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 My Story by E.T. 
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Joined: Sun May 25, 2014 6:39 am
Posts: 46
Location: UK
State/Province/Country: England
My Story by E.T.

So my story starts one sunny day in "Thunder Bluff"... my story re-started one sunny day in Woodingdean, on the south coast on England.

The shortened version of my journey is that I became addicted to a MMORPG... slowly and surely. In recovery we speak of the addiction as being "cunning, baffling and powerful" and the loss I experienced through my game-addiction, in the end, was tremendous. The gifts I have received in my recovery are incalculable. :)
I am one of those that says "thank you" for my game-addiction... but this was not till much later, after I stopped and then sought support amongst other game-addicts.

So, I started playing my game-of-choice/addiction with a friend from work. He lent me his second account. He had bought it off someone else online, which I didn't know at the time. I got into playing World of Warcraft. I really loved it. It was SO much fun -at the time. I started off with my favourite class, a druid. I also, in time, got to like loner stuff as well, like fishing in-game. Sometimes, after work, I would "fish" even for an hour or two, while I watched TV or chatted with a friend. I just would click at the right time and "voila": fish. Then, as I progressed, I got into playing PvP. I made a twink and in those days I was f***ing amazing :) lol. I had a lot of fun! Two damage-over-time spells and >>zap<< I would run away and watch'em die. At that time, I was living with two brothers; both of which started playing with me. They would like more PvE stuff but it was ok. We had fun. I had a desktop set up and they had laptops. They would come into my room and we'd have hours and hours of fun. It all seemed fine. I was only playing one, maybe two hours a day. I only had the one character and it was fun enough.

Then one day >>baam<< the account I was borrowing off my friend got hacked. I talked to my mate he told me about his having bought it and that there was no way of getting it back now. I was SO angry! He had just cost me my character; I felt a genuine feeling of loss. ...and I was furious about ALL the many hours I had put into the game. Little did I know, at this time, that this was the very tip of an ever-growing tremendous ice-berg.

So, I bought my own account, and re-started playing. I even chose a German server; my reasoning being that if played on a German server it would be good for me because I would get to practice one of the languages I studied for my degree. I really thought I would be doing something good for myself and that it would be enjoyable. It still was, but it began very quickly to get out of hand. ...this is when my game-addiction began to take hold, slowly. So, I decided I needed another character, and another, and another. I still enjoyed my twink PvP character the most, so I needed very high level characters to twink-out my lower ones. I became "creative" lol and would ask one of my flat-mates to log into a group with me and do dungeons "together" with my high-level character and would do runs over and over in hope of getting rare drops for my twink.
So... then I started slowly but surely arranging my life more and more to suit my gaming. I began booking holidays for when the patches and new content came out. I would stay home and pretend to be ill and game. I began playing in the mornings. I began playing first thing when I was home from work. It began to be compulsive and obsessive. Things like saying "Hi" to my flat-mates and my cat (bless him) would feel like a nuisance because it was deterring me from me pressing the on-button on my PC. I began kitting my PC so that it would run smoother, faster. I would be writhing inside the days we had problems with our internet provider. Those days, jeepers, I was not a "happy bunny". I always had a temper, since I was a boy, and my nick-name my family gave me was "fire dragon", and believe you me, the days the internet was messing around, cutting out or totally off, were bad days for me and all those around me. Even if I did not overtly say so, my attitude was stinking and my mood was foul.

I began making some friends on-line, but found it difficult because the spoke German. I was in groups and guilds. I can't say I felt connected to them, very rarely. I just used them and them me. I was a joint venture. However, I did make a friend and through my years of playing and now my years game-free I remain friends with ONE friend. He respects the fact that I do not want to game anymore and is ok with that.

At work it was difficult to concentrate. The job was rather repetitive and drab in many ways, so I used every spare instant I got to go through search-engines, wikis, and message boards and would work out what I was going to do that night in the game, or in the days ahead or if it took longer, over the weekend, or a month even. I began making Excel spreadsheets to keep track of the items and recipes I had collected and the ones I was missing. OH that character defect... PERFECTIONISM! That was one of my pit-falls with my game-addiction and it fuelled my wont to game game game more and more. I spend enormous amount of hours collecting recipes and ingredients to make bespoke items. I didn't often even use them for anything; I just found it "fun". This drive towards completism got out to hand. There was one in-game profession which required daily tasks and I could not be bothered waiting for six months to get all my recipes; so, I started three characters, levelled them up and would split my recipes into tanking, damage and healing (loosely) and had of course my trusty Excel sheet to tick off all the ones I had.

At some point between this, and my later playing, I met my partner. We began dating and I enjoyed the on-set of our love and the beginning of my relationship with him. Then, after a while, the whole thing started getting to time-consuming. ...the relationship; not the game! So I would work my relationship around my gaming. It was "ok" in the sense that my partner enjoyed playing XBOX or reading or watching TV so he would quite happily entertain himself while I was getting my game fix; or my game gorging, as it was by then.

I knew at this point, that my gaming had gotten over-the-top, but I genuinely thought I felt happy. I had my game, and love. I began thinking odd thoughts at this point... like: why don't I quit my job and just play? how can I achieve this? maybe I can become disabled and do it? or work part-time? I began withdrawing from family and friends more and more, so I would not have to invest time in them. Otherwise, I would get invited to birthdays, outings, the cinema, etc. I was not about to sacrifice my game time for that. I much more enjoyed my game time than spending time with any of them. It was the truth. I did enjoy time with them, but when I put it on the balance and asked myself "what would I rather be doing?" ... the answer was instant: game! At the depths of this growing self-centredness and selfishness I even resented friends being sick, because it would draw me away from the game. But, still, I could not see how destructive my game-addiction had become. I still had more "yets" to come.

So, I got my character to "high places" but my completist/perfectionist side and a whole bunch of other character defects came along to have a party at this time.

Also, round about this time, I moved in with my partner. I set up my gaming station in our bedroom, which soon became my game-den and mine and his sleeping quarters. I began hating the sun-light because it caused glare and it was uncomfortable. I got black-out blinds put them up and "voila", darkness. Other habits I developed at this time were avoidance tactics. If my partner had a problem, I would not think "What's going on; how can I help sort this out; why is he in pain?"; no, I thought "How can I get him to be happy enough to in the quickest amount of time with the least amount of effort so that I can get back to my game?". Same with things like going out for a date-night-out (ughhhh, what a bore – I would think), or even going for milk or bread, or cat food. My addiction was totally out of control by this time - but I couldn't quite see it, yet. I was still in the thick of it. I just thought "Why can't all these people just f*** off and let me play?!".

So... I had the great idea of ... buying a second account; another PC and to have a multi-box set up. By this time my health had deteriorated badly. I do have a physical condition which at the time was bad, but it got worse and worse. I would get ill. Then, instead of going back to work the next day, I would take a whole week off and play for the other four days. I felt I was owed the time back! I thought, well they don't pay me my sick-days, so what the hell. I would budget in the loss of wages. Put on my alarm to call in sick the next day and, as soon as that call was made, I was gaming away. Needless to say, that this over a period of around 18 months had a very bad effect on my work, my finances and my life in general. I changed jobs, which was a "choice" but it was my being sacked that pointed me in that direction. So, I decided it would be a good idea to start working for a... wait for it... MMORPG gaming company. I was in the accounts and billing team and helped out as game-master with my various languages. It was a nice job, but I wasn't focused on the job. Sure, in the first six months while I was on probation, but not after that. Then I started missing work, again. This affected me physically. I became very anxious and stressed, which would make me ill; and so on... the snowball started rolling faster and faster. I also developed agoraphobia, which till this day can be a problem for me. At its peak I could not leave my room, at best I would go to the rest of the house, or the shop for milk. It was awful. I just wanted to live in my cave and play my game - that was all. Or, so I kept thinking and telling myself.

STILL... I did not see it.

So, by now I had TWO gaming PCs and felt the bee's knees! ... I learnt about macros, about add-ons, modified addons. ...at some point in this I decided to check how many hours play I had on record - it came to over 3500 hours... and that was not even half way through my story. I never checked again! The number of hours was a clear-as-day punch in the face. I realised the excessiveness of my gaming then, but couldn't face it; I couldn't stop!! I did not want to, either. ...by this time, the days where I couldn't play due to work, my partner or other commitments, I was in a foul mood and I got emotional withdrawals. Then, well, I started to interfere with my ex's sleeping. I would get up at 06:00 and play for a couple hours before going work. I would go to work (mostly) and come back and play. I'd play almost the entire weekend. I would choose to cook or wash up depending on what would take the least amount of time. ...This went on for some time. I started getting physical symptoms too, aches and pains in my arms, back, neck and face, shooting pains and terrible headaches. The days I decided to stay home because I was genuinely ill or because I could not be bothered, I would generally play. Then, about half-hour before my partner was due back I would go back to bed. I would spend some time with him, and play the victim. Then, I would be playing in the evening after our meal before bed. ...this went on for a while! Still, it wasn't enough. I played so often, I lost the side of my leg near my knee cap because I used to cross my legs and stretch my legs out when playing and it slowly pulled out my hair. I got lots more headaches, but it didn't stop me. I had put on FOUR stone! (about 28 kg) ... I changed my diet, took pain-killers, had little breaks, went for fresh air, etc, etc, etc. Lost a job: same story; got another. And, all of this, to keep playing. I started having some big problems in my relationship, which were in part nothing to do with gaming, but the game-playing "softened it" for me mostly. The only thing was that by this time I did not have the mental nor emotional togetherness to work on the relationship. All I had was a bunch of quick-fix plasters (band-aids) to try and stop a gushing wound.

In the end my partner decided to break up with me. He had had it. He was a game-widower. I begged, pleaded but I had already used up all my cunning and he was smart puppy. So there was no fixing it.

I had to leave my home. I did this in a month's time. When this happened I took the bedroom (my den) and he took the living-room. It was an awful time, but I was happy that I got the bedroom, because I could have my PCs. I could play if I wanted to. Something, during that month, broke in me. I don't know what it was, but it was so painful that I could not ignore it. The gaming stopped working. I tried playing, yes, but I would still feel the emotional pain. I could not escape anymore. I used my scant savings from the month and moved out.

I moved to a new place as a lodger. The landlord was a bit nutty but seemed ok enough... or so I thought. I played a lot less then. I thought "No, this can't be. I will get that feeling of escape again; I just need to relax and get back into the game; I need to re-prioritise my life, get things into balance again."... I still played daily, mostly, but for an hour or so. Mostly I would do daily tasks and that was it. It felt like a chore. It was no fun. Then, that intense feeling of playing my game of choice/addiction again and again, began fading. I felt alone. I was alone. I still hadn't faced it though. About two months after moving, I lost my job; they gave me one week's notice. My landlord, who had a serious mental illness (as I found out) decided to stop taking his medication and went a-wall. I lost my home a second time, all in one weekend. I had to call the police as he was holding me hostage. The police arrived and helped me; I took myself, my cat and a bag of clothes, and went. This was not related to my gaming. BUT it helped. It really brought me to my knees, to a point of desperation where I knew I needed help - anyone's. I did not know about CGAA then. I sought it in another 12-step programme at the time of which I have been a member for a number of years; and I found the help. No partner, no money, no home. I had food and a roof thanks to the charity of my others who try to practise principles in all their affairs - and I am forever grateful to them!

I couldn't game. Logistically, it was too difficult; my PCs were in storage. I felt broken and had one big old tuna to fry!
In the other fellowship, for years, I had been “stuck”, putting off doing my Steps 6 and 7. BUT this was a wonderful cross-road for me because, I tell you, by now, I was ready, entirely ready.

I had about two months game-free. I did play again after that: a free-to-play account. I did this once I was in a safe place; my mother's spare bedroom. I stopped quite quickly after though. I noticed my game-addict head was waking up again, saying things like "A free-to-play account is a great idea; you can play for free, get lots of new characters, level them up, then you can refer yourself to re-activate your other accounts and get some bonus in-game items, and then you can have THREE accounts - just imagine...!" I quickly shut that thought down.

I got a glimpse at my non-living. I non-lived for five years and I did not want that anymore, not again. I decided to close my accounts down and delete the game files from my computers. It took a LOT of courage for me to do that. There was a part of me that day which was screaming "Noooooooo!". After that, I had on and off feelings of sadness or anger that felt at the time utterly over-whelming. They came randomly in the following hours, days and weeks. BUT it got easier! I applied the steps to my thinking, my feeling and my actions: especially STEP ONE. I heard it said many times it's the only step we can do 100% and only One Day At A Time! So, I gave it a go.

"We admitted that we were powerless over gaming addiction, and that our lives had become unmanageable."

At some point in that period of despair and rage, I said to my Higher Power, which incidentally is non-religious: “please help me with this”. I was on my knees, at last. I then asked "please keep me game-free for today". That was all. It was as simple and as difficult as that. Now, saying this is a regular part of my life, and it feels good. I am grateful for a loving HP that has taken care of me. I have learnt to love myself enough not to damage myself anymore - and, when I feel a slip coming, I can see it a mile off normally. I still get WoW dreams and fanciful moments when driving or watching TV, or any time really. Sometimes I wonder what my characters looked like even. BUT I know that, when the trigger-thoughts begin, and my head wants to paint it all cosy and rosy, it is then that I need to stop and use the 12-step programme, the slogans, the serenity prayer, speak to my sponsor or a fellow game-addict. I also have to use the slogan THINK, or “remember, remember, remember”... the pain, the loss of time, the loss of friendship, of my relationship, my jobs, my health, and for the time I was gaming, my life. The insanity, indeed! - lest I forget. There is fanciful part of me that probably will always hold dearly the memories of my gaming, and that is ok; but the part that recognises life, health, living, love, true-adventure, socialising, friendship, progress and a want to live a happy life, at peace in my own skin... is the part I prefer today!! :)

I stopped playing on my own, not knowing that there were others who have been, and are going through a similar hell. But, one day I checked out online whether there was a 12-step programme for game-addicts, and I found it. I am so grateful for CGAA because I have met some amazing fellow game-addicts and friends too. I know I cannot do this alone, not in the long run for sure, and I am grateful for the existence of CGAA, and especially for the newcomers. There is hope.

So... today, I am around two and a half years game-free! ...and it feels very very good. I am generally grateful for my life now. I like living it. I enjoy practising the 12-step programme to the best of my ability - but I now know I'm not perfect and that that's OK. I can be happy to be me, just for today.

I am happy that I am a game-addict, now, because I came across this wonderful fellowship. Whenever I feel my game-addiction waking up to say "hello", I know where to come. I keep coming back. I know that there is a way "out", or in, depending on how I see it. I know that my life is incomparably better now to what it was like before. I can even say "thank you" to my Higher Power for the difficult times, the trials and the loss I went through, because, through it, I received many many gifts. Some are that I no longer have a dreadful fear of financial insecurity, of being alone, of becoming homeless, of not having food... and, one of the most amazing gifts I received was that I lost the "hole in the soul" - I do not have that old overwhelming feeling of wanting to just escape from everything and everyone. These are but a few of my gifts. Now, some of my best days are what I would call beforehand my worst days... thanks to my fellows and friends in recovery. I can share with them; I can listen to their experience, strength and hope. I can go to a meeting. I can speak with my sponsor. I can read 12-Step literature. This all refills my spiritual batteries, and I know deep down everything is going to be ok. It’s simple, all I need to do is: stay game-free just for TODAY. :)

Thank you CGAA.

E.T.


Thu Oct 02, 2014 4:19 pm
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Joined: Sat May 24, 2014 11:37 pm
Posts: 155
Location: Rockland NY
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Dear E.T.

That was a explicit description of my gaming addiction/obsession. I feel that it is important for me to remember what my mental state was like when I was gaming. For me it was not a game at all in the end, while it was so much fun at first. While my life and circumstances where very different that yours, my gaming insanity was identical.

Thank you for sharing our story with us and with the rest of the gaming addicts who still suffer.

Hershel

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leveling in steps, serenity, sponcys, sponsors, exercise, and sleep, (sanity has been downsized)


Thu Oct 02, 2014 10:55 pm
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Joined: Sat May 17, 2014 3:06 pm
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Location: Charlottesville
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Thanks so much for sharing your story, ET! I'm inspired by your dedication to recovery. I can relate to much of your journey, on both sides.


Thu Oct 02, 2014 11:59 pm
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Joined: Sat May 17, 2014 4:28 pm
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That was EXACTLY like my gaming experience! the Excel spreadsheets, the obsession, the thoughts, everything!

I noticed that you had kept one of your gaming friends. I did too. We both quit W.O.W. together three years ago, but he just went back two weeks ago because there was a "free" month special for people who had played before. I was sorry to see him go back, but he tells me nothing has changed, it's still the same mind-sink, time-waster it always was, except it's even more complicated and specialized and even more frustrating. He told me he will be quitting when the month is up.

Was I intrigued? No, not really. Well maybe a little bit. I wouldn't go back but I was curious. Everything he has told me though, reaffirms my decision not to go back there.

I, too, was an Excel spreadsheet person about everything. I borrowed other people's spreadsheets on tweaking dps, and I read those like some people read the news.

I'm trying to catch up on all the house cleaning I've missed out on, and I'm tackling the yard which has overgrown considerably. It's been three years since I gamed, but It's taken me this long to get things straighten around and it is ALL still in process. I really let a lot of stuff go. I didn't hire someone to help me when I was working; I spent all my money on the game (new computers, programmable keyboards and mice, etc.).

Big hugs to you!

_________________
Let your past make you better, not bitter.
Don't Lose Heart. If your efforts are greeted with indifference, don't lose heart. The sun puts on a wonderful show at daybreak when most people are sleeping. Keep shining!


Fri Oct 03, 2014 12:35 pm
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Joined: Sun May 25, 2014 6:39 am
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Location: UK
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Hi Hershel, thank you for identifying and yeah the mind boggles ey! ;) ...such denial omg. But, I'm happy to have written it and to have shared with you guys - it reminded me too and am feeling grateful that that powerful obsession and compulsion are not present in my day-to-day life today. So grateful. :) ...and one of the other pluses is I get to share my recovery with you and other game addicts.

Scott, thank you :) ...may it be a LONG journey for both, one-day-at-a-time ! buddy-punch :D

Oh Patria :) your relating to my Excel spreadsheets makes me chuckle... it's so good to be on this side of the fence. In recovery the grass IS always greener :) ... while I was writing my story I went back to my e-mail adrress(es) to check my time-line more or less and found e-mails to myself with attachments of Excel sheets. So crazy; yet wonderful reminders now! I'm so happy to be sharing my recovery with a fellow game-addict like you. "Really, really" like Shrek says. :)

To anyone who reads my story... thank you for doing so and I wish you and me a game-free day! :)
... and, if you've not managed to stop yet or are returning and you have the desire to stop, then my heart goes out to you - it's a painful and confusing place - keep coming back and talk to other game addicts in recovery, ask for help. Try keeping it simple and in the day. One day at a time is the way to make it! :) There is hope, lots of it!

ET


Sat Oct 04, 2014 8:43 am
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Joined: Tue Feb 03, 2015 12:28 am
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Location: San Diego
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Thank you for your story, E.T. I relate to the spreadsheets as well, to the perfectionistic need to analyze everything, both to find the absolute best set up possible and to track progress towards various achievements. I added screenshots of my character development... so I could plan better for the next goal (nothing to do with bragging about what I'd done, of course). I refrained from gaming at work (I didn't have many hours of work, so this wasn't too hard.) But whenever there was time that I was waiting for other people (and obviously had nothing better to do), I would be looking up the latest stats on new items and planning how to strengthen my characters. I also relate to creating an increasing number of characters. For me, as the game itself became less engaging, I had to do more and more to get the same effects from playing.

Today is one of those days where I woke up telling myself "it really wasn't that bad when I was playing." After all, I didn't hit some of the "yets" that other people have. But reading your story reminds me just how easy it would be to wind up there if I went back to playing.


Mon Sep 07, 2015 11:23 am
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