What can I do?

Information for family members Family disease concept and codependency
Parallels between gaming addiction and other addictions

What can I do?

Computer gaming is a common pastime. To many people, it is surprising that it can become a serious addiction, that is, an activity that is engaged in compulsively, without control or concern for consequences.

Computer gaming addiction is a very serious problem that is harmful to everyone it touches. Since everyone involved suffers from it, everyone involved needs some help. Here are some important things to know.

First, no one is responsible for someone else’s compulsive gaming. As the Al-Anon slogan goes, “I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it.”

You didn’t cause it. Some people partly blame themselves for the dysfunctional behavior of their family members, particularly with addicts who are very quick to shift responsibility off themselves and blame others. Perhaps you played games with your loved one, purchased games, or encouraged it, thinking it was a harmless leisure activity. Maybe you’ve been involved in some conflict and wonder if that has driven him or her to hide away in gaming. But no one is responsible for another person’s behavior or mental disorders.

You can’t control it. You may have already tried to talk to your friend or family member. Perhaps you have bargained with them, or given ultimatums. You have tried to help them see what damage they are doing to themselves and others. And none of it has worked. This is baffling to you. Why don’t they seem to understand or care? Why can’t they see what is obvious to you? This is actually a symptom of the disease of addiction, one that destines efforts for control to failure.

You can’t cure it. We all would like to believe that we have the ability to help those we love. We often think that if we can just get the right information, figure out the right thing to say or do, perhaps change something about ourselves, we can fix the problem. People should be able to solve their own problems. Why can’t we do that with this one? There is a simple reason. There is no cure for addiction. It requires treatment. The recovery process is long and difficult. And there is only one person who can start that process: the one who is gaming.

There are things you can do. Here are some suggestions that you may want to consider, that other family members and friends have found helpful.

  1. Get information. The literature of recovery fellowships for family and friends of addicts (such as Al-Anon) has much helpful guidance, some of which is available online as well. There are people who have been in situations very similar to yours, who have learned much from them, and who are willing to share the lessons learned, their experience, strength and hope. We hope you avail yourself of such resources.
  2. Detach with love. Putting energy into arguing with someone who is playing compulsively will not help either of you. Your loved one has a serious problem that you are powerless to control or cure, and that they will not get help until they want it. As much as you love someone, you cannot force this process on another person.
  3. Stop enabling. Paradoxically, at the same time people are arguing with, bargaining with or shaming a compulsive gamer, they are often (perhaps without realizing it) supporting the addiction in many ways. Anything that shields an addict from the consequences of his or her behavior is enabling, and can include such basic things as providing food, shelter, money, companionship, housekeeping, and covering for employment and legal difficulties. Helping a compulsive gamer keep up an appearance of normalcy is helping him or her continue in the destructive behavior. While you cannot change him or her, you can make changes for yourself. You can shift your energy away from enabling behaviors and toward meeting your own needs.
  4. Take care of yourself. Whether or not your loved one ever stops gaming, you deserve to have a healthy and happy life. Once you have accepted that you are powerless over their gaming behavior, you can begin to focus on what you can do for yourself, to accomplish your own goals. With the help of others who have been where you are, you can learn to set healthy boundaries and stick to them.

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