Addictions

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about addiction. Except for the years I smoked cigarettes, I’ve never fully turned myself over to any particular vice. Well, except for one, which is the reason I’m writing this, and which I’ll get to in a bit.
I’ve certainly had my moments of excess. I’ve stood there at work on a Monday morning, feeling like death warmed over and full of guilt and self-loathing because I’d blown my entire paycheck over the weekend on cocaine and alcohol. I’m not talking about that rare Saturday night when you went home broke because your paycheck danced away in the g-strings of a handful of strippers. I’m talking about a pattern of abuse. Something that happened regularly enough to be considered a problem.
I was fortunate enough that my mother had preached the Gospel of The Evils of Bob the Father often enough that I was always aware of the potential for my own addictions. So no matter how often I found myself sitting on trunk of my car with a beer in my hand, watching the sun rise and feeling like I had just journeyed through Purgatory, I always knew that I would eventually reach a better day, and this was not all my life would ever be.
I was also lucky to have some transformative experiences. Like the time I found myself sitting alone in my room with a bottle of vodka, drinking for no particular reason. I wasn’t celebrating. I wasn’t socializing. I was just drinking. I thought of Bob, my father. I wondered if this was how it began for him. That moment startled me to such an extent that I was never a serious drinker again.
I also had a moment with marijuana. There was one summer when Da Law had raided all the local drug dealers. For a period of about three months there was no weed whatsoever available in the area. Now, I’d always told myself that I was not a heavy smoker because I didn’t really buy weed (I think I’ve only ever bought two bags). But every friend I had smoked it. So I was constantly smoking it just by virtue of being around them. And the few times I did buy a bag I went down after it like a self-loathing Weight Watcher refugee on a binge at the Chinese buffet table. Well, this one summer there was no weed. None of my friends had any. After a couple of months of not smoking weed, it was like a fog lifted off my brain. I could suddenly remember people’s phone numbers without writing them down. If I told someone I would do something, I didn’t forget. Wow. I kinda liked reality. And I never really smoked weed again.
I won’t even get into my battle with cigarettes, though that was my one serious addiction. I think a lot of us can identify with that one. I quit in 1999, so there.
Now …
The reason I’ve gone through all this is to point out that I know a thing or three about addiction. No, I’ve never stolen the family television to buy heroin with. I’ve never laid up in a three room house with only a mattress for furnishing for two weeks on a drunk. I’ve never given blow-jobs in gas station bathrooms for crack money.
But I know people who have. I know people whose marriages have been ruined by cocaine. I’ve seen good, decent, strong people brought low because they were too curious about crack and decided to give it a try. I’ve known women who gave their bodies to drug dealers. The things I’ve seen would make a long list.
But so far I’ve referenced only physical, chemical addictions. There are others that are far more insidious.
I have a cousin whose wife is one of the most beautiful young women I have ever seen, and yet he spends his spare time scouring the Internet for pornography. I have friends who regularly spend their paychecks on lottery tickets and would bet on what time the sun would set. My mother considers herself a food addict and lives in a constant state of self-loathing because she can’t control her urges.
Not too long ago a new form of addiction entered my vocabulary. An addiction that I think I’m struggling with to this very day.
I’m talking about gaming addiction. And no, I’m not talking about gambling. I’m talking about online gaming. MMORPGs. Think Star Wars Galaxies, World of Warcraft and Everquest II (the latter of which is jokingly referred to by some players as “Ever-crack”). Yes, I have a problem. I’ve spent ungodly amounts of time in these three games. When I get in on the weekend, it’s never long before I’m sitting in front of the computer, logging in to World of Warcraft.
It all started innocently enough. I was no stranger to computer games. Through the years, I’d played Wolfenstein, Doom, Quake, and a handful of others. But I’d never done the online thing. My wife tried to get me interested in Everquest (the first one), but it just didn’t grab me.
Then Star Wars Galaxies came out. I bought it on a whim, and was immediately hooked. Mara was happy to finally have something that we could play together, and she joined me there. We played SWG obsessively for about a year. Until Sony introduced the infamous Combat Upgrade, which pretty much destroyed the game.
Mara had already been tinkering with the new Everquest II, and, disgusted with SWG, I finally joined her there. That constituted another year of obsessive gaming. Another addiction. I played there until, thanks to some corporate spyware that someone installed on my system, my computer simply wouldn’t run that I, too, can eventually find my way back to a life that’s fully invested in the analog world.

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