Recovery from Video Game Addiction
My name is Kurt A., and the Last Door saved my life. I am writing this as a testimonial to the amazing experience I had in the four months that I spent there. It is safe to say that I thought I would be the last person who would need to go to treatment a few short years ago. I tell people that I was the kid that when a police officer came to his school and said, “Don’t do drugs”, I said, “OK.” I have never had more than a beer’s worth of alcohol in my life, never tried any drugs, and not even had a puff on a cigarette. My addiction was video games. I have been playing games since I was about five years old, but it wasn’t until I was 17 and started experiencing severe depression that my hobby became a crutch to deal with my unbearable feelings.
At this time I was at my dream school for college, and I was utterly unable to keep up with my schoolwork. I had to withdraw for the semester, which was devastating for me. I attempted to go back the following semester, but nothing had changed and I had to withdraw once again. At this time, I was psychotically depressed and I attempted to take my life. I survived, thankfully, but after that for the next five years or so I was hospitalized three times for my safety, on and off of over a dozen different psychiatric medications, and we even tried electro-convulsive therapy (ECT). All throughout this time I was playing video games as well. I played for hours a day, even when I was at my second university, I lied about and hid games from my loved ones, I attempted to limit my use and was unable to do so, I totally neglected my health, and I was so emotionally unstable that my girlfriend at the time cut all ties from me. During the winter of 2014 my family came up with a desperate idea; why don’t we try addiction treatment? At the time I still thought I could manage my “hobby,” but I did hate my life and how I felt all the time so we decided to give it a try.
My family did a lot of research into finding a place that may have the ability to target my specific addiction because video game addiction is too new for some treatment centers to know how to deal with it. We found one place in the states that specifically targeted video game addiction, but the price was very steep and only covered about four weeks of treatment. We thought that one month was not enough time to truly explore the source of my problem and to make a meaningful change in my life. So we kept searching, and literally on about the 17th page of a Google search we came across the Last Door Recovery Center. We talked with the staff at the Door over many conversations and they told us that it was a three-month program, and that they offered a “media group” that would be perfect for me. These conversations, along with the professional nature of the staff and their website convinced us that this was the place to go. It is one of the best decisions my family and I have ever made.
The last time I played a video game was February 9th, 2014, and I arrived at the Door with my family on February 11th. I still remember my family and I driving up “Mount Recovery” on Eighth Street as it’s affectionately called by guys around the house. We arrived around 9 am, and we were immediately greeted by two members of the house who welcomed us. I have to say that before coming to the Door I was concerned about people viewing me differently because I didn’t have a “real” addiction, but this feeling was put to rest after being welcomed with open arms by those two seniors of the house. After we met with staff for a short time they suggested that I head to my first group. My family and I said goodbye in front of the group room and when I came in, the guys started chanting “One of us! One of us!” My mom and dad still remember that moment to this day, and it was the start of the most life-changing experience of my life. There are so many moments that I look back on fondly in my time there. I started learning guitar there in my room with my roommates and some other guys in the house. I told my case manager that I wanted to learn more about cooking so I was able to work in the kitchen and help make dinner during the week. I actually learned how to do the “pan flip” while I was at the Door! Then there were nights with the guys listening to music doing step work and journaling. I think some of my favorite moments at the Last Door were during group each morning, and sitting in the main house at night talking with the guys. The Last Door is where I learned how to laugh again.
Today my life is more like what I had anticipated it to be before I started getting depressed. I have 14 months clean from video games, and rarely think about playing them anymore. This is amazing to me because I never thought I would ever be able to stop playing games; they controlled my life. If I do think about playing them, I realize how much I would be giving up for such a meaningless and short-term high. It simply isn’t worth giving up what I have today. I am currently living at home with my family, which is a much more peaceful situation than it was when I was in addiction. My family is so happy with my demeanor, the choices I make now, and that I am embracing life and all the struggles and triumphs it has to offer. Recovery has given me gratitude and acceptance. I am grateful for the life I have, and I know now that my depression is just something I need to deal with and that being happy does not mean never encountering challenges in life. It is a small thing, but my parents notice that I do not complain as much as I used to, which means I am not playing the victim as much anymore.
Some other improvements in my life include getting into better shape physically, working on finding a relationship, hanging out with people in recovery (we have “bad movie night” every weekend where we watch incredibly badly made films), getting closer to starting my career as a math teacher (applying this spring), and giving back. I am a mentor at a counseling center near where I live. I go to the age 25 and up group twice a week after school, and the counselors there are amazed with the wealth of recovery knowledge I gained from my four short months at the Last Door.
My only regret is that I live in Wisconsin and I am not able to be near New Westminster so I can be a part of the amazing recovery community there. After years of anti-depressants, hospitalizations, therapists, and shock therapy, I have made the most meaningful progress during my time at the Last Door. I would not equate video games with something like opiates, but my life was totally unmanageable and I would never have been able to stop playing on my own. I have made many life-long friends in my time there, and I know that I will always be welcomed when I return. I am so proud to call myself a Door Boy!
Thank you Last Door!
Kurt A. (Video Game Addiction Alumni from Wisconsin)