Note: This is the third of a four-part series. Click here for Part 1—becoming a professional gamer, here for Part 2—the lessons learned, and here for Part 4—how you can quit games for good.
From 2001-2011 my playtime soared—hour after hour.
But in 2012 things changed. I hit a rock-bottom moment. And that’s when the lie I’d been telling myself got exposed.
Video games had held me back. And I was, without a doubt, addicted.
I knew if things were to change I had but one choice.
The Struggle to Quit
In 2012 I quit cold turkey and vowed to never play again.
That was a huge turning point because I got heavily involved in self-development:
- Reading books
Just like the prodigal son being welcomed back with open arms—my video-game addiction, too, was awaiting my return with open arms. And boy did it feel good to reunite…less than a year after I had “quit for good.”
And that’s my story since quitting professional gaming. On. Off. On. Off.
Every time I return, I tell myself: This time, it won’t get out of control.
Yet it always ends the same: Overdose.
Why couldn’t I keep my hands out of the cookie jar? I mean, I knew how much destruction video games had caused. So what was the deal?
That’s when I knew that if I were to quit, actually quit, I had to commence a game plan.
That simply meant this: What was triggering my return, time after time? I had noticed a definite trend for the times I succumbed to the addiction.
And this is where my inquiry led me: I discovered four triggers.
Four triggers that led me down the path like a sheep to the slaughter.
Trigger #1: One Hour
Just like it wouldn’t be smart for a recovering alcoholic to have just one drink…
…it’s probably not smart for a recovering gaming addict to play just one hour.
Kudos if you can manage it. For me, it’s impossible. Every video game I’ve played has followed this trend: I devote everything to becoming the best.
My personality is all or nothing. And my one hour turns into two, and three, and then at that point, forget about it, I might as well play five hours.
Trigger #2: Watching Streams
It seems innocent enough. I’m just watching a stream…I’m not actually playing…
But take a seed, for example. You’d never expect something so small to grow into something so big. At the time it seems like an impossibility. Yet without fail, the seed always swells into something so much bigger.
That’s what happens when you watch a stream. It plants a “harmless” seed of possibility.
And before you know it, the weeds, which always accompany seeds, have overtaken your mind.
Trigger #3: Depression
Perhaps the most vulnerable state of all.
It’s the times when you’re depressed that having a hearty helping of the old and familiar sounds so delightful. Your mind cranks into gear and starts reminiscing the good old days. The feel-good chemicals flood your brain as you toss and turn the memory, over and over, recalling every juicy detail.
I know there’s gotta be a scientific term for when your brain blots out everything to the exclusion of one thing.
How you remember every good time you had playing games, yet conveniently forget about the destruction they caused.
All I know is that the moment you latch onto that pastime—you’re done for.
Trigger #4: Friends
The buddy who calls you up and yammers on about how fun it’d be to get together, and once again, dominate those poor chaps online.
And when that friend is practically your brother, someone you’ve known for years, how can you possibly turn him down?
You can’t. Because he knows exactly how to coax you back into the fold.
And this is the dagger in the heart; the number one thing that has held me back from quitting for good.
Getting past it required one thing from me—doing one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life—saying goodbye forever. This was a guy I’d known for seven years. He was my closest friend, and a brother.
But he knew I wanted to move on, and quit video games, and do something more with my life.
Yet he wasn’t up for the same challenge. He didn’t want to move on.
That’s when I made the decision. Not even my best friend of seven years was going to stop me from achieving greatness.
Filling the Gaps
Avoiding the triggers above, of course, is easier said than done. That’s why you must take it a step further.
Why do addictions form? Because they fill gaps in your life. Need aren’t being met, so you go to the addiction to balance things out.
Filling these gaps is mandatory, as I’ve found, if you want a legitimate chance at quitting.
Video games, just like any addiction—drugs, cigarettes, gambling—offer an immediate outlet.
No matter what’s happening in your life, you can release the pressure valve by immersing yourself in a reality where your problems don’t exist.
How I got past it
I reframed the way I view life. I’ve done that by falling in love with the process of working towards big goals. Nothing beats the feeling of trekking a few more steps up the mountain and seeing your hard work pay off.
This path isn’t always easy.
But it’s much more rewarding knowing that every day I’m one step closer to my ideal vision of life.
Why are video games so addicting? Two words: measurable progress. Every human has an innate desire to feel their life is meaningful. And achieving goals fulfills that desire.
In games, you get that by…
- Winning gear upgrades
- Leveling up and unlocking new abilities
- Moving up the ranks and earning new titles
How I got past it
What’s ultimately going to make me happier 5-10 years down the road? Spending time becoming a well-rounded person? Or spending time leveling up a virtual character, pixels on a screen?
The answer, for me, is obvious.
That’s why I’ve developed hobbies I’m passionate that give me a sense of achievement. Here’s but a few I enjoy:
- Working on my basketball shot
- Lifting weights and building an epic body
- Learning the guitar
- Reading books and cultivating a voracious appetite for learning
- Hiking in exotic locations throughout the world
I’m an introvert. And being an introvert, along with being isolated for so many years, meant that when I finally got exposure to the real world—it was a shock to the system.
Taking that first step, though, was critical. I knew that if I didn’t make myself uncomfortable, by putting myself in social situations that were scary, the discomfort I’d feel later in life wouldn’t even compare.
How I got past it
Stepping outside your comfort zone is never easy. But if a kid like me did it—getting a job bussing tables, and eventually, waiting tables—anyone can do it.
I won’t lie, though, it’s hard as hell staking that first step. But if you don’t do it now, it will only get harder.
It doesn’t matter what you do, it only matters that you do it.
- Joining a class and making friends
- Getting a job in the retail or service industry
- Rekindling old friendships
The bottom line is that we are social creatures. If you don’t find a way to get that connection, it’s simply a matter of time until you’ll turn back to games.
By nature I’m extremely competitive. Losing is not an acceptable outcome. That’s a big reason why gaming roped me in—the ability to compete against others and test my mettle.
How I got past it
While beating others was fun, there’s actually a competition that’s even more fun. And winning doesn’t come at the cost of someone losing.
What competition is that?
The competition with yourself, and making daily 1% improvements in your life, and embarking on the journey of becoming the best version of yourself.
Always growing. Always learning. Always improving.
Being able to look back to one year ago and say Damn…I’ve come a long way.
How to Quit Video Games for Good
I’ve reached the point of no return.
But I understand that just because I’ve quit it doesn’t mean the craving will go away.
I, too, still have the occasional bout where I think what it’d be like to relive the glory days, just one more time.
But then I remember how far I’ve come. The kick-ass life I’ve built. How could I possibly go back?
At the end of the day it comes down to this: regression or evolution.
The choice, for me, is an easy one.
In part four of this series, we’ll talk about whether video games deserve a spot in your life. Because time, after all, is at a premium in this life. And regret is a harsh pill to swallow.