“My issue is that I had gaming addiction,” he said. “I had anxiety and depression and basically I’d just use it as like escaping from it … I literally skipped school for a month just to play video games.”
Al and Christine’s son Josh, a 14 years old, was so consumed with playing video games that he basically started completely ignoring school and obligations. It all began in 8th grade, Al and Christine said, adding that the tipping point was him building a computer and installing it in his room.
“Playing games is just extremely relaxing to me,” Josh said. “I guess the way I play is like being on drugs because I’m just not even trying, if you understand what I’m saying. I just watch myself play basically.”
Sometimes Al would resort to cutting out his internet connection but that never ended well, as Josh reacted with emotional outbursts. Their kid blamed the school for his sudden change:
“I just can’t take the regular schooling anymore,” Josh said. “It’s just not right for me.”
After taking away his computer and witnessing true withdrawal symptoms (as seen with many types of addiction) the parents contacted Michigan-based expert Kevin Roberts, who counsels families all over the United States regarding excessive technology usage. As a self-proclaimed recovering “gaming addict,” Roberts said he understands what Josh’s gaming compulsion is like.
I guess it’s just kind of been a pretty insane journey, just to be able to mentally and physically change
“My read of the situation is that you don’t know how to engage intensely with anything other than the video games,” Roberts told Josh. “I think it’s become excessive and I think it’s going to get worse.”
Eventually, he was sent to a wilderness program called Outback Therapeutic Expeditions, located in the wild lands of Utah, completely isolated from the digital and online world. Josh who was reluctant at first, said “It’s just kind of stupid. I just play video games and I have to go to a rehab for it.”
“This is not to punish Josh,” Al said. “This is to help him go through a program to reset, reset himself … there are other things in life to offer beyond gaming all the time.”
Weeks later, when he reunited with his parents, they,’d said Josh seemed like a whole new person, no signs of addiction and completely changed behavior patterns. They all agreed that before returning home that there would be no more PC – it had to be removed from the picture.