Recovery from Video Game Addiction
Dear Last Door,
My name is Kurt and I walked through your doors on February 11th, 2014. I came to you in desperation, physically, emotionally, and spiritually bankrupt. I had been living in my parents’ basement using every day, suicidal and totally incapable of living my life. Using consumed me; I lived to use and used to live. I was utterly broken and at the mercy of my addiction. I thought that my problem was my mental health, I am bipolar and I did not see how I could live my life without using. I thought that using was the only thing keeping me sane. I had tried a dozen different medications, was hospitalized multiple times, including an involuntary stay after a serious suicide attempt, tried many forms of therapy and meditation, even electro-convulsive or shock therapy (during which I contracted aspiration pneumonia from which I could have died). I was ready to give up, and truly thought that the world would be better off without me. I was living in agony and causing my family to suffer as a result, giving me crippling remorse and shame. Nothing worked, nothing could make me whole. Not until my mom found the Last Door.
In researching treatment centers, we found that most places were 30-day programs and none really had experience with what I used. We did not believe that anything less than three months would be enough time to truly make effective change to my life, and the Last Door also had services that addressed my specific addiction. After talking to Vince and deciding that this was the place to go, my mom told me that I would either go to treatment or I would not be welcome in my parents’ house anymore. This was a last-ditch effort and I was given the gift of desperation, I was willing to try anything to make the pain stop. So, I decided to go to the Last Door.
Addiction and Mental Health, making the decision to go to treatment
Before going to treatment, I had some reservations and concerns. I thought that I would be in a room with hardened criminals, and I had not even had a speeding ticket before. I did not think I would be able to identify with others in the house because what I used was “unique.” I thought that because I had done electro-convulsive therapy that no one could truly understand my mental health because it was too severe to comprehend. I suffered from that “terminal uniqueness” that prevented me from being open to help from others. But all that changed my first day at the Last Door.
My first Last Door experience was the “young guys” group. I was terrified, I just tried to be a wallflower and not attract any attention to myself. Even though I do not remember what exactly was said, I knew a few things after this group session. I heard feelings shared in the discussion from people I had never met in my life that I thought only I had ever experienced. I knew that could not be a coincidence. I also felt welcome, more welcome than pretty much anywhere I had been in my life. I knew that this was a safe place. I saw in the men in that room a sense of serenity and peace, and I knew that I wanted that too.
So, despite my initial feelings of uniqueness, my story is not unique at all; I just did what was suggested. I got a sponsor and later had a sponsee, worked the steps, went to meetings and got a home group, and was of service. I worked all 12 steps in four months at the Last Door. I had no faith that this program and way of life would help me, I just had a faint glimmer of hope that I might be able to take away some of the pain. In doing what was suggested, I gained so much more. I lost the desire to use and found a new way to live. The depression that had tormented me for nine years lifted, and I am on the same exact medications that I was on going into recovery. I had no idea the hold that my addiction had on me. But I knew after a short time that I was an addict and could not under any circumstances use responsibly without being led to the bitter ends, jails, institutions, and death.
After leaving the Last Door my life changed immeasurably. I went back to school to pursue my dream of becoming a high school mathematics teacher. I received my certification and was offered a job 2.5 hours away from my parents’ house. I was anxious about moving away from that support, so I knew the importance of hooking in with my local NA when I moved there. I got a new sponsor and a home group, and started creating a support group that I could turn to in the very challenging and stressful job of a first-year teacher. I suffered from imposter syndrome and I was working long days in order to just handle the very basic responsibilities of being an educator. But I had faith in this new way of life and that I did not have to use, no matter what.
I am now in my fourth year of teaching and I am a valued and respected member of my school community. I am student council advisor, a club that puts on a schoolwide competition, games assembly, and dance. This was a major source of stress because student council for me in high school was student government, and I was not told that these would be my responsibilities before taking the job. But I just finished this year’s “Sno Daze” week and I feel so competent and proud of what we accomplished this and every year. I even added a penny war fundraiser on top of our club’s responsibilities so that we are able to give back to our community in a meaningful way. I am also an elective teacher for a program called AVID, which is a college and career readiness program targeted for students who have barriers to getting into higher education, such as being first generation college students or students of color.
On top of this very busy life, I decided to go back to school in the summer of 2017 to get my Master’s degree in educational leadership so that I can be a principal one day if I choose. I just graduated from a local, respected university with a 4.0 in December of 2018. I was working full-time as a teacher and going to school as well, and although it was quite stressful I was able to achieve at a very high level.
All of this was only possible because of the work I did at the Last Door and the fact that I am still connected to recovery and working a program. I just took five years clean on February 11th this year. I am now the treasurer of both my home group and area, and even in my busiest moments in grad school I was able to make an average of three meetings a week. I know that if I put anything before my recovery, it will be the first thing I lose.
Overcoming video game addiction
To this day, everything that I did when I first got clean still works for me today. I have a higher power, I work the steps, I go to meetings, talk to my sponsor, and am of service. The Last Door and the NA program has taught me a new way to live, and I am so grateful. I usually never talk about what I used because I was taught that it’s not what we used that matters, it’s the disease of addiction. But my sponsor has said that my story is important because it illustrates this very point. My drug of choice wasn’t a drug at all, it was video games. I was addicted to video games. I have never been drunk or high in my life, but I was absolutely powerless over my addiction and my life was totally unmanageable. I very well may not be alive today if I were still using. The reason that the Last Door and NA worked for me is because they treated what I used like any other addiction. The focus is on recovery and finding a new way to live, and that approach is why it was so successful. There was not a single person I met in New West who made me feel different or less-than because of what I used. In fact, when I shared my last 90 days in active addiction with the guys in the house they all told me that I was where I was supposed to be.
I owe everything to the Last Door. I have achieved more than I thought possible in my wildest dreams in active addiction. People want letters of recommendation from me! I have had two student teachers who have come study under me on how to become a better teacher, and I am only in the middle of my fourth year as a teacher. I have students who go out of their way to greet me at school each day, and my greatest joy is making my students laugh. My family is so proud of the man I am today, and our relationship is healthy and strong. I have friends in recovery who I trust with my life, and have turned to many times to ask for advice. I know that an addict alone is in bad company, and I never have to face anything alone. I know that I will face pain in my life in just existing on this earth, but suffering is optional. I know that I am an addict, but I do not have to live as a using addict. We do recover.
Thank you, Last Door. I am eternally grateful.