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Into the Fray: Videogames were my rehab

Written by James Pope

It has been said a million times by a million different people… and we’ve all heard it before. We have all known someone or been that someone to say “I love video games” and I am sure that in most if not all of those cases the writer or person you were speaking to genuinely meant what they said. I am not here to tell you I love games, I am not even here to tell you why I love games… I am here to tell you how games saved me from a life of drug use, trouble and certain death. Take a ride with me as we enter into the mind of an addict turned gamer, of someone who might very well be dead without video games.

Video games have been a part of my life for a very long time, if you’ve ever read Into the Fray before you know about my love of Zelda. You know that my 1st console was an old Atari that my parents had in the house much longer than it should have been before they told me. When I talk about games saving my life I talk about embracing the gaming culture as a whole and making it the hobby that dominates much of my free time.

I am the child of an alcoholic mother and a drug addict father, to say that some of the things I have seen growing up were crazy would be an understatement of monumental proportions. Without the support and guidance of my 4 older sisters I would be no one and because of that they deserve more praise than I could express in this article. As a teen I made a lot of poor decisions and made poor choices in the people I surrounded myself with. Drugs became an escape from everything I didn’t want to deal with at home and as is the case with most teens who use drugs my downfall was both rapid and destructive. Weed and alcohol gave way to Freon, cocaine and most of all meth. While most of my friends parents were trying to help them figure out why they might be using drugs and what they might be able to do for them, my father was asking what I had to share and my mother cared about nothing more than hiding her more than obvious drinking problem.

Things were never worse than when I was 18 bouncing from house to house, bed to bed, not only fighting for my next fix but fighting for my very life. To say that there was no structure, nothing I could count on would be an understatement. When I think back now it makes me laugh a bit because throughout the entire thing I loved video games, I played video games… but I never dreamed they would be my future and I never believed they could be a hobby that could serve as my escape. There were 3 things I used to carry around with me when I was 18, my clothes, my drugs and my Dreamcast. No matter how bad things got and no matter where I ended up staying I would always have that Dreamcast with me. It was my escape even then, it gave me the chance to not focus on the despair and constant impending doom that dominated much of my consciousness.

When I finally decided drugs were going to kill me I reached out for help, the first call I made was to my grandmother who allowed me to go and stay with my uncle. Living there was nothing close to the ideal situation but it did offer me the chance to escape from the addicts and vultures who provided me access to the world that nearly ruined my life. It was while I was at my uncles house that I got my PS2 and the first game I got with the system was Grand Theft Auto III, hell it was the reason I got the system in the first place. I was immersed, it completely changed the way I looked at games forever. It was the moment I realized this was becoming a medium that could dominate my new-found sober consciousness.  The time spent with my uncle was short-lived and before too long I was on my way out to live with my mother in Parhump, NV. We lived in the most pathetic trailer you could ever imagine and my PS2 was the only escape that I had. Whenever I had a chance and could get some spare money I would go to Gamestop with my mother and find the most interesting cheap games I could find and load up for my next stint in my personal hell. While I never could have realized it at the time being away from everything I knew gave me the chance to see that I there was so much more out there for me and that if I didn’t turn my life around quickly it was all going to pass me by. The stay in Pahrump lasted for a good 6 months before my mother and I made our way back to Las Vegas and where my opportunity to truly make a change came into my life. Thanks to all of my sisters effort and all of the rides she gave me I was able to obtain my GED and gain employment with the same company who I am proud to be with to this very day.

Making these changes and earning gainful employment gave me an opportunity to provide for myself, with that I was proud to be able to make the choice to spend my money on improving my life and investing in the #1 habit in my life, gaming. I purchased a 360 in the launch window and was fully engrossed in the current generation of games. Ever since I have craved and been seeking every bit of video game news that I could find. It is this thirst for knowledge and lifelong love of games that has allowed me to surround myself with the people I have and given me the opportunity I have today, to have a forum to tell this story. If at all let this serve as an example that making positive changes and choosing healthy, positive hobbies can serve to provide a life that is so much more fulfilling than I ever imagined possible for myself. Thank you gaming… you are indeed my rehab.

About the author

James Pope

Twitter: @Jamespope2 Lead News Editor- Video games aren't just a hobby, they're a way of life!

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