The morning of our flight out of Salt Lake City to live in France, I did something really hard for me. Some of you may laugh about this. I’d thought about doing it for a while but not to this extent. Honestly, I was really scared to do it. I thought discs were easier to break but this one must have been made of a thin layer of steel because when I went to break it, my fingers couldn’t do it. Okay maybe it was me second-guessing my decision. Once I got the gumption to do it, I went to snap the disc and it just bent (it was pretty funny actually). I thought it would just snap. It’s like it was teasing me. But after a few good folds, the disc finally broke in half. What have I done?, I thought. I was scared. Wait a minute, I was also relieved. I did it.
While recovering from my addiction, I picked up what we in the recovery business call a cross addiction. I picked up a few really (overeating being one of them). My friend invited me to play Overwatch with him one time while our wives were on a trip together. It was my first time playing a game online with a group before. I got a headset and everything. I was totally geeked out on Xbox. I started really liking his friends and it was SO much fun! But it didn’t stop there. I began playing it when I had feelings I didn’t want to face, which was a lot. I would play way too late into the night and I wasn’t getting enough sleep. I played to avoid relapsing. I would play even when I knew it wasn’t a good thing for me at that moment. I played pretty much every day. Now I’m not saying there is anything wrong with online gaming. And I’m not saying everyone should go out and break their video games in two. One of my favorite parts about it was socializing with my new friends. They are terrific guys! This became one of my main points of justification for playing. But for me, Overwatch became a cross addiction right away.
There’s something that Brooke Castillo calls buffering. It is something we do to avoid our feelings instead of facing them and sitting with them. Buffering is a very appealing thing. The problem with buffering is that while it may help you avoid unpleasant emotions momentarily, you buffer out positive emotions as well. So you actually miss out on feeling as good as you could. The other problem is that, by buffering, you rob yourself of the opportunity to process emotions, do the thought work, and get to know yourself.
So I broke the disc and I decided to leave my Xbox in storage while we live abroad. The transition was hard. At night, when I’d usually play, I felt horrible a lot of times. And I started over-Netflixing and over-eating a bit but I caught myself. I began sitting with my emotions, writing down my thoughts, and talking about them with Lindsay. It sucked! But what I’ve found is that as I’ve worked at this, I’ve increased my tolerance for facing unpleasant emotion. I go to bed at a decent hour now. I’m losing weight. I’m exercising more. And I feel better so much more of the time.
I will always have to work at this. But what I’ve done is chalk one up in the personal victory column, and gained an experience that, even more, makes me want to be mindful in my life. I’m grateful for this.
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