I've been playing video games for about 30 years now, and for the first time last week I came to admit that I had an addiction. I used to love nothing more than the immersion of waking up and first thing turning the computer on, playing until I got tired, then going back to sleep, rinse and repeat. When I was a teeenager that was all I wanted to do with my life. When I got discharged from the military I was awarded 100% service connected disability for schizophrenia (which later got diagnosed as schizo-affective disorder) and also started collecting Social Security Disability so I never really needed to work again. I thought this was the best thing that could ever happen to anyone. I felt so lucky I could just be left alone and make the online gaming world my reality.
But it turned out that sleep deprivation exacerbates the symptoms of my mental illness. I was really unstable and never really found a good place for myself in the game. I started looking outside the game for answers but reality was even worse and I was ending up in hospitals for psychosis several times.
Somehow through all this I met my future wife on an internet dating site. We dated for a couple of years, she was really hesitant about it because of my mental stuff but somehow things kept progressing. She had partial custody of her kids so when they were with their dad I would stay with her, and when they were with her I would go back to my apartment and get my online video game fix.
It felt good, it felt like I had balance or something, that I could provide emotional and financial support to her and feel good about myself like someone cared about me and still immerse myself in video games. We moved in with each other, she got full custody of her kids, we got married, and had a child together. We fought sometimes about the gaming, she really came to hate it so much, but I would always try to do just enough with her to get her off my case.
Anyway, my child became old enough to go to school for most of the day, so it would give me plenty of time to play. It got really bad at times, and just a couple of months ago I stayed up all night to "take care of" my wife after some surgery, but really I mostly wanted to play video games all night like I used to. It triggered something in me and I started to go on a manic gaming binge where I wouldn't share in any of the responsibilities or get off of the computer for anything unless I really wanted to. I stopped eating almost completely, I just drank a lot of caffeine, and mostly stopped bathing, and generally taking care of myself in a most extreme way. I did this for about a month and my wife wanted a divorce as soon as we could, and in the meantime was ready to send me to a separate room in the house so she didn't have to see how unhealthy I was. I was cool with this. I was following in my father's footsteps (heroine addict and alcoholic) and I hardened my heart against what I was doing to my family.
Then, about 10 days ago, I was sitting in my car parked in the driveway and I suddenly realized it didn't have to be like this. Even though video game addiction was practically my entire life story up until now, I had the power to ability to change how the story turned out. I could be the hero of my own real life story, not a victim. I was so beaten down by my diagnosis, my childhood, my feeling sorry for myself that I didn't think I was strong enough to get up off the pit I had crawled into. But I was, i don't know where I got the strength from--from my family, from my support network, from the military, maybe from God or some guardian angel-- and I went into the house and said to my wife "I need help. I have a gaming addiction." She hugged me for a long time. For the first time since this last episode had started she seemed genuinely concerned about me, and that felt good.
So far it's been difficult to find help specifically for video game addiction. I guess medical insurance doesn't cover it so if you want care you have to pay a stupid amount of money and travel to the other side of the country to get it. My therapist and my mother-in-law both researched this site and told me to check it out. I've seen a video, read a bunch of stuff, and been to a couple of meetings already and it gives me hope. Though I'd like to do more face-to-face stuff maybe (it's been recommended to find an AA or NA group in my area).
But since my recovery has started I've felt a clawed hand holding onto the empty part of my soul each day, keeping me from doing things to take my mind off of gaming and get away from the computer and being productive. I just sit and stare at my computer a lot, mindlessly clicking things on the screen and I feel like I'm trying to find a way to be in that dream world again without the guilt and shame of actually playing video games again.
Yesterday I went to a couple of meetings here and they helped a lot. I got some sleep and this morning I did something I've been dreading for years by visiting my daughter's classroom (to be her show-and-tell for "D" week). I felt really good about that. I did some math work on the internet that I had been putting off for a while, made a few productive phone calls and just generally am feeling a bit better than I had been.
I'm also writing this post which feels good. I'm a little uncertain where to go from here, but I'll just keep reading the forums and showing up for as many meetings as I can.