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My Bridge Addiction 
by Debbie Buckley 

The word addiction usually conjures up images of Alcoholic Anonymous meetings, people with drug problems, and gamblers losing the rent money in Las Vegas. My addiction is to playing cards on the internet and especially to Contract Bridge. The internet makes it so easy to play and find a partner any time of the day or night. If I canít sleep at 2:00 in the morning there is probably someone from Australia looking for a partner. Since we got our cable modem, so the phone line is not tied up, my dependency is getting worse. Now donít misunderstand me, I donít think there is any wrong with playing Bridge or any card game. After all, Iím Catholic Ė Iím allowed to play cards. But I donít think I am supposed to be playing 10 to 12 hours a week. There must be some other worthwhile activity that I should be spending time on, like cleaning the bathrooms, doing laundry, volunteering in my community, or another activity that is not quite as much fun as playing Bridge. Sometimes I make deals with myself, ďDebbie if you clean the bathrooms (my least favorite household task) this morning you can play one game of Bridge online.Ē But that usually backfires because I either win or lose. Either way I want a rematch.

I have tried to quit or cut down on more than one occasion. Last year I tried giving it up for Lent, but I must confess that I was not 100% successful. The problem with an addiction like mine is that I may not ever hit rock bottom and it will probably never ruin my life. I mean Iím not gambling away the mortgage money when I play. And I am still able to get out of bed and go to work everyday. So far I can feed my addiction and still go to work, cook, clean and take care of my family. Well I have to be honest I am not the most meticulous house cleaner, but I donít think I can blame that on Bridge. The fact that Internet Bridge is not ruining my life makes it easier to rationalize that this is a ďworthwhile activityĒ than if I just lost my job, or wasnít feeding my family. I mean isnít Bridge improving my ability to think strategically, add up small numbers, and count to thirteen. You never know when you might need those skills.

I grew up in the Midwest and played cards with friends and family all the time. As I recall our frequent family gatherings usually ended up with a few people sitting around playing Euchre. All of the games were friendly and I was just another enthusiastic card player back then, not yet addicted. I started down my road to addiction when I moved away from the Midwest and discovered I could play Euchre on the internet. It began innocently enough. I coordinated the games so one of my friends or relatives was my partner while we played online. It was fun to chat and play cards long distance and it helped me be less homesick. But since then I have become a hardcore internet card playing addict. I started playing Euchre more and more and began to realize I was getting addicted. So I started playing Bridge to cut down on my obsessive Euchre playing. I rationalized that Bridge was more ďintellectualĒ and playing would improve my mind, or my ability to think or something. After all donít a lot of smart people play Bridge? Did I mention that I am really good at rationalizing? So now I think my internet Euchre obsession has been replaced by a full-blown Internet Bridge addiction.

Of course there are more serious addictions than mine, but I donít think any addiction should be taken lightly. I think that when an addiction consumes as much time as mine, and is not really benefiting anyone, including me, it may be time try and kick the habit. I have to admit that for all my time spent playing my Bridge playing skills are really not even improving very much.

About fifteen years ago I tried to quit smoking. Everyone knows smoking is bad for you and all of my friends encouraged me to quit. After three or four years of trying to quit, I finally was able quit smoking for good. So why am I having so much trouble giving up my Bridge addiction? Like I said it is probably not going to ruin my life, and maybe that makes it harder to give up. There is nothing wrong with playing cards on the internet. But I think there is something wrong with my internet Bridge addiction. Otherwise it probably wouldnít bother me. Right? For the record, I am not a theologian but I have read the lives of many of the saints and I donít remember any of them spending 2 hours a day on the internet playing cards. I keep thinking about the parable of the talents. When I get to heavenís gate I want to have more to show for the talents God has given me than a Master Bridge Player ranking. Who am I kidding I will ever play well enough to be a Master Bridge player.

I know there is more that I am supposed to be doing with those two hours a day. I can think of a lot of things off the top of my head. So I will keep trying to quit. But it is going to be tough. The first step in recovering from any addiction is to admit it, and that is what I am doing today. I was thinking about asking for Godís grace to help me quit, but I am afraid that if I do I will get it. So I guess my heart is not completely committed to quitting yet. I would really like just enough grace to cut down to less than 30 minutes a day.

In the meantime, if you are an online card player and you see me, please do me a favor and donít play with me. Maybe if I canít get a partner I will be able to quit once and for all.

-- by Debbie Buckley

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