I am a cyber junkie in recovery, but Alex, a 23-year old friend, is in a decidedly different league. Most of his favorite music comes from video game theme songs. Not only does he play video games incessantly, but he watches simulcasts of video game tournaments online! He thinks of little else. He has trouble holding down a job and has had to frequently move. Video games have eclipsed relationships, money and school.
When he was in seventh grade, I started working with him as his ADHD coach. I tried to pull him out of his video game fantasy into the real world just long enough for him to complete his school work. Back in those days, his game of choice was Ultima Online, a precursor to highly addictive games like World of Warcraft and Everquest. Alex successfully resisted all my attempts to make him academically successful.
I still strain to understand why I took Alex on. His family’s predicament certainly tugged at my heart strings. His mother was raising the boy on her own, a situation reminiscent of my own mother’s struggles. I suppose I was somewhat seduced by my savior complex. I am supremely engaged by the idea of being able to save someone, especially when others have failed. It was, to be honest, a monumental challenge. But Alex showed so much intelligence and potential.
By high school, however, he had become a pathological liar. I saw him three times a week and checked in with him by phone every day. On one occasion, I asked him about his Biology homework. “I did that,” he said, “but number 13 was really hard. I think I’m going to go in early to talk to the teacher.” He didn’t know that I was just a half mile away. When I walked in the house and asked to see the homework, he just made up another lie that his friend had come by and borrowed his workbook. Alex went through all four years of high school like this, lying to me, his mother, his teachers and to himself. The whole time, he gamed, according to his estimates, seven to ten hours a day. Alex had to drop out of school eventually and settled for his GED.
In the last five years, he has lived in several states, two countries and has managed to lose a variety of jobs and apartments. Now, he is back in my life and has committed to me that he wants to turn around his life. He is participating in one of my cyber recovery groups and taking steps every day to forge the successful life that has always eluded him due to his addiction to video games. In the next few months, I will be writing once a week about Alex, his past, present, and future. I feel confident that he is finally on the road to recovery.
- Read every Friday about Alex’s progress in forging a new life.
- Do you know anyone like Alex?
- Please add your voice to the discussion.