The SLunkie Factor – Part IV: A Quantum of Freedom

(Continued from here. Or start right at the beginning.)

The day I posted Part III of this series last week, some time later in the afternoon, I was in SL, dancing at the Shelter, when suddenly my internet connection died. After I’d rounded up the usual suspects – reset the router, restarted the computer – it became clear that the problem was not on my end but my provider’s. I briefly considered calling the hotline, but then just shrugged, grabbed my guitar, played a bit, then went upstairs and took my dog for a walk. By the time I got back it was time for dinner. After the meal, my daughter wanted to watch a movie on tv, so I flopped beside her on the couch and watched “You’ve Got Mail” with her. After the movie, I came downstairs again to check whether my internet was back. It was, and had been for quite some time obviously, as my email program had been diligently downloading my mail every 15 minutes for a couple of hours or so. I went through my mail quickly, then switched the computer off and went to bed.

Why am I telling you this humdrum stuff? Well, as I lay there dozing off, it occurred to me that it wasn’t humdrum at all. It was really quite extraordinary, compared to what I would have done if such a thing had happened to me, say, one and a half years ago. Back then, I would have been on the phone right away, telling some poor guy or girl at my provider’s hotline how absolutely essential it was that they got their servers up and functional again this very minute. Then, I would have just sat there and checked every 30 seconds or so whether my connection was back up. As I would have been biting my nails all that time, playing my guitar wouldn’t have been an option. The second I would have been able to log on again, I would have been back in SL and stayed there until they called me to dinner, and afterwards my daughter would have been alone with Meg and Tom. I wouldn’t have gone to bed at such a reasonable hour either.

I think I’m becoming addicted again – addicted to pleasurable moments like that when I realize that there’s a quantum of freedom in my life now. Moments when I realize that I like being me again. Moments when SL is one of several options for using my time and I decide to do something else, not because I think I should, but because I just feel like it.

I wish I could give you some recipe, some fail-safe method for getting there, but I can’t. In my case, it looks as if this storm I went through just had to run its course. It’s true that I took certain measures to get my life back on track, but I honestly don’t know whether it would have been possible for me to do so much earlier, as much as I wish I would have. Still, maybe you’ll find a clue or two for yourself in my story.

Around the end of 2007, I was at the absolute low point in every area of my life. Everything looked hopeless. I knew we would have to negotiate a new mortgage for our house in the first half of 2008, and given the shape our finances were in, the prospect of losing the house loomed large. I knew that my wife, though she didn’t talk much about it, was inwardly thinking about how she would rearrange her life after our marriage was over, which she expected to happen within a year. My professional standing was nearly destroyed – several publishing dates had had to be postponed because I hadn’t delivered the copy on schedule. The publishers weren’t happy with me, and their patience was running out.

Killing that life insurance took a bit of pressure off the cooker I was in. The money didn’t take us all the way back into the black, but at least we were operational again for the time being. The threat of losing the house was pushed back, and we were able to make tentative plans for going on vacation that coming summer.

That vacation was my deadline. Things had to change by then. If I didn’t catch up on my work backlog by then, not only the vacation wouldn’t be happening, but my professional life would be over. If I couldn’t give my wife some reason to put new faith in our marriage by then, it would be over, too. Of course, I would have to find some new faith in our marriage myself first.

Believe it or not, even then going cold turkey on SL entirely wasn’t an option I could seriously think about. I just couldn’t face it. I saw a therapist a couple of times in early 2008, and his way of summing up our talks was to say that I didn’t know anything about where I wanted my life to go, except that I wanted to hold on to SL.

Honestly, if cold turkey had been my only chance, I don’t think I would have made it through. I admire people who, at the height of their addiction, are able to pull the plug and leave SL totally. I think it’s a truly heroic deed. I wouldn’t have been up to it.

Interestingly, in the aforementioned Handbook of Psychotherapy, I had read that, contrary to other addictions like alcohol for example, going cold turkey isn’t necessarily the recommended course of action in the case of an internet-related addiction. One of the reasons was, if I remember correctly, that you can’t effectively put the “drug” out of your reach if living without a computer or internet access entirely isn’t an option. That was certainly true in my case. I spend my whole day at the computer, and I need the internet for my work. Had I gone cold turkey, relapse would have been only a mouse-click away every single second of my working day. The odds against that going well for very long would have been just too high. So I didn’t make any heroic decisions. I thought I’d be much safer if I could find a way to live with SL without it sucking up all my RL.

The Handbook had other practical bits of advice for internet addicts, though, such as not upgrading your computer to accommodate your on-line games, setting alarm clocks etc. It was too late for me not to upgrade, and I had tried the alarm clock thing with unimpressive results. In my experience, an alarm clock can be a good aid, but it won’t help much if you just set arbitrary times. You need specific objectives that give you a purpose for which you set your clock.

For me, in a nutshell, it came down to focusing on the positive instead of the negative. In other words, focusing positively on doing things, such as completing a specific amount of work, helped me more than focusing negatively on not being in SL. So when you set an alarm, do it not to stop being in SL, but to start doing some specific other thing. That other thing very often was work in my case of course, but it was just as important for me to deliberately make room for things I used to like doing in my spare time, such as reading, watching movies, playing the guitar etc.

From about March to mid-July 2008, I had one specific goal to focus on. I had to get out from under those deadlines. I had to complete these long overdue projects by July 11 – the day before we were planning to leave for the island – or I would have lost the game. There was no room for negotiation anymore, not with my publishers, not with my wife. So it was sheer pressure that forced me to get down and tackle the work. It cost me enormous energy because I hadn’t really found a livable way to fit SL into my life yet, so I just slaved away while RL and SL dragged me in opposite directions. Nothing had really changed yet. I just did the work because finally I really had no other choice left.

But something did change while I was at it. When I buckled down and started to do the work, my confidence that I would be able to do it was zero. Then, page by page, hour by hour, day by day, week by week, it slowly dawned on me that I could. It nearly killed me, but I was making progress. After a while, reaching the goal didn’t look like a wild wishful fantasy anymore. It began to look as if I might just make it. Gradually, slowly, I began to believe it.

Some time in April, an old friend took me to see James Taylor on stage in Frankfurt. The concert was great, but our talk during the one hour drive from his place to Frankfurt, over the meal we had afterwards and during the drive back was even better, though it didn’t quite seem so at the time. It was basically me letting off steam and him listening. I was playing my own devil’s advocate and told him all the things that I found frustrating in my marriage and all the reasons why I thought I wanted out of it. The poor fellow must have found it all terribly depressing. After we’d said goodbye in front of his house, it was another one and a half hours’ drive home for me. Alone in my car, a calm came over me after the rage. I can’t really explain it. Somehow all the negative things I’d been saying to him about my marriage suddenly seemed strangely inconsequential to me. By the time I crawled into bed in the dark early hours next to my wife who had been my companion for more than 25 years now, I had stopped doubting. This was something worth saving. It was worth making an effort. She deserved giving our marriage my best shot, even if my best shot right now might turn out to be a dud. I knew now that I was going to try.

July 11 came, and I had made my deadline by the skin of my teeth. I cannot describe the relief I felt while we were rolling north toward the coast. Three weeks on the beach lay ahead of me, the pressure that had become my constant companion was finally off. My wife seemed to have noticed that the wheel had begun to turn. She’d started to believe in us again. Of course, there would be no SL for 3 weeks either. I was amazed when I realized that this didn’t bother me at all. I still didn’t want to give SL up, but staying away from it for a while was not such a scary prospect anymore. SL wouldn’t be going away while I was gone, after all. And afterwards, when we got back, I would be able to make a new start with a clean slate.

During the vacation, I made two small but important decisions regarding the way I would re-order my daily routine after my return. They sound ridiculously simple, and maybe they are. The first had to do with my realization that one of the things that had caused me to want to escape from RL had been exhaustion. So I decided to lower the bar a bit. I reduced my daily quota a little. Not much, just a notch. But that notch made the difference between just a bit too much every day, which translated into a burnout over the long haul, and a very manageable amount of work. The other decision was that I would no longer log on to SL first thing in the morning. I set myself a rule: no SL or other distractions until I had done at least half of my quota. This sounds like a no-brainer, and indeed the idea wasn’t new, but now I saw a chance to actually stick to it.

I can’t claim a perfect score, but on the whole, I kept the rule. My work got done every day, and within weeks, it even got done in such good time that I had plenty of time left for other things. Boy, did that feel good! Being in charge of my life again after feeling powerless for so long was one of the best experiences I ever had. And it’s still a great feeling, even after I got used to it. Within months, our bank account showed distinct signs of recovery, too. And the depressing cloud that had lain over our marriage for so long gradually dissolved. After a year, it now seems like a bad dream.

I still don’t want to leave SL, although the thought of leaving isn’t really scary anymore. What keeps me there is my friends, especially my best friend Renn and all the wonderful, crazy people at the Shelter, my beautiful home at Kingfisher Island, and the playful creativity. But it no longer feels as if my identity is bound up with it. Dylan is here with me now, so I can be whole without SL.

I don’t make jokes about RL anymore though.

I’d like to end this posting by sharing a song lyric that sums up how I approach every day nowadays and which I hope will be an encouragement for you. I’m not sure who wrote the song; there are several versions of it around, but I first encountered it in Tommy Emmanuel’s beautiful a cappella version. It’s called “Today Is Mine”.

When the sun came up this morning I took the time to watch it rise.
As its beauty struck the darkness from the skies.
I thought how small and unimportant all my troubles seem to be,
and how lucky another day belongs to me.

And as the sleepy world around me woke up to greet the day,
and all its silent beauty seemed to say:
So what, my friend, if all your dreams you haven’t realized.
Look around, you got a whole new day to try.

Today is mine, today is mine, to do with what I will.
Today is mine. My own special cup to fill.
To die a little that I might learn to live.
And take from life that I might learn to give.
Today is mine.

With all men I curse the present that seems void of peace of mind,
and race my thoughts beyond tomorrow, envision there more peace of mind.
But when I view the day around me I can see the fool I’ve been.
For today is the only garden we can tend.

Today is mine, today is mine, to do with what I will.
Today is mine. My own special cup to fill.
To die a little that I might learn to live.
And take from life that I might learn to give.
Today is mine.

(This is as far as my recovery had gotten by the summer of 2009, when the first four parts of this series were written. I don’t want you to stop reading here though, as it turned out this was not the end of the story at all, and if you stop here, you will leave with a very false picture. So please continue and read also Part V: Bringing the Story up to Date… and to a Close.)

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44 Responses to The SLunkie Factor – Part IV: A Quantum of Freedom

  1. alengthastring says:

    All I can say is… WOW!

    Actually, i can say a lot more but i dont wanna bore ya.
    I think we’ve all had an addiction to SL of one form or another and if we manage to dragourselves outof the addiction but still manage to enjoy the relative freedom of it – that must be the happy medium

    if not … im screwed lol

  2. velveeta Biedermann says:

    I’m very glad you found your balance. Thank you for sharing

  3. Renn Rehula says:

    This emotional rollercoaster we call life, is sometimes more than we can tolerate, but life goes on living along with the problems we often create ourselves without knowing its happening.
    My heart tightened in my chest and I cried more than cry a few times while reading your blogs. You could feel the struggle going on within you. You have voiced so much, you have been honest and forth coming with everything you have said and I’m sure you have also helped other’s come to terms with their SL addiction.
    I count myself very lucky and feel honoured and proud that you call me your ‘best friend’ :-)) I will always be there for you :-))

    Hugs Renn

  4. Marie says:

    So true all of it. I can relate to so much of this. I won’t say I went completely “cold turkey” in order to get out of the rock I was under but I certainly did need to assume another recovering addict’s trick.

    I came to feel comtempt and disdain for SL and to blame it for what was happening to me. But the main thing was that by leaving it I gradually came to miss it less. Somehow the absesnse started to make the draw become less strong. I got out of the “habit” so to speak.

    I’m sorry to say thats a pretty negative way of doing things, I know I hurt a lot of friends but leaving like that and burned a lot of bridges. But I got out, for now. And like you I found my old life return to me. I am working well both at work (like you from home) and around the house, on the weekends I throw myself into the gardening. I’m fitter and happier.

    Now I’m worried about something else. All this talk about SL has reminded me why I liked it so much. I’ve revisited it recently and met a few people there. Now I’m thinking about it again and I can see how easy it would be to slide back in. Your article is great and it’s practical as well as being refreshing and honest. I too want to find this elusive balance between total rejection and waking up in the morning dreaming about SL.

    best to you Dylan. I hope to meet you inworld some day

    Marie

  5. Riall says:

    I wanted to type something quite profound to this your last blog, Dylan…but the words escape me completely. All I can say that after reading your story I know what I have to do and I think I have made a good start by actually acknowledging that I really just need company not sl.Life is so complicated and we really dont need to make it more so my having a secondlife which for me became just as complicated at times, trying to appease so many and never wanting to hurt people by saying no (funny just like my real life lol)

  6. Riall says:

    oops wrong button lol…..I went to bed early last night and the first thing my husband said was “no one on sl then” that says it all doesn’t it..so yes I will try to be on less and try to talk more to people in rl and give my precious time to the ones that truly do need me….thank you Dylan and your wife never gave up because she did believe in you and the wonderful person you are….you should be proud of everything you are and will be 🙂

  7. EricAtRandom says:

    This was an absolutely amazing read, Dyl. I had no idea what you had gone through. It’s interesting to read this after 6 weeks without a computer strong enough to get into SL. I’ve still got my Anv via Skype. But I can certainly see where SL could destroy your life.

    Luckily, the entire time I’ve been in SL I have had an arrival expectation at work. I’ve exchanged many hours of sleep for SL and carried through work on 5 or 6 hours rest for weeks.

    I also found interesting your marital challenges relative to my own. Mine were a little different. I realized that I was standing at a door I’d stood at many times throughout the years, always afraid to step through. I think Los Angeles life was the real killer, but I am sure Second Life didn’t help. I am very happy for you that your marriage was salvageable. On the flipside, I am also thankful that I finally had the inertia required to take a step I’d been afraid of before.

    Thank you for posting this. Your introspection, I am sure, is causing many of us to introspect as well. I’m proud of you for being able to tell your story so honestly and eloquently.

  8. Mitch Wagner says:

    I came here from New World Notes—thank you for the thought-provoking, well-written, and insightful post.

    Also, thank you for the pointer to The Shelter, which I hadn’t been to in a couple of years—it is, indeed, a fun and friendly place and I’ve joined the group (with an alt) and made it my SL home, which may have been missing the point of your essay entirely. 🙂

  9. What a wonderfully-written story – thank you for this!

  10. Garrett Larkham says:

    I have to admit that Parts 1 and 2 came close to describing my attachment to SL…then I read Part 3 !!!
    OK, it hasn’t been that bad for me, but perhaps I should hold off on looking for Homestead sim deals, eh?

    Thanks for this, Dylan.

  11. Jools Junkers says:

    It was ALMOST good to read that someone actually went in deeper than me. I’ve been fooling myself for over a year now — back and back again after going cold turkey.

    Your story, I think, has shown me a better way. Thank you for sharing it.

  12. kate miranda says:

    During my life I have been addicted to arts administration, addicted to playing cello, addicted to writing poetry, addicted to politics, addicted to social justice work, and other parts of my life have suffered during those various addictions but for the most part people were not judgmental about me practicing cello at 5 am or being at a campaign office until all hours, staying for the tech notes after an opera dress rehearsal until 3 am or getting notices out to maillists about social justice rallies…. etc., etc., I was considered “enthusiastic” or “dedicated”.

    But society at large seems to have decided that what happens in Second Life is somehow a lot less important than what happens elsewhere… although really it is all human interaction and its value is in the content and not on the platform. By this I mean that lonely hearts drama isn’t too interesting to the world at large in any sphere, so wasting a lot of time over it is not good for your career or mental health. We have these crushes and hurt feelings. We get over them like grown-ups. On the other hand, Second Life’s potential for education and for artistic creation is only starting to be tapped and I am VERY addicted to sharing in that and seeing what the next wave will bring!

  13. Night says:

    My addiction was such that a total SL departure was the only cure – leaving behind my blog, my gallery, my sim, my friends, my love… it was (and in some ways still is) devastating. Still, the mental, emotional, and relational health that Ive found these past many months confirms on a daily basis that I made the right choice.

    I read your blog several months ago, as I was orchestrating my escape from second life. One sentence struck me: “My whole spiritual life took a major hit which it still hasn’t recovered from.” Just a single sentence in your long story, but one that has haunted me – because its true for me as well. Despite a lot of personal healing and strengthening over time, my faith remains a lingering casualty of my second life.

    I wonder, in the months since you wrote this post, has your spiritual life started to recover? If not, do you think it will? Do you think it can?

  14. Dylan says:

    Thanks for your comment, Night. I replied to you by email… not sure whether you’ve seen it.

  15. Petal says:

    I took the choice to leave SL two days ago and boy it’s hard going. Today I have had fleeting thoughts of re-installing the softwear, making a new AV and starting again.
    I was totally hooked …sometimes on for 14 hours at a time, only stopping to use the bathroom and eat, although I did often eat whilst playing!
    My skin was looking awful,my muscles hurt from too much time sitting typing, I put on weight etc., etc.,
    My RL realtionships also began to suffer as I simply didn’t have time for them so I knew I had to get out.

    Initally I used SL as a way to chat and socialise with different people as my husband works away from home and with family grown up I do get lonely/bored in the evenings. I enjoyed working on my AV, shopping, dancing, exploring etc., and did some serious flirting with guys but then got into a serious SL relationship. This guy was on an entirely different time zone to me which meant if I wanted to see him I would have to stay up till 2am. He was very charming and knew just the right words to say to me which made me stay with him even when I voiced my doubts to him. He took the relationship out of SL by giving me his email which went right to his iphone so we were constantly in touch and I was bombarded with his declarations of love both on email and in SL.
    He wanted us to role play our SL fantasies together so I had to go out and dance with other men then let him pick me up and have sex with him. He also asked me to get a job in a strip club so that he could see other men lusting after me yet know I was his alone !!
    Very quickly it became all consuming and he was never out of my thoughts …. we both knew that we would never meet in RL and never wanted that but the emotional feelings that I got from our liasons were incredible. I then began to feel guilty for what I was doing to my relationship with my Husband and what I was doing in my life and decided I had to go so I gave away my furniture and money to a random person and left.
    I then uninstalled the game but right now the temptation is strong to just go and get another AV and begin again?

  16. Dylan says:

    Hi Petal, congratulations on finding the strength to leave. I know how hard it must be for you to abide by your decision from moment to moment, especially when no one’s watching. But if you truly believe you’ve made the right choice – and it sure sounds as if you have – then stick with it. Don’t give in. Get away from the computer and do something else. Do you have a friend you can trust? Someone you can confide in and who you can call at any time? Tell them what you are trying to do and ask for their help; then call them or even go out and meet them when the temptation gets strong. And think about what it was that you’ve been missing most while SL was taking up all your time. Make a list of things you used to love doing. Then go and do them. I’m routing for you.

  17. Petal says:

    Thanks for the response and great advice Dylan.
    Perhaps I should have said that I,m also suffering from some mental health problems …. anxiety and depression so I feel if I do tell anyone close to me about what I have been doing they might think I’m mad.
    Also, I just could not tell anyone who doesn’t “get” SL about my affair with my SL bf and how disgusted in RL I am with myself. When I left I had paid 5 weeks rent on my lovely house and I keep thinking about how I want to go back there and wondering if I could have a SL without the romantic aspects of it and of course the addiction?

  18. Dylan says:

    Ask yourself this question, Petal: Do I want an SL without the romantic aspects? Why do I want it? What do I want from it? And what would SL mean to me if I weren’t addicted to it?

    By the way, the question “What do I want from life?” in general is one that I’m asking myself currently, and I’m finding it very inspiring.

  19. Ad says:

    Thank you for this.

  20. sl escapee says:

    ‘Second Life’ is rife with violence, vice, porn, drugs, guns and gangs. Why would anyone want to sink into a life of that? The only people that make money from it by conning the players are the game creators, Lindens Labs. It is just like any slot machine or casino. It will suck you in with promises of leading a wonderfully rich life full of what you are lacking in your real life. But, at the end of the day, try to look at it realistically. It is simply colourful pixels on your screen teasing you into believing in a world of fantasy.

    It is a game devised for the weak willed and vulnerable. You will find all those sad lonely disillusioned people that used to frequent AOL chat rooms here. Yes, the same bullies that would gang up on anyone new or individual and make their life hell. If you do not ‘fit’ into to the ‘life’ they have created you are doomed and will be harassed and bullied until you do. I watched them chase a young deaf woman out of the game with the most horrendous and hateful tactics because she refused to be part of a gang!

    In this virtual world, created by mostly paranoid and insecure people, they can pretend to be what they really want to be having not the courage to do it for real. It destroys real life relationships, families, marriages, careers and the mental and physical health of those that become addicted to it. Many end up on welfare, living in a foul smelling filthy unkempt home, alone and ill.

    Don’t be fooled by the gushing, pretentious ‘take care, have a nice day, hugs, I love you’ habitual comments from the in world residents. Trust me, like a heroin addict, they don’t care about anyone other than themselves, they just want to keep you there to justify their own ignorance of reality and responsibility. If you saw how these addicts treat their real families and friends you would know this.

    Play this game, which should be more accurately named ‘No Life’, and you will become one of them…

    It is nothing more than a cleverly constructed virus which will infect you and your computer and adversely affect your real life. You have been warned!!!!

    From a nation whose government has banned online gambling, it is odd that Second Life is perfectly legal to play!

    Well done to anyone who has woken from their SL dream and realised that was all it was. Stay the hell away from of it if you want to save your RL!!

  21. kelley says:

    I have been a sl widow for two years now. My husband spends sometimes 17 hours a day in world. It hurts to stand by helplessly as I watch him go to clubs or role playing places instead of wanting to spend any time with me. We have spoken of divorce and he backs off for a short time then the amount of hours climb again. I will never be able to compete with the excitement and body types in SL. Thanks for sharing. I don’t understand how anyone could pick sl over rl but I can understand how it feels to be on the receiving end of the abandonment that comes with being married to someone who is hugely addicted to it.
    Worse yet…he is now trying to find a way to make it into his new career so he can retire from his job.

  22. JustMe says:

    Hi Dylan – wow…you must have taken a page out of my book when I wasn’t looking.. i had so many “aha” moments while reading your blog. I just went off sl recently and have only logged on for minutes at a time since then…the mental release was almost immediate. And yes, I was a full blown addict, spending as many hours in sl as I did at work, to the exclusion of just about everything else. I removed my friends access to see me, so as to ensure that I am not lured into my usual habits. My plan is not to go back till the new year, and hopefully within that time frame i can repair some of the chaos and neglect to self, friends and home that have taken place during the last almost year of sl living. With respect to SL Escapee’s comments – perhaps its easier for him to think that way about the people who play and live in Sl, if it is the only way that he can stay away from it…then by all means think that way. My experience has been the opposite, I have met many wonderful people on there, and enjoyed every moment of the countless hours spent there. I simply realize that going to bed/waking up and feeling guilty/bad about all the things I should have done instead of partying on sl, is a feeling I simply don’t want to feel anymore as it is robbing my RL world of peace and happiness. Thank you for being so very honest and so forthcoming about your SL experience Dylan…it made me feel not so alone, and more importantly inspires me. God bless you 🙂 and of course, tc hun 🙂

  23. Lailantie says:

    Dylan… I just read it all. Didn’t know it was so hard for you. Thank you for sharing so openly.

    Reading your story and all the replies brought up mixed feelings. The wellknown been-there-done-that on one side, but also another viewpoint… I came to believe that all we experience in life is for a reason. At times we can’t change what’s going on, but we can change our perspective about it. I liked what you said about SL being either destructive or just bringing up stuff that had been hidden.

    I don’t think SL is destructive as such, anything has two sides and you can use a knive to cut bread or kill someone. In addition, you can buy alcohol or cigarettes just anywhere for substance addictions.

    I’m an addictive kind of person and I came to realize that not the – I’ll call it emotional – addictions as such are a problem to me but the fight against it. It dawned on me that in the past they’ve always been good for something. And they always ended when the experiences I needed were made.

    Now I’m lucky I don’t have to earn money, haven’t been able to do that since 1993 and I don’t have a marriage to lose. On the other hand, I have been suicidal many times in my life and one of these major shifts also happened when I entered SL. So it didn’t make me suicidal, it saved me. It enabled me to have safe contacts. It enabled me to have a life that isn’t filled with triggers which subconsciously start old trauma movies without me even noticing, like e.g. a certain smell, some physical movement, the feeling of being trapped and not getting away etc. Also I tend to take in energies of other people at physical contact, I often feel drained or can’t even sit or stand when I meet people with a lot of inner turmoil. All of this doesn’t happen in SL. It’s a way to have a life for me – at the moment – and it definitely saved me from a stay in a psychiatric hospital.

    I have no idea where all of this will lead me – I still eat and sleep and take showers, I’ve kept my best friend and take time to talk to her even if there’s a cool party going on in SL, so I think my priorities are fine 🙂

    As for my other RL friends – I let them know I’m on vacation in SL and I’ll be back. I definitely needed a timeout, it was existential. I’m very grateful for this. RL was too overwhelming for me and too stressful and I won’t continue it that way when I’ll pick it up again. I’d love to find a way to combine it with SL like you did.

    In deep respect, your friend Lailantie

  24. thewrider says:

    Dylan,

    I found your blog today as I was searching for some information on Second Life addiction. Although you have already received so many positive comments regarding your experiences chronicled here, I still wanted to thank you for sharing. Although I did not become as deeply engrossed as you, I wanted to share my experience because as I read your blog, I realized that under the right circumstances, the same thing could have happened to me.

    I created a SL account about three months ago out of curiousity; I had read and heard a good bit about it so far and wanted to see it for myself. I was sucked in almost immediately. I have not experienced problems with addiction before. Friends and family members have struggled with alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs, but I have always managed to slip by in life without becoming an addict.

    When I discovered SL, however, I saw how easy it would be to become addicted to it. I logged on in the evening several times and hours seemed to pass at an impossible speed as I simply made adjustments to my avatar and hunted for free clothes. They say that time flies when you are having fun, but the way it flies by in SL was mind-bogglingly incredible. Bringing up the map and teleporting into a new, random sim was another activity I found very entertaining. I was able to converse with interesting people from around the world, explore visually stimulating landscapes and buildings, and simply escape from real life in a way that television and other “free time” activities never allowed.

    Like I mentioned above, the passage of time while logged into SL was unbelievably fast for me. I could log in and three hours would pass. But three hours was not enough. At least with television or movies, there is a beginning and an end to programs. But with SL, there is a world to explore and people with whom to socialize 24 hours per day. And I must say, most of the people I met seemed very helpful and friendly. But I began to see the danger in becoming too engrossed in the virtual world. It truly does “suck you in” as it is such a stimulated way to escape, especially if you enjoy it from the beginning.

    I was probably an oddity in SL because I never bothered to become “adult-verified.” I never imagined enjoying virtual sex with another avatar, so I figured, why bother? I didn’t even have a penis for my avatar, so I wouldn’t have been able to function in that manner. In my explorations, I wandered into several peoples’ homes and tried the animations on their beds, so I knew what the virtual sex would entail. It just didn’t seem that exciting.

    Then, one day, I found out that the adult-themed activities could spill over even into PG-rated sims. One day, while at a sandbox opening boxes, I practiced creating a female avatar with some of the clothes and shapes I had gotten from a freebie sim. She really was quite beautiful and I was proud of my creation. I didn’t even need a fancy, “custom” female shape to create her. I just went into the appearance editor and tweaked the body to resemble the ideal female physique. I then dressed her in a bikini and strutted her around, admiring the nice curves.

    I was not prepared, however, for what happened next. A few minutes later, a guy came over and whipped out his penis! This was in a PG area, so I was not expecting to see any sex or the suggestion of it, but here he was, propositioning me now that I looked like a hot girl in a bikini. I suppose he felt comfortable as there was no one else in the immediate area at time. After rezzing up his penis and saying a quick hello, he then made some pose balls appear for sex right there and asked me to join him! Not much surprises me, but I was a bit shocked at the boldness of this person. I also got a quick education in how it must feel to be a woman in SL.

    It seems that even in a non-adult and even non-mature-themed area, horny guys can be all over the first female avatar they see. I remember chuckling to myself but also being annoyed at the same time. I tried to put myself into a woman’s place and imagine how she would react. It’s too bad I didn’t have a virtual drink in my avatar’s hand to throw in his face!

    Well, my pursuer did not wait for me to accept his invitation, but instead jumped right on one of the poseballs and began working some animations. I just stood there and watched for a minute and then he started IMing commands to me such as “Get on!,” “Hurry,” and “Let’s go!” I just turned a bit and continued opening boxes, allowing him to make an ass out of himself as he gyrated his erect, virtual penis around, waiting for me. At one point, I politely told him he should go elsewhere because this was not an area for that.

    He then disappeared and I thought I’d seen the last of him. But apparently, he was not finished with me. My amateur venture into female avatar design must have been impressive, because he had liked what he’d seen. A minute or two after he left, I received an offer to TP into another sim. I figured I’d go and then tell him off before returning to the sandbox to finish opening my boxes, but a message came up that I was not able to TP to that location because of my maturity rating. I just ended up ignoring the guy and he gave up after I never showed, but in a way, I was glad that it had happened since it gave me some insight into how a woman’s experience in SL can differ greatly from a man’s (I doubt that there are many women propositioning men in non-adult sims). I also realized that other peoples’ actions in SL can cause a significant emotional response. Until now, it had just been little more than an on-line video game to me. It took an encounter with a bold,over-sexed user to make me open my eyes a bit more to the talk I’d heard about the “dark side of SL.” Looking back, the best way to stop that guy in his tracks would have been to IM him with “Get lost, pal. I am a MAN!”

    After that, I reverted to my male form but saved the female shape I had edited so carefully in order that I could resurrect her for future social experiments. I ended up doing so on future occasions and was continually approached by male avatars. None were as bold as the guy at the sandbox, but I had plenty of offers. It amazed me that so many of them simply overlooked the fact that I had a male name. Maybe they just didn’t care. One of the problems is that most of the clothing availble in SL, free or otherwise, is designed to show off curves. Try finding a pair of baggy sweat pants for a female avatar. I haven’t but I imagine it would be difficult.

    Well, I have gone off on a tangent here but I thought it would be fun and a bit cathartic to share my experiences. I pretty much quit using SL a few weeks ago but I may venture back from time to time. I never got as far as buying a house and a parcel of land on which to build, so I guess I never really established myself the way some people do. It is a fun way to pass the time, but it definitely has the potential to cause harm in one’s life as well.

  25. Sage says:

    Thank you for sharing your incredible story Dylan. There really is so much that I have gained by reading about your experiences and personal battles in fighting the desire to log on. I have always been a work before play kind of girl. And then I just got too much work and no play for a long time. When I got on SL I thought to myself, I have earned this time to step out of my RL. The main problem is, how much time is that exactly? I think that more and more, I try not to think about how long that might be.

    Recently a close SL friend asked me what I might be doing instead of spending time in SL with him. I thought about what time it was, and I thought about who else might be on SL at that time. My response was, something to the effect, that I would be learning to use Photoshop to make textures in SL, or maybe building something, or maybe roleplaying with my SL family. But, I realized that his question might have been more directed to the fact that he senses that I lack balance between RL and SL.

    After reading your beautiful story I thought, why wouldn’t I be reading, playing the piano, rocking out on Xbox with my brother, or something else that brings me pleasure too? I am not even mentioning work on purpose. I think the reason is, I feel a direct connection in SL. Perhaps in this company it is not hard to explain that when I type or voice to someone, I really put who I am into it. When I build something or am learning something new, I am seeking to intensify the world that I experience there. To be sure, it is intoxicating to be able to interact in any environment on that level. SL is just very fast at giving those returns. Repaint your house in a few minutes. New sofas? No problem. No dress for the party? Xstreet! Roleplaying is so fun too. I am a PG player for the most part, but it does not mean I dont get seriously engrossed and delighted by the thrill of participating in a RP with people who are witty and fun.
    I am not really in a position where I can be hurt by staying inworld. However, the comment from my friend as well as your amazing story has me considering, Inworld (like your lady friend) how fast would I be replaced if I was not there? 3-5 days? The real world seems a little bit sweeter to me today.

    Thanks so much for sharing your story!

  26. Dylan says:

    Hi Sage, thank you for your kind and insightful comment! 🙂 I’d love to share a quote with you that a friend of mine had on her facebook a while back, only I can’t find the exact quote now. It basically asked the question: What is there in your life that you are not giving room by holding on to this? In other words, is there maybe something good waiting to happen on the sidelines of your life, but it can’t happen as long as its space is already taken by something else – SL for example? A question worth thinking about.

  27. Mona Lisa says:

    I googled SL addiction and found your blog. I’m addicted to SL in an entirely different way. I cancel my account and purge my download daily. You see, I log on several times a day to see my rl husband’s status. He’s now fully immersed in SL for business opportunities. He’s made female friendships along the way and I’ve discovered that he’s shared intimate details about our private lives (children included). I feel completely violated. My trust has been badly shaken. Now there’s an iPhone app (Sparkle) so he can check for IMs w/o ever signing onto the computer. Both his laptop and cell phone have been embedded with passwords to keep me out. As my life unravels, I’m living in hell. Thanks for your insightful and truthful writing.

  28. Ember Hanly says:

    Dylan,

    I found your blog from doing some searching in-world… originally I was here to learn about editing AOs and possibly searching for the answer to my question. I can’t thank you enough for writing this and sharing with all of us your personal troubles and how you overcame them. I am promising myself right now to spend less time on SL before it sucks me in completely, I am an SLunkie and I needed your insight. I “woke-up” yesterday when I realized it was a perfect day to spend outside way too late, thank you so much.

  29. Sage says:

    Dylan,
    I was so happy when you responded back so quickly to my response. I had to think about it for a while. What I have discovered is that there are a number of things I have not “given room”. Recently, I did stay away for several days at a stretch. I did a lot of reading, played the piano, updated my Xbox, spent a lot of time with favorite people in my real life and actually enjoyed it. I looked into the faces of those I love in my real life, and began to recall the aspirations that I had strived for until I began to be in SL more than RL. During this time, I kept wondering…Did anyone notice I was not there in SL? Have I been replaced yet?

    To my surprize, a few people emailed me to be sure I was ok, and when I returned there were a number of people that noticed I was online that IMed me to see if I was alright. I feel like my friendships there are real. But truthfully, for some reason I feel more like I am not compelled to be there so much. Maybe I was ready for a turning point. When my friend asked what I would be doing that day if not spending the time with him, and all I could come up with was SL stuff. I then got to thinking about it a bit and deciding to look up SL addiction, found your blog, wrote to you, and then you responded. To be sure, I took to heart all you had to say. And while I have worked hard to be in the position not to worry about finances in real life, much of my real life talent is being squandered by “living” in SL. So, when I said I am not in a position that I can be hurt by being inworld, I was thinking financially. I wont loose my home or anything I have physically. What I have found by not “giving room” to these other aspects of my life is that I am actually loosing part of myself, the parts that no matter how good I roleplay, what position I hold in what group, they can never be equal to what I could do in my real life.

    I am not quitting SL. I have met too many totally amazing people to just walk away, but for me the dynamic has changed a bit.

    Thank you again for sharing your story and your beautifully worded question. Who knows how many lives you have touched? You can count mine for one.

  30. Dylan says:

    Thanks, Ember and Sage! 🙂 That’s really encouraging to hear.

  31. Lucy says:

    So how many hours a day do you spend on SL now Dylan or did you just leave in the end? I think I would after all that for sure. It sounds pretty rubbish if you ask me. I know someone who did lose his wife through SL but still didn’t stop him from playing 😦

  32. Dylan says:

    @Lucy: Hard to say how many hours a day, as that can vary greatly, between not time at all and a large part of the day. The important point for me is that the center of my life isn’t in SL anymore. SL is just a part of my life, a place I go to be with a very small number of friends of mine who I can’t meet anywhere else. If it weren’t for these 3 or 4 people, I’d leave, I think. Sorry if that sounds like rubbish to you. I’m not preaching this as gospel to anyone else, it’s just my story, and it works for me.

  33. hans says:

    Hello Dylan, I read your blog with great interest, as just as you are now; I was also once addicted to SL. I was slightly shocked to see your comment above stating that you are still in fact involved in sl. Let’s not kid ourselves, you’re either in sl and an addict or you’re not, there is no middle ground, no happy medium to be found. The virtual world of sl is addictive, highly addictive and has the ability to obliterate your real life in such a way as you lose interest in all things tangible. Draw a line, delete your account, go and have some quality playtime with your children. As a writer I’m sure you can tell a great children’s story, use that ability Dylan and watch their little eyes light up as you spin your tale and captivate their minds. Also, get a second job that involves social interaction with other people, you will find that this is actually what you are craving as the power of loneliness is immense.

  34. Leeloo says:

    Dylan,

    I just logged onto SL and read the note….i had absolutely no idea you were going through this. A lot of what you said reminded me of how i used to feel about SL. The need to log on (and the anger when something went wrong and i couldn’t) the feeling that Lee was someone i could never be in RL, when in fact she IS ME (why do we always think because we are bolder behind an avatar that we could never learn to be bolder in our real lives?)but also the action of pushing our partners away (i also did this)

    I have always thought second life to be an amazing outlet, yet a very dangerous tool. After all, we all come to it looking for something dont we?

    I would say i’m sad to see Dylan go, but i cant, because you haven’t! YOU are Dylan and YOU are the person that made him so dear to us all…no amount of pretty pixels could take that away from you.

  35. Eliza says:

    Thanks so much for talking about this. I’ve spent 4 years of my life in SL, and it’s been so rewarding- incredible friends, incredible experiences, and an incredible inventory. It started as both an escape from the daily stresses of working a lot of hours in a demanding career, being a mother with a very limited social life, and a wife in a marriage that was showing some strain.

    What it’s become is a true addiction that I feel powerless to be able to totally step away from. At some point my SL relationships began to take priority over all of my RL relationships, including my spouse and my children. My husband found a series of emails I’d sent to my SL lover, and sadly it wasn’t the first time that had happened. More depressingly, he found confessions of my love for that partner on the night of our 13th anniversary. It’s been devastating. Things with my SL partner ended bitterly, with angry emails and dissolution ofOudh partnership and even our friendship. Sadly, even then, I was devastated more by the loss of the SL relationship than by my husband’s emotional suffering at what he’d found.

    I’ve since been able to step back a bit and realize what I’m putting at risk- my family and my husband who is loving, supportive, and wounded. But it still hasn’t been enough to keep away the urges to log on- I tell myself it’s just to look at my house or shop, etc. But I know the truth is that I crave the relationships there. All my SL friends understand and support my departure but I mourn the loss of my SL and I hate myself for that. My husband has told me very clearly that if I go back again, it’ll be too painful for him. If I have another SL relationship, our marriage will be over.

    The fact that I see that reality and I’m still aching to get back on SL, and that I have physical and emotional distress over it has been a big indicator that this is a true addiction. I have to go cold turkey. I’ve fooled myself before and been off for a month or so at a time and it never works. I need and I want help to break away from this. I’ve got an appointment with a counselor next week, my husband and I have made plans to go on a vacation to have some reconnection time alone, and I have to find the inner strength to fix whatever is lacking in me that drives that need.

    If I go back on SL I will lose everything. I know that, and it makes my never-ending lust for the game all that more heartbreaking.

  36. Eliza says:

    As a quick follow up, I wanted to share that I had a bit of a moment last night after having a few glasses of wine with my husband. I had this overwhelming feeling of detachment and remarked to him that I felt like I’d been gone for a very long time and had just come home. He smiled and reminded me that indeed, I have been gone for a long time. I think and hope that I’m ready to stay this time.

    • Ron Onyett says:

      That virtual world is a living hell, don’t doubt it for one second! Thank God your husband is so forgiving!

      • Nell Quintessa says:

        Second Life is pretty much stuffed to the rafters with lunatics (mostly bored housewives looking for online titillation and obese men with no social skills who want to play at being the frat boy who gets the girls) who see this world of pixels as an adequate replacement for real-life. I see from Dylan’s flckr he’s still there and taking photographs of naked pixelated laydees no doubt to have a good crack off to. However I see myself as a libertine and if Mr. Dylan gets off on cartoon porn then more power to him, why should he give up his private trousers around the ankles moments? You only live once so if you want to waste away your life in a world typing one handed to people you’ll never meet then I salute you Sir!

  37. E.R. says:

    Thank you for sharing your story, it was such a wonderful read!

    There was a documentary I just watched recently called Life 2.0 about Second Life. I did try out second life a few times back in 2008- I created a naked avatar and went to sex-themed areas. It was more out of curiosity, and thankfully since I had an outdated Powerbook G4 that couldn’t process and run the software smoothly which kept causing my computer to freeze up every half hour, I quickly became bored of it.

    I do have an addictive personality and am specifically dealing with a spending addiction. Now that I have a new Macbook that can easily run Second Life, I’m hesitant to install it after reading your story because with my addictive personality, I know I can easily become addicted to Second Life and also make my spending addiction worse by buying items on Second Life.

    Your story really provided some insight as to why people have addictions in general- we are all trying to escape something in real life and are looking to fill a void. I applaud you in conquering your addiction- your post has been very inspiring.

  38. Ron Onyett says:

    Read the whole article from beginning to end and enjoyed it. I was addicted for over a year, spent most of my time logging in and out around my family. My nights were open because my wife was a shift worker. I was addicted to the illusion of women on there. I say “Illusion” because that is exactly what it was. They weren’t what they actually were in RL and neither was I. Like you, I made myself to be something I was not. In RL most women wouldn’t even look at me, but on there I could have any woman I wanted because I knew how to come across sincere and suave.

    When I think about it, 90% of the interest I had in SL was because I had a sexual addiction. I really enjoyed flattering vulnerable women and there seemed to be tons of them on SL looking for a serious relationship. Having been married for almost 30 years to the same wonderful woman, I felt super depressed about this shit. Here she was working at night, and I was screwing around like a dog in endless virtual heat. I had developed many relationships on there and my health was taking a toll, because I was staying up, until 2 to 3 AM and then getting up for work around 6:30. It was killing me.

    The pattern of my behavior was always the same. Meet a woman, act like I was only being nice and sincere, flatter the hell out of women and then develop an addictive relationship with them. I really got a thrill out of chasing them. As a matter of fact, I hardly ever talked to men on there, because I was always falling in virtual lust.

    One night I was hitting on this woman and she disclosed to me she wasn’t interested in me romantically YET because she had another BF even though she was hanging with me all of the time, so, I decided to hit on her best friend. LOL, God, forgive me, I was such a fool.

    But her friend did me a HUGE favor.

    We started talking about how SL was an addiction. Funny how SL is an addiction wherein people make fun of the fact that they are slaves to a virtual, unreality world. Anyway, I mentioned to this chick that I was hitting on that I had tried to kick the SL habit and she said something that scared me to death. She said ” Well, once you are addicted, you will never really leave Second Life. Sooner or later, you’ll come back.”

    “GOD NO!”, I screamed at my computer!

    I will tell you , friend, I have dedicated my life to not smoking, drinking, or any addiction because I have always been a fraid to be addicted to anything. Those words scared me to death!

    I said goodnight to the lady, logged off and then CANCELLED MY ACCOUNT!!! I didn’t just clear 2L off of my computer like I had in the past, I CANCELLED MY ACCOUNT!

    I remember a piece of scripture, in which Jesus said, “Anyone that puts their hand to the plow, and looks back, is not fit for the kingdom of heaven.”

    I have been off of Second Life for 3 months and have not returned. Every time I think about it, as a matter of fact, I get a very bad taste in my mouth.

    If you are still playing around on the, KILL YOUR ACCOUNT AND LIVE!!!

    Thank you Lord for helping me out of that Insane place!

    RON ONYETT ~ R.I.P.

    • Ron Onyett says:

      Update to this. I have been totally from 2L for over 10 months now. I think and reflect on 2L everyday but I have absolutely no interest in returning ever. I have completed so many goals and dreams this year, I never could have imagined I would be able to accomplish this much.

      If you feel you are spending too much time on 2L then you need to get the hell off of there. It is not easy washing this stink off of you but it is VERY worth it.

      RON ONYETT

  39. Dylan says:

    @Ron: Thanks a lot for your comment! It comes very timely for me and makes me think things over again. Wishing you all the best.
    @Nell: Thank you too! I’m eager to benefit from your Word to the wise, but I can’t open the link. Can you help?

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