First ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen? Then prepare to accept it. Then proceed to improve on the worst.Dale Carnegie
Prepare yourself for these unpleasant side effects when you quit gaming for good.
You feel like you lost a best friend
While still gaming, it seems unimaginable to give up an activity on which you’ve spent a majority of your free time. The first few weeks after quitting is tough. You feel a part of you is missing. It’s similar to ending a long relationship or losing a best friend.
It’s okay to sometimes look back on your relationship with games fondly. You don’t have to look back with sadness. It’s a part of your life that’s over.
When you catch yourself remembering a time when you gamed, gently redirect your thoughts to the future and anticipate the new memories you will create with healthier activities.
Keep the nostalgia for gaming at bay by avoiding all gaming media: videos, social media discussions, blogs/news sites, etc.
Searching for any game will only make the separation more painful, and increases risk of relapse.
Gaming dreams that trigger urges
Even if you avoid all gaming media and try to redirect your thoughts while thinking of games, there are still dreams. If you had gaming dreams before quitting gaming, they may increase in frequency after quitting. It’s as though your subconscious is starving for it’s gaming fix and controls dreams as its outlet.
Not all dreams may be an obvious game. I’ve had frequent game-like dreams where I could control events as though it were a game. And the beings in the dreams are either NPCs or enemies with obvious game-like mechanics.
The dreams haven’t stopped even after over a year. The good news is that the dreams become less about specific games after several months of quitting. The dreams become more about new games your mind invents. It’s almost a guilty pleasure, but there’s no use in feeling guilty since you can’t help this side effect.
Explaining why you quit gaming to others
Not all of your friends will understand why you’re no longer online or at gaming events. Unlike alcohol or other drugs, behavioral addictions seem strange to people without addictive personalities.
Imagine you have a friend who is a recovering binge eater. At first it may seem strange that they leave the room if someone brings in a box of doughnuts to share. Unless you’ve seen someone mid-binge, almost possessed, shoveling food into their mouths, you would think they were making a big deal about a harmless activity.
You can either try to hide that you have a problem or just be honest. Tell others that when it comes to you and games, one hour is too much and 72 hours isn’t enough.
Saying goodbye to your anticipated games list
Most gamers look forward to the next Bethesda or Rockstar game. It’s a real kick to the stomach when you realize you won’t play the next release.
But think of it this way. You are only passing up pleasure. There is no game that will add true fulfillment to your life. Reflect on what Marcus says about passing up pleasurable activities:
Remorse is annoyance at yourself for having passed up something that’s to your benefit. But if it’s to your benefit it must be good—something a truly good person would be concerned about.
But no truly good person would feel remorse at passing up pleasure.
So it cannot be to your benefit, or good.Marcus Aurelius, Meditations Book 8
You realize how many projects you’ve ignored
You turned to gaming to escape responsibilities and stress. These stressors will return once you’re off the high of gaming. You will have more time that you’re no longer gaming, but it won’t feel like it at first. Now that your brain isn’t being constantly distracted, you will start remembering all the projects you’ve been putting off.
Don’t let this discourage you. Turn it into fuel to beat your gaming addiction. Categorize your projects in asana (the free version) and configure a setting that triggers random rewards when checking off to-do items. It’s not as great as opening a treasure chest or loot box, but it’s a start.
Low dopamine levels
You’ve been getting “high” on a steady dopamine drip while gaming. These dopamine releases are triggered when you level up, get rare loot, win a match, etc. During the first few days if quitting, you experience dopamine withdrawal.
But supplements only help so much. Positive habits are the best long-term solution. Start a consistent exercise schedule to improve mood and energy levels. Also get at least seven to eight hours of sleep and create a consistent sleep schedule.
If you still feel unmotivated after getting plenty of sleep, try this trick: sleep only five to six hours the next day (and take your morning caffeine). See if your mood is increased on this reduced sleep schedule. Then continue your usual sleep schedule the next day.
I can’t find solid research on this, but my theory is that some people become used sleep deprivation and the mood boost it provides. There is something called the hangover effect which could be related.
This dependence on a reduced sleep scheduled happened to me while binging games and getting little sleep. After stopping a binge and getting a healthy amount of sleep, my mood actually dropped. I had to temporarily reduce my sleeping hours to feel an increase in mood.
Being tempted by other bad habits
You will be tempted by other bad habits. Be careful not to fall into other pleasure seeking behavior such as binge eating or binge watching television.
I had a difficult time with binge eating after quitting gaming. There’s a sort of euphoria, or numb feeling, when you shovel enormous quantities of food into your mouth. I overate sometimes when I was gaming, but it was infrequent. Once games left the table, food was an easy replacement for instant gratification.
My solution was a habit contract (which I broke a few times and had to pay the price). Make one of these contracts as soon as you notice another bad habit filling the void of gaming.
After the first several months of quitting, if you abstain from other habits, the temptation for other bad habits diminishes.
If you’re curious as to why this happens, read The Addictive Personality. The short explanation is that, as addicts, we look for something or some activity to enter a trance-like static (the “high” we experience when acting out). Once we give up one addictive habit, the addict part of our minds seeks the next most convenient replacement. These replacements tend to be TV, food, alcohol, or drugs.