I came into this last year, having recently turned 40 years old, and I was at a very difficult point in my life. I was in a broken relationship with a person I loved dearly, and my alcohol dependency issues were worsening rapidly. At this time, I would be presented with a series of challenges throughout the year, including the death of my mother’s husband and her subsequent suicide attempt, a broken leg, financial insecurity caused in part by redundancy and unstable employment, another unrelated surgery, and the usual life challenges.
I am beginning this year with my physical and mental health in relatively good condition. I am no longer in a damaging relationship with the person I loved, although we remain very good friends. My mother is coping — she’s sad but managing, and I am able to provide her at least some support in a way that I wasn’t a year ago. I haven’t touched a drink for approximately three months.
My character, Damian, has been around The Secret World on and off for a long time. For much of this he was simply a vehicle I used so I could drink. I would log onto my character, attend a radio show or something, and drink to oblivion. It was, essentially, escapism for me in a very raw and destructive form.
I knew this had to change, but I didn’t have a channel or a way to do it. I believed, at the time, that these changes needed to happen in the real world. My plan was that I would, when the time came, simply turn off the game. I see now that would have been a mistake.
During the summer of 2016, I was invited by my friend DJ Chemic to join his in-game (IC) platform, Happy Tentacle Radio, since we share a deep love of (particularly electronic) music. I accepted his invite and began to do occasional shows which, frankly, weren’t very good. I would frequently air shows while drunk and it showed. However, over the course of the next twelve or eighteen months, I've had an opportunity to channel my energy into a more creative activity. I began to take it more seriously and put more of myself into what I was doing. This would naturally require additional focus, and, therefore, at least a reduction in drinking, among other things. I had support from people I didn’t even know were trying to help me, and who pointed me towards the recovery I am currently working on now. One of the fundamental shifts in my thinking was that I no longer saw the game as a space to hide away the worst version of me. I began to value the game, the community, and more importantly, myself and my role within it.
By the beginning of 2018, I had been working with Cate's character, Mayahuel, on various creative concepts in the game, such as Lore and other pop-up events that we would execute throughout the year. I enjoyed it a lot. My self-confidence increased and I felt we were contributing positively to a community of creative people. Simultaneously, however, my real world was challenging me in many ways. My drinking was getting out of hand, and as anyone who has experience in this will tell you, everything was affected by it.
Bad decisions were made, new problems were created, and older problems were ignored or left unresolved. I was conscious of this, so I decided to redouble my efforts to improve my real-life situation. I had no idea where to start and I spent much of the year trying to work it out.
A few months ago, I began making the first of many big changes in my life. I am learning as I go and I still don’t fully understand the implications of the changes I have made. I have quit drinking, something I would not have been able to achieve without the game and the people who play it.
Having a creative outlet has been extremely important to me. Being able to channel my energy into making something with others that we are proud of is wonderful. Sure, we are amateurs and this is all for fun, but we have pulled together some truly amazing content.
On this issue, I am unable to separate in character and out of character interactions. Simply put, when I am drunk and impaired, my character is too. Because of this, I have necessarily had to mirror my real life situation in my character's story. In some ways, this has been extremely helpful. It gives me a sense of distance when I need it and it allows me to take a slightly more objective view when I need to study things more closely. In other ways, it has been hurtful. It leaves me extremely exposed and vulnerable. There have been times when this has been exploited for comic effect as part of a role-play or scene. This is something that has had a very real, damaging impact on me and on how I confront this challenge.
The true friends I have made in the game have helped me immeasurably. There are two people in particular who have been open to talk 24/7, called me out on my bullshit when I’ve deserved it, and have given me the strength to hit this thing head on. There is no way I would have gotten anywhere close to where I am on this journey without the support of the players behind Mayahuel and Kikko. There are also others out there in the community who could see what was going on with me and were trying to help me, even at a time when I would have refused it had I realised.
There is a beautiful irony in how this has played out. A place that I came to with entirely the wrong intentions — to dump my worst self — turned out to be the place that gave me everything I needed to fix things once I looked at it all with clarity.
It is still very much a journey. I’ve only been sober for a few months now, and there are seismic changes occurring in my real life. In the game world, if such distinction serves any purpose, my plan is to continue trying to seek out other creative people, find engaging content, and where I can, support their endeavours in whatever way is available to me. Hopefully this project, Multifarium, which is something Mayahuel and I have put together with exactly these goals in mind, will help us to achieve this both inside and outside The Secret World.