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Chabad Lifeline blog

Becky's Story

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I was a junior counsellor at a popular overnight camp in the Laurentians.

Camp was a blast. At some point during the summer (this was 11 years ago so I don't remember exactly which point), a couple of people from what is now Chabad Lifeline visited camp to talk to us about addiction.

I knew about drugs and alcohol from TV (and from experiences with my Mom at home). But I never felt like they applied to my situation. Yeah ok, drugs are dangerous. But what does that have to do with me?

Chabad Lifeline's workshop slammed home. Hit me in the gut. They brought this guy, probably 5 years older than me, who shared his story. It wasn't similar to mine but he looked us in the eyes and told us we sometimes had to face our demons. He mentioned his parents and something struck. My heart started hammering.

There was this period of time that probably lasted 10 minutes at most but to me felt like hours, where the Counsellors and the guy in recovery took questions and comments. That's where I opened up a bit. I asked questions related to my situation, and they answered to the point. Without beating around the bush. I discovered that I was an "innocent victim" and that I had to seek help.

That evening, I called my mom and begged her to call Chabad Lifeline for help.

Next morning, my mom called Lifeline. That very afternoon (!), she met with an Addictions Counsellor.

My mom has been in recovery since (and I joined the youth group to get support for me). She's has some setbacks but she works hard and a couple months ago celebrated 5 years of continuous sobriety for the first time.

Adults often look back at their experiences in camp with warmth. For me, a visit from Chabad Lifeline saved my family.

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During the summer, kids are more laid back. School's out, and camp is fun. People are more receptive to meaningful messages.  

We've been taking our philosophy on the road to summer camps since the '80s, delivering the atmosphere of our Tuesday Noon Speaker's Meetings in which vulnerability is welcomed and we lead with our weakness, creating a safe space. Our workshops are effective and have saved thousands.

For 30 years, we delivered presentations to schools. Last year, we started placing Addictions Counsellors in the EMSB to serve as integrated members of the school support staff. In the past 12 months, we reached over 4,000 students in these schools.

The success of our school program has led to a new camp program in which we will be placing our Youth Counsellors in various overnight camps two days a week to work on awareness, prevention, and to support children affected by addiction.

To see our camp services flyer, click here.

Please note: names and some factual information in the story has been changed to protect the anonymity of the people in the story.

Game over: how gaming affected my health

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My name is *Dean.

I was always a gamer. Since I first discovered the Xbox and Playstation, I was hooked.

For my 8th birthday, my Dad got me my own gaming console and I became an expert. I got so good at NHL '10 (note: a sports game) that friends would come over just to watch me score over 100 goals every game!

By the time I was 14, I was hooked on immersive gaming, I had joined a guild, and I had become a respected member of the online gaming community. No one suspected I was a young teenager.

From the start, gaming affected my grades. I would pretend to go to sleep, and after my parents checked in on me I'd silently continue my dynasties. It also affected my real world relationships, and as I spent more time gaming, I lost my friends.

School was a daze. I have no idea how I passed exams because most of the time I was itching to leave.

My health began deteriorating when I was around 13. I suffered from insomnia and migraines, and I became extremely irritable. I actually only discovered my insomnia issues when my Dad threw out my console and I spent five nights wide awake, tossing and turning for hours.

At some point, the addiction intensified. I had to be the first to try out every new game, and I wasn't available to the world until I had beaten the game.

And then "mobile gaming" became a thing. All of a sudden I was able to download games on my phone and play them anywhere I'd like. My parents couldn't catch me, my teachers didn't know what was going on. It was so easy to escape the real world and dive into the fantasy world of online gaming.

Looking back, I had my entire family somehow wrapped around my controller. Their lives revolved around me.

Then I got a serious panic attack.

It happened while I was playing Darkest Dungeon, which is a hardcore game that ironically tracks the stress levels of your heroes.

I was seized with fear. I could hear my own heartbeat, which was pounding. I had trouble breathing, and I started sweating. I thought I was going to die.

It lasted about 10 minutes and was very intense.

A couple days later, a Chabad Lifeline Addictions Counsellor and someone in recovery came to my school and made a presentation about addiction. The guy in recovery shared some of his experiences and mentioned in passing that gaming is also an addiction.

I still wasn't sure, so I asked about it in the questionnaire they handed out at the end of the presentation.

The Counsellor called me the next evening and we chatted for awhile. We then met for a one on one discussion, and over the course of several sessions I recognized that gaming was ruining my life.

I am still on the path to recovery and it is difficult but so worth it! But I'm pulling through, thanks to my school Guidance Counsellor and Chabad Lifeline's Addictions Counsellor.

In fact, today I'm celebrating 90 days gaming free.

I haven't had any more panic attacks, I'm less irritable, and my migraines have definitely lessened.

If you know someone who spends all their time gaming, reach out to Chabad Lifeline. Ask them to put you in touch with an Addictions Counsellor, and get your life back on track.

Level up your life.

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This story is another example of how our collaboration with the English Montreal School Board pays off. Please note that to protect the identity of the student with the gaming addiction, the name and certain identifying details were changed.

Read more about internet, smartphone, and gaming addiction here.

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