Remember Andrew? His recovery story continues

Tech Talk Tuesday #80: Remember Andrew? His recovery story continues

Remember Andrew from Screenagers? The college student who struggled with an addiction to video gaming.  We recently checked in with him to find out how he has been and what he is up to today.

I was happy to hear Andrew tell me that he is currently working at reSTART - the treatment center that helped him with his video game addiction. He also speaks on panels and Q&A sessions after Screenagers about his experiences and is interested in pursuing a career as a counselor.

His road to recovery wasn’t a smooth one. After his first experience at reSTART, he went back to university, where he fell into a deeper depression and started abusing over the counter medications like Unisom and Robitussin.

Andrew said he didn’t get back into gaming during his relapse. He says “It’s called cross addiction. It’s the same desire for altered consciousness, the same need to escape emotions. When you are abusing a substance or a behavior as a coping mechanism for your emotions, for your life and then by coping with that it starts to become more and more, a bigger and bigger part of your life, which then takes away from the rest of your life and pushes you to want to do it more and more and then it becomes all you do.”

To help with his cross addiction, he went to a treatment center in Southern California and a wilderness awareness program in Washington state. Andrew says that today he is happy and drug and tech-free.

When he went back to college, he went without a laptop, only a smartphone. “I don’t have a game console. I don’t have a TV. I don’t have a computer. And until recently I had a smartphone. I got rid of that, so I’m actually talking to you on a flip phone.

"The reason I got rid of my smartphone is because of YouTube and social media. I just felt like I was compulsively checking social media and wasting time watching YouTube videos when I could be doing other things. I thought why am I giving so much power to a stupid device, so I got rid of it."

Andrew says it important for parents to practice what they preach. “Growing up in my house, my parents always tried to limit my tech use, but my dad was on his computer all the time, my mom was checking her computer constantly so they felt comfortable setting limits for the kids and not so much for themselves and that’s where the danger comes in.”

He encourages parents to really think about their own pull to technology. “If they don’t understand what it means for themselves,” he says, “how are they going to enforce that on their kids.”

Andrew also stressed the importance of doing non-tech activities together like playing cards OR going for walks. “It is really important to have those non-tech related activities. It really fosters a strong, healthy mind and your relationships if you’re able to find fun in the things you do, find enjoyment without the need for technology, drugs or alcohol.”

For this TTT, open by sharing Andrew’s story with your kids. Ask them:

  • What are the aspects of video games that make it so much fun?
  • Have they ever turned to video games as a way of avoiding uncomfortable feelings—such as stress? 
  • How much video game and social media use do they think is too much?
  • What non-tech activities they would enjoy doing together as a family?