It's 10 pm. Do you know where you and your loved ones are? Here is a collection of experiences from those who live / have lived with an obsessive MMOG gamer and from those who have lived the experience of obsessive MMOG gaming.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Here is a very unique post - how often do we get to see both sides of a story?

Husband's Story:
"I've been married for nearly ten years now and was an avid gamer for about nine of them. I played some Ultima Online, created many characters in Dark Age of Camelot including one that went to level 50 (the highest at the time), and most recently had characters in World of Warcraft.

My wife tried nagging. She once swung the keyboard against the monitor and then threw it down the stairs. She started watching Oprah and Dr. Phil obsessively. She was depressed and lonely. Then one day she started using our ... son's World of Warcraft account. In a matter of days she was as addicted as I'd ever been.

At first I thought this was wonderful. Now I too could game as much as I wanted. She had finally come to appreciate what I had been enjoying without her.

Soon chores around the house were not being done at all. Our two kids were ignored most of the time. Her mother told me she could tell our son was neglected by how shy and withdrawn he was acting whenever she saw him. My wife had difficulty taking him to his speech therapy class for one hour a week and told me she spent a lot of time glancing repeatedly at the clock while there.

I came home from work to hear 'hi' from the computer room. She didn't get out of the game to hug or talk with me even for a few minutes. It got worse. She found herself flirting regularly with a few guys in the game. One was about my age, married with his own kids, and a virtual affair began.

At this point I became insanely jealous. I stopped playing the game. I tried to arrange fun family activities and ended up doing them without her. Our marriage was breaking down fast and I was becoming paranoid of her online relationships.

I tried gaming again, thinking if I got an online girlfriend she would get jealous and quit with me. She encouraged me to play with an online girl and didn't seem to care at all.

I started a cloak and dagger routine to find out what was going on. She changed passwords on the computer so I couldn't get on it. I formatted the hard drive. She had the locks changed while I was at work (but later let me in). I uninstalled the game and threw away the game disks in a dumpster a half mile from our house. She threatened divorce and made me borrow the game disks from a friend to reinstall the game.

We had several heated discussions about not flirting online. She agreed not to. She promised she wouldn't.

A couple of weeks went by and she was still gaming as much as ever. I didn't trust that she was keeping her promise. I had a friend write a keystroke logger and installed it on the computers.

I still remember the evening she went to pickup the kids from a friend's house and told me, as she left, "You're starting to trust me again, aren't you?" with a smile on her face. This was the first day the keystroke logger had been running.

I went to read the log while she was away. I was devastated. She had a virtual meeting with her online boyfriend around lunchtime that day. She told him that the only thing that would 'get her off quick' was if I showed up at the house for lunch....'

My heart fell through my feet. I felt betrayed by my wife for the first time in our marriage. I called my dad and asked him what I should do. She arrived back at the house while I was talking to him. I tried to hide my feelings, keep my knowledge secret, but she knew something was wrong and pursued it.

I read her a printout of what she had written and watched the color drain from her face. The online boyfriend ... and she was planning to take a trip with the kids ... in a couple of weeks (while I stayed in town to work). Trust was gone.

At this point I scheduled vacation, went with the family to .... We spent one night on a date while in-laws watched our kids. We went to a fancy seafood restaurant and stayed at an ocean-side hotel. The entire meal and evening we fought about the game.

I scheduled appointments with a counselor. Some visits I went alone, sometimes she came with. She always defended her right to play the game (against the counselor's advice). Eventually, with many discussions between us and one mutual confidant, she stopped playing except for one night a week. She promised, again, not to flirt. She said she wouldn't play with her online boyfriend anymore. However, she kept a couple of guy friends she had previously flirted with--played with them on her one night a week.

In December, she gave up the game. It was no secret how miserable I was every time she had her weekly game night. I was doing chores, cooking with her, dishes, bathrooms, anything I could think of to convince her that I loved her with all my heart and didn't want to lose her.

It has now been over three months since she played the game. Our marriage is, in her words, "the best its ever been." She has told me she didn't know it could ever be this good. She has also sworn off the game and has no plans to return to it.

It was a strange twist of fate that her playing the game got me to quit."

Wife's Story:
"I am ...[his] wife. ... encouraged me to post my side of our story. Our intention is to help in any way we can those of you in pain. I won't go into all the hurt of the addiction- reading some of your messages I'm sure you all understand that 9 years of my husband's addiction did cause a lot of pain.

He didn't understand when I'd tell him he was not "present" even when he wasn't physically playing the games. It seemed he was bored and wishing he was playing still. You may sense this in your addicted spouse- it is true, I felt the same way when I was addicted. Also, he thought it was controlling that I wanted him to WANT to be with us. His heart and mind were still in the game, we knew that is where he wanted to be, and we had a shadow of him. I knew this, but now that he is back in our lives I really understand the difference of how that feels. The kids know he wants to spend time with them, and now they run to meet him at the door. And, having him back in our marriage is amazing. I told him right before I began playing WOW that I was tired, really tired, of being the one pulling our marriage along. We are both back now pulling, and in many ways just enjoying the ride. It feels like we reached a summit that was hard as hell, and now we are just kind of enjoying the view.

A few months before I began WOW, I did decide to just live my life. I couldn't leave him, I had terrible guilt (being a child from a divorce). I was stuck, but I really stopped caring. That's the only way to describe it. I stopped nagging and begging him to be part of our lives- I told him that I'd let him know what we were doing and he could decide if he wanted to come. Invariably he decided to game. I still missed him terribly sometimes- seeing other whole families out recreating together, our children doing "firsts" without their daddy. And, I remember asking him "Why does this bother me more that it does you? I know some day you are going to regret this- and I'm so sad for the pain that you are going to feel when you do." I couldn't leave, but he had already left. I was a single mom in most ways- and I'd ask him to divorce me, and have all the free time he wanted. To let me go. But, there was no reason for him to do that- he was living like a bachelor, with someone to cook and clean for him. Luckily, his work never suffered from his gaming addiction, and so at least I didn't have the financial worries of a single mom.

I understand now this games addiction. It is an escape. From pain, and just from reality. From day to day normalcy. During my "obsession" with Dr. Phil and Oprah, Dr. Phil had a show about hobbies v.s. addictions. And he said that hobbies add to your life, addictions take away from it. These games are not like going running or having a girls night out. You come back from those filled up, less stressed, more engaged in your life. These games I think become your life, or at the least, the boundaries become very unclear. I had people in the game type sometimes my "real life" in a sarcastic away, because our lives were being spent, to a large extent, in the game. It was exciting and fun to go on adventures, to be single (my character wasn't married after all), free. ... had a girl friend, and I had a boy friend in the game. And flirted with others. It was the state of our marriage, and the game together that resulted in this I think. I do not fear any more that if I went back to WOW that I would flirt - that was filling an emptiness and a void in my life. I loved the attention. But, despite ... saying it wouldn't be painful for him for me to game again, now that we have rebuilt trust, I refuse to go back. I lost me in there. I was a great mom, it was the thing I felt like I was good at, and I was almost perfectionist about it. I was loyal and committed to my marriage. What you all need to understand is- your addicted spouses are not themselves. You are not talking to them- you are talking to the addiction.

I think ...'s ultimatum was an amazingly strong thing to do. One I couldn't do, but I should have done. You love your spouses, don't let them waste their lives in the game. Wake them up at all costs. ... might have lost me- the game or him he said. But he knew he couldn't live with me addicted. He knew our kids were not better off with me addicted. He gave me back to myself and I am so grateful. You must be prepared to deal with symptoms of withdrawal (if they choose you)- it was scary how real they were. I felt like I was coming off something. I slept for almost a whole weekend straight. And cried when I was awake. I was scared of being lonely again, felt controlled and unaccepted (because I was the game after all), and thought it was incredibly unfair that my gaming husband was telling me not to game, after all the years. I was angry. He was there for me completely. Dealing with the pain of our past, going to counseling (first time he wanted to be there), accepting responsibility for his part in the root causes of my addiction. If he had met me at that point with self-righteousness, blame, defensiveness, it would probably have been over. I needed him to understand not just what I had done, but why- and that some of that was him. And to be gentle with me. Because, as asinine as it sounds, the guilt I felt about what I had done to those in my real life with the gaming addiction made me want to run full speed back to the game. And, in the game, I felt justified and normal. Look at all these people in here, they get me, they understand. They know the flirting is "just the game" as one after the other would agree with me. It is the "safe way" to flirt we would all agree. It was a place of belonging, an unhealthy place but still. And, being ripped from that was devastating. I went cold turkey, not willingly- I no longer had the game or the characters, or even the internet. ... and I took a couple trips.... We made our marriage and family top priority- over friends, over extended family, work, everything. He really tried to re-focus me on my goals and interests before I gamed. I looked at scrapbooks of my kids and tried to re-connect with them, even before I dealt with all my chores and to-do's that had been neglected. I took them out to museums and on walks- took them to the town ... and I lived when we were newlyweds. I listened to lots of music while I was home during the day- the silence was deafening. Both our kids are old enough to have friends over almost every day and I had no idea what to do then. Its funny now because as I'm writing this my life is so full again that I'm worried I've spent way too much time in here, I have so much to do. Also, I re-discovered what I need that the game was giving- adult interaction, adrenaline (really, quests and duels do give you that), time off from all the work of day to day.

In the end though ... knew he had to give me the choice to quit. Because I hadn't really chosen us. He had taken the choice way. He re-installed the game about a month after we had stopped. I committed to once a week gaming and no flirting- I changed servers and had no contact with the guy I had lied to ... about- after we had agreed before not to flirt, and I still did. This time no flirting was easy- I felt loved and listened to in real life. Even gaming once a week was fairly easy. I don't think I could have stuck with an hour a day- everytime you log in you get sucked in for awhile, it will be more than an hour. Also, limiting it kept it straight in my mind- that this is a game, not my life. Still, he worried about it and it was still bringing my real life partner and love pain. I chose us. I was still angry and sad. Because I had been being "good". But I had hurt him with this game, he had a right to feel however he felt when I played it. I quit. And, every time I remember how fun it was and miss it- all I have to do is remember all I was missing out on, all the pain I caused, focus on that and I know I will never play again. I mean, I was rushing my kids night time prayers because my friends were waiting to go do a quest.

We are so thankful we walked the razor edge of losing it all to addiction- and somehow we made it back. I wish you all strength and patience; it is a hard road both if you choose to continue putting up with it, or if you challenge the addiction."


Blogger Twinkie said...

Wow, really good job of fixing your marriage. Congrats! Too bad more guys aren't like you and willing to go the extra mile to work things out.

Mar 15, 2006, 4:10:00 AM

Blogger chocowafer said...

Very happy for you. It really took the wearing of her shoes to realize the damage to personal relationships that any addiction can cause

Mar 15, 2006, 8:41:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You certainly have been to the edge and back with gaming, and I applaud your strength and persistance to recover your marriage (both of you!). The impact of parents' gaming habits on kids is not something I'd given much though to (since that's still a few years off for me) but it really scares me now (my partner is a gamer). Thanks for sharing your story!

Apr 16, 2006, 3:48:00 AM


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