‘Tech ‘ addicts’ seek solace in 12 step and rehabilitation

In this Dec. 8, 2018, photos, young men gather to talk after a 12-step meeting for Internet & Tech Addiction Anonymous in Bellevue, Wash.

We say: we are addicted to our phone or an app or a new show on a streaming video service.

But for some people, tech will get in the way of daily functioning and can take care of themselves. We talk a flunk-your-classes-not-find-a-job, live-in-a-dark-hole types of problems, depression, anxiety and sometimes suicidal thoughts are part of the mix.

Suburb of Seattle, a large tech center, has become a hub for the help for so-called “tech addicts, with residential rehabilitation, psychologists who specialize in such treatment and 12-step meetings.

“The drugs of old are now wrapped. We have a new enemy,” Cosette Rae says of the barrage of the tech. A former developer in the tech world, they are at the head of a Seattle area rehab center called new Life, is one of the few residential programs in the country that specialize in technical addiction.


The use of that word — addiction — when it comes to devices, online content, and such is still debated in the mental health of the world. But a lot of professionals agree that tech use is becoming more and more intertwined with the problems of the people looking for help.

On this Monday, Dec. 10, 2018, photo, Robel, an 18-year-old tech-addict from California, shows a barn after the help of the feeding of animals at the Rise Ranch outside the rural Carnation, Wash. (AP Photo/Martha Irvine)

A American Academy of Pediatrics review of worldwide research reveals that excessive use of video games alone is a serious problem for 9 percent of the young people. This summer, the World Health Organization also added, “gaming disorder” to the list of disorders. A similar diagnosis is considered, in the United States.

It can be a big taboo in a sector that often faces criticism for the use of persuasive design,” intentional use of psychological concepts to create tech all the more enticing.


A 27-year-old man, who by means of a 12-step program for tech-addicts, working in the industry, which peddles the games, videos and other online content that has long been his vice. He does cloud maintenance for a suburb of Seattle tech company, and constantly is fighting off the temptation.

“I’m like an alcoholic working in a bar,” he laments. He spoke on the condition that he not be identified, out of fear that he might harm his career in the industry he’s long loved.

As a toddler, he sat on his father’s lap in their Seattle area home as they played simple video games on a Mac Classic II computer. By the beginning of the primary school, he got his first Super Nintendo system, and hours spent playing Yoshi’s Story, a game where the main character searched for “lucky fruits.”

As he grew, so did one of the world’s largest tech hubs. Led by Microsoft, he rose from the inconspicuous suburban landscape and farm fields here, just a short drive from the house where he still shares with his mother, who is separated from her husband when their only child was 11.

As a teenager, he took an interest in music and acting but remember how the play of games becoming more of a way to escape life. “I go online instead of dealing with my feelings,” he says.

He had been seeing a therapist for depression and severe social anxiety. But attending college of the state allowed more freedom and less structure, so he spent even more time online. His grades plummeted, forcing him to change majors from engineering to business.

On this Monday, Dec. 10, 2018, photo, Psychologist Hilarie Cash runs on a forest trail in a rehabilitation center for young people in a rural area outside of Redmond, Wash. The complex is part of the new Life, a residential program for adolescents and adults who have serious problems with excessive tech use, including video games. Disconnecting from tech and on the outside is part of the rehabilitation process. (AP)

After graduating in 2016 and moving, he would go to a restaurant in the neighborhood or in the library to use the Wi-Fi, who claimed that he was looking for a job, but have no luck.

Instead, he was spending hours on Reddit, an online forum where people share news and notes, or watching YouTube videos. Sometimes, he looked at online porn.


Others who participate in a 12-step meeting of the Internet & Tech Addiction Anonymous know the fight.

“I had to be convinced that this is a ‘thing,'” says Walker, a 19-year-old man from Washington, where parents insisted he get help after the video gaming destroyed his first semester of college. He agreed, only if it can be identified by the first name, as required by the 12-step doctrines.

Help to find in facilities such as restart. Customers “detox” of tech on a secluded ranch and go to a group home.

They commit to eating well and regular sleep and exercise. They find work, and many eventually return to the university. They also make a “bottom line” promises to video games or other problems with the content, as well as drugs and alcohol, as those problems are. They use controlled smartphones with a limited function — calls, sms-messages and e-mails and access to maps.

The young tech employee not to restart. But he also has apps on his phone that send reports about what he looks at his 12-step sponsor, a fellow tech addict named Charlie, a 30-year-old start graduation.

At home, the young man persuaded his mother to get rid of the Wi-Fi to reduce the temptation.

He still relapses every few months, often when he is tired or angry or very bored. He says himself that his problem is not as bad as other tech-addicts.

“Then,” the young man says: “I discover very quickly that I was actually an addict, and I have to do this.”

With Charlie to lean on helps. “He is a role model,” he says.

“He has one of his own. He has a dog. He has friends.”

That is what he wants for himself.

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