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The Internet Was Ruining Their Lives; Now They're Learning To Live Without It

Parker Miles Blohm
Hilarie Cash is a founder of reSTART, a recovery program for people addicted to the internet and video games. Here, she's at the program's retreat house in Fall City, Wash.


This story originally aired on June 3, 2017.

In countries like China and South Korea, internet and video game addiction is seen as a major public health threat, capable of ruining lives.

But here in the United States, just two or three centers in the whole country are devoted to treating the issue, which American psychology doesn’t officially recognize as an addiction.

One of those centers is about an hour's drive from Seattle, tucked into a wooded community along the Snoqualmie River. It's a place where people who were consumed by the internet and video games learn to live without any kind of digital technology for weeks at a time. 

KNKX reporter Will James visited the reSTART center to learn about how these staples of the modern world can take hold of a person, in a manner not unlike a gambling addiction, and derail a life. 

"I even skipped meals," one resident said. "I would go a day where I had a bowl of cereal at like 4 p.m., because that's when I would wake up, and just play games until 4 a.m. that night and then just go to sleep."  

Residents of the center say living in this wooded setting can be a transformative experience where they learn to feel bored again and their creative minds begin to reawaken. But they know they must eventually return to a world aglow with smartphones and computer screens, any one of which could send them spiraling back into addiction.  

Will James is a former KNKX reporter and was part of the special projects team, reporting and producing podcasts such as Outsiders and The Walk Home.