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I am a Cyber Junkie

Over the years, hundreds of cyber-addicted folks have trusted me with their stories.  I am sure that one of the big factors in such trust being placed in me comes from my willingness to share my sordid tales of cyber madness.  I am not just someone who helps cyber junkies; I am one myself.

I have always enjoyed video games, even back in the days when they required an endless supply of quarters to feed the Pac Man machine at the Laundromat that was walking distance from my house.  My mother was one of the stingiest in the neighborhood when it came to doling out quarters, a fact that definitely helped delay the onset of my cyber addictions.

In the summer of 1993, however, I was living in Ann Arbor, taking only one class at the University of Michigan.  I had lots of free time and discovered a game called Civilization, a real-time strategy game.  When I was twelve years old, I bitterly lamented the rising reality that I was getting too old to play with my army men, of which I had a vast and diverse selection, from cowboys and Indians, World War II commandos, to Roman soldiers in chariots.

Civilization was like playing army men and magically entering the battlefield as one of the wax soldiers I used to set up on our family room floor.  The “Civ” addicts at UofM had installed the game on every computer in the central campus computer lab.  Unlike my childhood, I neither needed a quarter, nor had to set anything up. All I had to do was pop in my floppy disk and, thirteen hours later, limp out of the lab with nerve pain in my wrist and an aching back.

I binged on that game with the fervor of an addict who had found a new and improved drug.  It became the most important activity in my life, eclipsing friends, family, and school—I came close to not turning in the final paper for the Political Science class I was taking!

After five months or so, I had beaten the game with each and every civilization on the hardest level, and so became somewhat bored with it.  But a few years later, I received another game for Christmas, one that would really swallow up my life:  Age of Empires.  My longest binge on that came amounted to just shy of fifty hours, an “accomplishment” that sent me into the chiropractor for a year!  My addiction to this game grew in severity once I realized I could play online.  This feature meant that my play was no longer limited by “beating the computer,” but rather, I acquired an endless supply of worthy opponents all around the world.

I wasted and lost years of my life due to my cyber pursuits, not just games, but also social networking and online chatting.  I tell my story to hopefully connect with those who have similar struggles.  I believe that, by and large, cyber junkies are an adventurous, highly intelligent, and creative group.  But our talents often stagnate as we sit in front of the computer screen.

16 Responses to “I am a Cyber Junkie”

  1. Janson says:

    Hey Kevin,

    It’s comforting to know that you were once a cyber addict and overcame your addiction to inspire and inform others with your story.

    Do you still play any video games? How many hours a day do you think is an acceptable amount for a video-game addict or recovering addict?

  2. David A says:

    I’m now 28, and I’ve been playing online RPGs since I was 14. I have wasted literally years of my life in virtual worlds, chasing virtual goals while my life stagnates. I have deleted games only to spend 13 hours re-downloading them. I have thrown game CDs into a dumpster only to come back later and dumpster dive to get them back. I have tried and tried to quit yet feel powerless. If that’s not addiction I don’t know what is.

    I haven’t talked to Kevin in a while so I didn’t know he had the support group up and running, but I know that such a group could be hugely beneficial. There is great shame and embarrassment for me in social situations when in the back of my mind I know that all I do is game, all day every day. How could a “normal” person even understand?

    As with any addiction, stopping means that a tidal wave of unfelt emotions and unrealized dreams comes rushing on. It can be so overwhelming that it drowns out any desire to change. I think support from those who understand is the only thing that can help stem that tide. It’s difficult of not impossible to do it alone.

  3. Jim says:

    I remember dealing with a similar problem as well; great to finally see someone addressing this seriously

  4. Jerry Conroy says:

    My oldest grandson is 13 and he is brilliant…..a writer methinks. What would you suggest I do to help him avoid the pitfalls that you had to go through? The big problem is that his mother doesn’t think 25 hours a week on computer games is an issue.

    • kevin says:

      Jerry, get him involved in some writing camps. Find something that is fun! You have to get him involved in real-world pursuits. The sooner you do this the better.

  5. Eric says:

    This entry rings true to my own experience. We cyber junkies are a gifted bunch.. if only we could apply those energies elsewhere. I’m looking forward to the book.. I just pre-ordered it on Amazon!

    • kevin says:

      Thank you for ordering my book, Eric. That will really help out with the Amazon ratings. Please continue to visit the blog. Let your voice be heard!

      • Susy says:

        Jun02Nicole Thanks. Aside from the appalling behavior i heard about and witnessed &#0og8;bl22ger on blogger crime” i think that blogging is really a solitary activity and whatever someone wants to do they should do. But I did hear today about bloggers plagiarism and bloggers taking others meme’s and stuff. I dont think that stuff needs to be discussed but apparently it happens so maybe?

    • Charlotte says:

      I stopped using a blender cause it made too much of a mess in my kicneht: the mayo would jump out the top as I added in oil.I do it by hand now and use a squeeze bottle to control the drizzle of oil. That might be a useful tip for the more manual readers.

  6. Its an important subject today, for it is crippling our youth and sucking life experiences out of them. Instead of playing cowboys and indians out in the fields, they are locked in front a digital screen. Its not reality, but illusion. We learn wisdom about our Creator and about each other by spending time in nature, spending time with each other. God’s creation is infinitely more complex and more exciting than virtual reality. I think the film, “The Matrix” was meant to warn people about the cost and dangers of virtual (un)reality.

    Ad to this the fact that some of the game-stuff is extremely violent, extremely unholy, and nightmarish.

    The new youth may become a very handicapped generation I am afraid, emotionally and in many other ways. Its not just kids of course. Many people are just opting for online relationships, “Facebook” relationships based on sentimentality, texting, etc. etc., youth walking about with their heads buried in some digital gadget. They are replacements for real relationships which require physical presence and commitment. Our Society is losing its sense of presence.

    Recognizing the addiction is the first step.

    • kevin says:

      Thank you Fr. Potter. Your remarks are ones that many people, I’m afraid, need to hear. Incidentally, Fr. Potter is actually a Catholic priest, folks. His name is Harold Potter. This is not a joke!

      Your remarks on presence, Father, I found particularly poignant and useful. Please weigh in again. We need your voice in this debate!

  7. Darlene says:

    This sounds just like my boys, but with that World of Warcraft game! I swear, they play it for hours and hours. On weekends, they sometimes stay up all night playing! It’s comforting to hear that you got over your obsession. Do you have any strategies I can use with my kids to help them break the habit? I’m afraid it’s adversely affecting their health.

    • kevin says:

      Darlene, you may need to take the computer out of the house and let them earn screen time. You need a firm system that will help harness the motivational potential provided by the game. Have you ever thought of a behavior modification plan? Have you taken them to a therapist?

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