Conducted by A.E. Cox
Filled Out By: Vicki
Addiction Type: Internet
Q: So, tell me about this addiction. (What the addiction is, how old you were, why it started, how long it lasted, etc.)
A: I can't actually tell you when it started. I've always had a penchant for staying online for too long. It's endlessly fascinating. When we first got it, my family would constantly have to nag me for their turn on the computer. But I'll say it started hardcore in the summer of 2001 and lasted until the summer of 2003. It started because I'd left my job in Washington, then moved to my family's farm in northern California. I was alone, and the town was small, and I felt isolated, so the only real companionship I had was online. I started staying up late at night to talk to my friends, going to bed at odd hours and staying at home instead of looking for a job like I always intended to. Eventually I ran out of money and in Jan 2002 I moved back in with my parents, where the same patterns continued.
Q: When did you first know your addiction was an "addiction"?
A: It never hit me until my parents bugged me about it. That was about a year or so after the onset.
Q: Did you feel other people judged you based on this addiction?
A: Oh yes. Sometimes I feel like they still do, so I rarely (if ever) allude to it. If I DO talk about it, it's mostly discussed with a sarcastic, probably slightly bitter tone. I like to think that helps deter people from prying too much.
Q: Did you try to hide the addiction from others? Is so, what would you do to try and hide the addiction?
A: I didn't hide it. I was much too emotionally drained to hide anything.
Q: Did you lose any friends or harm any relationships due to your addiction?
A: I don't believe so. Most of the friendships I had were online, and I'm still friends with the ones that mattered--offline or on.
Q: Did you feel, at any point, you were in control of your addiction and brushed off concerns of friends or family members?
A: I never felt in control--I barely even realised it was happening. I'd lost all sense of normalcy at that point. By then I thought staying in my room all day and only coming out for meals and the bathroom was perfectly normal.
Q: Were there certain "triggers" that made you want to continue your addiction?
A: I'd met a boy online, and thought he was the best thing ever. He wasn't, of course, and we fought almost constantly--he was in England, I was in the US, and the distance hurt; he was a jerk, I was an emotionally unstable bitch. It didn't help things that he was involved with another girl in his "real" life. Every time we fought, I sunk in deeper--the only friends I had were online, and I felt they were the only ones who understood, so I talked to them more... or should I say complained to them more? And whenever my parents nagged me, it made me more stubborn and I just turned back to the computer after they were through talking to me.
Q: When did you decide enough was enough and get help for your addiction?
A: After I broke up with my "boyfriend". My brain finally started clearing up.
Q: Were there certain steps you took to recovery? Did you go to someone for help?
A: I went to a therapist. She helped a great deal, and not only with the addiction. We talked through things that had been bugging me for years--my grandfather's death and the resulting withdrawal of my father, my backstabbing "best friends" in junior high and my own withdrawal.
Q: Did you experience any kind of withdrawal symptoms?
A: Nah. I'm still online, just never as much as it used to be. It's hard to have withdrawal symptoms from the internet, I think. It's an addiction, certainly, but I've never felt physical cravings for it.
Q: What kind of support system did you create for yourself in trying to overcome the addiction?
A: I had my journal (online, of course) which helped, along with my therapist. I'd like to say I had more people around me that helped, but I didn't. That's actually my fault. I have a very hard time discussing my feelings/problems with anyone, especially my family.
Q: What would be your advice to anyone currently experiencing this addiction?
A: That's a bit hard. I would tell most people to go see someone about it, but not everyone can afford that. And most people I know who are/were addicted to the internet had no people around them that'd care, or think that no one would care, or don't feel able to talk to anyone they know about it. It's really hard to get yourself out of that situation all by yourself, and when you don't have anyone around, it's doubly hard. I'd say impossible, actually.
So... if someone did have that problem, and they had no one around or not enough money, call helplines. I remember when I was younger and dealing with other problems, I called the suicide hotline just for someone to talk to, and it helped a good deal. Get a job if you don't have one, like in retail or the food industry. Yes, they're crappy and they can be very stressful, but they'll give you much needed money for living and/or going back to school (which is what I did). If you do have a job, and don't like it, go back to school to be able to "upgrade". You'll meet people--REAL people--and start functioning normally again. You don't even have to take a book-driven class. Any fitness class like yoga or weight lifting will do. Eventually you'll be able to ween yourself off the 'net and get back into real life.
Q: How do you feel your life has changed since your recovery? What have you learned?
A: I don't know how to describe how I've changed. I can't even remember what I was like before... I do know I've learned never to be that dependent on a guy (or anyone) again, especially in such tenuous circumstances. I've also learned I'd like nothing better than to be a therapist myself, and that I'm already pretty good at dishing out advice. That sounds like so little, but it's a lot to me.