Addiction of any kind is unhealthy. An addiction is dependence on anything that is not a necessity, which you feel you must have on an ongoing basis. Some of the most common addictions include drugs, sex, gambling, and shopping. An addiction that is growing more popular today is Internet addiction. Internet addiction is a relatively new concept, and many people are still unaware of it. Despite the fact that it is a real problem that exists all around us, Internet addiction has not officially been labeled as a disorder. Chances are, however, there is someone you know who has this addiction, and that person may even be you. Ask yourself these questions:
Are you spending more time on the Internet than you are with your family?
Do you feel anxious if you are not on the Internet?
Do you call in sick at work just so you can surf the Net?
When you are not on the Net, do you think about being on the Net?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you could be an Internet addict. I once worked with a man who didn’t have Internet on his computer, so he would always go next door to use a computer that did have Internet. It seemed he was next door every half hour. A couple of times I passed by and took a glance to see what he was up to. Every time, I would see him on a chat line, chatting away. I wondered if anyone was aware of this. I thought to myself, if he keeps this up he will be fired from his job. I asked him once why he keeps using the computer next door. His face turned red. He told me he had to find something out for a project he was doing. I knew he lied. He needed to be confronted, but at the time I wasn’t sure if I was the right person to do that.
If you recognize yourself in any of the above descriptions, there are things you can do to help overcome your Internet addiction. Here are some suggestions:
Admit you have a problem. Addicts can’t be helped unless and until they realize they have a problem and admit to it. The first step to any recovery program is admitting that you are powerless over the addiction.
Set a time limit. First, start slowly decreasing the amount of time that you are on the Net. For example, if you are on the Net for eight hours a day, decrease it to seven hours a day. Every day or every other day, decrease your time by an hour. Giving up your addiction a little at a time will be a lot easier for you than just giving it up all at once. Next, set a certain time of the day (or night) to be on the Internet. For example, everyday from 7 – 8 p.m. you can use the computer. To help yourself not go over the time you have allotted, use an egg timer. As soon as you hear the buzzer, log off. It doesn’t matter what you are doing-log off! Physically remove yourself from the computer. Eventually you will be able to live your life without letting Internet control your time.
Distract yourself. Do other things to keep yourself busy. Think about what kinds of things you enjoy doing. If you can’t think of anything you like other than the Internet, then try new things. Be careful not to end up with another addiction. Many times people go from one addiction to another. For example, I have seen recovering alcoholics go from drinking to smoking. Remember, an addiction is anything that you feel you must have. It is a compulsive behavior.
Engage in positive self-talk. Instead of telling yourself, “I can’t live without the Internet. I won’t feel good unless I am on the Internet.” Tell yourself, “I can live without the computer. I can do it.” Make the decision to recover, and you will recover. Negativity will get you nowhere in life. By being determined and thinking positively, you will make your recovery happen.
Boost your self-esteem. When you have an addiction and things are not going great in your life, you feel down about yourself. To help get through the addiction, you need to elevate your self-esteem. Write down all the strengths you have. Everyone has strengths, even you. At first you may have a difficult time coming up with strengths because it has probably been awhile since you have used your strengths. You haven’t lost your strengths; you just need to get in touch with them again. A strength could be a quality that you possess such as being helpful, friendly, caring, determined, enthusiastic, funny, lovable, attractive or adventurous. A strength could also be a talent that you have such as painting, writing, playing an instrument, singing, dancing, cooking, gardening or sewing.
When you have made a list of all your strengths, think about how you can use your strengths to help you through recovery. For example, if your strengths are being helpful and gardening, maybe you can spend your time helping the people in your neighborhood to plant some flowers. If your strengths are caring and singing, you can go to a convalescent home and sing songs for the elderly. You can be very creative in how you use your strengths to better move through the recovery process. Also, post your list of strengths someplace where you can see and read it everyday-above your bed, in the bathroom or on the refrigerator. Feeling good about yourself can help you become more confident and positive in dealing with your recovery.
Know your stressors. Stressors are anything that influence you in a negative way and make you feel stressed out. We all have major and minor stressors in our lives. Some examples of major stressors are marital problems, getting a new job, being laid off from work, loss of a loved one, financial issues or health concerns. Some examples of minor stressors could be waiting to be served at a busy restaurant, sitting in traffic, driving in a car with no air conditioning or not being able to find a bathroom when you need one.
An addiction is one way some people deal with stressors. Internet addicts will spend hours on the computer just to avoid what is going on with their lives. Unfortunately, avoidance doesn’t solve anything; instead, it just makes things worse. By knowing your stressors, you can learn how to better deal with them. With many stressors, especially the minor ones, you can tell yourself that you’re not going to let it bother you and just mentally let it go. Letting go of stressors can be a challenge at first, especially if you have developed a habit of stressing, but with practice it will become easier. Some major stressors, like losing your job, are usually a little more difficult to let go, so you need to develop a plan. Come up with ideas for how you are going to constructively deal with the situation. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. You don’t have to figure it out all alone. You can ask friends, family and even a counselor for support. Once you have a plan in place, let go of the stressor. Don’t allow your stressor to take charge of your life; instead, you take charge of your stressor.
Investigate other reasons for using the Internet. Other than avoiding stress, what are some reasons that you use the Internet? This is a challenging question because you may not be consciously aware of the reasons. Start by asking yourself, what do I spend most of my time doing on the Net? Think about your time in the chat rooms, e-mailing, playing interactive games, surfing the World Wide Web and any additional involvement you have online. It is important to find out the reasons in order to be able to work through those issues. For example, a man who has low self-esteem and has difficulties socializing in the world may turn to the Net as a source of companionship. The Net becomes a safe place for him to make friends. He becomes less self-conscious when he knows the person he is talking to is unable to see and hear him. So this person would have to work on developing his self-confidence and also practice socializing with people outside of the computer. The specific issues could be different for each person. Finding out what they are and what you need to work on could help diminish your desire to use the Internet.