How the Brain Works and Why Addiction Has Nothing to Do with Willpower

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Gettingalife
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How the Brain Works and Why Addiction Has Nothing to Do with Willpower

I'm slow on the uptake sometimes, but in watching this presentation - and it's just a guy with a Power Point presentation but incredibly informative - finally I understood exactly why addiction has nothing to do with willpower or lack there of, at least not if one equates willpower, as I always have, to overcoming urges by exerting internal force (crush, kill, destroy). Bruin explains why successful recovery is ongoing, not something we do once and we're done with. The tools we gain in recovery are ours for the rest of our lives, but we have to choose them, use them each day, one day at a time.

There are 9 videos in this series. In the 2nd or 3rd, he explains how addiction is rooted in the limbic system - the survival portion of our brain that has no shame, no guilt, no morals and the portion of our brain we can't crush, kill, destroy, but can learn to manage with acceptance and mindfulness. In other words, beating ourselves up for being human is useless! Let's not! Rather, let's rise to a higher level and live. :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wt1pTKJ80o4&feature=relmfu

Garrit may have linked to these before. Can't remember.

Acceptance. When I am disturbed, it is because a person, place, thing, or situation is unacceptable to me. I find no serenity until I accept my life as being exactly the way it is meant to be. Nothing happens in God’s world by mistake.  Acknowledge the problem, but live the solution!

Norski
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This kinda scares me.

This kinda scares me. Willpower has been my main weapon against my addiction. I use willpower and survival instinct to keep myself from gaming. And acording to this dude thats not possible and I`m long due a relaps.

I wanna live hence I wont play games. Games will kill me no doubt, either by getting me to use drugs again and maybe OD or by suicide cause I cant take hurting my family and everyone who cares about me anymore by ruining my life and my future.

I want to play games. But thats ok, as long as I dont play. I kind of have a understanding of my feelings that makes me trust myself inn a way I have never before. But still for now its mainly will power and survival instincts I use to DONT play games. And he says survival instincts is the addiction (inn a way).

I`m confused, I`ll watch the entire thing tomorow when I`m awake again and my brain works better. There has to be something I didnt understand there, what he says doesnt make sence to me. Oh well.

Kate1song
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Does it mention the frontal

Does it mention the frontal lobe? That is where the cerebral cortex is located. I Haven't watched the video.. But developing the cerebral cortex, (which is normally fully formed by the age of 27) is what allows us the ability to live civilly, and make sound decisions.

Addiction is located in the limbic system, but rational thought is in the frontal lobe. So yeah... I guess they are not related in that sence.

I also don't really care for using the term "will power". To me that envisions sitting there staring at something and just repeating.. i can't do that I can't eat that I can't watch that.

Developing your frontal lobe, gives you the tools to be able to cope with not being controlled by your urges from the limbic system. I have worked to improve my frontal lobe through the use of DBT and it's been very very successful in helping me to not have those overwhelming urges to fight/flight.. into a game.. which yes.. of course.. is limbic. Also coming here and reading posts.. helps too give me wisdom from others.. Also developing my frontal lobe...

Others use a spiritual path.. frontal lobe... more tools...

Norski, i'm guessing you use rational thought.. play the tape to the end.. to see the bad consequences your going back to gaming would cause..also frontal lobe.

And thats my undeducated.. view.. lol

EVE_OFFFline
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Norski.You are right. there

Norski.You are right. there are two main streams in addiction recovery. the 12 steps who say you never cure, and the Cognitive group who can say you can recondition you rmind.

Both are right, as it depends on the severity of the addiction and the personality of the person involved. Some people like to recover in a group and they will benefit from 12 steps. Others may want to do it with a therapist and want to quit recovering after some months.

You can train the conscious brain to beat the limbic brain. Cognitive behavior therapy is based upon it.

What happens is a trigger or thought is send from the conscious brain into the lymbic brain what returns with a reaction ( emotions what is only 4 choices: Pleasure, fear, anger, sadness)

Then when you are strong you can push the emotion out of your thoughts..It requires a lot of training though, and will power, but it can be done. People who can do it easily are people with strong cognitive thinking and less emotional. But with people with very strong emotional thoughts and very few cognitive skills this may be much thougher.

I believe is what you believe is true, will come true. If you believe you cannot cure from addiction then thats true. When you think you can overcome addiction by pushing it away...then its also true, as your thoughts and actions will form to its believes.

Other believe God takes their problems away...and that works too.

All you need to do is let despair, doubt, desire go and replace it by controled thinking, belief in inner self. rationalize and structure thoughts...thats all.

pre- diagnosed with Autism.

Kate1song
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The 12 steps does in a way,

The 12 steps does in a way, reteach the brain, and takes a spiritual approach. I also notice a lot of oldtimer 12 step members using a lot of sayings that really draw back to what I've studied in CBT.

And what is interesting, CBT is most successful when used in combination with support type groups.. Which i believe is the greatest contribution of the 12 step program.

EVE_OFFFline
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Urges can be weakened by

Urges can be weakened by Yoga. ANd excercises..And sporting outside...Take an hour a day at least to do some yoga or some training, or both..then eat Fish...or get at least omega-3 acids...and make sure to eat fruit and vegatables and vitamine B..as that creates the building blocks for endorfines...and endorfines are from the lymbic system to...feel happy as we are ..while doing nothing. And you can train your body to create more endorphines by keeping it in shape.. Its a all part of living in balance.

And yes the Lymbic system is a terrible thing when its not in synch and living it own way..but as long you wont fly into escapism you make the brains stronger to make choices..to decide not to run while the Lymbic singals fear..or not to eat when the lymbic say its time to eat sugar...

I mean think of birth control. The lymbic system insists on reproduction..That doesnt mean we take 15 kids although thats the meaning of reproduction and the constant drive for lust.

So yes we can beat our lymbic brains but it always comes after we made the mistake....

pre- diagnosed with Autism.

Gettingalife
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Yes, that's what I took from

Yes, that's what I took from the presentation - that certainly we're not dominated by our limbic brain but to go "head-to-head" with it, resisting our urges purely through determination, force is at best the least effective method and likely counterproductive as our successes with CBT, mindfulness, and other approaches to retrain ourselves seem to confirm. Heck, don't we usually learn anything better when we're interested, engaged, enjoying the process? And aren't we all familiar with dealing with whatever craving we might have for things we know aren't good for us? The more we think we simply CAN'T ever have it, the more intense the craving becomes, but if we can just gently choose for now not to indulge, the craving lessens.

Anyway, I am for whatever works for the individual. If you're not gaming, Norski, and your life in general terms is improving as a result of your not gaming, it's obvious you are doing something very right.

Acceptance. When I am disturbed, it is because a person, place, thing, or situation is unacceptable to me. I find no serenity until I accept my life as being exactly the way it is meant to be. Nothing happens in God’s world by mistake.  Acknowledge the problem, but live the solution!

Awakened
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Very interesting, ty for

Very interesting, ty for posting this!

Bangowango
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Thanks so much for posting

Thanks so much for posting this! Now I know how not to relapse!

Patria
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I'm not sure why I posted

I'm not sure why I posted what I did here about powerlessness, etc. but I'm withdrawing it.

starryeyed
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This is an interesting

This is an interesting subject and a hard one.

I also believe in the will power thing and retraining the brain. But yes I understand that when in the throes of an addiction there seems to be no will power or end in sight.

Yet some come to a surfeit of sorts which is where I ended with SL. It was like the endorphins or whatever it was in the brain that had lit up like fireworks at the height of my stay were no longer switched on so I made the decision to quit. I don't know why this happened ( a series of events I think both in and out of pixel land - so Fate or God ) and the fairyland had become a Hotel California and I suddenly could see it!! The veil was lifted. The waste of time is a killer of souls.

I'm grateful I did not go on for years as I know many do, trying to escape reality.

I also made a decision to try to do better with my life and not take things for granted.

I am definitely obsessive/compulsive. I have a mild mood disorder. I do see in myself that tendency to get lost in things and some things are not healthy. It is brain chemistry !! Learning to retrain the brain is very important as is a spiritual path as like Eve says, both can do the same thing. I've learned a lot on these forums as well,

-also finding things that are constructive to get lost in!! I think some may call it passion too which is what I prefer. lol.

Kate1song
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starryeyed wrote: Yet some
starryeyed wrote:

Yet some come to a surfeit of sorts which is where I ended with SL. It was like the endorphins or whatever it was in the brain that had lit up like fireworks at the height of my stay were no longer switched on so I made the decision to quit.

Maybe that was hitting your own bottom Starry.

All of us who quit had that happen at one point or another. For some of us it comes down to external consequences... For some, it's a visit to this website..We all, at some point, had our epiphany.

From there.. it's up to us.

We can move to another addiction/obsession, or practice active recovery to put ourselves in a better place place mentally and physically to avoid another downward spiral...

starryeyed
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 great ideas from

great ideas from everyone.

Kate said "We can move to another addiction/obsession, or practice active recovery to put ourselves in a better place place mentally and physically to avoid another downward spiral..."

I agree!

I hope that is what I was saying, just in my own way.

I prefer to think also that (in my case anyway) even this escape to virtual world had a positive side as well. I also think in the bigger picture you were meant to do what you did for your own life lessons ( I try to think outside of black and white). This may or may not fit into how we usually interpret the concept of addictive brains- not sure- but I like to put that spriritual take on it, and not that I would ever want to go back either. I definitely attempt a spiritual path and other methods such as you do esp CBT, meditation. I think there are many paths indeed and sometimes I don't agree "completely" with the term addict. It's too definitive and rigid a label - but that is just mho. I know others have a different take.

The positives outcomes can be

1. A new appreciation for real life!!

2 a determination to do as much as I can while I am on this earth (Carpe Diem)- and to try to realize some of my dreams.

3 an appreciation of graphics and a desire to be more creative (just in real time and not virtual world)

-And, some obsessions can be magnificent!! Such is of what true art is made I think. (not that I'm there, just wishing lol).

Kate1song
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As someone said to me

As someone said to me Starry.. Different strokes for different folks. You and I have had disagreements but I have learned so much from you.. and over time have come to understand more of the wisdom you share. Not sure if what I am writing makes sense.

I also love what has been said about looking for what we all have common here, rather than how we are different.

We all share the fact that we've seen and experenced the potential negative effects of excess gaming, and we all want something different for our lives.. And we wish to help each other along the way.

And that truly is the beauty of recovery..

I wish I lived closer to you. I'd love to take a walk with you to some of those pretty places. :-)

starryeyed
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Thank you for saying that

Thank you for saying that Kate! But omg! you know I'm bonkers, right!!? lol

As for those pearls of wisdom; I wear them like a patchwork quilt jacket that I've put together rather randomly. The colours are nice though!

You have also metamorphed in my eyes too as I see so many of us doing and continuing to do so. (A butterfly with heart (and yes! butterflies do sing!!)

You would love this island and it's tranquillity. Can be exciting too!! Spelunking, diving, hiking, rafting, sailing- take your pick - or just a lovely stroll through the park or on the beach sunset! ( I like)

!)

"Goldstream Park falls" through the tunnel

My wish is freedom for all of us.

GAL said "don't we usually learn anything better when we're interested, engaged, enjoying the process?"

Patria
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I've heard it said that

I've heard it said that addiction is like being in an elevator at the top floor of the empire state building, going down with people getting off the elevator at different floors (stopping addiction and getting recovery); some of us go to the bitter end, some get off half-way through, some get off at one of the top floors.

I have always envied those who get off one of the top floors. I seem to wait until I have absolute proof that I'm addicted.....somewhere down near the bottom.

There is a story running around AA that says that one drunk man lying on the sidewalk, sees another drunk lying in the gutter, telling himself "well, I'm not as bad as that guy."

I'm just saying, everyone has a "bottom" that is too uncomfortable to live with anymore, and that's when I got aware that gaming was ruining my life. I wish I had stopped much much earlier. Alas!

Gettingalife
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And again, to an extent this

And again, to an extent this is a matter of semantics, our individual perceptions.

I take big issue with the term "willpower," so I'm biased to agree with what Bruin is teaching in the video. And I have a fairly good understanding why - I lived with intense criticism and bullying at home as a kid. My method of coping resulted in a lot of passivity - if I don't move, don't do anything maybe they won't hurt me, maybe I'll be safe. Along with the passivity, I've had huge resistance to force, internal or external. Force does not work for me. Beating myself up, being unkind to myself in any way just isn't productive. Encouraging me, being patient with me, accepting me, being compassionate to me frees me up, lets me blossom, motivates me to live. That may sound namby pamby and lame to a lot of people, but I don't believe I'm so unique in this.

Now, I'm not saying I don't appreciate the value of self-control and making good choices. It's just that personally, I've got a base of unworthiness to deal with before I even care about the choice or can see my options. Again, I'm reminded of Dan's analogy of the use of a saw - it's a matter of applying the appropriate amount of effort.

Acceptance. When I am disturbed, it is because a person, place, thing, or situation is unacceptable to me. I find no serenity until I accept my life as being exactly the way it is meant to be. Nothing happens in God’s world by mistake.  Acknowledge the problem, but live the solution!

starryeyed
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Hugs GAL. I understand what

Hugs GAL.

I understand what you are saying. So much of our childhood experiences goes into our perceptions of life as adults.

You don't have to wear that mantle forever now that you've brought it out into the light. it sounds like you are embracing that child!!

Pat,

I'm not sure either why some quit earlier than others. You played a game that was highly competitive and probably gave players a sense of accomplishment and a form of non stop excitment which does create that "high" you spoke about.

My game of choice was one of pure and simple escapism with no pressures like that but of course still with the added social element I believe the social scene is a huge factor in what makes it hard to leave, especially for people who have issues or anxiety in real life or who tend to be loners. Also the romantic liasions that occur there are probably dopamine rushes too. ( I only had one!!) Forgive me if I say, I think part of the problem in SL was the moral turpitude of so many of the players. Immorality is addicting!! There were sims there totally dedicated to BDSM also and all kinds of depraved things people dream up!! (who are secretaries, housewives and pizza delivery guys in real life lol)

I think the social aspect of gaming is going to be a big problem as time goes on and kids grow up on computers. So many people are already into social networking, facebook games, minecraft, etc which can make people withdraw even more. Psychologists be aware!! We are creating a whole society of addicts probably!! Whether it is a true addiction or not for most, I can't say for sure as the psychology of different types of computer use is fairly new study, but as Eve has said many times I do believe the brain can be retrained if the problem is recognized and addressed and especially as Pat says, if caught early.

Patria
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Hi, the brain can be

Hi, the brain can be retrained at any point, early or not. At least that's what I've found in AA. I've seen people who could do nothing but babble and shake, eventually learn to be upright citizens with great jobs. It takes time though and perseverance.

And a willingness to change.

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thumbs up Pat!!

thumbs up Pat!!

Gettingalife
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lol I brought this link here

lol I brought this link here because I found the explanation of how the brain works and why white knuckling might be (is) a poor method for overcoming addiction interesting and, hopefully, helpful. I didn't intend to stir up controversy, to discourage anyone from using all the willpower they have at their disposal or to argue whether gaming is addictive or not. My last post's intention wasn't to get sympathy for a lousy childhood but only to illustrate that brute force (crush, kill, destroy - referencing video) doesn't do the trick for me in any regard, especially in altering my behavior. That's just me. Thankfully there are alternatives. I don't think anyone other than Norski and Bango even watched the video. This thread can be shelved as far as I'm concerned. :)

Acceptance. When I am disturbed, it is because a person, place, thing, or situation is unacceptable to me. I find no serenity until I accept my life as being exactly the way it is meant to be. Nothing happens in God’s world by mistake.  Acknowledge the problem, but live the solution!

Patria
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What controversy? what

What controversy? what discouragement? I don't see that here.

I'm really not sure why you sound so irritated GaL.

When I brought up "willpower" I was talking about my experience with it.

When I brought up when a person arrests the addiction I was talking to Starry. She and I have discussed this before.

I'm not sure why you want to shelve the thread...it's really very good and thought-provoking.

Gettingalife
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Oh! Okay. Too funny. Not

Oh! Okay. Too funny. Not sure why I was irritated either ...hrm lol Carry on!

Acceptance. When I am disturbed, it is because a person, place, thing, or situation is unacceptable to me. I find no serenity until I accept my life as being exactly the way it is meant to be. Nothing happens in God’s world by mistake.  Acknowledge the problem, but live the solution!

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Lol now I want to watch the

Lol now I want to watch the video to prove you wrong :-)

And I'm going to do just that.

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Patria wrote: I've heard it
Patria wrote:

I've heard it said that addiction is like being in an elevator at the top floor of the empire state building, going down with people getting off the elevator at different floors (stopping addiction and getting recovery); some of us go to the bitter end, some get off half-way through, some get off at one of the top floors.

I have always envied those who get off one of the top floors. I seem to wait until I have absolute proof that I'm addicted.....somewhere down near the bottom.

...

...I wish I had stopped much much earlier. Alas!

My therapist told me about "high-bottom drunks (gamers)" and "low-bottom drunks (gamers)". The high-bottom folks (like me, I guess) are at a greater danger of relapse, because we never really saw the view from the gutter. That doesn't make me wish I had a different experience, though. I got what I got, and there are certainly advantages to getting off the elevator before it goes down too far.

I think "willpower" is simply (or not so simply) a connection in the brain between certain kinds of thought (the smart, rational thoughts that tell us what is best for us to do; that little voice of our HP that speaks softly when we listen) and the part of the brain that takes action. Whereas addictive behavior is a connection between other pathways (the limbic system stimulated by dopamine) and the part of the brain that takes action. Recovery is strengthening the one connection and weakening the other. I have experienced this a lot--every time I "give in" to acting based on my addiction (my need/desire to self-medicate my emotions with damaging behavior), I strengthen the wrong pathway. Every time I listen to HP, or think through something and then go ahead and act on what I carefully thought about, I strengthen the other kind of connection. I think it's ScottTO whose tagline is: "what you feed, grows, and what you starve, withers away." I have to learn to feed the right connection--this is what the steps and principles are about. 12 miles in, 12 miles out--I've spent years feeding the wrong connections. It will take me a long time to strengthen the other ones enough that I feel that I'm "on track." Especially as a free-range addict--there's a lot to avoid! One step at a time, I guess....

I am a recovering computer game and gambling addict. My recovery birthday: On May 6, 2012 I quit games and began working a program of recovery through OLGA No computer games or slot games for me since December 12, 2012. No solitaire games with real cards since June 2013.

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Gettingalife
Gettingalife wrote:

Thankfully there are alternatives. I don't think anyone other than Norski and Bango even watched the video. This thread can be shelved as far as I'm concerned. :)

I watched it.

Gettingalife
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:) Thank you, Kate, and

:) Thank you, Kate, and thanks for your input here earlier, too.

I'm way overthinking this one now, but is there any significant difference between willpower, self-control, and self-discipline? Yet, I don't viscerally reject the latter two the way I do the first. Willpower has negative connotations for me while self-discipline actually inspires me. Maybe because I, for whatever erroneous reason, connect willpower to willfulness which totally raises my hackles. But, in the last analysis for me, willpower implies force, and I don't like it. The power of words.

self-control: controlling your impulses,

self-discipline:Training and control of oneself and one's conduct, usually for personal improvement

willpower: the trait of resolutely controlling your own behavior or the strength of will to carry out one's decisions, wishes, or plans

willfulness: obstinately bent on having one's own way

For sure, a good portion of my self-control muscle memory deteriorated horribly by lack of use over these years, and getting it back, hopefully, in better shape than ever definitely requires perseverance. Now there's a word I love.

Perseverance: 1.Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. 2. Continuance in a state of grace leading finally to a state of glory.

Is that second definition not beautiful?

Acceptance. When I am disturbed, it is because a person, place, thing, or situation is unacceptable to me. I find no serenity until I accept my life as being exactly the way it is meant to be. Nothing happens in God’s world by mistake.  Acknowledge the problem, but live the solution!

Patria
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I've been watching this

I've been watching this series on TV with husband; it's truely remarkable.

We also watched a National Georgraphic regarding meth users--highly recommend this also because of the explanation of dopamine and the brain--people who use meth (one of the most addictive substances out there) experience a huge surge of dopamine to the point--later on in their lives--that the brain actually stops the process of dopamine.

And there are indications that the brain is changed forever; meaning that the natural, normal dopamine cycle is not restored; once a person's brain no longer produces the right amount of dopamine, he/she won't get it back.

I guess that is why addicts, in recovery, aren't happy for quite awhile after cessation of the drug, and relapses are common.

Anyway...

I was not a meth user, but certainly abused gaming for 7 years. My normal state now is not as happy as I used to be; and I have to actually pursue happy things by meditating, gardening, reading, talking with friends and family, talking to HP, exercising, being responsible, taking care of myself and husband, keeping in touch with kids and grandkids.

I choose to do things that make me happy.

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Patria wrote: And there are
Patria wrote:

And there are indications that the brain is changed forever; meaning that the natural, normal dopamine cycle is not restored; once a person's brain no longer produces the right amount of dopamine, he/she won't get it back.

I guess that is why addicts, in recovery, aren't happy for quite awhile after cessation of the drug, and relapses are common.

Wow, that explains it. I've noticed that I don't have the same passion for my hobbies as I had before I gamed. I'll get some inspiration to work on something for a bit and then I seem to lose interest in it again. And yet that desire to game again is always there lurking in the back of my mind. I guess this is just something we have to live with. How annoying!

 

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending. ~Maria Robinson

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Me, too Silvertabby.  I'm

Me, too Silvertabby. I'm amazed at how listless I am sometimes until I get involved with something, then I perk up a bit, but generally I'm not as happy as I once was, and now I have to work at it to get it started.

What I am saying is, I can get happy with a little prodding. But it sure surprises me that it just doesn't happen automatically.

I wish I had known all this. Mudphud mentioned in another thread that corporate responsibility takes a nose-dive when real money is made from exploiting the addicted. They count on the addicted to keep coming back buying the next game.

I tell everyone around me to be careful when buying games for themselves or for their kids. This addiction is no joke.

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I`ve noticed that lately,

I`ve noticed that lately, without thinking about it, I`ve been getting more and more into music. Picking upp my guitar, playing drums at a friends house, watching music programs and listening more to music now. Getting into playing metallica, attack attack, asking alexandra, eagles, aerosmith on guitar. I`m not good at it but when I practise I keep forgetting time and relax and have fun. I`m also starting to plan ahead, years ahead. Found out I want to be a chef, started on my drivers license, gotten a part time jobb at the only local cantine making easy food until I got the drivers license and can move out. I feel happiness and hope for the future. Able to get exited about things. This is all new to me and all these changes happened inn the last month. After 15 months of no gaming I`m having all these changes. Dont know if its the music who does it or if my brain is recovering from the years of gaming or whatever it is. Maybe going to the shrink for a year is what did it I have no **** idea and cant put my finger on it lol. All I know is that there is happines and joy inn life for everyone as long as they look for it and can enjoy the small things inn life :)

Patria
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Joined: 06/02/2011 - 1:55am
That's wonderful Norski!

That's wonderful Norski!

dan1
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Joined: 05/04/2012 - 6:42pm
Norski, That is such good

Norski,

That is such good news. Thank you for posting this. It gives hope to those of us who have quit playing but are still in the "dead zone." It tells us more about how far gone one really can be with gaming, and also how far back one can come. Gives me hope for the future.

I am a recovering computer game and gambling addict. My recovery birthday: On May 6, 2012 I quit games and began working a program of recovery through OLGA No computer games or slot games for me since December 12, 2012. No solitaire games with real cards since June 2013.

Norski
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Joined: 05/16/2012 - 7:24am
Thank you, its good to hear

Thank you, its good to hear that others find hope inn my recovery :) its taken a long time, and it will still take a long time until I`m able to live a independent responsible life. But I still enjoy every day now, unlike what I used to do.

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