Paula was tired during the meeting - she always was, honestly. She couldn't remember the last time that she'd actually gotten enough sleep. Usually she'd take little naps throughout the day, rather than managing a proper sleep cycle during the night. It was almost easier that way, although much more stressful on her body. Paula and her husband were both addicts to social media, staying up all night on their phones. It was mostly Paula's husband by now, but occasionally her as well.
Paula had been in the group the longest, so the others sort of looked to her as a leader. Regardless of her current mental state, Paula always regarded herself as an addict, and she had no desire to ever leave. Even on her best days, she still needed the help and she always would, just in case. Besides, Saul kept insisting that she go. Of course, Saul wasn't technically a member of the group (he didn't sit in the circle with the rest of them on a regular basis) but he would pop in out, but only if there were 7 members instead of 8. The numbers never dipped below 7. Now with Velma's presence, they were back up to 8 again, so Saul had no reason to attend.
Since Paula had been doing well lately, she focused on her husband, because his problems affected her. She loved him, of course, and she'd never blame him for his addiction, but it did get tiresome at times. Being a bit older than the other members of the group, Paula had been around for the popularization of mainstream technology. Unlike most of her friends her age, she was perfectly skilled at using smartphones and PCs and most other internet devices. On the surface, this was a lot to be proud of, but it had quickly become a problem. People say that you need to spend 10,000 hours doing a task in order to perfect it, and Paula was well above that number.
Even before her technology addiction, Paula always struggled with insomnia. It was easier as a kid when staying up all night was something to brag about to your friends at school the next day, but it got worse as Paula grew older. As a teenager, the same kids that she used to brag to now dealt with the same thing, so they'd buy and sell pills at school, pills as pretty and alluring as the candy in Henry's games. Paula's parents and therapist eventually realized what she was doing, and they stopped being happy about the fact that she could finally sleep and started being sad about the reason why. They did put her on prescription medication, but after a few months everything would stop working. Paula became nocturnal and switched over to night school and online work, which ended up being a double-edged sword.
She'd met her husband online, of course. Not in the same ways that Karly and occasionally Ed met their online "loves" - Paula's attraction was genuine from the beginning. It still was, but she'd also grown frustrated by her marriage. Still, she put on a brave and happy face. If she couldn't help herself or her husband, she could at least help the rest of group. Friends Of Saul wasn't exactly her idea, but it might as well have been.
As Paula rambled on about her and her husband, she looked at the faces of those around her. Velma was new, but she'd talked to her beforehand - Velma was a younger version of Paula herself, caught up in the thrill of online communities even when they got destructive. There was Marvin, who loved debate and acted more confident in his faith than he actually was. He was the second oldest person in the group, younger than Paula only. Ed and Karly had similar issues, although they manifested in different ways. Out of everyone's issues, Ed's and Karly's were probably the easiest to judge (pornography/sex/online dating), but Paula thought no less of them. Ed and Karly were not addicted to those things within each other, but with strangers that they'd stumble into online. Neither of them were bad people, just lonely and starved of real relationships. A foil to Paula's relationship with her husband - it was a "real" relationship, but it hardly felt that way sometimes. Henry gamed too much, Jessica was scared away from the internet and society because of that damn video, and Toby was a hateful and flawed man with a good soul deep down inside past the misanthropic personality.
Paula realized she knew more about the others than she did about herself. They saw her as a leader, but she felt like a background character in her own life. It was always her husband, her support group, never just her. Next week, could she talk about herself? Could she discuss the hours at a time she spent at her screen, with anything else abandoned to distraction in order to forget? She'd sort all of that out later, she told herself. But later never comes.
So maybe she wasn't as okay as she'd originally thought. The rest of the group was there to help her. It was alright. Paula had survived until now, she could survive some more.