How To Overcome Your Internet Addiction For Good
There was a time when I was addicted to the internet, and it was for many years. Don’t get me wrong, I had an amazing childhood that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I wasn’t an internet addict starting at a young age. As a child, I pretended to be what I wanted to be, I rode my tricycle, I looked for bugs and lizards to catch, and I made friends out of the neighborhood kids.I couldn’t stand the thought of being inside for one whole day. I loved being inside and wouldn’t come inside unless I absolutely had to.
Then How Did You Become Addicted?
At first, we didn’t have the internet or a computer in our home until I was almost officially a teenager. There hadn’t been a need for our family to own one. As the years went on an the internet became a bigger concept, we got a computer with dial-up. Oh, don’t you just love dial-up? It was a way to use the internet, but our time was limited to one hour per day each person to avoid tying up the phone line.
When we got high speed internet and when friends had suggestions on which websites were awesomely fun, I was interested. I joined virtual pet sites, checked e-mail, and chatted on instant messenger. Before I knew it my one hour per day gradually increased to up to sixteen hours of internet usage per day. Others were often upset with me because we had one family computer.
Then It Snowballed…
It may be different per person, but I got to the point in my life where friends weren’t as available to hang out. School kept us busy with homework and my friends had their own things to do. Other family members had their own things to do or other people to hang out with. I didn’t see a use to go outside and play if I was by myself. My philosophy became, “If there is no reason to go outside then why go out?” I was an introvert and valued time to myself. My social needs were being fulfilled by social media and instant messenger. I received a medical diagnosis that seemed to narrow my world and made me feel out of place with my peers. I was terrified, “What if something happened in front of my friends?”
The Void Grew…
A void formed inside me, and it was one of loneliness. I started to become depressed years into my internet addiction. I lost interest in smiling, laughing, hanging out with others, and it made me upset to see others happy. All I wanted was to be left alone, and if I wasn’t crying – I was trying to keep myself afloat using the internet as my safety net. I felt as if my world were ending if the internet was down or taken from me. I had a difficult time coping without the internet at my fingertips.
Health Problems Became Worse
I can say I felt useless after having this lifestyle after so many years. Walking to classes at school soon became my only form of exercise. I would skip my basic needs in order to spend time at the computer. That means I had a bladder of steel, which did end up leading to bladder infections. Depression and joint pain was likely caused by poor quality sleep and lack of Vitamin D. My body felt weak and I wouldn’t be surprised if my muscles lost any type of mass from my sedentary lifestyle. I stayed up late and refused to go to bed until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. Sleeping lasted well into the afternoon and I would repeat the cycle all over again.
Negative Comments Didn’t Help
There were many times I recalled things I heard from other people whether it was from friends or family about my internet usage. They would say, “One day if we ever find you dead, you will probably be at the computer.” or, “You’re going to die if you don’t take care of yourself!” or, “Don’t you ever want to do anything than be on the computer?” I would be made fun of for talking to online people. I would hear others joke that I must have an online boyfriend or something of the sort. It became exceedingly stressful when someone would make up stories to make my parents ban me from the internet. Without the internet, I was lost and my world meant nothing.
It Gradually Became Worse
When I was out of high school and into college I took a few classes. Over a time, I lost my motivation to go to school. Instead of taking classes I stayed home with the internet. For up to sixteen hours per day, there I sat. If I didn’t have the internet, I would look to the next best choice – video games. I ignored my daily needs and wasn’t taking good care of myself. Even though I felt awful, the internet always felt better. I’m living proof that internet addiction is a real thing. I fantasized about being on the internet when I wasn’t able to be sitting in front of the computer screen.
Internet Addiction Hurt My Relationships
There were times when I had the opportunity to hang out with others. I remember receiving a phone call from my best friend. She asked if I could hang out and sounded excited that she had the time. Shamefully, I told her that I didn’t want to and lied I was “busy” doing something. I could tell she didn’t feel sincerity in my answer. She said, “Really? Are you sure?” I mean, I flat out said, “I don’t feel up to hanging out today.” That is a scar that I made in our friendship that I felt so guilty about for a long time. I passed up hanging out with my best friend to stay on the computer. It was a horrible thing for me to do. I felt as if I were shackled to the computer desk, unable to rip myself away.
One Day My Father Said Something
I can recall going out to eat with my parents. They casually brought up my internet usage. I was too caught up in my internet addiction to care. My father said, “The computer isn’t the most important thing in life.” I shrugged it off and thought, “Whatever.” Then my father said, “Do you think you will have a computer in Heaven?” I didn’t know what to think. I said, “No, but I…” and I didn’t want to say my response out loud, which would have been, “Then I don’t want to go to Heaven.” I thought over and over upon this question and then said, “Well, but of course I want to go to Heaven…don’t I?” Conviction came over me, and I realized at that moment I had a problem.
I Wanted to Remain in My Ways
Nothing in my being wanted to accept that this was something I needed to give up. I wasn’t going to try to limit my internet usage. Over time, I did realize what helped. A couple friends at the time started to invite me to hang out on Friday nights. We would go to a college group Bible study followed with fellowship. I couldn’t help but notice that my need for the computer decreased because I was doing something entertaining. Only when I parted from my friends to head home for the night, my mind yearned for the computer and I had to have it. What could I have missed in those four hours? Especially on a Friday night! I would stay up late, feeling a need to “catch up” on what I must have missed.
But at the same time on instant messenger and social media, I caught myself talking about how awesome my night had been. I actually had good, clean fun hanging out with my best friends. They may not have realized it, but it took me away from my harmful addiction for at least a few hours.
When I Met My Husband
I actually met my husband through this college group. While I may have talked to him for hours at a time through text messaging or instant messages online, our relationship grew. Soon, I was hanging out with him plenty of times, often for the majority of the day. I would also do my best to chill with my friends when they were available to chill. My need for the computer grew less and less. I didn’t feel that I must be on the computer. Even though I did use the computer when I got home, I began to realize that there are more important things in this world.
My online friends that I made over years started to wonder if I died since I was gone for more than a day at a time. They wondered what was going on and if I was okay. I was glad to report my life was going great. I could see the fun in life beyond the internet.
I was more focused on spending time with my husband. My husband helped me get back into the habit of reading my Bible again. I realized that Jesus Christ was my only way out of this addiction. I could not do it with my own strength. As it tells us in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” I knew that God could give me the strength to quit my internet addiction for good. There were times we actually didn’t have internet and I was okay with that. I was capable of going without the internet for entertainment use and could put myself to work doing more productive hobbies.
But I Do Have Some Regret
Some days I wish I could live my teenage life over and spend more time with family. I avoided them and pushed them away from me. The time my friends wanted to hang out, but decided to stay on the computer instead makes me wish I would have spent more quality time with them. I would ask, “How could I do that to my family, friends, and to myself?” I could have gotten my college degree sooner if I applied myself more in high school and college. For all the time I spent on computer and video games, I could have earned hundreds if not thousands doing a part-time job. These years I cannot get back.
Where Are You At Now?
Now a days, I am busy being a housewife and a mom. There are many tasks at hand that are my duty now. I understand that people are more important than the internet. My basic human needs must be addressed in order for me to remain healthy enough to take care of my family. Spending hours upon hours on the computer has come to an end. The most I may spend on the computer if I get on the computer on any given day is generally no more than ten minutes to four hours depending on what I need to do.
Tips For Breaking Away From Internet Addiction
If you or someone you know is helplessly addicted to the internet then continue to read below. These are a list of tips that I have come up with to help kick the internet addiction habit for good.
1. Understand You Have an Addiction Problem
Once you address that you have an addiction problem when it comes to the computer or internet you have completed the absolute biggest step. For years, I failed to see I actually had an issue. Here is a quick, free quiz (no e-mail entry required) that may help you identify if you may have an internet addiction issue. When you or someone else you know understands this then it is easier to move onto the next steps
2. Internet Addiction Takes Time to Reverse
Internet addiction doesn’t happen overnight. You don’t wake up one morning and feel addicted to the computer. This is something that took time and gradually worsened until it got to a point where the internet mattered most. Understand this will not be an overnight fix, it will take time.
3. Forgive Yourself
Make sure you are forgiving yourself when you spend a little more time than you would have liked on the computer. We can’t rewind time and go back to change it. What is done is done. Look forward instead of wasting your time trying to go back because you won’t be able to. You may need to forgive yourself often, and that is okay. Don’t be harsh on yourself when there are times you feel you have failed.
4. Identify What On The Internet Has You Addicted
What is it on the computer or internet that you are addicted to? Is it pornography (if so this YouTube video may help you understand what you are supporting, and what it does to your brain)? Could it be a social media website? What about news or blog articles? Is it a virtual pet site? How about MMORPG or Multiplayer Online Battle Arena’s? Is it instant messenger? Are chat rooms a common culprit? Write down a log of what you do on the computer each day along with how much time you are spending doing each. This will help you identify what you spend most of your time doing on the internet.
5. Delete Your Accounts
This may seem like the hardest thing to do, but trust me, you will be doing yourself a favor. Once you have identified where your time online is going, start deleting those accounts. If you aren’t able to delete those accounts, allow a trusted friend or family member to change the password. Have them change the e-mail address to their own so you can’t click “forgot password”.
I discovered a lot of my time was being absorbed by social media, forum websites, and instant messaging. Instead of mindlessly checking feeds every two minutes, I decided to delete my account. I gave myself closure by telling friends and family “good-bye” and gave them an alternate way to contact me such as an e-mail address or phone number. No regrets about it to this day. My life is much better without these time absorbing websites.
6. Replace Internet Time With Something Else
Don’t start with the intention to only “reduce your internet time”. This probably won’t work, and it will be a vicious, frustrating cycle. The only thing you will be able to think about is spending more time on the internet. You must fill in the time you spend on the internet with more productive activities. Here are a few ideas:
- Go to your local library and check out a book, movie, or cd
- Look at local events and see if you can go to any that peak your interest
- Keep an eye out for free events – what do you have to lose?
- Invite a friend to come over or go out on the town with you
- Join a club or small group to socialize in person
- Take a 15 minute walk
- Learn a new hobby that interests you
- Take a class in a skill you want to learn
- Cook something fun in the kitchen
- Start your day with taking care of yourself
- Finish chores and personal hygiene routines before turning the computer on
- Volunteer to help an organization such as a soup kitchen
- Walk Around Your Favorite Store (give yourself a small budget to get something for yourself)
- Re-organize a room in your home
- Read the Bible daily and choose a verse to memorize
- Choose an inspirational quote or verse that keeps you away from the internet
- Make a list of short-term and long-term goals
- Write a list of where you want to see yourself in five or ten years
- Look for a part-time or full-time job (if you don’t have one already)
- Reminisce on fun memories before your internet addiction
7. Concentrate on Getting Your Health Back
It may be a generalization, but I will assume that if you were an extreme internet addict that your health may be dwindling. I know mine was because I ignored the health needs my body so desperately tried to warn me about. Start by going outside at least for fifteen minutes a day, preferably in direct sunlight to get your Vitamin D levels back up. Eating wild caught salmon is also a good way to get Vitamin D if outdoor conditions aren’t favorable. Get your magnesium levels up! This will help with many health issues. If you sit outside, you will notice how much better fresh, outdoor air helps you feel. Make sure to drink plenty of clean water throughout the day and eat regular meals.
8. Retraining Your Bladder
This was such an intense issue that it deserves it’s own section. I held my bladder for as long as I could before using the bathroom because I was afraid I would lose the computer to someone else using it. I also didn’t want to break away from what I was doing. This is extremely unhealthy and it is bad for your bladder and kidneys. Start by drinking plenty of clean water. Unfortunately, I could drink sixty-four ounces of fluid without feeling the need to go for hours. Along with drinking water, I made myself get up and use the bathroom once an hour even if I didn’t feel like I need to go. Never ignore your need to use the bathroom as it is vital for your body to rid of toxins.
9. Fix Your Sleeping Schedule
If you are anything like me, your sleeping schedule was way messed up. I pushed myself to stay up until about five or six in the morning and then slept until three or four in the afternoon. Start by going to bed an hour every other night. When you have reached your desired bedtime and wake up at the same time every day. Stay on that schedule even on weekends. Your body will be in connection with a natural circadian rhythm again. Avoid using the internet late at night. If you must, use orange or amber colored sunglasses to reduce blue light exposure that keeps your mind awake.
10. Repair Relationships
If you haven’t spent time repairing relationships with family and friends I encourage you to do so. Apologize to them, have heart felt talks, or go do something fun. Make sure you are spending quality time with those you neglected while being addicted to the internet.
11. Address Your Feelings
Stress, depression, anxiety, and loneliness are emotional factors that may be affected how much time you spend online. Going outside and getting about fifteen minutes of direct exposure to sunlight each day should help greatly with this. Identify what emotions you feel that leads you back to the internet. Remedy stress and anxiety with breathing techniques. Relieve depression by getting sunlight every day and exercise. For loneliness, go out and make friends to chill with or get reacquainted with an old friend. Best of all, make sure you are cooking meals at home and eating healthy, organic foods whenever possible.
12. Give Yourself a Time Limit
Now that perhaps you have taken your time and spent less time away from the internet. Maybe you have been amazed that you will survive without sitting in front of the internet for hours on end. Give yourself 1-2 hours of leisure time on the computer each day. Most of us have school, work, bills to pay, or other things to do on the net so let’s not count that as “leisure time”. You may even find that you won’t be spending more than an hour of leisure time on the computer after deleting addictive accounts.
What If I Keep Failing?
If you have followed all of these tips and you still feel helplessly addicted to the internet, feel free to seek treatment. Take new approaches to the tips above. Modify my list if there is something I didn’t list that helps you. Consider trying this simple test to see the areas of your life in which you can improve. Feel free to see your primary care provider or a therapist, as I am not a licensed therapist or medical doctor. If you are addicted to the internet, keep trying – I know you can one day be free!
Feel free to post your thoughts below in the comments!
[Image Credit: Sergey Zolkin at unsplash.com]