Tuesday, 16 July 2019

One Day At A Time

My name is Russ and I am a compulsive gambler. My last bet was April 2nd 2019. At one of my recent Skype Problem Gambling Support Group meetings the topic of “One Day at a Time” was suggested for discussion. This is a phrase I hear a lot in recovery but it is not something I ever had explained to me properly so I was very excited for this meeting. What I am going to share here is how I interpreted and understood “One Day at a Time” before this meeting occurred. The Chair of the meeting had sent an explanation of “One Day at a Time” which you will find below followed by a few questions that I will do my best to answer.

Upon learning of your compulsive gambling some of your friends or family members may have told you “JUST STOP” as if that was the solution to your gambling problem. They didn’t understand that it doesn’t work for compulsive gamblers.

For many of us, the thought of never ever placing another bet is unthinkable. How can we live without gambling or how can we solve our financial problems without “the big win”? 

But recovery teaches us we should try to live our lives “one day at a time”.  

We should not obsessively worry about tomorrow, next week or next year.  

We should also not dwell on the past.  

Today is all we have.  

What does “one day at a time” mean to you?  

“One day at a time” in terms of gambling for me means I focus on not gambling for today and I do not think about being six months free from gambling or a year free from gambling etc. “Don’t count the days, make the days count,” as Muhammad Ali once said. The most important thing is to just focus on today and if that’s too much then break it into “one hour at a time” or “one minute at a time”. They say in my G.A. room that the world record for being gamble free is 24 hours, the person who got up the earliest will be the longest gamble free. Also, it does not matter how many days off a bet you are, what matters is how close you are to the next bet.

What I have been struggling with is how to apply “one day at a time” to a lot of things outside of stopping gambling. I feel the term can be misinterpreted in recovery and if I look forward to an event or set myself goals I feel like I am doing it wrong if someone then talks about living life “one day at a time”. I hear the phrase and I think to myself do people in recovery never look beyond today? How do they plan their week? Do they just live in the moment everyday? Then I began to wonder, without sounding ageist, was it a phrase the older members of my groups were applying to their everyday lives? Is it easier for someone in their 60s to live by “one day at a time” compared to a young person? I am a young person (sort of…) and I am struggling to apply it so it must be for the older generation...turns out I was wrong.

Is this something that you practice in recovery? 

It is something I practice in relation to stopping gambling and I also use it to avoid worrying about things that may or may not happen in the future and when dealing with my debt. I don’t panic about my debt or wish to be debt free as quickly as possible because I apply “one day at a time” to it. I also tend not to dwell on the past, I don’t forget the past completely and will on occasion reflect on things I have done or that have happened but I no longer beat myself up about them. I do still allow myself to look to the future and set goals or have hopes and dreams as long as they are realistic.

If you’re new to recovery, do you think about never being able to gamble again and is it overwhelming?

I did early on but quickly accepted the fact that I am unable to gamble again. There was one situation I had to face early on in my own recovery and that revolved around NFL Fantasy Football Leagues. I run five Dynasty leagues, which mean you keep your teams year after year, and we had built a really good group of people in the leagues. I was also in charge of the money for the leagues and obviously that money had been gambled away. The leagues were something I enjoyed doing and something that I knew were not a trigger for me gambling wise. After I told my partner and parents they both said I would have to stop the fantasy leagues and this was something I wanted to avoid. I had gotten to the point in my life where the addiction had isolated me so much that all I had outside of gambling as a hobby was Fantasy Football and I did not want to lose that. I tried to tell myself I could play them for money as I have always done because I do not see them as a trigger. Once I started recovery though I soon realised I was not being totally honest with myself. Although the leagues themselves are not triggers, the act of staking money to win more money is gambling and could be a trigger. So I made the decision that I would continue playing only if I could play for free but also if I was not in a position to win any money. I had to suggest this to my league mates, some of whom I know personally and others who I only know through the leagues. I had to admit to them I had a gambling problem and explain my situation. Thankfully I play with a great group of people and they all agreed to it and were very supportive of me for admitting my problem. I also no longer handle the money side of things to do with the leagues as I do not want or need that sort of responsibility during my recovery. I just want to be clear, I have made this decision to continue on with my fantasy leagues by being honest with myself and knowing what is and is not a trigger. This sort of decision causes various opinions depending on who I ask but I have made the decision that I feel is right for me. I am proud of the steps I took to get to the decision but I am also aware that should things change and playing Fantasy Football does start to become a trigger that I have a big enough support group around me and feel comfortable to now reach out and tell someone how I am currently feeling.

Dealing with that situation was extremely overwhelming at the time but now I feel in a better place about it all. As for never gambling again, in general, it is not something that I feel overwhelmed about. It took me a while to wrap my head around what is and is not gambling, some people have different opinions on the subject. For me, I came to the decision that staking money for the chance to win more money is what I consider to be gambling and for now I plan to avoid those situations.

Have you tried looking at things “one day at a time”?

I look at certain things “one day at a time” such as stopping gambling, paying my debts and using it to avoid worrying about things that may or may not happen.

From early on in my recovery I have felt like it’s an extremely useful way to view things but I did also feel it was just used as recovery lingo that was thrown around during meetings or online (and I have been guilty of doing that as well) and left open to interpretation from whoever was listening.

I found the meeting we had discussing this topic was eye opening and I had been interpreting “one day at a time” incorrectly during the early stages of my recovery in relation to things outside of gambling. When fully understood it is a powerful tool in recovery and I can understand how it could be applied to a lot more situations in my life.

We should not obsessively worry about tomorrow, next week or next year.  

We should also not dwell on the past.  

Today is all we have.  

It makes so much sense when I see it explained like that and it’s not like it was some big secret my fellow problem gamblers were hiding from me. I could have easily read the literature or stuck my hand up in a meeting and asked what exactly “one day at a time” means because I was struggling with it but that would involve me admitting I did not know everything. I just stayed quiet and assumed I would figure it out, and when I did figure it out I would be right about it. Turns out that was my ego working overtime again, but that’s for another blog.


No comments:

Post a Comment