Coping with addiction…sort of

Over the past year, I delved deeply into a hobby I’ve had for a while. I’ve been into arcade gaming and pinball for a few years now, but before 2013, I’d only ever had 1 pinball machine. I got a pretty good bonus at work the beginning of that year, and treated myself to a new pin, a Gottlieb Stargate. Then, I sold my first pin, a Williams Phoenix, and bought another to replace it, a Bally Special Force. A few months later, I bought another, a Williams Jack-Bot. As if this wasn’t bad enough, I then picked up 2 arcade machines, a Mortal Kombat 2 and an Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. These were my first forray into actual arcade machines, and not just PC based MAME cabs. This kicked off a serious spending addiction that I only recently started to come to terms with.

It started out in a sort of innocuous way. I got the 2 cabs for relatively cheap because one wasn’t working, and it didn’t cost me any money to get it working again. I started learning about these games, and about the JAMMA standard, and became aware that I could easily convert these to other games simply by switching the boards. So now I started buying boards, and more boards, and then more cabs, and more cabs. When all was said and done, I’d amassed quite a collection of games, boards, pins, and parts. All of the games are in various states of restoration, and only 2 work without issue, though they need some preventative maintenance and cosmetic work. I thought nothing of dropping 60-100 bucks on a board for a game I really liked, and though I justified it to myself by saying it’s not too much, or I just did some side work, the fact of the matter is that I had no business doing it.

This all came to a head for me during the holidays, especially on Christmas day. When I was shopping for gifts earlier in the month, I was wondering what the Lish would possibly get me. The only thing I felt certain she’d get me was a book I’ve had on my wishlist for about 2 years, mostly because it was the ONLY thing on my wishlist. When I imagined what she could get me, I started to feel more and more guilty and unworthy. I felt guilt that I spent so much fucking money on myself for shit I didn’t need, and unworthy of any sort of gift because of my irresponsible spending. I tried telling her to not get my anything but maybe one or two small stocking stuffers because my arcade shit would count as Christmas. In hindsight, this was an obnoxious and unfair thing to say, since I was basically trying to take away the joy she got in giving my gifts, simply because I couldn’t cope with the guilt. Sure enough, though, that didn’t stop me from again buying another cab in mid December. It started to become apparent that I couldn’t stop myself, and just kept spending and spending. I had to stop, but I was still trolling the market for shit right up until Christmas.

Christmas morning, I opened up my gifts from the Lish. The last gift I opened, as you may have guessed, was my PS4. I felt horrible, like a total piece of shit. Not because I didn’t want this box of awesomeness, but because I felt so undeserving of such a gift, especially in the wake of my spending addiction. I reacted horribly, by saying that I didn’t want it, and that we’d return it. Her face fell, she apologized and said she tried, thinking it’d be a great gift for me. I felt horrendous, but immediately tried justifying my behavior with stupid bullshit, as if I was trying to get out of trouble. In reality, I was just racked by guilt, and coped with it in a shitty way. I realized then what my addiction had done to me, what I let it do, and what I did to the Lish as a result of it. I finally came clean to her later that day. I told her why I acted the way I did, I told her I was sorry, and I admitted to her that I have a problem. I dug us into a hole of debt that’ll take us quite some time to dig out of, and since that day, I’ve put a hold on any “me” spending until we’re out of debt. One exception has been made since then, for a replacement keyboard that I paid for by selling my last and favorite guitar. It broke my heart to see it go, but that’s the breaks.

The worst part of this whole thing is what I did to the Lish while trying to justify, absolve, and accept my behavior. I ruined the best part of Christmas for her, and took from her a joy that she did everything to earn a thousand times over. I created stress on our household and relationship, and in some ways bullied her into accepting my behavior, even though I didn’t know I was doing it. There’s no excuse for what I did. I don’t blame the addiction, I blame myself. Nobody held a gun to my head and made me do it, my wants just ran the show for a while and left destruction where they went. I know I’m probably coming off as melodramatic, but this is honestly how I feel. We’ve spoken about it, and everything is ok now for the most part. Still, I know what was done. I’m aware of how I argued about how they were similar to an investment, since I can flip them if need be and get most, if not all, my money back. I manipulated the situation, and worse, I manipulated her, all to get what I wanted. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair. I’m doing what I can to get better. Just keep this in mind: Allowing an addiction, ANY addiction, to run you, will cause damage to you and those around you. It doesn’t matter how long it lasts, or how much you work to get better, the damage can NOT be undone. For those people like me, who judge themselves very harshly, it can be something that can not be forgiven. Nothing I do in the future will absolve me of the responsibility and guilt of the look on her face after unwrapping that gift. Lish forgives, Persona does not…

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