Friday, December 5, 2014

Facing up to the Candy Crush Addiction

I would have loved to title this post “Beating the Candy Crush Addiction”, but that would be a lie. Facing up to it is much more realistic, managing it is a skill that is getting there but it is real and it has been a problem.

I have always known I have an addictive personality. My desire to always be in control of myself physically and emotionally probably meant I was unlikely to be drawn to some things like smoking, drinking or drugs. However, I have also always been thankful I never liked them much and so the attraction was not there.

However I know I struggle with what some might term ‘less obviously damaging’ addictions. My body and mind stay healthy - but boy can I waste time! I can play iPhone games for hours, I can read fiction for hours, I can get obsessed by home projects for hours and I can look at Facebook multiple times a day.

Realising this tendency and being willing to acknowledge it has taken years. But it’s probably taken having children that are at an age to notice what I do that has really made me pay attention.

When they would walk out and check what level I was up to on Candy Crush or my progress on Plants vs. Zombies, or wonder why I was spending hours of the weekend sanding windows, I had to analyse my own behaviour and what I was modelling.
  • Do I want my children to learn self-control? Yes
  • Do I want my children to know when to stop? Yes
  • Do I want my children to know they are more important than a game? Yes
  • Do I want my children to think that as a stay-at-home mum I had endless time that I wasted? No
  • Do I want my children to learn that leisure activities and hobbies are fine, but in moderation and generally only when essential things are completed? Yes
  • Do I often feel that I should spend more time with my kids playing games and reading books, but don’t? Yes
This issue has been drifting around for me for ages. I have managed it with reading only in holidays, downloading certain games only on holidays and I shut down Facebook for 9 months. But it really came to a head with Candy Crush this year. (For those who don’t know what it is, be thankful, but it’s an app that you move things around to get groups of three and need to solve challenges in doing so. When described like that, one wonders what the attraction is!)

I listened to an ABC conversation on gambling, and the speaker had written a book on casinos and gambling and how they destroy lives. The interviewer asked if she had ever had a gambling problem. She said, no, but while writing the book she developed an addiction to Candy Crush and started to realise the attraction of gambling and poker machines. It is called something like “Positive Feedback Reinforcement” where nice colours and flashing symbols make you feel good. It rang very true for me.

So cue decision time. First was acknowledging it was a problem, this took much longer than it should have. Second was deleting it off most devices. Third was telling the kids what I had done and why (& my husband and some friends).

It’s still in management phase. It has crept back onto most devices, because the kids also like to play it and their screen time is very monitored.  I seem to have it pretty well under control at the moment. I generally only let myself play during tea/coffee breaks and only for as long as it take me to drink the tea/coffee - and seeing I like it hot, that’s not too long.

So, there you go - my issues for you all to read about.

Do you struggle with similar things? How have you managed it?


Camilla said...

Good on you Wendy! You're right admitting it to oneself is often the hardest step! I think for those of us who are lucky enough to have more flexible time it can be tricky to manage it. While I haven't fallen prey to Candy Crush (I've heard lots of similar stories which have kept me from trying) I certainly identify strongly with most of the things you talk about. I have similar struggles in using my time effectively when it's more flexible. Lately I've made good use of a timer to do a defined activity for eg household chores which can seem endless. OK I'm going to do 1/2 hr of intensive tidying; 1 hr of cleaning; 1 hr of clearing emails etc. and when the timer goes I have to stop whether or not it's finished. Then I allow myself some down time of blog reading or something! I'm not as disciplined about it as that sounds, but it's been a good tool for me to use when I feel annoyed with myself for being inefficient or a bit obsessive about something.

I have worked with Problem Gamblers and certainly there is a sinister element to the way some games are structured and chillingly, psychologists are employed by designers of pokie machines and games like Candy Crush to get people engaged and to keep them playing...

Wendy said...

Thanks Camilla. It certainly is a bit chilling the way these games are designed. I finally conceded the other night and deleted it off all devices. I am hoping to get lots more reading and other things done as a result!

Part of the issue with these games too is that I can actually feel my intelligence draining away as a play them, they require no thought, no intelligent interaction and no memory skills.

I don't want to get dumber as the years progress, but rather wiser and more thought out - these games are unlikely to help with that goal!!

Timer idea is a good one, I have also used that on occasion, sometimes to limit over-tasking. eg - too much gardening so I hurt my back, etc.

Thanks for the comment!

Naomi said...

Hi Wendy. Thanks so much for sharing this post. I feel I need to share about me watching a VERY stupid Australian TV drama that is on week days & goes for 30 mins...doesn't matter which one it is but it has many un-godly behaviours that are shown as acceptable each episode - which I really hate!!!

This time last year I didn't watch it for a month & then I got back into watching it....for the rest of the year....I am trying again not to watch it...unfort. catch ups are available online but with Gods help I know I can spend these 30 mins in a more constructive manner!

I did use the excuse I needed a break & switch off my brain for awhile but I know that wasn't the way to do it & of course I wanted to find out the next episode.....

Thanks again for sharing!


Wendy said...

Thanks for sharing Naomi - it's good when we call all be honest. Perhaps get someone to keep you accountable? Prayer partner? Someone who will actually ask. I know a number of Naomis, I'm not sure if I know you - but depending on your situation a friend/husband/or child who calls you on habits you want to break can be surprisingly effective!

I'm sure we all struggle with self-control in some form or another. No more candy crush for me, but there's always other things creeping in that I have to watch.

I've found being honest about it with some people has really helped.

Hang in there!