Tooned Out

Suburban mommy talks about kicking her online gaming habit.

Location: Redmond, Washington, United States

Just another face in line at the grocery store...

Friday, August 26, 2005

How Are Things Back at the Ranch

you may ask. Well, here's the scoop.

My son has been out of the house for a month tomorrow. It's been heck, really, but fingers crossed, it'll all be worth it. He is alive and well and couch surfing at his friends' houses. He says he is working and that he still has most of the "stake" money we put into his account. I saw him today and what struck me was that, even though he is technically homeless, he looked much healthier than he did when he was living here, sneaking time on WoW and staying up all night. (He, unknown to me until after he moved out, secretly rewired his internet connection so he could play after the rest of the family went to bed.) His complexion is clear, his eyes are clear, he has gained weight, and the color has returned to his face. Amazing. Now, if only he stays away from WoW once he finally finds an apartment and settles down.

As for my own game addicted self, I have been clean for over 2 months now. Luckily, I have not gained weight, but my problem is in the other direction. I have been working out more or less regularly but the pounds are not budging, probably because I am still spending way too much time keeping the chair warm in front of the computer. Curses to the internet. Frankly, I am sick to death of the computer. (Ha, ha, as I sit here typing - yeah, yeah, I know.)

I am slowly coming back to life, but it's not happening all at once, just in dribs and drabs. I feel more connected to the world much of the time. I still tend to 'space' and get preoccupied more often than I used to, but that could be a function of age. I'm fightin' it hard though. I find that the habit of becoming engrossed in my game for hours on end has transferred itself to other things, like searching for businesses for sale on the internet (we're looking to buy a small business), or investigating my dream car (a Mini Cooper convertible), or even just not being able to put down a really great book. I need to relearn how to make a clean break when switching from one mental activity to the next.

It's a little like waking up from a really long bad dream, or maybe a catatonic state. I guess it's a bit like the smoking thing. I smoked for 20 years and didn't expect to get over it immediately. It's probably not realistic to expect to get over gaming addiction quickly either. Then again, there's still the nagging question of what made me vulnerable to gaming addiction in the first place. It's a pretty safe bet that those issues haven't just disapeared all by themselves.

Do I miss my game? Yes and no. I miss the pure escapism of it. It's a lot like drugs I think. The world disappears from around you, just melts right away, and there's only the game. The game is fun, and challenging in a manageable sort of way, and the game universe is predictable, and knowable. I really believe that playing these games causes a release of endorphins to the brain that is similar to drugs. It's the same idea as runner's high. I used to run a lot and vividly remember my first runner's high, it was wonderful. I felt like I could run forever; everything disappeared except the pure, physical joy of movement. Gaming addiction is like that, without the effort of putting in the miles to get there, and can be sustained for hours with virtually no effort.

What I don't miss is the cruel tyranny of the game, the incessant demands on my time and mental energy. I don't miss the daily guilt of stealing time away from my kids and my husband. I don't miss the frantic, and completely useless, attempts to somehow shove a 10 or 12 hour day into the 3 or 4 hours that were left after the game had had it's fill. I don't miss trying to find excuses to get out of fulfilling my volunteer time at the kids' school, or being late for nearly every appointment. Most importantly, I don't miss my unreal world. The real world is not pretty, or simple, or even clear, but it's where I choose to be because it's where I'm needed and it's where I can be what I need to be: real.