We use computers a lot at work, they are supposed to be quicker and it is obviously easier to read a computer record than a doctor’s notoriously illegible scrawl. In reality I find it very time consuming, there is a constant stream emails from the Health department and Electronic guidelines are steadily replacing the old fashioned “doctor knows best” approach.
So when I have an unexpected spare few minutes between patients, It was easy to click on a popup box and there it was, I was hooked.
At first it was a bit of innocent fun, it helped me wind down, a little light relief from the stressful business of healing the sick and listening to the worried well.
Just a game or two of online chess, nothing dangerous like porn or gambling, I was not stupid enough to put my career at risk by getting involved in that!
“Honey, I am just going to check a few emails,” I would tell my wife, Sandy, giving her a hug and a kiss as she was preparing dinner.
“David sweetheart, you work too hard, come and talk to me, dinner is nearly ready.”
“I won’t be long Sandy, this is important.”
I would go into the study feeling foolish for wanting to play an online game, realising I have just lied but ignoring the warning signs.
Then Sophia, my little girl, was grizzly one night, unsettled from teething.
“Ill go honey.”
I take my baby downstairs, put on some music and stroke her cross little face. I play a game or two, then carry her gently back to her cot. I’m wide awake so go back to the computer playing chess till pale streaks of dawn lighten the sky.
Then I take Sandy a cup of tea and go into Corey. A sturdy four year old, tangled up in his Superman duvet clutching his teddy. I’ place a kiss on his forehead and leave for work.
The gaming gradually began to take over my life, I still worked well, but Bible study and prayer slipped and my mind often wandered during the Sunday sermon. I even began to dream about chess moves.
I told Sandy I was working late at the surgery but in reality I was playing late, coming home long after the children were asleep.
To be honest I was embarrassed at the hold it had on me, but even though I was seeing patients everyday addicted to various things like drugs and alcohol, the possibility that I was becoming addicted myself never entered my mind.
It took about six months before I finally faced the truth. We were at our holiday cottage in a remote and beautiful setting, surrounded by pine forests and fabulous view of snow capped mountains and the lake.
We went there every year and I usually found the tranquillity refreshing, but that evening I could not settle and I went outside restlessly pacing the veranda.
“David we need to talk” Sandy called softly bringing me out a mug of hot chocolate. “Is it another woman? I need to know.”
“No, no nothing like that, honestly, I love you.”
“Well what is it? I know something is up! You spend hours on the internet you‘re being secretive and making pathetic excuses. You hardly notice the kids anymore.”
I came over to her. Seeing her tears, I felt rotten for causing her pain.
“Honey I am so, so sorry.” I took her in my arms, but looked away ashamed. I felt so stupid and embarrassed.
“Oh my God David, whatever is it? You must tell me. Is it drugs? Heroin, Cocaine?” Are you addicted?”
The stars are so clear; the moonlight is dancing on the lake. I breathe in the fragrant smell of the pine needles and far off an owl hoots. It seems like the world is holding its breath.
What have I been DOING these last 6 months? Suddenly I know what I need to do. I have to stop this otherwise it will steal everything I hold dear.
“Sandy it is not drugs, but I am addicted; to computer games, but no more I promise, you and the kids mean the earth to me. I have been a fool. I thought it was harmless but nothing that steals me away from you and from God is worth it, it is only a stupid game of chess”
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