What am I doing?
In the beginning, it was an experiment driven by peer pressure. It was out of simple curiosity; the desire to try something new and exciting. For a long time, that's all it was-- just messing around, feeling good, allowing myself to let go for short periods of time. But then, it took a little more to feel that good. Then, a little more just to feel alright. Eventually, it was never enough, and my life was consumed by the question: "How can I get more?" I'm not talking about drugs, alcohol, or gambling. I'm talking about World of Warcraft, the game that took over my life.
My brother introduced WoW to me after I had played, and not enjoyed, several other MMORPGs. For the first two years, I was a casual player-- I didn't even play every day. I raided twice a week, and my guild was never competitive for any sort of top spot on the realm. I made some good friends, and was proud to say that I finally had a real hobby, something I was really good at. I started life as a hunter, then a druid, then a priest and a warlock. I found myself craving more, though.
I started feeling disappointment when it took a long time to kill a new boss. Struggling through MC in vanilla, then on "Loot Reaver" back in Burning Crusade was embarrassing when my friends were advancing through BT at an alarming rate. I knew I was a gifted healer; my raid leader used to tell me as much, although I suppose it helped that I have a "ridiculously cute" voice. I came to crave that positive attention. I've always had an inferiority complex, so being praised by people I didn't even know was exhilarating. But I didn't just want to be good-- I wanted to be the BEST. I wanted people to know my priest's name and look up to me as I used to do to the top healers on our server.
So, I started the guild search. I was under-geared from my lack of raid progression, so I found a guild that was just starting out, working its way through Hyjal and the first part of BT. I was accepted, and so began my spiral into addiction.
The guild fell apart after two key members quit the game, and another transferred to a more hardcore server. I was absolutely lost. I didn't want to lose my friends and go find another guild on a different server. I had been through that once already, and the fact that I'm painfully shy makes it really stressful for me to try to make new friends. I resolved to give myself a much-needed break from the game, and start the guild search once my emotions were more in control.
That break was the enlightening moment for me. I really looked at my life, as cliche as that may sound, and realized that I really had NOTHING. I went from being a straight A/B student to barely being able to graduate high school. I went from eating dinner with my family every night to seeing them maybe twice a week. The only contact I had with my friends was during school. I had developed severe anxiety and depression, which led to physical problems. All of this had happened while I was busy watching green health bars and spamming Penance or PW:S every time Yogg-Saron decided to beat up on my guildies. My life had fallen to shambles around me, and I was too busy absorbed in being "Twilight Vanquisher Anamink," the girl everyone in-game loved, to even notice it.
I never went back after that hiatus. I'm not brave enough to delete my characters (not yet, anyway), but my subscription runs out early next month. Since the time my guild broke up I have visited family in San Francisco, I've taken up sewing, and I attended the local anime convention with some of my RL friends, where I had a BLAST. I'm working on getting a job, and have plans to start at a community college soon. I play other video games, but no MMOs, and I'm careful to limit my screen time. The damage has been done, but I'm slowly rebuilding my life, because it's the only one I'm gonna get.
WoW is a drug. It's a way to ignore the harsh realities of the real world, and to find a place where you can make a name for yourself amongst un-biased people you'll never actually meet. It starts as peer pressure, or a simple curiosity, but if you're not careful you'll find yourself doing anything for your next "fix." I still think about it, I still dream about it, and I have to watch my brother and my father continue down this horrible path of addiction. But I won't let it have me. Not anymore.
If I could give one piece of advice to people who are struggling with WoW addiction, it would be this: Take one day off, and really look at the real world around you. Look at your family (if they still talk to you), look at your friends (if you still have any), and look at your school/job performance (if you still go to school or have a job). Things may actually be a lot worse than you've fooled yourself into thinking.