“They are my sugar. They are the sweetness in the days that I have none. They drip through me like tupelo honey. Then they are gone. Then I need more. I always need more. For all of my life, I have needed more.”
-Elizabeth Wurtzel: More, Now, Again
Addict is not a game about substance abuse, although it can be. At its core, it is a game about the obsessions– the objects, the behaviors, the people and relationships– which individuals rely on to fill a void inside themselves, usually to the point of hindering or destroying their own functionality and the things they value most. It is not about delirium tremens or needles, but rather, the constant struggle to control a hunger that cannot be sated.
This struggle is explored through twelve steps.
Character creation is a group activity; it’s more like the first session of the game. Individually, give your character a name, and decide on your character’s Obsession. These can be many different things:
- Physical Dependence: drugs, alcohol; anything physically addictive.
- Mental Dependence: sex, gambling, self-mutilation, an eating disorder; anything psychologically addictive.
- Psychological Issue: depression, bipolarity; any mental issue which causes dysfunction. These are easiest to play if you fetishize some reason for the issue; depression because of a dead spouse, bipolarity due to childhood trauma.
- Social Issue: abusive interpersonal relationships. These can be with significant others, family members, close friends. It’s important to decide the nature of the abuse– physical, emotional, sexual, or a combination.
You’re going to need glass aquarium stones in three colors. Measure out twelve in one color, and put them in front of you; these are your Obsession Points.
Obsession Points represent the intensity of your addiction. You start out with twelve, and every time you complete a step, one of your Obsession Points is replaced with a point of Resolve, which we talk about later. When you relapse– when you give in to your Obsession– you must spend Obsession Points by resisting recovery, and/or damaging the things which are important to you. Once the number of Obsession Points you have is equal to the points you have in the other two point types (which we will discuss later), you can get back to progressing.
Do not flesh your character out beyond the name and Obsession yet. At this point, your character is defined only by its deepest need.
Step One: We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction/compulsion – that our lives had become unmanageable.
Take some time and figure out how your character hit rock bottom. What happened that showed you that your life couldn’t continue in its current state? It doesn’t necessarily have to be dramatic– some sort of life or death experience– but it should be embarrassing and personal and painful. Figure out the moment that you realized you could never go lower than where you were. Find that story.
Here you can add more to your character history, but only as it pertains to hitting rock bottom. If your story involves losing your job, you can include what the job was; if your judgment was so impaired you cheated on your spouse, you can decide who your spouse was, who your lover was, who they were in relationship to you. But if it is not something directly featured in your story, do not decide it yet.
The players sit in a circle, either on the floor or at a table. Each player takes a turn standing.
Player: “Hi, my name is [Character name], and I am an addict.”
Other players, in unison: “Hello, [Character name].”
Then, as your character, tell the people in front of you the story of how you hit rock bottom. When you’re done, sit down; it’s then the next person’s turn.
Remove one of the Obsession Points in front of you, and replace it with a stone of the second color. This is a Resolve Point, which you earn by completing steps.
The story of hitting rock bottom is the only thing the characters know about each other. At this point, you are defined by the worst thing that ever happened to you.
Step Two: We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Addiction fills a void deep within. When you remove the Obsession from your life, the hole that is left needs to be filled with something. Instead of one big thing– your Obsession– you get a bunch of small things, called Dependencies
Dependecies are basically small obsessions that you’re not as strongly invested in, although if they become important enough to you, they can turn into full-blown Obsessions. Choose between two and four Dependencies; these can be pretty much anything, positive or negative, that you can use as a substitute for your Obsession. This includes everything mentioned as Obsession types above, as well as things like religion, yoga, anything you can think of.
Measure out four stones of the third color, and place them next to your Resolve. These are your Dependency Points.
Dependency Points do the work of recovery for you by helping resist your Obsession. When you are tempted, you may call on a Dependency; if the Dependency fails you, you lose that point. If the Dependency allows you to resist the Obsession, you gain an extra Dependency Point for that Dependency. If your points in any single Dependency equal the number of Obsession Points you have, that Dependency becomes another Obsession.
Dependencies are the things you need, so that the thing you crave does not overwhelm you.
Replace one of your Obsession Points with a point of Resolve.
Step Three: We made a decision to let go of control, assume a spirit of goodwill, seek the wisdom of responsible others, and discover our true “voice within.”
This is the point at which your character becomes three-dimensional. Define your background and your relationships with the other characters– they are your “responsible others.” Relationships which are also Dependencies can also be with other characters; as with real life, it is never necessary that both characters invest the same amount into a relationship, although you can if you so choose. Any connection/relationship with another character which is stronger than a typical friendship must be a Dependency.
Using what you have already built– the Obsession, how you hit rock bottom, your Dependencies and relationships– cobble together your character’s personality. At this point in the game, it is practically incidental.
Replace one of your Obsession Points with a point of Resolve.
Step Four: We made a searching and fearless inventory of our strengths and weaknesses.
While the specter of your Obsession is always present, sometimes circumstance and serendipity conspire to make resisting it even more difficult. The things which inspire thoughts of relapse are called Triggers.
Most Triggers are personal, and depend on the type of Obsession your character has, and what the character’s background is. Someone struggling to stay clear of an abusive boyfriend might feel the urge to call him when their song comes on the radio; a bullemic might feel the desire to purge when they pass by someone thin on the street. Decide six areas where your character is weakest; those are your Triggers.
Besides the personal ones chosen above, there are a few Triggers which are universal to everyone:
- Intense stress
- Being confronted with someone else who is engaging in your Obsession
- Being around someone close to you who is engaging in their own Obsession
- Trying– but failing– to help someone out of their Obsession and into recovery
- When a Dependency fails
You must have at least one Trigger related to each character in the group.
Now that you’ve decided your Dependencies (the things which help you resist Obsession) and your Triggers (the things which make you susceptible to Obsession), you are aware of your strengths and weaknesses.
Replace a point of Obsession with a point of Resolve.
Temptation: Triggers and Relapse
The healthiest characters progress through their recovery with a careful balancing act. Stability, for an addict, means not being more consumed by their Obsession than they are with the rest of their life. Characters start out stable; play begins with eight Obsession Points, four Dependency Points, and four Resolve Points. When the amount of Obsession Points in your character’s pool is equal to or greater than the sum of your Dependency and Resolve Points, relapse occurs. Relapse can only be stopped by spending Obsession Points; every time a character injures a relationship, endangers something important to them, or resists recovery, they lose an Obsession Point. When balance is restored, recovery can continue.
Though you keep your Resolve Points after relapse, it is impossible to gain additional Resolve Points after relapse unless you go back through and revisit the Steps you completed earlier. In this case, your “rock bottom” story would now be the story of what finally made you come back from relapse.
When a character faces a Trigger, they gain a point of Obsession. The character can then try to gain a Dependency Point to cancel out the new point of Obsession. This happens in two ways:
- Before the character rolls the die, any other character who is present in the scene can offer one of their Dependency Points to the Triggered character. The Triggered character does not have to accept the point. If a character offers a Dependency Point to someone else, and the offer is refused, that character loses their Dependency Point regardless. If a character accepts a Dependency Point from someone else, that person becomes a Dependency; if that person is already a Dependency, then their rating in that Dependency increases by one.
- The character can call on one of their Dependencies. The player makes a declaration regarding which Dependency the character is trying to use, and rolls 1d10. On a roll of 1 or 2, the Dependency fails; the character loses a Dependency Point, and still gains the Obsession Point. If this causes an imbalance, they relapse. On a roll of 3-6, the Dependency does not fail; however, it just isn’t enough to sate the need brought about by the Trigger, and the character must call on an additional Dependency. On a roll of 7-10, the Dependency fills the character’s need; they receive a new Dependency Point.
Playing the Game
Game progression happens as the characters complete each of the Twelve Steps. Character creation takes care of the first four; the other eight happen during play. Though, on the surface, some of the steps may sound too difficult to assess, or too easy to complete, it’s not the case. For steps which involve internalizing a truth, the step is completed when the other players see the character do something which demonstrates that truth.
There will be a gameboard which will have the steps on it; place a marker for each character to show where they are in progressing towards recovery. Characters complete a step when everyone else playing has said that they feel the character has done so.
There is no completion of the 12th step; it is instead, a constant conscientious effort to help people to your level. When a character reaches that point– or has relapsed so much that it seems they will not recover– feel free to remove the characters from play if it feels thematically appropriate. This is a very personal game about inner demons and insatiability, so there is no definitive marker for the end of a game; the story closes when the stories of the characters can be summed up by, “and more of the same.”
The rest of the Twelve Steps
- Step 5 – Admitted to a higher power, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
- Step 6 – Were entirely ready to listen to wise counsel and seek that still small voice within to guide us to change our behaviors which have been harmful to ourselves and others
- Step 7 – Humbly began the process of deep change so we could overcome our weakness
- Step 8 – Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all, and to forgive those against whom we have held grudges
- Step 9 – Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
- Step 10 – Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it
- Step 11 – Sought through self-reflection to continually seek to clarify and improve our own judgment and to consider the best direction and purpose our lives can take
- Step 12 – Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs