My name is Russ and I’m a compulsive gambler. My last bet was April 2nd 2019. The following thought entered my mind the other day, if I could go back in time and not gamble, would I do it? It seems a simple answer, of course I would, I would save my family the financial trouble I have put them in and I would prevent that trust between us being broken. I wouldn’t have wasted 14 years being absorbed into various gambling sites and apps and instead I could have spent that time on something productive. There’s so many things I could point to that would have been different. I have said in previous blogs that my addiction made me a different person, and it did, my addiction has given me so many character flaws to work on in recovery, but the more I think back to how I was pre-gambling, I wonder if my character flaws were exposed rather than created.
I have never been someone who showed their emotions to other people, I have a very self-deprecating style of humour and also a very dark sense of humour. I would use humour to mask any sadness or disappointment I may have felt and would just laugh things off. I would never be comfortable opening up to someone about how I felt, especially if I was feeling down. I would just keep it in and try to deal with it myself, usually by not dealing with it. During my addiction I felt high levels of anxiety and I had no idea how to deal with this and it really started to have an impact on my mental health.
When it comes to anger I was never comfortable with arguments or confrontation, I haven’t even been in a fight in my entire life, unless being knocked out by a bouncer in Magaluf when I was 18 constitutes a fight, if it does then I guess I am 0-1. Heated moments just made me feel really uneasy and I was always someone who would talk rather than fight. I don’t even enjoy arguing with someone and I would always just walk away if it got to that stage. That in itself may not be that unhealthy but I would never deal with anger, I would just bottle it up and again, try and deal with it myself. Once the addiction got a hold of me I found it harder and harder to bottle up my anger and I would find myself becoming angry at the smallest things.
I have always been an impatient person, when I see something I want, then I want it there and then. A perfect example is when it comes to upgrading my mobile phone, once I decide I am going to upgrade then I am unable to settle myself until I get my new phone, I want it straight away. If I want to go somewhere then I want to be there yesterday and if someone said they were picking me up at a certain time and were late I was restless and irritable (which is funny as my time keeping is absolutely shocking). It’s been like that my whole life but when I was gambling, as Spinal Tap would say, my impatience level went up to eleven.
Linked closely with impatience I feel is my need to control a situation. Now I would not be the type who wants to control another human being but situations I always felt the need to control. Going out with friends I would make a suggestion for plans and if that wasn’t the plan chosen then I would try my best to make sure plans changed to suit me. I didn’t enjoy going with the flow, unless my idea was to go with the flow, I wanted to be in charge and make the decisions. In work if someone couldn’t do something as fast as I could, instead of being patient, I would try and take over and get it done. I’d have no interest in showing them how to do it, I would just get it done and move on. When I was gambling my need to control grew more and more, especially as I was trying to control situations such as finances to hide what I was doing.
When it comes to friendships I always considered myself someone easy to get along with and someone who would do anything for their friends and that is true, to an extent. If I was in constant contact with a friend, through school, work or living close to them then I was a great friend. Once I moved on though, and an effort was required for me to keep that friendship, generally I just did not bother. It was almost like once I moved on from a job or school I would keep in contact for a short while and then I just gave up. A few really close friends I have made the effort but looking back it’s almost as if I was friends with these people because I got something out of it at the time and once I didn’t need them anymore I just dumped them. That’s not a great friend, that is just a shitty human being who uses people. Unfortunately, whilst I was gambling I moved away from where I grew up and a real core group of friends I did have I stopped making the effort to meet up with them. I’m still in some form of contact with them but the addiction really did start to seep into those strong friendships I did have.
So, back to the original question, if I could go back in time and not gamble, would I do it? Aside from the obvious regret to the financial situation I have put my family in and the other issues that come with addiction, I would not go back and change anything, and here’s why. I believe that my character defects are not something created by my addiction but defects that have been there all along. Maybe I could have went my whole life without having to deal with them but at some point, I believe, they would have been exposed to the world. A relationship ending, a job loss, missing out on promotion, family stress, a bereavement, who knows what may have caused it but I firmly believe something would have. For me, my gambling addiction exposed my character flaws to the world and that has given me something that I can work on to hopefully become a better person, because if I don’t, then all of this pain and suffering will have been for nothing.