I'm an addict.
I started off small, spending tiny amounts of money and picking up free deals where I could. I then moved up to harder things, spent more money and faced big challenges. I've had highs and lows, job losses and bankruptcy.
I have been on week-long binges and neglected family members and friends.
I am one of millions of people who are addicts like me.
I am of course, a Football Manager addict.
Over the Christmas period I took a vacation to Spain to get some winter sun and like any other holidaymaker I needed some sunbathing entertainment.
My entertainment of choice: Football Manager 2016 for my IPhone.
In just the short space of time I have been playing this years instalment of the series, I have been sacked 3 times, promoted 4 times, won the league twice and moved from Non-league to the Championship.
I wouldn't call myself Pep Guardiola just yet- Paul Jewell is probably more accurate.
The average Football Manager player invests around 250 hours playing the game each year and there is actually a ranking system for the stages of "addiction". Here they are:
Stage 1: You're a level one if you buy the game but can't find time to play it therefore you can safely say you like the game but are definitely not addicted. You do however know it's okay because the linesman hasn't moved when you concede but it's actually offside. That you do know!
Stage 2: You have signed an unknown player who goes on to be huge or touted as the next best thing, and claim you knew of his potential before everyone else. You are mildly addicted but the damage is reversible. You are also likely, when bored, to relegate your biggest rivals. Again, many connoisseurs of the great game have done this at some point or another.
Stage 3: You sit and play the game blissfully unaware that you are talking to yourself in what you think (in your head) is a real press conference. A slightly more severe case of Stage 3 is when you do this in a foreign accent. This is what we in FM world called the early signs of acute FM addictiveness.
Stage 4: You begin comparing players in real life to what they are really like on FM - sometimes getting into heated arguments with friends. This is where the manifestation of an FM addict begins to show itself. The symptoms of this stage also include shouting at the computer screen, usually after conceding or scoring late on - sometimes in the company of others. At this stage, real life young players start becoming managers at top clubs in FM.
Stage 5: We call this stage five because it's when five more minutes becomes 5am and that's when the concept of time really starts distorting - much like the five minute '90minute' games on FM. At this stage you don't have a massive need to worry as an intervention can always solve your moderate addiction. It is also know that many people at Stage 5 start to make up football chants and sing them to themselves.
Stage 6: Obviously the next stage up from five (of course) the person who, after working 11 days straight, gets that one day off, but instead of availing of the lie-in, they set their alarm to get up to play FM. There are no days off at this stage. It is believed that many online players of the game suffer from Stage 6
Stage 7: This is the point where reality begins to fade into the horizon. FM is famed for it's realism but someone suffering from Stage 7 takes it to new depths.
A Stage 7 would tend to leave the room when they are slapped with a touchline ban. They would leave the tactics to their assistant, hit kick-off and go stand on the other side of the door. At half-time they would return and hit kick-off after leaving the team-talk once again to the assistant. They would only return when the game is over and probably lost. At this stage family members usually become concerned. Eating also becomes a chore at this stage.
Stage 8: Okay, it's true that FM really does consume ones life but in the early stages of addiction said addictee can pull themselves away at some point during the week and that's usually for a sociable night out at the weekend - not for a Stage 8 it doesn't, because for someone this addicted, not even a night out sounds good.
This is the sort of player that once on a good run, will continue to play because they feel a break will ruin their momentum. Nonetheless, this is the same player that will continue to play even when their team is on a particularly poor run because a win is just around the corner. This is called FM paralysis.
Stage 9: By this stage you are pretty damn good at the game, you have assembled a decent team and playing with a system you are relatively happy with. This is the person that also knows that whatever your pre-season form, it counts for nothing come your first game. Beating a team a few divisions above you in pre-season only gives you the dreaded false sense of security.
The person may be addicted but they too are knowledgeable. That all sounds promising until you hear the prevailing Stage 9 symptom - wearing a suit in front of the computer for cup finals. This also goes for other club paraphernalia. This is where many people should stop questioning why they are single.
Stage 10: This is when it really gets serious. Getting up early, playing to the early hours and refusing to go on night's out is bad enough but it's not the worst thing - it shows a certain passion should we say, but when you start calling into work sick, then you're in trouble. In fairness, if you do that you probably are sick and need to seek help...immediately (but of course you're not going to do that as that would take you away from FM).
Stage 11: This is extremely rare. There have been no reported cases on Merseyside but this is when a player wins a trophy and inexplicably feels the need to share his/her glory with others...a lot of others. They don't take to running around the house to telling people, they don't even use social media, instead they jump on an open-top sightseeing bus and take a tour of the city waving to the unsuspecting folk on the streets. Yes, this is truly Football Manager possession. That's when you've been FM'd.
It may sound crazy, but these stages are real!
For my personally I would say that I am only in the early stages of FM addiction, but who knows where I'll be in another months time.
To non-FM players it may seem ridiculous that anyone can play a football game where you have no physical control of the players and what they do, like FIFA or Pro Evo. However, it's not all wasting time.
In 2013 22-year old Azerbaijani Vugar Huseynzade became the youngest professional football manager in the world after FC Baku offered him a job as manager. His qualifications: 9 years of playing the FM series.
So, instead of shouting at the Football Manager player in your family to "stop playing that silly game", you should try to encourage them to play even more. You never know what club might come calling!