Gaming mouse on an orange background. How I realized I was spending too much time playing games

When I Realized I Was Spending Too Much Time Playing Games

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I don’t fit the stereotypes for internet gaming disorder, but my history shows that gaming hooks me in and disrupts my life.

Who am I?

Let me begin by telling you who and what I am before I share part of my life’s journey with you. I am a grandma of six beautiful children who range from five years to seventeen years of age. They call me Grandma Amee, and when I hear those words I melt to their every wish. I am the wife of an amazing man who has most definitely accepted me just the way I am. I am a mother of three children, one of whom passed away four years ago, bringing grief to my heart that I cannot put into words. I was one of the very first people in the State of Wyoming who earned a Bachelor’s degree via the extension office. (So picture this … I would sit in a room with a speakerphone, taking notes from the lecture being given by a professor who was on campus at the University of Wyoming, lecturing a live classroom of students. I shared that visual to give you a chuckle.) 

I went back to graduate school in 2012 at the age of … well, let’s say I was one of the oldest in my class … to earn my MBA. I have lived in the Rocky Mountain region for most of my life. I am a strong supporter of women’s and children’s rights, as well as a strong opponent of animal cruelty. I have a high level of energy and enthusiasm, and if something brings me down, I wake up the next day with a fresh new perspective. I very strongly believe in the good in people. And I have struggled with becoming addicted to playing video games.

This has gone on for decades 

It all started when Nintendo first came out with California Games in 1987. That was when I had my first bout with an addiction to gaming. I had three small children at home, and they really loved playing Nintendo. Unfortunately for them, their mother discovered this new game, and instead of inviting their friends over to play, she scheduled a weekend-long tournament for grown-ups! A handful of full-grown adults played a child’s game throughout the entire weekend. Yes! Even overnight! The kids cried and wanted to play and … well … we weren’t sharing! 

Next, it was Tetris! I got so obsessed with that game I dreamed about moves in my sleep. It was at this point that the kids were getting big enough to make those sad eyes wear at my heartstrings, so I retired from my gaming career. At least that is what I thought.

Fast forward to 2009, when my grandfather unexpectedly passed away. To say that his loss dramatically impacted my life would be a gross understatement. I had a very troubled childhood and he was the father figure in my life that I had looked up to and adored all my life. I was trying to find a way to cope with my grief and discovered Farmville. You can laugh! It’s okay.

I centered my entire life around that game. When were crops ready? What expansions were available? I would rush home and hurry through dinner so I could hop on and play until I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Then I started going to work early—but not to work. I had to harvest an extra crop that day. I felt like I couldn’t function without the game. I realized I had a problem and didn’t really know what to do. I mean … come on … do you tell your friends and family you are addicted to Farmville?

Stressors

I think we all cope with stressors in our lives differently. I convinced myself that since I wasn’t losing money at the casinos, my compulsive gaming wasn’t all that bad. What I refused to acknowledge was how much of my life I wasn’t enjoying anymore. It’s true that I was grieving, but I still had friends and family that loved me and whom I loved. I had a granddaughter that was growing like a weed, but I simply didn’t have much time to realize what I was missing. 

It was then that I realized I had gone through this cycle with a variety of games over the years. I got addicted to playing Bloons on Addicting Games. Yep! I was hooked; couldn’t get enough of that game. They sure did name their website wisely! Next, it was Freecell Solitaire on Facebook. You guessed it! I played it all the time. 

I realized that it didn’t really matter what type of game I was playing. What mattered was that the game was overshadowing the actual life I wasn’t experiencing. That was when I decided I had to step away and stop using a game as a crutch for my grief, stress, or frustration. I needed to start coping in real life and stop avoiding issues I didn’t want to face.

Why am I sharing?

I share this story because I feel it may strike a chord with someone out there. You don’t have to be a “gamer” with multiple screens, fancy gaming chairs, extraordinary controllers, and expensive memberships to have a gaming addiction. Did I forget to mention Candy Crush Saga? I feel that recognizing that there is an issue is the first step toward taking control of your life back. 

You know what they say

If I can do it, you can do it! Please don’t get me wrong! An occasional game is fun! It can be a way to connect with friends and family that live in different states or even different countries. This is even more true with all the virtual platforms out there. You can still enjoy the entertainment instead of letting it consume you. 

But if you feel you are going down the rabbit hole and your availability to life is starting to be determined by the next fun game, step away for a while. It is funny: Life is right there waiting for you—the good AND the bad. You will feel amazing when you realize that you can control what you do with your time, instead of having that sense of having no control over your life.

You don’t have to be a stereotypical “gamer” to have a gaming addiction. This active, educated grandmother shares her experience with gaming.

A future free of addiction is in your hands.

Recover from addiction at home with medication and online therapy––from the leader in virtual addiction care.

Amee Ellsworth is a wife, mother, grandmother, and avid fisherman who loves to camp and ride four-wheelers. She is also a member of the training team at Workit Health. She has an MBA in Business Administration and a BA in Psychology.

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