I was visiting my old neighbourhood recently. I had lunch with a friend and then I had a hair salon appointment to attend to. While having my colour done (yes, to cover up those grays), my hair stylist exclaims that my ears must have been ringing the week before. I replied that my ears ring all of the time, due to the many loud rock concerts I attended in the past and still today. All joking aside, she went on to explain that she had a client at the salon who was worried about the fact that her teenage son is gaming for five hours each day. When she broached her son on the matter, he told her that five hours of daily gaming was nothing compared to his friends. You see his friends game at least 10 hours daily. This youth told his mom that he logs off at night to sleep and when he wakes in the morning, many of his friends are still online and gaming. This information didn’t surprise me. That was my son’s gaming pattern, when he was a teen, as well. And by the way, five hours a night of video gaming is not a healthy number either. These are addictive patterns.
My hair stylist, upon hearing this tells the woman that she has a client who wrote a book about her son who is a recovering video gaming addict, and that she is now talking in secondary schools about this. The woman replies that she is aware of this person and believes she is the same woman who will be speaking at her son’s school in the spring. And she tells the hair stylist that she plans to attend the Talk. Of course, they discover that it is the same person; it is me.
I am pleasantly surprised upon hearing this. It is still weeks before I speak at her son’s school to create more awareness, and yet there is already buzz about it. There is already an awareness among parents that their child may be addicted to video gaming. And they want to learn more; they want to do something about it, and look for support systems. This encourages me, and solidifies my belief that sharing my painful and difficult journey, as a parent is of enormous value to others.
Earlier this week I spoke on a panel for a mental health event at another secondary school. Following the question and answer period I was met by parents who had more questions, and/or who wanted to share their own stories. They had such worried and desperate looks on their faces, similar to the face I carried for many months when my son was in crisis and still in denial about his addiction. I wanted to hug them all. I understood their pain and their panic. This is an addiction like any other, and it requires compassion, patience, determination, a network of support, and unconditional love from the families of the addict. It is newly recognized as a disorder, and it has been spoken of very little in the past. Many times I have heard parents brushing it off as a passing phase, as something that doesn’t really exist. But I am now seeing and hearing a growing movement of parents, at my Talks, through my book, and from sharing my story with friends and business associates who understand that it’s very real. That it needs to be addressed. This gives me hope.
Let’s all start talking and let’s be open to listening. A child addicted to video gaming may be in your circle of friends and family. They will need a village of support to work through the difficulties of recovery.