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Blackout freakout: my son's gaming addiction

Tuesday, 5 February, 2019 - 9:33 am

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My son Josh* was a typical teen. Doing ok in school, hanging out with friends, playing hockey and baseball. At home, he did his weekly chores, teased his younger sister, told us about his day over dinner.

He didn't really understand the concept of moderation, but we never saw it as a major area of concern.

For his thirteenth birthday, we got him a gaming console and he loved it. His friends came over on rainy days. Gaming was a social activity.

Then he went into hibernation.

At first he was missing meals. Then his friends stopped showing up. His marks started going down.

He isolated himself. And he got aggressive anytime we told him to stop or moderate. Soon, every conversation we had was related to his gaming. And they were mostly arguments. Then he stopped showering.

His marks plummeted further, his relationships with friends and family deteriorated, and he was always agitated.

Then came the blackout.

It happened on a cold winter weekend. We were eating dinner without him, as was our new custom, when the power went out. That's when we heard a primal yell. It was followed by a couple moments of silence, and then the sound of smashing glass. Screams, and more loud crashing.

I rushed to his room and burst in, using my phone as a flashlight. 

He was shrieking in anger. The room reeked. His bed was overturned. He had smashed his lamp. Pushed over a bookcase.

When he saw me, he began shouting at me. SWEARING at me. Throwing things at me.

I told Josh that it was only a blackout. That he could continue his game when the power returns. "When?" he demanded.

"I don't know," I responded.

That's when things got scary. It was like I had pressed a button. The change was instant.

The moment he realized he didn't know when he would be able to play, he got anxious. He began physically shaking, and he started crying. I'd never seen him so distressed.

I assumed that the power had gone out as he was about to win an important game, but I would later find out that he had just started playing.

As I watched my son shake with anxiety, I knew we had a serious problem.

My husband contacted an acquaintance whose son had experienced similar issues. That led us to Chabad Lifeline.

I knew computer games could be addictive, but I had never heard of gaming addiction until I visited Lifeline. I met with Karen, the Family Counsellor, and she gave me the information I needed.

I sat down with my husband and Josh and we came up with a plan. Josh joined Lifeline's youth program and he meets with his Youth Counsellor once a week. We joined a parenting group and see Karen once a week.

Josh's grades have started improving, he's getting more involved in our family life, and he spends time outdoors with friends. We owe our thanks to the wonderful Youth Counsellors and staff at Chabad Lifeline. We feel like we got our son back.

My message to other parents is: don't ignore the warning signs. If your child is isolating him or herself, it can be an addiction. Reach out to Chabad Lifeline. Reach out for help. Because help is out there.

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Chabad Lifeline currently has 7 Addiction Counsellors dedicated to youth.

If you or someone you know may be affected by a gaming addiction, reach out to us. You never have to be alone again.

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*Please note that names and certain identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals in this story. 

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