I grew up playing video and computer games. I spent hours blissfully playing the Oregon Trail, simulation games like Sim Ant and Sim City, console games such as Mario and Sonic, as well as first and/or third person shooters such as Secret Weapons of the Luftwaff, and many more. Name a game from the 80s and 90s that was at least somewhat kid appropriate, and chances are that I played it at some point.
I gamed by myself as well as with other kids. At the day care that I went to before and after school in elementary school, most of the kids there would get together to play games on the Nintendo. I memorized games like Super Mario Brothers and others that we played often. Also, I was not afraid to game with boys if the girls around me were not interested in a certain game. I enjoyed games that were usually exclusively male oriented games as well as games that both genders preferred. I didn’t really discriminate when it came to gaming and I didn’t let gender hold me back.
My parents, though, seemed to vacillate back and forth between whether or not my twin and I should partake in computer and video games. They had a rule where we were only supposed to play an hour of games a day, but I do remember that they were sometimes lenient about allowing us to go over this time limit, especially if we had friends over and were playing as a group. The other issue is that my Dad loves computer and video games too, and his modeling of this propelled us further into gaming. My Uncles also were also video gamers– I even remember that they introduced me to an Atari when I was young.
I also took to video games very well and was quite good at them at a young age. Over time I tried more games and eventually settled on some new favorites as an adult. My Dad bought an original Xbox for himself when they first came out, and he and I really enjoyed playing Halo. I soon got my own Xbox so that I could play it and found other games that I liked as well. It was also around that time that my twin and I started playing the Sims, which has become one of my favorite games of all time.
Upon getting an Xbox, I also found that I loved 3rd person RPGs (Role Playing Game). My sister and I fell in love with Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2 and games that played similarly. I continued gaming all the way through college and through the first few years of “sobriety”. And, whenever I was sick, which was quite often, video games would keep me busy when I didn’t feel well enough to go to class or work.
But my video gaming lessened over time. I stopped playing as many games as I did, plus my ability to play games decreased as my memory issues worsened. I find it strange to think that video games was something that was lost to me along with a lot of other skills, but I can hypothesize that there were reasons for this.
One of these reasons is likely due to ideas that were thrown around in AA regarding addiction. Many people in AA would preach this idea that as “Alcoholics”, we tend to have other addictions as well. People would talk about all of the addictive behaviors that they had, and it seemed like they would pin practically anything as being an addictive behavior. Some people believed, though, that some addictions were better than others and would partake in them.
I soaked up this idea that I likely had other addictions than alcoholism. And of course, one addiction that I was convinced that I had was that I was a video game addict. I believed this basically because when I play video games I can get sucked in for hours. Also, even though I always had a tendency to do this, my parents warnings about video gaming always seemed to echo in the back of my head while I was playing, even before AA. This always made me question my actions when it came to gaming and whether or not I could have a “problem” with them. So, when people started suggesting that alcoholics are prone to other addictions, it was easy for me to believe that I might have a problem with gaming, especially because my parents likely mentioned that I had a problem with gaming at some point. It seems like they liked to pick out pretty much anything that I did regularly that could be bad and convince me that there was something wrong with me for doing it, or that I had a problem with it, even if they did it too. My parents were always convincing me that I was addicted to this or that. And, when I got to AA, this idea was concreted. Also, I’m pretty sure that sponsors, friends, and ex-boyfriends in the program told me that they thought that my gaming was a problem, even though looking back now I can see that it wasn’t.
Because of all of this, over time I played less and less video games, even though doing so had always been a big part of my life. Also, I started to basically stick with the Sims rather than playing RPGs or first person shooters. I believe that this is partly because in AA traditional gender roles were being pushed onto me quite often (this is commonplace in AA) and also because over time I couldn’t handle violence anymore due to repeated and worsening trauma.
Still, I was convinced too that I had a problem with gaming, especially with the Sims. Because of this I purposefully stopped playing video games in about 2013. Instead, I added a bunch of time to my “prayer and meditation” that I was encouraged to do in AA. I really prided myself on this and thought that AA had helped me to break yet another addiction.
I met my current boyfriend David in 2014. Now, David is a gamer. He plays games on the Xbox, Wii, and on the computer. He likes a lot of different kinds of games, except that he isn’t as into Simulation games as I am.
David, then, brought up the idea of playing video games to me. At that point, though, I was pretty terrified of them because I was sure that I was addicted to them, and through AA I had learned to be afraid of whatever I thought that I might be “addicted to”. So, we decided that I would play games only with him so that he could help to “regulate my use” of them.
We started to play one game (I forget the name of it) early in our relationship. I remember that we played for about one hour a few times a week. Surprisingly, I found that I did not have any problems with this, and that I did not feel compelled to play this game at any other time. This made me start to question if I really had a video game addiction, or if it is a coping mechanism of mine.
But, I still had issues with learning how to play new games well, to the point in where I stopped playing Cities: Skylines, because I couldn’t problem solve well enough to fix problems that were happening in my city. This was back in 2016. So I stopped playing for awhile, and then eventually turned to the Sims. During this time, David and I would play RPGs and other games together, but we still stayed away from violent games due to my PTSD.
Over time, I began to realize that I really had no problem regulating my gaming. I believe that this has always been the case for me, but I fell prey to other’s ideas about me. I’ve never missed responsibilities due to gaming or limited my social activities to play video games. I’ve always been able to put them down when I needed to, and also am good at using them to cope with life when needed as well. It’s taken me awhile but I have and am overcoming this idea that I was/am a video game addict. Instead, I realize that video games are something that I enjoy and are a really good and healthy coping mechanism for me. Also, I can see now that my gaming patterns are pretty normal and typical when in comparison to most people who play video games.
Over the past few months, I started gaming again. I’ve realized during this time that certain video games like Cities:Skylines actually do improve my problem solving skills and critical thinking. So, not only are these games coping mechanisms for me, but they are also helping me get back to my pre-AA functioning. I never realized how much problem solving and thinking many video games require until recently, when I really began to use those skills again through gaming, as gaming had always just been a part of my life.
Over the weekend, David and I began playing Dragon Age: Origins together. It’s a third person RPG that is similar to a lot of the RPGs that I used to play when I was younger. The first day that we played it I felt very awkward while I played, but by the second day I was quickly picking back up on how to play a game like that. Even though I felt awkward at first, I forced myself to take the controls rather than watching David do it, and it seems to have worked. In all of my experiences in rebuilding skills, none have come back to me this quickly. It seems as though maybe I’m beginning to get to the point where I have a normal retrieval of certain memories and skills, even if I haven’t used them in years.
Although it is pretty great to rebuild these skills, at the same time I feel quite a bit of loss over the fact that I missed out on something that I loved for many, many years due to peer pressure and norms within AA. I can understand now why many people who went to AA and left feel like they missed out on years of life due to their participation in the program. I’m definitely feeling this right now. It’s too bad that I gave up something that was positive in my life just because people convinced me that it was “an addiction”. Now is an okay time in my life though to grieve over such things.
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