I received an email from a co-worker. It included a challenge to beat her in a video game, called Bejeweled. I’d never heard of it. For that matter, I’d never played any type of video game before. I clicked to ‘accept’ the challenge and I lost the game. Then, I tried again. And again. It was the beginning of an addiction.
Just before I received the invitation to play, my long-term-relationship came to a screeching halt. I knew it would hurt, but I didn’t expect this pain to dominate my thoughts from morning until night. I used to be pressed for time. Suddenly, I had free evenings and the hand on my clock stopped moving.
I noticed pleasant things happening when I accepted challenge after challenge:
– I stopped dwelling about him.
– Time went by quickly.
– I felt a rush of success when I won.
– I had a goal, which was to become better and better.
– I met people on-line who played with me every day.
– I went to bed exhausted, too tired to think.
At first, my adult children were amused to see me at the computer. “Look at mom” they said, “she is catching up with the times.” I believe they were glad that I didn’t sit around depressed.
It wasn’t long before I found myself yearning to get home and see who is on-line. I stopped answering the phone. I had no problem telling people that I was playing “my game” when they asked where I’ve been. They laughed.
I began getting up an hour early to “practice.” Eventually, I arrived later at work, and I left sooner. I was on a mission.
When family and friends came by, I became anxious, ready for them to leave, so I could play. I stopped accepting invitations to social events, knowing all I would do is think about my game anyway. Once, I had to stop for a long train at a railroad crossing. I became very upset, knowing I was wasting precious time. I found nothing wrong with that. I justified my obsession with going through a difficult phase, and this helped to keep my mind off things. I looked at it as therapy.
My son became concerned when I declined watching the kids one weekend. That had never happened before.
“Mom” he said, “I think you are addicted to that stupid game. There are other things going on around you, you know. I’m really worried; it seems that’s all you do anymore.”
I became defensive.
“Everyone is addicted to something. Chocolate, exercise, tattoos, tanning, coffee, cigarettes – you name it! Right now, this is what I like to do. Whom does it hurt? You play games, don’t you?”
“But, Mom, you’re obsessed. It’s not normal. When was the last time you went grocery shopping? There is nothing in the refrigerator. There are weeds all over your flowerbed. You don’t call to check on the kids, or ask to spend time with them. The garbage can is still out by the road from two weeks ago. You don’t see anything wrong with that?!” What are you getting out of that game?”
“It stops me from thinking.”
There, I said it. I was exhausted. I cried. For weeks, I hadn’t slept but four hours a night.
I knew he was right. It was strange. I used to be the one telling him to get off the computer and take in some sunshine. The table had turned. I thought about the season of spring that had come and gone. I missed it all the way around.
I made an appointment with my family doctor and shared what was happening in my life. He assured me I was not losing my mind. I was simply grieving about the lost relationship and I found an escape. However, I chose the wrong therapy.
My road to recovery included anti-anxiety medication and talk-therapy. I found peace by accepting that nothing is certain in this world. Situations are constantly changing. Some of the time, they change for the better. There is hope.