Thursday, 30 May 2019

Mixed Emotions: Part 2 - Dark Emotions

My name is Russ and I’m a compulsive gambler. My last bet was April 2nd 2019. This is a follow up or counter piece to my blog “Why Did I Fall In Love With Gambling?” As I stated in that blog a lot, if not all, of the emotions and feelings I wrote about were from the early days of my gambling journey before I crossed that invisible line into addiction. From that point on a lot of my feelings were darker, more menacing and more consuming. There were rarely any of the fun feelings that made me fall in love with gambling in the first place anymore, I was a wreck, and what I write here are the reasons why I know and have accepted that I can not gamble again. There is no option for me to start gambling again in the future in a controlled manner because what I write here is how the addiction has changed gambling for me. As I have said before and I will say again, I am not anti-gambling, I just accept that I am unable to do it.

For years now gambling became less of a social thing and went way beyond enjoying spending time on my own, I was simply in isolation and it was getting worse. Gambling was isolating me from my family, if we went out somewhere I was constantly on my phone gambling and not being in the moment with them. I was spending absolutely zero time with my friends in person, yes I would still message back and forth, but that actual human interaction was gone. I would sit in every single weekend gambling on my phone and looking back it’s thoroughly depressing to think about. When someone attempted to disturb me from my gambling it would put me in a terrible mood. Friends messaging me during a gambling session would have me yelling at my phone in my room to be left alone and muting the chats. If my partner asked to me do something simple I would make a big deal out of it like she was ruining my life. There were only two things ruining my life, me and my addiction.

My emotions were also all over the place, gone was the laid back happy go lucky guy I was before, instead, there was this shell of a man. For a while I noticed when I was gambling I would become frustrated quickly, impatient, angry at myself and at others but I was also able to switch back into my old self when I wasn’t gambling. I would say for the last 2 or 3 years I was unable to switch back and I just became the alter-ego my addiction created. I was miserable but kept finding excuses as to why I was feeling that way. It was never my fault and it was definitely not because I was gambling, that was the only thing keeping me sane I thought. I blamed others, for the way they were acting or what they were doing, feeling like people were going out of their way to piss me off. After a while I started to blame myself, that I was the problem, I hated myself by the end. I never would have hurt myself but I constantly had the thoughts that those closest to me would be better off if I wasn’t around. I was a screw up, I was shit with money, I felt like a waster. Still, I never blamed gambling. That’s what the addiction did to me, it took me away from everyone and everything I cared about and turned me against them so that it was just me and gambling, that’s all I had. I’ve no doubt I was depressed during this period but I never reached out for help, I assumed I would be able to figure my own way out of the mess but I just kept going deeper and deeper.

The fact that I can never stop until my money is gone is more proof that I will never be able to gamble again. I was never comfortable until all my money was gone, that was the point when I was able to stop gambling for the month. Then I’d spend all my time and energy into working out how I would survive until payday and who I could borrow money off to pay a bill that was due or even just to borrow money to gamble. It was all consuming, my productivity in work was zero and at home I was in a world of my own. If I ever won money when I gambled I immediately upped my stakes and started trying to win more, it was never going to be enough. No matter how much money I had won I would want more, by the end money was simply the fuel that allowed me to gamble.

I had lost all respect and value for money because of my addiction. I would have no trouble depositing £100 in an hour into my Bet365 account but there was no chance I was paying £4 for a sandwich at lunch time. Money became gambling tokens for me and unless I had to buy something to keep my addiction a secret I was not spending a penny on anything other than gambling.

As I touched on above I wouldn’t buy anything for lunch as I considered it a waste of my gambling money. I never ate breakfast either, I was just getting up and going to work and coming home and eating dinner. I stopped looking after myself completely. I may have bought a packet of cheap biscuits and an energy drink and that was pretty much my diet. How I didn’t have any health issues over that time because of it I’ll never know.

I’ll end on this point as it’s a tough one but probably the most important reason me for as to why I can never go back to gambling, and again I’ll emphasise it is because of my addiction, not gambling itself. I was a shit Dad to my two kids for those last few years. Now I was always there for them in person but in my mind I honestly could not care, they were getting in the way of my gambling and at times I resented them for it. That’s such a shitty thing to be writing as they mean the world to me but if I am being honest it is the truth. The addiction even positioned itself to mean more to me than my children and that disgusts me. I never neglected them, they were always looked after, but I was not the best Dad I could be and now that I am in recovery I can see that. They do not care how much money I have or what I can buy them, all they want is my attention and my love and that costs nothing.

Russ

Monday, 27 May 2019

Mixed Emotions: Part 1 - Why Did I Fall In Love With Gambling?

Disclaimer: If you feel you may be triggered by reading about gambling, sports betting in particular, please do not read on. I have accepted the fact I am a compulsive gambler and I cannot gamble. I am comfortable reflecting on how gambling made me feel in the past without it triggering me. My addiction has had an adverse effect on my life and the lives of friends I have made in G.A. and in my Problem Gambling Support Group. This post is in no way encouraging gambling.

My name is Russ and I’m a compulsive gambler. My last bet was April 2nd 2019. My Problem Gambling Support Group on Skype recently suggested a topic for us to discuss which was why did we gamble in the first place? What was it that gambling offered that kept us coming back for more. I thought it was a great topic and one which, when thinking a lot about it, has many layers.

First and foremost I want to make clear I am not anti gambling. This is not in any way an attack on gambling and trying to blame them for how they made me feel. I’m well aware millions of people can enjoy gambling responsibly but I am not one of them. What I say here is the way gambling made me feel when I look back at the 14 years I gambled. Most, if not all of the reasons I write about here are how I felt about gambling before I really let the addiction take over. I’ll also add that nearly everything I write here will sound absolutely insane to anyone who hasn’t suffered from a gambling addiction (and maybe even some who have!) and I’m not going to state the obvious that nearly all of these feelings are absolutely delusional. So what was it that made me fall in love with gambling? And yes, I did LOVE gambling.

When I look back I think one of the main pleasures it gave me was an illusion of control. It was me vs the bookmaker and it was all on my terms and I loved that feeling. I picked the games I wanted to bet on and how much I was willing to bet on them. The bookmaker gave me a menu full of various options for each game and I could pick and choose how I wanted to attack that game. That illusion of control was further reinforced when I would research games thinking I could gain an edge on the bookmakers. Win or lose I controlled when and where I wanted to gamble. Sitting at home I would search through the hundreds and hundreds of markets looking for something that took my fancy, I had all of this at my fingertips, in the comfort of my own home, I controlled it all in the palm of my hand.

There is also that glorious feeling of when I got it right, when that bet I had a gut feeling about landed, against the odds. That look that came across my face as I realised I had beaten the bookmaker. The look of a smug prick. Not only was I right but I could then tell my friends or go into work the next day declaring my winning bet to the world. Reminding everyone how I told them the day before over coffee Messi would score first and Barcelona would win 3-1. Overnight, after the bet had won of course, my gut feeling I mentioned in passing to them was now being described as an absolute certainty that I told them about. “What do you mean you didn’t back it, I told you that’s what would happen”.

Even the opposite, when a bet loses but it was oh so close, I was a missed penalty away or a touchdown called back from a winning bet. I honestly preferred the “war stories” as I called them. I got more out of telling people how close I was to a winning bet than I was actually winning a bet. Talking over how unlucky it was with friends and laughing at how close I was to winning. I’ve some excellent war stories I’ll save for another blog, it’ll be cathartic.

It made me feel like my opinion about sport mattered more compared to other people’s opinions who didn’t bet on it. I was willing to not only talk about sport but when I had an opinion I was willing to put my money where my mouth was. Yes, most of the time I lost but at least I had conviction, at least I had the balls to put a bet on it. When the bet landed I felt more intelligent than other people around me, not only was I a genius but I made money because of it.

The social aspect of it all was another big draw for me. There was always sport on and I was always betting on it so I had plenty of ammunition to start a conversation with friends over it. “Any luck at the weekend” was one of the favoured lines on a Monday in work. “Who do you fancy in tonight's match?” was another easy conversation starter.

Winning money was also a nice feeling don’t get me wrong. Being able to make money from my “knowledge” of sport provided such a rush it’s hard to explain in words. Watching a game knowing I have called it right, that feeling, I don’t think I have found anything since that has come close to it. This was also back in the day when I would have used winnings to buy myself something or to go out for the night drinking with friends. Being able to do that “for free” was just such a great feeling.

I also love stats and data, can’t get enough of that shit and gambling gave me an excuse to dive in and try to find different angles to get a bet up. I have had so many different “systems” over the years and all of them were rubbish but I still loved doing the research. I remember thinking that previous head to head meetings in football were a good indicator of the upcoming game. I was going back to 1920 working out the average goals per game or if both teams scored more often than not. I spent hours working out how many times a season the underdog won in the main football leagues across Europe and at what odds did they have to be to make a profit each season.

Although I mentioned the social aspect there is also the bonus, for me at least, that it’s something I could do on my own. I enjoy my own company and to be able to delve into the internet to research bets and to place bets it was like I was in my own little world. When I was doing that nothing else mattered. I wasn’t doing anyone any harm, this was my free time and I was able to escape into the numbers the way someone would escape watching a film.

I will finish on the gambling event that my whole year revolved around, the Mecca of gambling in my honest opinion, The Cheltenham Festival. Those 4 days in March were what I looked forward to every year and when they came around it was a holiday for me. I never went to Cheltenham, I always watched it on TV, but nearly every year I would book that week off work. Screw Summer holidays, my first choice was that week in March. I’d get up early every morning and go to the shop to buy The Racing Post and then sit down over a coffee and breakfast and meticulously go through the card picking out my selections. Then I’d place my bets and sit back and watch some of the greatest horse racing in the world. It always ended in a losing week but that didn’t matter, it was all forgotten about when you managed to pick a winner, usually at a decent price. I’ll never forget picking Lord Windermere out to win the Gold Cup at 33/1 and had £5 each way on it. Of course I lost money that week, but I was one of the few who could claim they had backed the winner of the main race of the week at 33/1 and that was worth more than money to me.

Russ

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Working The Steps: Step One

My name is Russ and i'm a compulsive gambler. My last bet was April 2nd 2019. I've recently started to work the steps of the G.A. recovery program after my sponsor Jeff (you know who you are) threw down the challenge. I had heard people talking about the steps and the importance of working them and aside from reading them at the beginning of every G.A. meeting I didn't really understand what working the steps actually meant. Having read them I could, in my head, check off each one pretty much, G.A. completed! Turns out there's actually work sheets for working the steps and since I'm an open book these days I'm going to share it here.

The first section is the twenty questions. For those of you that don't know most compulsive gamblers will answer yes to at least seven of these questions.

Twenty Questions
  1. Did you ever lose time from work or school due to gambling? Yes
  2. Has gambling ever made your home life unhappy? Yes
  3. Did gambling affect your reputation? Yes
  4. Have you ever felt remorse after gambling? Yes
  5. Did you ever gamble to get money with which to pay debts or otherwise solve financial difficulty? Yes
  6. Did gambling cause a decrease in your ambition or efficiency? Yes
  7. After losing, did you feel you must return as soon as possible to win back your losses? Yes
  8. After a win, did you have a strong urge to return and win more? Yes
  9. Did you often gamble until your last dollar was gone? Yes
  10. Did you ever borrow to finance your gambling? Yes
  11. Have you ever sold anything to finance gambling? Yes
  12. Were you reluctant to use “gambling money” for normal expenditures? Yes
  13. Did gambling make you careless of the welfare of yourself or your family? Yes
  14. Did you ever gamble longer than you planned? Yes
  15. Have you ever gambled to escape worry, trouble, boredom or loneliness? Yes
  16. Have you ever committed, or considered committing, an illegal act to finance gambling? Yes
  17. Did gambling cause you to have difficulty in sleeping? Yes
  18. Do arguments, disappointments, or frustrations create within you an urge to gamble? Not now
  19. Did you ever have an urge to celebrate any good fortune by a few hours of gambling? Yes
  20. Have you ever considered self-destruction or suicide as a result of your gambling? No
As you can see I aced this test scoring 18 out of 20. A grade student when it comes to being a compulsive gambler.

Exercise 2: Moving Toward Acceptance
Illustrate The Progressive Nature of Your Addiction – When I first started gambling it was small controlled stakes for entertainment. One day I decided to up my stakes to £20 for a football bet and that was the first time I noticed an escalation in my gambling. After that those £1 and £2 bets just didn't have the same effect on me. Other occasions came after big wins when I would gamble more as it “wasn’t my money”. That's when I'd start staking £100 at a time and just throwing money away. I also had to be on a nice round number. The last session I had I woke up with £910 in my account after an overnight bet came in and my first thought was I could withdraw that and cover my bills and keep on gambling, after I get it to £1000. I lost the lot by 4pm.
Previous attempts to stop would also be a good illustration. I have tried to abstain before by just stopping on my own and using "willpower" but after a few months I always went back. I started back with small, controlled bets but eventually spiralled into the same pattern of behaviour.
I also started matched betting in 2018 as a way to make money with little to no risk which again worked well for a few months before I started to become bored at waiting for opportunities and decided to gamble my profits from matched betting and once I lost that then I used my own money to try and win back the money I just lost. Even typing that makes my head hurt, pure insanity, but it goes to show that even with a system that guaranteed profit I still was not happy and needed more action.
The Illusion of Control Over our Gambling – The feeling that I had a knowledge of the sports I was betting on by researching teams, form or following "experts" or "tipsters" gave me that illusion. Turns out I just had a huge ego and thought I knew better. I also thought I could read the momentum of players while betting in-play on tennis. I genuinely thought that while watching a video, and sometimes even just watching the little graphics on Bet365, that I could judge momentum swings during a match. I also bought into the narrative that certain leagues were guaranteed a goal in a game because matches in those leagues always had goals. Dutch Jupiler League, English U23 Leagues, Czech Youth Leagues to name a few. Another favourite of mine was a first half goal was guaranteed in any Indian football match. Could set your watch by it. All of these things turned out to be false. Yes, sometimes I won, but eventually I hit the game where it didn't come in and either lost all my money or went into chase mode. No matter how much I researched I was not at any point smarter than the bookmakers.
The Illusion of Control Over Our Addiction – I would have used deposit limits in the past, trying to tell myself I can only deposit £20 a week into Sky Bet. Then I opened Paddy Power, Bet365, Betfair, Bet Fred etc, which made the deposit limit for me a waste of time. I self excluded from Bet365 and Betfair about 7 years ago and I ended up counting down the years until I could get them back open. I would withdraw money after a win and leave a small amount in to play with, thinking that I would use the winnings to buy something nice. One of two things always happened after I lost the amount I left in the account, either it was with a bookmaker where you could reverse the withdrawal or if it wasn't I was sat refreshing my bank account waiting for the money to hit so I could deposit it back in. Setting gambling budgets was another illusion but once I hit my limit I couldn’t stop. The budgets weren't worth the Excel Spreadsheets they were input on.
The Illusion of Control Over Our Lives – I was a master manipulator of friends and family to borrow money. I was able to come up with excuses to make sure the bills were paid and I could still gamble. I was able to bounce direct debits in certain ways so I could gamble more and not get found out. Eventually I could feel the financial pressures bearing down on me and I was stuck in a cycle of gambling and debt.
Exercise 3: Reality Check
You may have admitted that you are powerless over gambling but have you fully accepted it? Write about any withdrawal symptoms you may be experiencing. Write about specific examples from your experience that illustrates how meeting power succeeds where your own willpower fails.
I have had no experiences of doubt or withdrawals since entering recovery which is unbelievable to some. A massive help has been that all my gambling was done online and in the UK we have the GAMStop scheme which when you sign up blocks access to the majority of operators in the UK for up to five years.
I have fully accepted that I can no longer gamble as I know what it leads to. I have also accepted gambling is not going anywhere and neither should it. I need to learn to co-exist with gambling, not the other way round.
I have tried to stop in the past with will power alone and have always failed. I feel the main reason I failed was because the only person I was letting down by going back was myself and I honestly didn't care about myself when gambling. My recovery programme of meetings, be it G.A. or via Skype and writing about my feelings in this blog or on Reddit gives me power to know I can succeed.
Exercise 4: Empowerment
20 things that are within my control/power
  1. Being there for my family
  2. Enjoy my kids
  3. Help my kids when they struggle
  4. Being there for my friends
  5. Going to work
  6. Going to meetings
  7. Writing my blog
  8. Reaching out and posting on Reddit
  9. Become less angry when things don’t go my way
  10. Being honest
  11. Discussing my feelings
  12. Listening to others feelings
  13. Being reliable 
  14. Being productive at work
  15. Repay my debts
  16. Pay my bills
  17. Follow through with promises
  18. Don’t make promises I can’t keep
  19. Be polite to people
  20. Accepting responsibility
The most meaningful thing you have learned about yourself working through Step 1?
That I am not the person I was when gambling, that was the person my addiction wanted me to be. The real me was trapped with, what I thought at the time, was no way out. I still don't know why I reached out and asked for help when I did, maybe the addiction had a moment of weakness and I took advantage, whatever the reason I'm glad I did.
One thing for which you’ve become grateful while working Step 1
My support network is the easiest answer and the truth. My family, friends, Problem Gambling Group, G.A. Group, strangers on Reddit who comment on a post, the people who read this blog that I don't even know. That support network is what keeps me motivated and I hope that I can provide that support to someone else in need.
The kindest thing you’ve done for yourself recently
Bought myself new clothes the other week, something which I haven't done in years. Honestly my socks were a mess but I couldn't sacrifice the money to buy them as I had gambling to do. I've bought 15 pairs since I have entered recovery.......#SocksAnonymous
I hope that this helps someone who reads it and maybe gives an insight into what working the steps actually means. I'm going to continue working them and I will post them up on here because if anything it helps me. They always say that recovery is a selfish program but I also hope I can help someone stay off a bet. Just for today.
Russ

 

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Why Do I Go To G.A.?

My name is Russ and I’m a compulsive gambler. My last bet was April 2nd 2019. I have found myself thinking a lot about this question along with why do I post on the problem gambling Reddit sub frequently, why do I attend my weekly Skype meeting and why do I write this blog. I think about these things because when I am listening to others in my meetings or reading people’s stories I feel like I don’t belong. I never hit rock bottom or destroyed the relationships in my life the way other people have with this addiction. The debt I have from gambling is enough for anyone, but it is manageable. When you remove gambling from my life then everything is great, I have an amazing life, partner, two young kids, family, friends and a great job. So why do I go to G.A. and work my recovery?

Well, for a start, I know that I need this. The word that is always used in my G.A. meeting is yet. I haven’t the same level of debt as another person in G.A., yet. I haven’t ruined relationships in my life, yet. I haven’t been kicked out of my home and don’t see my kids every day, yet. I know that if I had kept on gambling or if I go back to gambling that’s where I will be over the next couple of years and I don’t want that.

I’m also relatively young at 32 years old and there are a lot of issues that people share in meetings and how they deal with them that I have not experienced. Bereavement of a parent, dealing with kids as they grow older, living with a partner for 30+ years and making it work, tough times in work, just general things in life that more likely than not I will experience at some point. I learn so much from this and it’s something, as a compulsive gambler, you can’t get anywhere else.

I also get to meet and talk to people who have been clean from gambling for a long time. Now I know that recovery is all about taking it one day at a time but seeing people who are 4 years clean, 7 years clean, 12 years clean inspires me and proves to me that this recovery programme works.

When I was gambling I used to tell myself I hated people, didn’t want to talk to people, listened to people if I had to because I didn’t want to be rude but in general my attitude was I could not be bothered dealing with other people. That wasn’t actually me that was my addiction telling me these things, turning me into someone I didn’t want to be. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time by myself, I enjoy my own company but I also really enjoy engaging with other people. My recovery programme gives me the opportunity to do this and if I can help people along the way then that is even better.

The real point of this blog is just to let someone who is struggling with this addiction know that you do not need to wait until you hit rock bottom before you enter recovery. You need to want recovery but deep down if you know this is a problem for you then reach out. There is a life outside of this addiction and if you want it the sooner you can get into recovery the better and possibly easier it is to move forward. I had this preconceived notion that G.A. was only where people went when they had no where else to turn and that it would be full of addicts looking to God for answers or some other cult like atmosphere. What I found when I walked through the doors of my G.A. meeting was a fellowship of like minded people who have been through what I’ve been through and in most cases have been through a lot more and are there to listen to me and help guide me on this road of recovery. It’s a room where no one judges you, where you will be supported through the tough times and where they will enjoy the good times with you.

G.A. and my online group are two of the best things I have found since entering recovery and I know that I will be an active member of them for the rest of my life and I’m ok with that. The alternative is to go back to gambling and experience all the pain and suffering that I haven't exposed myself or my family to……yet.

Russ

Saturday, 11 May 2019

I Blame The Addiction Not Gambling

My name is Russ and i'm a compulsive gambler. My last bet was April 2nd 2019. Step 1 of the GA programme is "we admitted we were powerless over gambling - that our lives had become unmanageable". I have heard many times in GA that this is the most important step on the road to recovery and I agree. One thing I don't agree with is the wording because for me it's not gambling I am powerless over, it's the addiction.

As a problem gambler I am in the minority compared to the millions of people who can gamble without it becoming a problem. Being open and honest to other people is vital on my recovery journey but it's also important that I am open and honest with myself. When I look back at the 14 years I was gambling there is one person and one person only responsible for my gambling and that's me. No one ever forced me to deposit money into an online account, I did that. No one ever forced me to sit up all night betting on ITF tennis, I did that. No one ever forced me to raise my stakes past a comfortable level, I did that. No one ever forced me to try out the casino section of a sportsbook, I did that. No one ever encouraged me to lie to cover up my gambling, I did that. No one ever forced me to take out loans so I would have money to gamble, I did that. Those are just a few examples, I could probably write a page full of things no one ever forced me to do.

The brutal and honest fact is that for me to continue in recovery I have to take responsibility for my actions in the past. I made the decision to immerse myself in gambling above everything else to the point it was the main focus in my life. Gambling went from a hobby or form of entertainment and I cultivated an environment for it to become an addiction and I allowed it to thrive and grow, no one else.

There are calls for the gambling industry to be responsible for stopping people becoming addicted to gambling which I feel is not fair. As I said at the start of this blog, there are millions of people who can enjoy gambling without it developing into a problem, I am in the minority. I know for a fact that when I was gambling if an operator had tried to stop me gambling I would have been livid and just taken my business elsewhere. I was the one who had to decide that enough was enough and I needed to be the on who wanted to stop gambling and enter recovery.

Now there is something I believe that the gambling industry could do to help people currently in recovery. The relentless advertising needs to stop. That for me is the biggest thing I've noticed, it is everywhere. Daytime TV shows being sponsored by bingo companies, betting adverts before, during and after sports events, advertising on sports tops, the list goes on. It's laziness on the part of the bookmaker and damaging for those in recovery. Even when I was gambling I thought there were too many adverts to the point it was annoying.

There also needs to be more awareness of the support networks that are available out there if people are suffering with a gambling addiction. I had a preconception of what GA would be in my head, a bunch of old men sitting round dying to have a bet, but that couldn't be further from the truth. GA is an amazing place filled with people who are further down the road of recovery than I am and I get so much from them. Maybe GA needs to be marketed slightly better and that will only come from people in recovery spreading a positive message.

For those that gamble currently without it being a problem or those who are new to gambling I feel the gambling industry could educate them more on "responsible gambling". Although the burden doesn't just land at the feet of the gambling industry because parents, schools etc should be educating people on the potential dangers of a gambling addiction, the same way I was taught about the dangers of alcohol addiction and drugs addiction.

For me this is my approach in recovery - I've accepted I have a gambling addiction and I am unable to bet as it will end in disaster. For that reason I go to GA, I've signed up to GAMStop and I've put many other barriers in place. I am also aware that gambling isn't going anywhere and nor should it. Millions of people are able to gambling without it becoming a problem, I am not one of them, I am in the minority. I need to learn to co-exist with gambling, not the other way round.

Russ

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Recovery - A One Month Review

My name is Russ and i'm a compulsive gambler. My last bet was April 2nd 2019. I've managed to break the one month milestone and I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to recap and review my first month in recovery.

I've had a lot of spare time to fill now that gambling has been removed from my life and the things that go with it, such as daily budgets to work out how i'll survive for the rest of the month or thinking of ways to get money to either pay bills or gamble again. With that spare time (and it's a lot) I've tried to keep as busy as possible.

Cooking has been something I've always loved doing, I'm the chef in our house, so decided to try out a new burger and sweet potato wedges recipe I found online along with making a batch of mini egg fudge. Both were awesome and the sense of pride and achievement making something that tastes good is a great confidence boost. I'll stick links for the recipes at the end of the blog, they are so good. I'm going to try and cook something new each month and keep improving my cooking skills. It's a fun way to keep busy.

Being in recovery has given me the opportunity to spend time with family and friends and I have actually been socialising and not just sitting on my phone gambling which has been a massive change. I used to hate going out to places because it would just get in the way of my gambling but turns out socialising is actually quite enjoyable.

Watching sports has been something of a revelation for me, no longer am I focused on betting I'm actually enjoying the sport for what it is. This may not be for everyone in their recovery as it could trigger them to gamble but for me I've had no problem with it.

I'm an avid NFL dynasty fantasy football owner and the rookie drafts have just started again in May. That is something that is going to keep me busy during the next 30 days. These are fantasy leagues that play for money but I play in awesome leagues with awesome people whom I opened up to about my addiction and I am able to continue playing in these leagues for free. I can't win any money either so I can continue on with a hobby I love without the gambling aspect. Miles Sanders is the one player i'm trying to draft in as many leagues as possible this year.

Finally, I get to the main bulk of my recovery support, GA and the Problem Gambling Group on WhatsApp. GA has been massive in the first month of my recovery. I've been to 5 meetings and it's just an incredible group. I get so much from the people there telling their stories and how they are coping with life. I look forward to my Monday meeting every week and every time I leave a meeting I am absolutely buzzing. As for the Problem Gambling Group it's just full of wonderful people all striving for the same goal. There is a Skype meeting every Wednesday which I had the opportunity to chair last week and the inspiration I get from that group is hard to put into words. I owe the people in that group a lot of gratitude for my first month of recovery. A special mention has to go to Jeff who has put the group together and organises the Skype meetings.

Overall I'd rate my first month of recovery 5 out of 5, it sure as hell beats my pre recovery lifestyle. I still have a few things I need to work on going forward in my recovery. I still tend to get a bit angry over things too quickly, I need to work on that. I need to work on my sleep pattern, it's still messed up from years and years of sitting up late gambling on sports. I need to work on my money management, I don't get access to my full wage as my partner is in charge of that but I am sent my monthly money which is for me to spend on whatever I want (not gambling!). I need to learn to budget that a bit better so it lasts the full month. I've had no urges to gamble, I have the barriers in place and an amazing support group surrounding me. I'm still taking it one day at a time and each day things get better and better. Recovery is possible and for anyone struggling with gambling it's a journey worth taking.

Russ

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