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

 

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