It's a painful realization because so much of my memories and current identity feel rooted in gamer culture.  Anw... that night I decided to quit and the next morning I did the "purge" (uninstalled all my PC games).

I have been reading on and off about Buddhism.  If I consider myself religious someday it will be around this one.  The non-theistic approach to spiritual philosophy is quite interesting to me and many if the core practices (meditation) are recognized as beneficial in the fields of neuroscience and psychology.  Anw, last night I was furthering my reading of Beyond Religion by the Dalai Lama and what I encountered was very in tune with what has been discussed throughout the current module.  I was going to take notes anyways and I decided to do it here.

There is a word/expression in the Tibetan language that reminds me of Distress Tolerance: soe pa. This expression is often translated as patience, however, as with many foreign expressions, it entails more than this.    According to his holiness (the Dalai Lama), a more accurate translation into English would be forbearance because "It entails not giving in to our instinctive urge to respond negatively to our difficulties"; there is a sense of forgiveness and harmony to it.  The entire concept relies on 3 aspects to consider:

  1. Forbearance towards the perpetrators of harm.
  2. The acceptance of suffering.
  3. The acceptance of reality.

The second one is what I learned from the most.  One of my main uses of video-games was to avoid short-term pain/discomfort.  One of the main reasons, I think, is because I did not learn to see the benefits to suffering but rather, that I should avoid it as much as possible.  Anw, the benefits of suffering where not listed neatly but here's what I get from the text:

  • Suffering allows us, with empathy and compassion, to recognize kinship and bond with one another.
  • Suffering can be a catalyst/motivation towards positive change/growth.

Just to be clear, accepting is not the same as submitting.  I'm not saying suffering consistently benefits us more than it does harm.  However, keeping this little tidbit of wisdom in mind does make short-term and/or inevitable suffering more tolerable, improving my chances to avoid "giving in to our instinctive urge to respond negatively".

If anyone else reads this, thank you.  May you feel safe, happy and healthy.  Take care.

Edited by pdallair91
rewording
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  • 2 weeks later...

Day 16 - *Nod*

My assumption that I would find it easier in time feels although it is slowly coming true.  I still haven't managed to stick to a schedule but at least I get somethings done.  The bordom, distress, and frustration I feel (which lead to cravings) are getting more manageable, or maybe I'm just getting better at managing them; probably both.

I feel I'm slowly converting my pessimistic self-fulfilling beliefs into more into more optimistic ones.  As I hand out more compassion and kindness towards myself and others, some of these assumptions end up being or becoming true; reinforcing the cognition and behavior in the process.  If you're going to experience confirmation bias, you might as well use it for good! AMIRIGHT FOLKS!?

To whoever reads this: may you feel safe, happy and healthy.

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  • 1 month later...
Posted (edited)

Day 48 - Pandemic, Health Issues, & Social Media Addiction

I'm happy to say I've managed to maintain my version of video-game sobriety since Feb 16th. 😊 I am grateful towards myself for the mindfulness and wisdom that I've cultivated over the past couple of years.  I'm grateful to my friends, family, experts, and peers — in this community and many others —  for all the emotional support. 😌

That said, I'm not really satisfied with how I'm using all this free time.  For those that don't know me and my situation, I'm on Long-Term Disability because of mental health issues.  So, I have a whole lot of free time.  I've always had somewhat of an "addictive personality".  I think a more accurate and fair term would be "executive dysfunction" (something my therapist brings up every now and then).  Unsurprisingly, I find myself spending an excessive amount of time & energy talking (often arguing) with anonymous strangers online, watching videos, and studying topics around my hobbies.  Don't get me wrong, these things aren't inherently bad, it's the excess in the amount of time & energy spent doing these things that is.  I fear that if I don't look inward, try to understand my cravings and improve my "executive function", I'll find myself constantly replacing one addiction with another.

Here are a few pre-existing factors to consider:

Loneliness

I feel so freaking lonely.  I live alone and I'm pretty extroverted.  Human attention and physical touch mean a lot to me.  My social needs surely aren't being met this pandemic, which probably explains why I crave for attention on social media so much.

The other day, while I was out for a walk, I saw 2 couples randomly crossing each other's path and joyfully stopping to talk to each other.  I cried shortly after I walked by.  I was so sad that I had to return home, to be alone, again, for the upcoming 4 week state/province wide "lockdown" we had just entered.  I feel like crying now just talking about it. 

I think the best I can do for now is to take a self-compassion break whenever I feel the need to.  This is a situation I have little to no control over, where distress tolerance skills (self-soothing/calming distractions) and radical acceptance are key.

Sleep Apnea

Since the beginning of this journey, I have been diagnosed with mild sleep apnea.  If I understand correctly, under normal circumstances, I do not get the appropriate amount of R.E.M. ("deep") sleep.  No doubt that not getting the appropriate amount of sleep impairs my cognitive abilities. 

When I received this diagnosis, I neglected to try the recommended solution: a C.P.A.P. machine.  The traumatic medical experiences I've been through did not leave me keen on "hooking myself up" before going to bed.  However, I have tried several alternative solutions and they just haven't been working out for me.  On top of that, I have heard many personal accounts of the benefits and ease of use of this solution.  So, obviously, the most effective way forward is to at least try it.

Luckily, I have already taken a step forward in this direction and I will be talking to the respirologist over the phone later this week.

Dehydration

It's been noted several times throughout my life, even as a child, that I have dry eyes, mouth, and skin.  I also suspect that I may have a dry nasal cavities.  I've been using artificial tears, and saliva stimulating dental hygiene products (Biotène brand) for years now.  However, this hasn't really fixed my problems; overall I'm still very susceptible to eye infections and tooth cavities.

My dentist has recently recommended that I discuss Sjögren's syndrome with my G.P.  It is not unlikely, given my medical history, that I have developed some auto-immune disease(s) that have so far not been addressed (at least, according to this scientific article).  If I suffer from this disease, which leads to fatigue (as discussed above), it is likely that my cognitive abilities are impaired to some degree by this as well.

I really ought to set an appointment with my G.P. and insist that I get tested for multiple auto-immune diseases.

Diabetes

Diabetes -> dehydration & fatigue.  I've been occasionally testing my blood sugar and it always comes close to the recommended threshold despite all the dietary changes I'm making.  I feel as though the medication I'm taking is not optimal for me, we have already increased the dose and it feels like I'm still slowly but gradually getting worst.  In the past 3 years alone, I've went from fine to per-diabetic, to diabetic.  Considering what I said about auto-immune diseases above, I feel it's important to note that some forms of diabetes are auto-immune diseases.  I fear that I may have been misdiagnosed with the type that isn't treated as such.

Luckily I have an appointment with endocrinologist, over the phone, this week and I will discuss this further with him.

ADHD

It's no secret that "executive dysfunction" is a core symptom of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  My psychologist has brought this up a few times.  When the physiological factors above are investigated and dealt with, if my executive dysfunction persists at the same rate, I ought to consider going for an ADHD test.

 

With all that said, maybe I shouldn't expect to be able to use most of my time effectively.  That's not to say I should stop resisting my cravings but just maybe be a little more forgiving for when I fail.  After all, as Sharon Salzberg (A popular Loving-Kindness Meditation teacher in the west) says: "Healing is in the return, [by] learning to begin again."

If you read through all of this, wow! Thank you so so much for your attention. 🙂  May you feel as safe, happy, and healthy as can be.💗

Edited by pdallair91
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  • 4 weeks later...

Day 70 - To Learn to Succeed, You Must First Learn to Fail.

The latter portion of this post's header is a quote by Michael Jordan (allegedly, couldn't find the source).  Jordan is well known, not only for his success but for mastery over the fear of failure.  Many commercials, articles, and books were released with him encouraging people (especially the young) to accept ones imperfection, never give up, and learn from our mistakes.  His humble origins, even to me — someone that has never been part of a sports team — are impressive to say the least.

Quote

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” -Micheal Jordan

That said, the same mentality can be found in various fields.  It's no secret that the people who are the most successful at life, whether they are privileged or not, have little to no fear of failure.  IMO, the "ideal" person would even go so far as embracing failure.  That's not to say they actively seek failure but rather, that they accept the experience when it occurs, expected or not, without judgement, as a part of their journey.  If that doesn't lead to pure courage then I don't know what does.

Anyways, this easier said than done.  In fact, it took me 15 minutes to craft a sentence to describe it.  Perhaps focusing on where I could improve in relation, see what I can learn, will make things easier in the long run.

There's no doubt that, as I've mentioned before, I procrastinate a lot.  Fear of failure is probably one of the reasons why I neglect to set goals, or make and follow plans towards said goal(s).  I often see goals and plans as opportunities to fail, especially when there's a time limit/deadline.  One of the things that I dislike being asked the most is "how long do you think this will take?".   Even before I quit games, I didn't try to get better at games, in fact, most of my games where single player with save states or checkpoints.  I'll get all the achievements in Souls-like games at some point, at my own passe.  That said, maybe what I personally need to do for now is, prepare for failure.  That is, learn how to react in case things don't go according to plan.

A lot of people tell me to lower my expectations. Lowering expectations is not bad advice.  After all, sometimes I do have unreasonably high expectations that we are bound not to meet and thus fail.  So, sure, it has proven to be helpful at times.  For e.g., it's ok if takes me a bit longer than I expected to finish something.  However, this can easily turn into downwards spiral for me.  By either lowering my expectations too much or too often, I end up having no expectations and thus no plans or goals, which justifies the avoidance that motivates addictive behavior.  In these cases, in hindsight, I believe what is lacking might be a counter balance of what I'm really afraid of: accountability.

There's no doubt in my mind that I was excessively held accountable by my peers and parents throughout my childhood.  I don't have vivid memories but I feel it's right to assume I was often shamed even when I was trying my best.  However, when I did succeed at something — video games, chess, grades, improv comedy —  boy I got praised for those.  So unsurprisingly, an all or nothing mindset ensued.  Nowadays however, these people are gone, and most of the damage is self-inflicted.  My parents see some of the damage they have done and my new peers are grown, more mature, and understanding; so am I to a reasonable extent.

Anw... I've been thinking and typing here for ~2 hours now.  I haven't really reached a conclusion as to what I should do but it does give me something to talk about with my therapist.

If you read through all of this, I'm so grateful 🥰.   I hope you manage to feel as safe, happy, and healthy as you reasonably can.💗  Take care folks. 😊

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I think you have the right idea about learning to handle failure, but it goes one step further: one of the very best ways to learn is to fail, early and often, but in a setting in which failure is somehow safe.

One of the worst things about educational institutions these days is that every single thing - every assignment, every test, every breath or stray movement - is observed and assessed on a rubric, with no margin for error. Everything is for high stakes. Every failure is a potential catastrophe.

Is it any wonder millennials and gen-z-ers are racked with anxiety and depression?

What students need - what everyone needs - is a chance to fall flat on their faces and then pick themselves up again; they need to work through frustration and doubt because those are unavoidable when you are trying to understand things you have never understood before.

What applies in formal education also applies in life more generally.

People who tell you to lower your expectations are way off the mark. Don't go giving yourself trophies just for showing up. The thing is to keep your own standards high, maybe even ratchet them up as you go, but to become more resilient in the face of failure, on the understanding that falling flat is part of the process of eventually living up to your own standards for yourself. I posted something related to this in my own journal, if it's of interest.

Edited by Zeno
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  • 4 weeks later...

Thank you @Zeno, this reply and the post you linked to sound brilliant to me.  I'm certainly inspired to ponder.

I'm not much of a reader but I did add Thinking in Systems, by Donella Meadows, to my wish-list.

I believe I am currently experiencing the downwards drift described some of the quoted passages.  for the past couple of weeks, I have been experiencing an unexpected amount of failure in the face a new challenge and succumbing to my negative bias, unnecessarily (or excessively) lowering my expectations and enabling "my system" (i.e., "my life") to deteriorate.  I'm here today because I've relapsed; I wasn't following the 90 day program but I've ironically relapsed on the 91st.  I've been binging for 3 days now, playing 12+ hours/day, alone and in secret, only stopping to eat, sleep, and respond to messages and appointments. I was too ashamed to admit it, until now.  In hindsight, 3 days isn't so bad. Some of my binging sprees have lasted for weeks, if not months in the past. I suppose it's time to start ratcheting up again, I just hope I end up doing this at a realistic passe.

I don't know if Meadows's book addresses this but it is difficult to evaluate what is or isn't realistic or effective when making changes to a system.  Or heck, just modeling a system from scratch!  Because the reality is I don't have an accurate model of "my system", the actual state of which is largely immeasurable, and constantly changing. ...sigh... Look at me, wishing I had all the answers and that I could somehow never fall short of my personal goals; look at me being afraid of failure.  Such a torrent of emotions in my mind right now... I didn't get to write it all down but my cognition showed signs of anger (blaming others and not making any changes at all), depression (crying and ratcheting down too low), and anxiety (panicking and ratcheting up too high)... I have poor mental health (suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder and PTSD) if that wasn't clear.

At least I didn't give in to any of these intense emotions, I'm still here, trying to be calm and non-judgemental, trying to learn.  I guess my next ratchet back up, my next step in recovering from my recent fall, is going to be just this: mindfulness.  Whether it's meditation, or journaling like this, I can probably benefit from observing and describing how I feel, what I'm thinking, non-judgmentally; at least, that's what I learned in my dialectical behavior therapy.

I got this.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Day 1 (The Sequel) — Ending "Lapse"

According to my SMART Recovery Program handbook, there are 5 Stages of Change:

  1. Pre-Contemplation
    1. "Games are not addictive!"
    2. When we resist change by not taking responsibility for our addictive behavior; either passively, by not being aware of, or actively, by rejecting the problematic nature of our behavior.
  2. Contemplation
    • "... my life is a mess...  Games take up so much time... I should play less but everything else feels so difficult..."
    • When we admit we have a problem but have "mixed feelings" about change.  We are weighing the costs and benefits of changing or not and have yet to decide between the two.
  3. Preparation
    • "Apparently I'm not the only one who feels this way.  Other people have managed to quit and make a better life for themselves.  I wonder how did they did it?  Maybe I can learn from them."
    • When we have accepted and chosen change.  We are gathering information, resources, and/or planning.
  4. Action
    • "Time to uninstall all these PC games and sell these consoles.  Then I'll have plenty of time to pickup my old guitar and go out for a walk in the park.  It's gonna be hard but I got this."
    • When we take on the first steps of the challenge of changing, executing our plans gathered from the previous stage. 
  5. Maintenance
    • "... I'm so tired... and bored... and lonely... I could play just one night... No!!!  I know how slippery of slope that is for me.  Look at everything I've accomplished since I quit.  I'm going through a tough time now but succumbing to these cravings will likely only make things worst.  I'm going through a tough time.  This dissatisfaction, it's normal and it won't last forever.  I'm strong.  I'll be alright."
    • We continue to resist cravings, building confidence and self-control.
  6. Exit
    • "Oh yeah, we did used to play that game together.  Nah, I don't miss it.  I have no regrets.  My life is so much better now.  Hey!  You should come over and bring your guitar!"
    • Our new behavior(s) have become habitual, cravings are practically non-existent.

Note that in reality the process isn't as linear as this, there can be overlap or "bouncing" between stages.  We can also experience what we call a lapse — slipping back into a previous stage for a short period of time (days, weeks) — or a complete relapse — regressing all the way back to pre-contemplation for a long period of time (months, years).

I believe what I experienced was a lapse, not just because it lasted less than 2 weeks, but rather because I never became ignored or rejected the problematic nature of my behavior.  I knew what I was doing was harmful, so much that I didn't want my peers to know before I quit again.  I knew I was indulging in a behavior that wasn't in line with my values and goals.

This month has not been the best for me, I was expecting the new medical treatment I was scheduled to start undertaking this month, in accordance with my values and goals to be easy, but it was not and still isn't.  I feel so tired and frustrated, as if I had done nothing but lose on daily basis.  I wanted a way out, something that game me that sense of achievement/success, something that felt not too hard and not too easy to me.  And that's what many video games are designed to do.  You work towards a goal with little to no punishment for failure and tonnes of bells and whistles at various milestones along the way.

Anyways... I don't know where I'm going with this.  I got interrupted for a couple of hours and well... anyways... at least I didn't game today.  It's a good start.  Peace out folks.

P.S. For those that are wondering SMART Recovery is a non-profit, science-based program to help people deal with addiction.  A great alternative if you feel turned off by the theistic nature of 12 step programs.  A lot of what I learned in this program lines up with what I'm also learning through individual therapy.

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On 5/28/2021 at 7:01 PM, pdallair91 said:

5 Stages of Change

Thank you for sharing this, because it is really well defined and helpful to me in recognizing my own patterns. I think I was in the maintenance phase when I prematurely decided gaming was okay again. Now, I need to work to reach that phase again, and then towards the EXIT sign!

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