I'm not a gaming addict at all. In fact, I pretty much never play video games or online games of any type. I am a general internet addict. I have hardly been able to find any resources for internet addiction. I live in one of the biggest metropolitan areas in the world and I cannot find a single free support group for internet addiction in my area. The only rehabs I can find in the US are in other parts of the country and cost tens of thousands of dollars, and insurance doesn't cover it because internet addiction is not recognized as a real addiction. I can't even find (ironically) online forums for internet addiction. All the forums I can find are largely inactive. The only active forum I can find is nosurf on Reddit, and I can't go on Reddit because that is one of the websites I waste way too much time on so I have blocked it on my computer. Therefore I am on this forum because I think there are similarities between gaming addiction and internet addiction and I am hoping to find more resources and advice.
I believe internet addiction is one of the biggest problems in our society and yet it has become part of our society so much that we don't even realize how bad it has gotten. I didn't even know that I had an internet addiction until recently because of how normalized internet use is in our society. People go to dinner or on vacation and can't even get their noses out of their phone long enough to actually enjoy it or communicate with other people. Pretty much everyone wastes time on the internet at work, leading to probably billions in lost productivity per year. But only some people let it get to the point of completely destroying their life.
I grew up in a violent and dysfunctional family. My mother was physically and emotionally abusive and my dad was her enabler. My dad abandoned the family only to get into another abusive relationship immediately and have a midlife crisis ending in homelessness. When my brother became a teenager he began fighting back against my mom. Visits from CPS and the police, court-ordered family therapy, my mom threatening to kick us out on he street at the slightest provocation, angry anonymous letters from neighbors who called the cops on us when we got too loud, doors held together by duct tape from people smashing them open so many times, and similar harbingers of Jerry Springer-esque drama became a normal part of childhood for me. I tried to stay out of the drama and both my mom and brother called me a "phony" for not picking one side against the other. My brother still resents me because my mom eventually forced me to side against him or be kicked out on the street (I was 12-13 years old at the time).
I was always a very good student and went to one of the best public high schools in America as well as one of the top 20 colleges in America (US News and World Report). My family wasn't financially comfortable for most of my childhood, and I never had tutors or professor parents like many of my classmates -- I did it all on my own. Getting good grades was all I was good for. I was rarely complimented for anything other than my academic ability. My mother resented that her parents never allowed her to get a good education and she wanted me to achieve at all costs. My brother has a learning disability and ended up dropping out of school in the 9th grade, and she never let him forget that he was a loser in her eyes. I was supposed to be the person who redeemed the family from being trailer trash. If you've ever seen the movie "I, Tonya," it was very similar. Even my dad seemed to feel that my educational achievements redeemed his failures as a parent.
But, it took a toll. I never developed social skills properly due to the dysfunctional examples at home (ie. "resolve your interpersonal issues with violence"), my mom socially isolating me in many ways, her teaching me more dysfunctional beliefs such as that I didn't have to be kind or funny or anything else because I was smart (essentially trying to turn me into a mini-her), and so on. I was never popular although I did develop some self-awareness and actively tried to become a less terrible person, and by high school I had a good group of friends. I was always making mistakes socially. I never could quite figure out how to make social connections like other people and still can't.
Everyone in my high school was stressed out but I had some extra stresses. I got up at 5:30, commuted 1.5 hrs to get to school, went to difficult classes all day with extreme pressure to get straight A's, then did a two-hour intense track practice (extracurriculars needed for elite college), commuted another 1.5 hrs home, did hours of homework plus dealing with my mom if she was angry, then went to bed around 11-12 PM. I only had time to sleep 5-6 hrs a night and I almost never had any free time. Not surprisingly, I became depressed and had panic attacks in class, and zero authority figures in my life recognized that perhaps sleep deprivation and exhaustion had something to do with it and instead said that I had a "chemical imbalance" and should be drugged. NOBODY in authority gave a crap about my well-being as long as I "lived up to my potential" and got into a top college and made them look good. And that includes both of my parents.
I got into a top college and made everyone look good. But my depression and anxiety continued, because I didn't properly learn social skills and so I couldn't figure out how to make friends at college. I couldn't seem to find anyone who I had much in common with. Honestly the college was really not a good fit for me environment-wise. A smaller and less "elite" college in a less remote location would have been better. But again, nobody cared, all they cared about was "living up to my potential."
I ended up suicidal and the police came to my door, assaulted me when I was nonviolently resisting them and then later charged me for assaulting them for defending myself, and dragged me off in handcuffs to the mental hospital, where my civil rights were stripped from me with zero due process, I was degraded by the staff there in all kinds of ways, my mom screamed at me for "causing drama to get attention" and "jeopardizing my education," and I almost got kicked out of college for being too much of a liability. So basically whatever scrap of self-esteem had managed to survive my abusive childhood was completely obliterated. I couldn't even talk to my friends about it because they had no experience with this sort of thing. And worse, I couldn't even go to therapy because now I had zero trust in therapists. I have tried several times since and have never successfully gone for more than a few weeks. I wanted to transfer colleges but my mom said if I did, she would kick me out on the street with no money, so I was stuck until I graduated.
This was when I really started turning to the internet. I had always used the internet like many people my age, to IM my friends, use social media, read articles and blogs, etc. But now it became my lifeline because I was literally afraid to leave my room, I was afraid to go on campus and interact with other people from my school, because of what had happened to me. There was very little in the area besides the campus (it was hundreds of miles from any major city), so there wasn't anywhere else to go, either. I went on campus for class but that was it and afterwards I would come back to my room and only go outside if I had to. When I was back home for breaks my life was actually the opposite, I was meeting tons of new people and staying out all night (unbeknownst to my mom, of course), and going to new places and trying new things, and out either working or hanging out with friends pretty much all the time. But at college I felt terrified of everyone there and very rarely interacted with people, because I was afraid of being locked up again. The internet was all I had.
I used the internet to talk to my friends from high school (and later, my boyfriends) who were now hundreds of miles away, at times the only people I talked to for weeks on end. I used it to read blogs and watch Youtube channels of people whose lives I admired, and I would think of how I might have a similar life one day when I was free from my mom. I used it to read articles and learn things about the world that I was not learning in class and that nobody had ever taught me. I used it to discover music and art that nobody who I knew, knew about. I did a lot of online window-shopping (and sometimes actual shopping) for clothes because I thought if I dressed better, people would like me more. I used it to watch ASMR and organization videos to help with my anxiety. Basically, college was my prison, and the internet was my window out of the prison into the free world. So in that sense at the time it was a very positive thing. If it wasn't for the internet, I most likely would have killed myself, or dropped out of college and ended up being homeless, or ended up becoming an alcoholic like my brother did. I think that's true of many addictions, and something people don't realize about them -- sometimes they start out as a means of surviving a bad situation.
But, the internet also affected my grades. There are several classes that I could have done a lot better in had I actually studied adequately instead of wasting time on the internet. I would procrastinate on the internet all semester and cram the entire courseload in 2-3 days before an exam, and sometimes it worked out and sometimes it didn't. I could memorize an entire course's worth of facts in that amount of time, but I was majoring in a STEM field so some of the classes required a level of understanding that could not be achieved in 2-3 days of cramming. Every semester I would swear not to let that happen again and would start out trying to study every day, and yet, it would still happen. I still graduated on time and with a good GPA but not as good as it could have been if I had more positive influences in my life.
So, I graduated. I moved in with my boyfriend (who is now my husband). I got a job with no opportunities for advancement making as much as a retail worker. Turns out everyone lied and my field of study didn't lead to lucrative career options unless I wanted to go to school for another decade. So basically all the struggle I went through to survive college and get good grades was for ****ing nothing. The last scrap of my self-esteem was gone and with it went my motivation. I hated myself and I didn't want to do much of anything besides waste time on the internet.
This job also had a lot of downtime and my boss was often not there, so guess what I did during that downtime...that's right, waste time on the internet. I spent a lot of time reading about true crime, and wasting time on Reddit and other forums. I always completed my work but sometimes I had to stay late due to wasting time in an internet argument or something stupid like that instead of doing the work I was supposed to be doing. I even let internet BS affect my real-life emotions. At this time I also noticed a decline in my cognitive abilities. Previously as I said, I could memorize an entire semester-long course in a couple of days. But now I had very little ability to concentrate and I would have to learn the same thing 4-5 times or more before it stuck. I believe this is due to the internet fragmenting my attention span.
But even in that time I did learn positive things from the internet. For example I learned about abusive family dynamics and personality disorders. I learned that my mom was never going to change and after years of trying to not **** her off, I cut off contact with her. I have not been suicidal ever since. I also learned a lot about my own problems and I have become a much better person morally due to what I have learned.
I couldn't be making $15 an hour in NYC forever, so I quit my job in order to study for a career as an app developer. That was over 2 1/2 years ago. For the past 2 1/2 years I have been at home, completing about 20-25% of the work I should be completing in a day, and wasting seemingly endless time on the internet on all manner of BS. Lots of Reddit, lots of Facebook, lots of online forums, lots of Youtube, lots of podcasts, lots of news and longform articles, basically everything normal people do on the internet except I can't stop doing it. Sometimes I put off eating for hours to use the internet, and I can't sleep until 3-4 AM because it has destroyed my sleep schedule. I didn't even realize I had an internet addiction until a few months ago. I thought I was just lazy, and people like my brother and husband even said I was lazy. Ironically though one of the things I was obsessed with reading about was addiction and eventually I recognized that was my problem. Ever since then I have been trying to find resources for recovery. I have even tried therapy, although as I said I can't trust therapists and can't stay in therapy for more than a few weeks.
But I have had some success on my own. I realized app development wasn't for me and so I switched to IT and I got my first IT certification recently (I passed on the first try too!) and I'm going to take the second exam soon. I have also been working really hard to limit my internet use. I am using the SelfControl app to block over 20 websites from my computer, and whenever I find a website I'm wasting time on, I add it. I got my husband to disable the internet entirely on my phone with a password only he knows. I also deactivated Facebook (I reactivated it yesterday but realized Facebook is pointless garbage and deactivated it again) and my Reddit account and I have been trying to avoid forums (except for this one). I have been making an effort to spend more real-life time with people, eat healthier, and so on.
But it's a hard and lonely road and nobody really understands. When I tell people I'm addicted to the internet they say "me too!" and I think...but you have a job, you can carry out the functions of life, it's not really the same. I really wish I could find a support group of people with the same problem. And I know they are out there in droves. In just the past day I have come across (not even actively looking for it) two articles describing people with raging internet addictions. But for some reason we don't want to talk about it. Maybe we're afraid to.