Strat-o-holic

I’m an addict.  It’s in my nature to become obsessed and to compulsively engage in behavior that stimulates whatever combination of chemicals it is in my brain – seratonin, dopamine, oxytocin, endorphines, I don’t know – that creates a feeling of euphoria and peace.  I crave this stimulation to the point of anxiety, and without a support system and framework in my life that encourages a healthy response to these cravings, I will be tortured and compelled by my own brain to go to any lengths to quell that anxiety.

Without a support system and framework of greater strength than I, I would plot my own destruction to quell the torture of the addiction.

I’ve been sober for over 14 months now (in a row!), but not for a day have I not been an addict.

I want to stay sober, so I try to study and seek the advice of other addicts who have successfully maintained sobriety for long periods of time.  This active search for wisdom has provided me with many useful tools and methods to use when the compulsion of addiction is particularly strong.

The tool I use most is prayer.  I probably pray a dozen times a day, maybe more.

The tool I use second-most is tabletop-sports gaming.

I’m no expert on the mechanisms of the brain, but I know that there is a certain call-and-response that occurs; I go through the ritual of filling out a lineup card, the click-clacking of the roll of the dice, I pencil in the result in the little box and there is, suddenly, a flush of something lovely in my body.  It feels a lot like puppy love.

Is pursuing this hobby a healthy response to my addictive nature?  I honestly don’t know.  I play some game – Strat-o-Matic baseball, APBA Soccer, lately it’s been Mea Copa World Cup replays- pretty much every day.  On days I don’t, I think about these games.  A lot.  I think about them when I’m at work, when I’m at church, when I’m at a family gathering.

But, you know, as far as addictions go, this one is pretty benign.  Because of tools I’ve learned in counsel with other addicts, I know how to maintain family, faith, and employment above all symptoms of my addiction.  And, I’ve chosen to channel my addiction into tabletop sports in part because this is a kind of addiction that will never lead to a barfight, an extra-marital dalliance, a night in jail, or worse.

My kids might someday be a little embarrassed by their nerdy dad with his dice games, but this is far better than the alternative, which is the shame of a drunken dad.  I know that too well.  And my wife doesn’t understand this hobby, but she bemusedly tolerates it.  I’ll take bemused tolerance over loathing, bitterness, anger and pain any day.

I went to two Christmas parties this weekend, and didn’t drink at either.  I felt comfortable, too, and managed to enjoy myself.  That was a huge success for me and a sign of great progress.  I’ll pat myself on the back for that today, but I won’t drink in celebration.  Tonight, I’m going to play out the Quarterfinals of the 1986 World Cup using Mea Copa.  I won’t drink while I do that.  Afterward, I’ll go to bed sober, beside a woman who is happy to have me warming her bed.

Whatever combination of chemicals it is that is warming my heart, flushing my cheeks, and filling my chest with gratitude and contentment tonight, I don’t know.  I’m no brain scientist.  But that I can call this my sobriety is a thing of wonder.  It feels a lot like life, and right now life feels a lot like love.

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11 Comments

  1. Paul, I can certainly relate to the table-top gaming addiction. Although I have not fallen into any serious addictions over the course of my life, I know the feeling that I get from rolling a game and I love it! I play PC baseball as well, but you don’t get the same ‘high’ if you will that you do from rolling the dice.
    Keep it up bro!

    Mike B. in KC

  2. Thanks for letting us be a part of your success story…with all that is bad around us, it is great to read some good. My wife also has to put up with my gamie-ness (not the smelly kind) thru board gaming, sports gaming and late into the evening game nights with 10 of my favorite geek friends sitting around rolling dice, playing cards and laughing…..I am one lucky dog, like you.
    Bob

  3. As a former abuser of pain pills and alcohol I find the sports gaming hobby/addiction a perferrable alternative. Addiction is addiction, and I think I’m actually more addicted to reading about and purchasing/acquiring the games (mostly baseball games) than playing them. I also think about my games all the time, at work, driving, shopping etc… especially the ones I’ve just ordered. It makes me very happy. I’m always trying to find that one perfect baseball sim game. Strat-o-Matic was the first from eons ago, many have followed. Not sure if this helps, but I’m 7 years sober from substance abuse. However, my gaming addiction is decades long.

    • Thank you for sharing, too, hakara. Your comment hit home for me. I’m having a hard time struggling with the obsession to get more and more information and horde more and more games, too.

      I know that in some way these types of struggles will always be a part of my life, because I have addiction in my genetic makeup. I’m never not going to be an addict, but I hope that I can daily practice the principles I’ve learned in recovery in all my affairs, as they say. It’s not easy, though, and I have to be vigilant. But, all in all, if I know I’m going to be addicted to something, this strat-o-holism is certainly the lesser of the two evils.

  4. Paul, thanks for sharing your story. I relate to hakara who posted before me in regards to buying a bunch of games, but not playing them. I’ve always admired those who could do season replays and post blurbs about them on message boards. In your case, I’m glad you’re sober and have found a way turn your thoughts to other things rather than your former vices. Just remember that woman you sleep beside every night. Having games to play to help you move your thoughts away from your addiction is good. Having a good woman to share your life is even better.
    God bless you.

    • Thank you, Brian. I agree 100%. I don’t know where I’d be without my wife, but it wouldn’t be here now, and that would be a shame. I love her more than words can say. It sounds like you know something about that feeling, too.

      God bless you, too, and I wish you all the best,
      Paul

  5. Hi Paul. What a great story. Really nice to read and good luck to you. I am a lot like hakara in that I buy endless games (especially cricket games) and rarely play them. Apart from Strat-o-matic and my own game (Minden Cricket) I have mostly bought, then enjoyed the thrill of opening the game, then lovingly packed them away much to the bemusement of my wife. 🙂 Anyway, long may your sobriety and love of replay game continue!

    • Hi Darren, Thank you for stopping by and for the comment. I’ve seen your website before and it’s really impressive. I am interested in playing your game someday, even though I know absolutely nothing about cricket. Let me know if you ever want a game review from a cricket outsider (and an American). I’m sure we can work something out.

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