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Volunteering Your Way out of Addiction

Tyler is now 19 and had a great deal of trouble in school. The rhythms of the academic environment just bored this very bright young man. His last year of high school, however, he went to a military academy, the intensity of which ignited passion and focus. He became one of the leading cadets. Upon graduation, he sank into a pit of depression, mostly, as he tells it, because of the absence of this catalytic intensity. In the months that followed graduation, World of Warcraft (WoW) gradually took hold of him. He spent 8-10 hours a day on the Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game(MMORPG). Somehow, after almost a year of this, he found a therapist who helped him find his way out. I recently interviewed Tyler in hopes of gleaning wisdom for those who experience a similar predicament.

Kevin: What was your daily routine when you were at the heights of your WoW addiction?

Tyler: At my worst, I would play WoW until like seven in the morning, sleep until four or five in the afternoon, eat something, maybe watch some TV and be back on the computer by six. My whole life revolved around it.

Kevin: What is it about WoW that engages you so much?

Tyler: I don’t know exactly, but I do know that most things in life kind of bore me, and that includes people. With Wow, I had cool people to chat with and we had interesting things to do together, like raiding and just all the adventure of it. It was way more interesting than anything else in my life. The thing that really sucked me in was being a member of a guild. Those people became like a family, and even if I didn’t feel sometimes like going online, I didn’t want to disappoint them. It’s really the combination for me of fantasy, adventure and just having a group of friends.

Kevin: You have been volunteering at a group called Blight Busters. How do you feel at the end of a productive day down there?

Tyler: It’s awesome. I am helping to improve urban neighborhoods and I get to swing an axe. My character in WoW used an axe. Now I get to use a real one. I guess I get the same sorts of things from my volunteering that I did from WoW: excitement, adventure, and feeling like I’m part of a group that does cool things. The big difference is that I feel like I am moving forward instead of wasting away in a computer chair. I feel better about my life than ever before.

Kevin: Do you think intensity is something you need in your life, something without which you might be prone to falling back into cyber addiction?

Tyler: For sure. You and I have talked about this before. I am not someone who does well with boring routines. If I get a little excitement and intensity, I am capable of great things. I know that about myself. I have to keep finding adventure and intensity in the real world. By the way, I want a girlfriend too. I am certainly not going to find one while being a WoW wastoid.

Kevin: How does the experience of helping tear down houses to improve urban neighborhoods compare to WoW? Is it more intense? Do you fulfill some of the same needs?

Tyler: I fulfill some of the same needs, but tearing down houses is better. I just feel good about myself, and my mom doesn’t nag me like she used to. She can be brutal with the nagging!

Kevin: If the loved one of a serious cyber addict is reading this, what wisdom would you give them? What wisdom would you give for an active cyber addict?

Tyler: Gaming and cyber activities are fun. Some people, like me, just can’t do them in a good and balanced way. Find some intense, exciting and adventurous things in the real world. These can be more fun, make you feel better about yourself, and your chances of finding a girlfriend go way up.

Kevin: Do you have any plans for the future? Do you have any idea about how you’re going to continue filling your life with intensity?

Tyler: I am not sure, but I know that I have to find a job with intensity and adventure, and one that allows me to help others. I am starting college this fall. I dropped out of college last year, mostly because of my gaming issues. I am planning on continuing to attend my Cyber Recovery Group as well.

Thanks for taking the time with me, Tyler. I would love to have you write a guest blog some day. I think your remarks will really help people. Keep up the good fight!

  • BOOK SIGNING: Please join me at Border’s Ann Arbor on September 8, 2010 at 7pm for a book talk and signing.

12 Responses to “Volunteering Your Way out of Addiction”

  1. Kelly says:

    An inspiring story, and good luck/congratulations at your book signing!

  2. Dr. Woo says:

    Blightbusters is a great way to volunteer for those who need intensity. As one Blightbuster participant said, “There’s nothing like sledgehammer therapy!”

  3. Michael Irwin says:

    oops

    *

    And ONE of the main …..

  4. Michael Irwin says:

    Interesting stuff.

    As we know one of the purposes of male initiation rites was to provide a hight intensity experience to young men and then assist them in directing their energies to assist their community. I suspect that this is something like a need that’s simply hardwired in us.

    And of the main tenets of 12 step recovery is ‘ you have to give it away to keep it’.

    Best of luck Tyler and once again-great piece Kevin Roberts. When is your book coming out?

    • kevin says:

      Michael, that is an excellent point about initiation. I suspect Tyler found a way to “initiate himself.” The book is technically released on September 1, but it is already available on Amazon and at most major brick-and-mortar bookstores. Thanks for your comments Michael!

  5. Jim says:

    Seems only too often that a lack of intensity or boredom in someone’s life leads to some type of addiction, not only gaming or social networking. Great to hear about your story Tyler, and a guest blog would really provide some good insight.

  6. Jerry Conroy says:

    Kevin, I really got a lot out of this post! I wonder if volunteering-helping others-is the cure for many of the ills plaguing our modern world. I think you’re on to something. Most of us focus on therapy, medication and behavioral modification. Maybe something simple as helping other is something we’ve lost. I read your book and I want to thank you for helping me understand and support my grandsons! Keep up your incredible vocation!

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