Saturday, 12 December 2020

Step 2, Exercise 1: Our Thoughts & Behaviours

Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to a normal way of thinking and living.

Step 2, Exercise 1: Our Thoughts & Behaviours


Abnormal Thoughts vs Normal Thoughts

Gambling will make this situation better vs gambling will make this situation worse - When in active addiction I believed that gambling would enhance any situation. I just have to look at questions 15, 18 and 19 of The Twenty Questions to prove it: worry; trouble; boredom; loneliness; arguments; disappointments; frustrations and of course, my favourite; celebrating good fortune. It didn’t matter the situation, because I had gambling above everything else in my life which meant it was always going to improve things in my eyes. 

Now I’m in recovery I can actually see what I have to lose but more importantly than that, I understand how gambling will make any situation worse, no matter how shit I think life is. This was an important realisation for me to come to because, in recovery, I still have shit moments that I need to deal with. I don’t deal with those situations by escaping from them through gambling because, once I finished my gambling session, the shit situation would still be there along with additional problems caused by my gambling.

Gambling makes me happy vs recovery makes me happy - I still say that I loved gambling when I talk about my past and that is because it is how I felt at the time. While I was gambling I thought that I was genuinely happy, it was the only thing that really made me happy. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, in my head, I loved gambling more than my kids and my family. Looking back I can now see that it was gambling and my addiction that was causing me to be unhappy, only I blamed everything else around me and gambled to escape it. I couldn’t see until I could see. 

My eyes are wide open now and I can say that I believe I am truly happy in recovery and that is because I am living a completely different lifestyle. I am living a lifestyle of HOW: Honesty; Open-mindedness and Willingness; which has been the foundation upon which my recovery has been built. I can see that gambling never truly made me happy, it just numbed me and allowed me to escape. The addiction exposed my underlying character defects and I wasn’t equipped to deal with them so I pretended to be someone else. I don’t need to do any of this in recovery because I can accept who I am now and I have the tools to deal with things that life throws at me.

My actions only affect me vs my actions affect me and those around me - This was how I justified my behaviour to myself, that it was just my “hobby” or my way to relax and at the end of the day, the only real consequence was I would lose some money, which was also mine. I worked hard for my money and I deserved to enjoy myself now and again. I rarely went out, I worked two jobs, I looked after my kids, this was my way to unwind. What a load of bollocks.

Once I got out of the fog of gambling I could see how my actions were far reaching beyond just me and the longer I stayed in recovery and the more I worked on myself I realised it was far deeper than just finances. The person who I became during my gambling, the character defects that got worse over time, they impacted those closest to me. The good news is that the benefits of recovery not only help me but also help those around me. It also makes me accountable for my actions.

I can gamble my way out of debt vs I can work and pay my way out of debt - It’s not a financial problem, it is an emotional problem. That was one of the biggest realisations that I came to early in recovery because I convinced myself when I was gambling it was all about the money. I was gambling under the illusion that I would win enough money to pay off my debts and be able to “start over” but it never happened. Everything I won went back and more, no win was ever going to be enough.
Now I realise that the only way to get out of debt is to pay it back in a manageable monthly amount and I get that money by working and earning my salary each month. Sure, it’s going to take me years to pay off, but that’s okay, because it is being paid off slowly and steadily at a rate that both me and my creditors are comfortable with.

I can control my gambling vs I was powerless over gambling - Although I used various “responsible gambling tools” during my years of gambling I can’t say that I ever thought I had lost control. It was always viewed as a cash flow problem rather than a gambling problem and I would take breaks accordingly. The first time I truly admitted to myself that I had a gambling problem and needed help was when I spoke to a friend of mine on April 2nd 2019. That started the process of admitting to my partner and my parents and going to Gamblers Anonymous. Up until that point I always thought I was in control but it’s obvious I was just in denial.

Once I was in Gamblers Anonymous, I started to listen to other members, I read the literature, I worked The Steps and slowly I began to accept that I was powerless over gambling and that I will never be able to control it and go back out there. It’s one thing to admit I was a compulsive gambler but it’s another thing entirely to accept it and to accept that I was powerless over gambling, but it was one of the keys to my recovery process. Now I am in the position that if a thought about gambling pops into my mind it’s usually easy for me to get rid of it because I have accepted I was powerless rather than trying to convince myself it was a lack of discipline and that things would be different if I gambled again.

I can’t afford this, I’ll gamble to get it vs I can’t afford this, I won’t get it - Gambling to get shit for “free” was another way that I justified my gambling to myself. I would convince myself that I was gambling to get enough money for a pizza and I’d lose enough money to open a franchise. The fact was, I was reluctant to use gambling money for normal expenditures (question 12) so I would try to win it and this was a theme throughout my gambling.

When I contrast those thoughts to today I am getting a lot better at saying, “I can’t afford this” but I still need to work on the second part of, “I won’t get it”. Patience isn’t one of my strengths and if I get something into my head that I want I will probably find a way by borrowing money. It’s not as often these days and the borrowing is usually a small amount for a short period of time and usually it’s for the right reasons but it’s something I do need to work on. 

A bet on this game would make it interesting vs I’m either interested in watching this game for what it is or I’m not - As a sports gambler I assumed that my passion for sports combined with my passion for gambling was the perfect partnership. I was obsessed with sports and I would basically watch anything: football; tennis; soccer; horse racing; golf; basketball; baseball; cricket; rugby; snooker; pool; darts; boxing; volleyball; curling; kabaddi; I loved all these sports, or so I thought. The truth is I loved gambling on all those sports and for a lot of them, the only reason I was watching was because I was gambling on them.

The first or second weekend after I entered recovery the Grand National was on and Tiger Roll was trying to become the first horse since the 70s to win back to back Grand Nationals. Now, I thought I loved horse racing and I told myself as I entered recovery I would still be able to watch it for the sport and still enjoy it. This Grand National felt early though, too early in recovery to risk it, so I decided not to watch it. I checked the result after and sure enough, Tiger Roll won and I had missed a major moment in horse racing history. I was gutted. From that point on I promised myself that I wasn’t going to be scared of watching sports that I truly wanted to watch. Which was a good thing because shortly after the Grand National was The Masters that was won by Tiger Woods and I watched the whole thing and loved it for what it was; sport at its finest. Now, this Tiger win was extra special because he was my Granda’s favourite golfer and he passed away in January 2019 so it meant a lot to me to be able to watch Tiger win another major.

Although, a funny thing happened with a lot of the other sports; I stopped watching. The reason is I wasn’t actually interested in watching the sport for what it was. I still love watching football, I will watch Rangers and Leeds in soccer and I’ll watch the majors in golf and tennis. The rest will be dependent on if I actually want to watch and a lot of the time I do not. I have watched one horse race since I have been in recovery and I have no interest in watching another. Today I am a huge sports fan and I can say that knowing it is true because previously I was simply a huge sports gambler, and to me there is a massive difference. 

I can bounce a direct debit this month vs I will pay all my bills this month - I never fully grasped the consequences of missing payments when I was younger as it is pretty much something I have always done. I would miss payments here and there when I was in the early stages of my addiction which progressed to just flat out ignoring debt payments and defaulting. In a way this was a blessing in disguise because for my final years I was unable to access any decent amounts of credit which meant I had to be a paycheck to paycheck gambler. Had I access to credit for those last few years the financial damage would have been so much more.

These days I pay my bills on time and I’m not sweating if there will be enough money in the account or not. My budgets have been set, the money is there for them each month and I pay my bills like the adult I am supposed to be. Getting out of that cycle of immaturity, where I didn’t even consider the consequences of my actions on me or on my family has been huge. Yeah, paying bills is boring and mundane, but it’s life and honestly, it feels nice seeing my bills paid on time each month. 

Other people are to blame vs what’s my role in this situation? - Shaggy said it best, “It wasn’t me.” I blamed everybody and everything for problems in my life when I was gambling and this even goes for the times I wasn’t gambling. If I dropped something in the house and broke it and someone was near me, it was their fault. If I wasn’t paying attention when I was outside and bumped into someone, it was their fault. Bad day at work? Someone else caused that. If I was late? Wasn’t because I slept in, it was because of someone else. The list is endless because I never took responsibility for my actions or anything that occurred around me. 

It would be nice to say that in recovery this doesn’t happen anymore but unfortunately I still have character defects and it does happen, although definitely not as frequently and when it does, I am usually pretty good and asking myself, what’s my role in this situation? That for me has been an important question to ask because I would say 99% of the time I play in a role in a situation that I am able to reflect back on and say, “I was wrong”. It can range from me causing an issue to how I react to an issue and anything in between. When I define what my role was, I am able to be honest with myself and admit that I was in the wrong. I can take that situation and learn from it. I can apologise if necessary but it’s more important to try not to repeat the same mistakes again and again. Once I do that then all that is left is the other person's role in the situation and I cannot control that. It helps me deal with resentment and anger in a big way. 

I’m the smartest person in the room vs I could learn something from people in the room - Why would I listen to other people's opinions or ideas when mine were always better? It was just a waste of time. Time that I could spend gambling. Although that feeling of being right or coming up with the idea that everybody agreed with, I got a buzz out of that as well and it was a part of my persona that I really wanted everyone to see.

This character trait followed me into Recovery and it is something I have had to work hard on, especially early on. I was told in my first G.A. meeting to “close my mouth and open my ears” and I did just that but it wasn’t easy. I found myself zoning out when it came to certain subjects or certain people sharing but over time I realised that the problem wasn’t with what was being shared, the problem was with me. I was still acting like I was the smartest person in the room. So, these days, I can catch myself when I am doing it fairly quickly and I do try to listen to what everyone has to say, even if I think it will not benefit me. The ego is easy to inflate, but hard to deflate. 

Want vs need - Both of these words are interchangeable and the difference for me is when I want something, it probably isn’t necessary or required compared to when I need something which is probably necessary and required. When gambling I always wanted things, be it more money or just more material things, I always wanted stuff and I was never satisfied. What recovery has taught me is the difference between the two and now the things I need are prioritised and become important vs my own wants which can wait.

I don’t have time to help anyone but myself vs I can make time to help someone else - I used to hate other people and all they ever did was annoy me or cause me problems and I was a much happier person when I was in my own company. If somebody asked for my help I would potentially do it but I would resent it. Even helping out my family seemed like a big ask and I would make an issue about doing something as simple as going to the shop for my partner because it would eat into my own time which of course I normally spent gambling.

The idea I had in my head of what meetings would look like is everybody sitting in a circle singing kumbaya and telling each other their problems. Which would have been my idea of hell. Turns out all that was missing was the kumbaya and you know what, telling other people my problems and listening to their problems wasn’t so bad. In fact, it helped me. It was then I started to realise that the opposite of addiction is human connection and these connections not only help me, they help the other person as well. The longer I stayed in recovery the more I realised that I wanted to make myself available to help other people if I could. I started slowly by sharing in meetings. That to me is the first thing that someone can do to give back. Giving out my number and being available for somebody if they need to reach out. Then I was chairing meetings which was a great opportunity to give back even more. Once I was ready, and people asked me, I began sponsoring other members which gives me the opportunity to help people work through the steps and hopefully progress onto sponsoring somebody themselves when they are ready. People gave up their time for me when I first came into the rooms so the least I can do is the same thing. 
You’ve got to give it away to keep it.


Self-Destructive Behaviours vs Healthy Behaviours

Isolation vs ConnectionFor as long as I can remember I have always enjoyed my own company and being alone. Gambling, although it tends to be advertised as a social thing, is quite an isolated activity, especially online gambling. Compulsive gambling thrives on isolation so it was the perfect match of personality and addictive behaviour. I drifted away from people because I didn’t have the money to go out or I had two young kids, whatever the excuse I used was, that’s why I drifted away from people. Then I turned to gambling more and more because it was something I enjoyed and it was convenient. I wasn’t able to put two and two together that it was the gambling that was causing the lack of money to be able to go out, that it was the gambling that was making me use my kids as a reason I couldn’t be bothered to do anything with friends and that it was the gambling that was pushing me closer to gambling. It was a vicious cycle.

Ever since I stepped foot in recovery I have surprised myself with how much I have enjoyed connecting with other people. I always hated other people, made excuses not to socialise with them and yet, it turns out that I have been missing it from my life. Recovery has developed and nurtured this healthy behaviour, so much so, that I now believe this is what I have been searching for during my adult life. A place that I belong and can be myself and be accepted for who I am. I have found a place where I can improve as a person and thrive. I truly believe that the opposite of addiction is human connection.

Unhealthy relationship with money vs healthy relationship with money - My whole adult life I’ve just viewed money as the fuel to get what I want. That could be getting a product or an item that I want or chasing a feeling that I want through gambling. I’ve always had a fucked up relationship with money and it isn’t because I was brought up that way, it’s just because I didn’t listen and thought I knew better. I wouldn’t pay bills (as mentioned above) and I let myself get into debt because I didn’t think of the consequences down the road. The bottom line was, if I wanted something, I wanted it there and then and I was not going to wait for it, no matter the cost.

Today, it is different. It isn’t a perfect relationship but it is a better and healthier relationship. I struggled at the start of recovery because I had money that I had budgeted for myself each month and nothing to spend it on. So I bought shite I didn’t need. That was fine early on but I had to address it and I sort of have. Amazon is just too easy and sells so much stuff I would like. Now, I know the value of money far better than I ever have and that is a positive. Is there more work to be done? Absolutely, but I can see in myself that I am making progress. If I see something I want and I can’t afford it, and I don’t really need it, then I can wait. 

Low self-esteem vs self confidence - “Lack of confidence and satisfaction in oneself” vs “confidence in oneself and in one’s powers and abilities.”

I find these two behaviours very interesting to talk about as when I was gambling and when I have been in recovery I have suffered from both. Gambling in a way gave me confidence that I was lacking in other areas of my life, especially when I was talking to other people. I was very much into stats and facts when it came to sports and gambling and this gave me an ability to talk to a lot of people. Under the surface that low self-esteem was always lurking and if I was put out of my comfort zone it would begin to take over. With hindsight I can say that I gambled to feel confident and without gambling I would have felt shit about myself.

In recovery I found it hard to get a handle on my low self-esteem, especially for the first year. If I was sharing in a meeting, or writing this blog, I would be very critical of myself and I just couldn’t shake it. Part of it was to do with my ego (which I will get to next) but there was also another issue and it wasn’t until I was given two pieces of advice from somebody that has stuck with me to this day that I was able to build my self confidence. First of all, “people who give you compliments give you them for a reason, they want you to hear them.” Part of my low self-esteem was questioning why people would say I was doing well and I wouldn’t believe it. I’d convince myself they were just saying it because they felt they had to. Secondly, and this was the main issue, “it doesn’t matter what people think or say about you, the only person who needs to believe in you is you.” That was the issue right there. I didn’t believe in myself and until I did, nothing was going to change. I still suffer from low self-esteem on occasion but I am in a much better place to centre myself quickly due to that advice.

Egotism vs humility - “An exaggerated sense of self-importance” vs “freedom from pride or arrogance : the quality or state of being humble.”

My ego was huge when I was gambling and I thought I was better than everyone else. It was that simple. I had to be the one making decisions because everyone else had shit ideas. I had to be the one winning an argument because I was never wrong and even if I was, I wasn’t going to admit it. I just didn’t have the time for other people and their shit to be brutally honest and I felt like dealing with other people was just a waste of my time, unless of course I was getting something from them. In saying that, the thing with ego is that it likes to be fed and the best way to feed it is through praise by other people. So although inside I fucking hated dealing with others, I people pleased so that they would feed my ego with praise or thanks.
For me, once I came into recovery it was hard to deflate my ego because I was getting more praise than ever before. Hitting so many milestones early on, people telling me what a good job I’m doing, how great my shares are and how my blogs help them etc. My ego was being fed in a big way and I began to chase that praise and look for it. I wanted people to tell me how good I was at whatever I did and if they didn’t I would begin to question myself. I would see new people come in and they’d be the most important person in the room (rightly so) but the longer I was doing well in recovery the less praise I received and that bruised my ego, which wasn’t a bad thing. It didn’t feel great at the time but it was what I needed to happen and slowly I have begun to move towards humility and away from egotism. Humility is hard to find amongst addicts but I have seen it and I will continue to strive for it. 

Impatience vs patience - “Restless or short of temper especially under irritation, delay, or opposition” vs “bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint.”

I have written a full blog on my struggles with impatience both during addiction and in recovery and it’s still something I’m working on. For me a lot of this stems from my struggles with egotism which I talked about above. That exaggerated sense of self-importance would cause me to become restless or short of temper when somebody else didn’t do either what I wanted or what I expected. I needed to be in control of situations and have everyone dancing to my tune. If I wasn’t in control or was letting other people take the lead I was just an impatient prick. 

It is still a struggle for me in recovery at times but I notice it more at home with my two kids, who I feel are sent to test my patience on a regular basis! I’ve also improved in how I respond to situations these days and the main way I do this is by responding instead of reacting. When I was gambling I was always reacting, never responding. 

Patience is a strength I strive for but it takes time and as Santa Claus would say when reading the yellow combo book, “Be patient! Be patient! Be Patient!” 

Self-pity vs mirth - “Pity for oneself: a self-indulgent dwelling on one's own sorrows or misfortunes” vs “gladness or gaiety as shown by or accompanied with laughter.”

I spent a long time with this personality defect when I was gambling as I always felt my problems were worse than everyone else's. I would look at other people’s lives and think to myself why do they have x, y or z and I don’t? I would lose my money gambling and I wouldn’t be able to afford to do anything and I would feel sorry for myself, even though it was my own fault, I didn’t see it that way. I lied so much that I believed my own bullshit. It is an insidious personality defect and the longer spent self-pitying the more trouble builds up.

Thanks to recovery my days of self-pity are few and far between and I love the definition of mirth and it sums up how I feel most days. I am usually laughing in meetings and joking with my friends and I hope that I come across as happy as I feel inside. Recovery has given me the opportunity to create a life for myself that is full of joy and yes, the shit days will come, they always do, but I know how to navigate them to allow myself to be full of mirth relatively quickly once again.

Unmanageable vs teachable - “not manageable : difficult or impossible to control or manage” vs “apt and willing to learn.”

Not only was my life unmanageable, I was personally unmanageable because of my many character defects. My gambling created an environment that allowed my addiction and my character defects to grow and thrive. I stopped gambling for short bursts during my addiction but nothing ever changed because simply removing gambling was never going to be enough to stop my life and myself being unmanageable.

Coming into a G.A meeting wasn’t going to be enough either because even though I removed gambling from the equation, the character defects remained. I needed to become teachable and I did that. I began to listen to the experience of others and started to work the programme. I read the literature and took direction from various people and places, even if it meant doing things I didn’t like to do. I’m still teachable to this day and it is a trait that I am proud of.

“If you are green, you will grow. If you are ripe, you will rot.” - Big Vito

Hatred vs love - “Extreme dislike or disgust” vs “affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests.”

Other people, myself, the world around me, I hated everything and everyone. My issue was it all inward and kept inside, very rarely did I let the mask slip. My thoughts and feelings were dark and angry and gambling was a way to escape those and not have to deal with them. Addiction was a vicious cycle for me, a cycle that was only going to get darker the longer I stayed in it. I blamed everything else around me except myself and gambling. Then I used gambling as a way to cope which only made me hate everything more. Rinse and repeat. 

Turns out it wasn’t other people or other things that caused issues in my life, it was me and I used gambling as the means to cause those problems. Now I can see clearly, I love my life and I have always had everything I ever wanted right in front of me, I just could never see it. I love my family and wouldn’t change anything about them and I love my recovery family that I have built relationships with. Heck, I’m even beginning to love myself, in a healthy way. I admire how I have come into recovery and taken the opportunity to improve myself, which has a ripple effect on those around me. 

Resentment vs forgiveness - “A feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury” vs “to cease to feel resentment against.”

I constantly felt resentment during my gambling days, especially towards my kids and my partner. I resented the fact I had no social life, hardly any friends that I saw on a regular basis and that for a long time I worked two jobs. I resented that I had very little money to buy myself anything and I always felt like I was the one going without. Turns out, the only person I should have resented was myself because it was my actions that caused all these problems, not anyone else's. 

Which is why I found it difficult to forgive myself when I came into recovery and for a long time I said it wasn’t really important if I forgave myself, it was more important that I accepted what happened (will touch on that a bit more below). Over time though, I have forgiven myself for what happened because I don’t feel indignant displeasure or persistent ill will towards myself for what I did. I’m actually grateful I was a compulsive gambler because it has led me to this point and given me this opportunity.

“Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” - Malachy McCourt

Denial vs acceptance - “Refusal to admit the truth or reality of something” vs “the act of accepting something or someone : the fact of being accepted.”

Living in a constant state of denial is exhausting but it’s only now, reflecting back, that I can see that because at the time it was just how my life was. Up until April 2nd 2019 I genuinely didn’t admit to myself that I had a gambling problem and it was fucking obvious that I did. Even when I would take a break from gambling it was never because I had a problem or I needed help, usually it was a financial decision and I quickly returned. I spent about 14 years refusing to accept the reality of my situation and lied to myself day after day after day. 

It’s not like that today in recovery though because now I have firmly accepted who I was (a compulsive gambler) and who I am today (a person in recovery). I can look in the mirror and accept the person looking back at me. Accepting what had happened in the past early in my recovery was key for me to get to the stage where I forgave myself for what I had done. I realised that it wasn’t healthy or a good use of my energy to punish myself for what had happened. So I accepted it had happened and I accepted that I couldn’t change the past. I also accepted that, today, I have the courage to change the things I can. 

“Grant me the serenity,
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”

Dishonesty vs honesty - “Lack of honesty or integrity : disposition to defraud or deceive” vs “adherence to the facts”.

I wasn’t just a compulsive gambler, I was also a compulsive liar and I lied so much I didn’t even know what was the truth and what was a lie by the time I admitted my problem. I was lying about my gambling, my finances, my emotions and feelings, you name it, I was lying about. That was another behaviour that looking back I can see just how much that must have taken out of me because it isn’t easy living in a constant fear your lies will be exposed.

Out of all my character defects I brought into recovery (I feel like this has morphed into a mini Step 4) honesty was the one that went from a weakness to a strength fairly quickly. I can say I’m an honest person now and the only reason I wouldn’t be totally honest in a situation would be to not hurt someone's feelings unnecessarily. In general, especially about important things, I am an honest person and it is so much easier than lying all the time.

“If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.” - Mark Twain

Preconception vs open-mindedness - “To form (an opinion) prior to actual knowledge or experience” vs “receptive to arguments or ideas.”

This would be something I would do all the time, form an opinion about someone or something because I thought I knew better and if it was something I didn’t know then it clearly wasn’t worth knowing. If it was someone, then I would just be extremely judgemental and if I came to the conclusion I didn’t like somebody, then nothing would change my mind about them. I’d even go out of my way to point out their bad points and try to get others to take my side, even though it was all in my head and there were no sides to take. (Insert Nick Young GIF)

I am much more open-minded in recovery and I enjoy listening to other people’s ideas and for people to challenge my own thinking, it’s the best way for me to grow. I’m not going to lie, I do find myself reverting to my old behaviour and forming opinions and being judgemental about others but where progress has been made, in my opinion, is that I will change my mind and be open-minded that I could be wrong about someone. That’s a big leap forward for me and hopefully, if I keep working on myself, I can improve on that even more.

Unwillingness vs willingness - “Not willing” vs “inclined or favourably disposed in mind.”

This is the final part of HOW: Honesty, Open-mindedness and Willingness and those three things combined helped me lay strong foundations upon which my recovery has been built. When I think back to when I gambled it is clear I was never willing to do anything except gamble. That’s all I focused on and cared about. So coming into recovery and hearing that I needed willingness I was unsure exactly what that meant. When the gambling fog lifted and I was still going to meetings, when I started working on The Steps, writing my blog and all the other stuff that was me being willing. I was ready. I was prepared mentally for some experience or action. I was willing to do something about my gambling and more importantly, I was willing to change.


Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Step 1: Powerlessness and Unmanageability


1. How has gambling placed your life or the lives of others in jeopardy?

a) My actions because of gambling could have broken up my family had my partner decided not to stand by me and told me to move out; which she would have been well within her rights to do so. My kids lives would have been turned upside down and it isn’t like they would have understood either, all they would have seen was their Dad moving out and only seeing them part time. Not once when I was gambling did I give this a second thought because all I cared about was me. 

b) Lack of sleep and/or concentration when I was driving put not only my life potentially at risk but potentially also the lives of other road users. I would stay up most of the night gambling and then have to drive to the office on little to no sleep. I wouldn’t eat properly either so my energy would have been low. I can remember times it felt like I could have slept instead of driving. Also my mind would have been more focused on gambling rather than driving because that’s all I ever thought about. I would have listened to horse racing while driving and I became animated during the race by either celebrating or losing my mind because I had lost all my money again. If the bet lost I would get angry and start screaming while driving instead of focusing on the road as I should have been. 

c) I touched on my partner above but she deserves that I recognise that I put her life in jeopardy. We had been together for around nine years when I admitted my gambling addiction and we have two young kids together. Obviously, taking the kids out of the equation, she must have felt like she wasted years being with me and that she had made a huge mistake wanting to build a family with me. Again, I wasn’t concerned when I was gambling about how it could impact her because I genuinely didn’t believe I was hurting anyone with my actions; but I was. I was risking the life that she knew and loved. 

2. How have you lost self-respect due to gambling?

a) Coming into the program I had lost self-respect for myself because I believed that I had admitted defeat;I was a loser and by going to Gamblers Anonymous I was about to join another bunch of losers. I thought I was pathetic that I couldn’t handle my gambling like other people I knew, that I had let it get so out of control. I also still felt it was a financial problem and having to admit to my partner at 32 years of age that I couldn’t be trusted was a shit feeling that made me feel less than. It’s funny looking back because this is the only time I really recognised that I had lost my self-respect, the other examples below I can’t honestly say that it really registered and if it did, it wasn’t for long. 

b) Borrowing money from friends and family, under false pretences, also caused a loss of self-respect. In the beginning I always tried to pay people back when I said I would because that’s what a decent person does when someone helps them out. That quickly turned into a way I could manipulate people because I realised that as long as I paid them back on time they would lend me money again and this is how I started robbing Peter to pay Paul. There were times I’d question just what the fuck I was doing but that would quickly pass as I looked for my next bet and I would then justify it to myself that I was paying them back so there was nothing to be ashamed about: but there was. 

c) Looking back and reflecting on the times people needed me and I put gambling before them makes me feel less than human. Could be the time my Mum had cancer and I didn’t really bother asking how she was. Or the multiple times my daughter was in hospital and my partner had to always take her because I was working my second job. Only reason I was working that job was so I could gamble. I think I always assumed people didn’t need me or my support but the fact is I didn’t allow them to have it. I removed myself from situations that interfered with my gambling because that is all I cared about.

3. What is it about your behaviour that your spouse/family object to most?

a) Based on what has been said since I’ve been in recovery I would say that my partner objected to the fact I was a grumpy bastard most of the time and she had no idea why. I mean, I’m still a grumpy bastard sometimes but it is a lot less than it used to be.

b) Lack of communication would be another one which was something my parents pointed out to me a few weeks in. I went to their house to visit (pre Covid-19 when that was a thing) and was having a coffee and chatting. They told me I had spoken to them more in that hour than I had done in months and how I never seemed interested in talking when I was visiting before.

c) Stab in the dark here but I am going to say the financial part of things and how irresponsible I was on that front. As someone who is in recovery I know it isn’t a financial problem, it’s an emotional problem; for me. I know that it doesn’t do me any good to focus on the money that was lost or to obsess about money. But, for so-called “normal” people, those without an addiction, the financial aspect is what they can relate to and coming to terms with that was difficult for them.

4. How have you tried to control your gambling?

a) I have tried to control my gambling several times over the years by using the “Responsible Gambling” tools provided by bookmakers and casinos. Cool off periods, deposit limits and self-exclusion. None of these worked for me for long because I had crossed that invisible line into being a compulsive gambler. Those tools serve a purpose but, in my opinion, are not aimed at people who are compulsive gamblers like me. Once I crossed that threshold it wouldn’t matter what the bookmaker tried to do, they could have banned me but I would have just found somewhere else to gamble and would have kept going until I was ready to stop and asked for help; or got caught.

b) Budgeting was another method I tried to use to control my gambling but of course, like a lot of my bright ideas during my active addition, it failed miserably. I would tell myself I can gamble £x this month but within hours of being paid this was usually gone. Then I would convince myself that another £x would be fine and I can just sacrifice a takeaway or something that month. This would continue until I was choosing which direct debit I could bounce until the following month so that I could gamble more until I ran out of money. This cycle of beginning the month seemingly “in control” only to spiral out of control would repeat every payday.

c) Finally, I have to mention Matched Betting. This is a way to use bookmaker offers to make a “risk free” profit and for a while it worked. I was making money and it was all I was doing. I was getting my gambling fix but without the risk. The fact I am writing this blog and doing multiple meetings a week should be enough to figure out that it didn’t last long but in case you haven’t quite figured it out on your own; it didn’t last long. The reason it didn’t last long is because I was a compulsive gambler and I got bored with the process. You had to be disciplined: fuck that shit. So I started getting more and more reckless until I was just gambling flat out again. It also introduced me to the casino side of things which was not good and really, looking back, Matched Betting went from a way for me to control my gambling to turning my gambling and my addiction up to 11. To sum it up succinctly, I found a way to make money “risk free” and I fucked it up because I was a compulsive gambler. While most people's accounts would get limited because they were just winning money consistently, I was being made a VIP at a bookmaker and getting more generous bonuses; because I was losing: a lot!

5. Give five examples of how powerlessness (loss of control) has revealed itself through your own experiences.

a) The Matched Betting example above is a broad one but within that period of time I was doing it I lost the single biggest amount of money I ever did in one session (or over multiple sessions) and I didn’t have the money either. I went massively overdrawn on my bank account (unauthorised) while playing roulette. I lost the money and started getting desperate. Then, like all good compulsive gamblers do, I wished to win the money back. I said to myself, “if I can just win this back I’ll stop. I just need to win it back.” And I did. I actually got it all back and just needed to withdraw it and I could pretend like it was some horrible nightmare. Turns out the nightmare was just beginning as I felt like I was on a winning streak and couldn’t stop at that point, so I would just gamble £x and withdraw the rest. Well, that didn’t last long. Then, if I just gamble until my balance gets to £x and then I’ll withdraw, I can afford to take a little hit. That didn’t last long. Rinse and repeat until it is all gone: again. So when I hear people in the meetings, especially new members, talking about how they just want to win the money back, this story always comes to my mind. Because I climbed that mountain and won it all back, only to fall back down the other side, as I am sure many people in recovery have.

b) Reversing withdrawals, the bane of many a compulsive gambler. Hundreds of times I withdrew and tried to fight against reversing it, only to lose control and reverse it, then lose it all.

c) Telling myself I wouldn’t gamble for the evening and then finding myself gambling. It was like I wasn’t in control. Could almost feel myself fighting it on occasion (fighting probably not an accurate description, more like me quietly saying “no” then giving up).

d) Spending more time gambling than I intended to was a regular occurrence, to the point that I tended not to set any time limits for myself. Being mainly an online gambler it wasn’t really required because it wasn’t like I was physically missing my family point of view, so time was rarely an issue. One time that does stick out to me though was when I spent all evening in my local bookmakers while my partner was at work (this was before I had kids). I had applied for a credit card increase and may or may not have suggested to the company that I received a substantial pay rise and I was given the increase. I went straight to the cash machine and withdrew some money and round to the bookmakers for what I assumed would be a few bets then home. I ended up staying until it was closed with repeated trips to the cash machine and my stakes getting bigger and bigger until I had nearly maxed out my new credit card limit. I remember thinking “what the fuck just happened” on the walk back home because it felt so out of character at the time but looking back now, and remembering the things I have done, it shouldn’t have been a surprise.

e) I remember selling two mini Nintendo consoles that I had been bought for Xmas by my partner so that I could pay a direct debit. I was pretty desperate and sneaked out of the house with them and put them into the car while she was asleep then, on a night when I was supposed to be working late, I left early to go and trade them in. Once I had the cash, I walked round the corner to deposit it into my bank and on the 10 minute walk back to the car I had deposited and lost enough of the money that I couldn’t cover the direct debit so ended up depositing the lot and losing it all. Even though I knew that direct debit needed paid, I couldn’t help myself and was powerless over the addiction.

6. What type of physical abuse has happened to you or others as a result of your gambling?

a) I am being totally honest here when I say I avoided confrontation at all costs during my active addiction because I knew that it had the potential to expose my gambling and I couldn’t risk that. So, thankfully, there is no physical abuse to report except for those occasions where I would repeatedly slap myself in the head after losing all my money. That happened most months. 

7. What is your current physical condition (blood pressure/headaches/fitness etc)?

a) I feel fairly healthy and don’t seem to have any issues, at least none that I know of. Could I exercise more? Yea, of course I could. I went through a period over the Spring/Summer of running between five and ten kilometres a few times a week but the colder weather has scared me off a bit. I do try and do some body weight exercises around the house but I probably need to add something else, maybe Tai Chi as I have been looking into that over the past few weeks. I could do with losing a bit of weight as per my BMI I am dangerously close to obese, which I think is a bit harsh as I am 6ft 3” and 230lbs, but I could def get closer to the healthy weight range for my height. 

8. What is the difference between admittance and acceptance?

For me, and it’s just how I define them in my own mind, admitting something is just the act of saying it. For example, I admitted to my partner on April 2nd 2019 that I was a compulsive gambler and needed help. I still hadn’t accepted the fact I was a compulsive gambler on April 2nd 2019 because for me acceptance is taking admittance and doing something about it. So the process of accepting that I was a compulsive gambler and needed help didn’t begin until I started Gamblers Anonymous on April 3rd 2019. It then took months of attending meetings and, crucially, working The Steps to get to that point of acceptance. 

a) Are you admitting or accepting?

I am accepting and it is an ongoing process for me. I believe that if I decide to stop working on myself, if I stop going to meetings and stop helping others then I am becoming complacent. If I become complacent, then I slide from acceptance to admittance and it won’t be long before I drift back towards gambling. Admitting that I have done something or have a problem etc is a big step, huge, but in the grand scheme of things it means fuck all if I don’t do anything about it. 

b) How you are admitting or accepting through your behaviour.

Through behaviours like sponsoring people; attending meetings; chairing meetings; writing my blog; being there for someone when they ask for my help; working The Steps; reading about addiction; reading about other subjects that I feel can help me develop as a person; being honest with myself and those around me; being open minded; being willing; and of course, by not gambling today. You have got to give it away to keep it.

9. What convinces you that you can no longer gamble?

Everything since I came into this program has convinced me that I can no longer gamble. Things I have experienced, that I have learned, that I have listened to and that I have figured out. I know that I can no longer gamble but I also know that I am capable of gambling if I let myself. 

10. Are you a compulsive gambler?

No, I was a compulsive gambler. I am one bet away from being a compulsive gambler again and I never forget that fact, but currently I am not gambling therefore I am not a compulsive gambler. I don’t want to label myself as something I am not. I am proud to tell people I have an addiction and that I am in recovery, I don’t hide that fact but my gambling doesn’t define me, my recovery does. My recovery is the important part of the story in my eyes now. The gambling got me here, and I am grateful for that. But for me, and for other people I encounter in recovery, especially new people, the recovery portion of my story is what will help them and that’s how I want to label myself. 


1. What does unmanageability mean to you?

Something that is completely out of control, a mess and with no ability to make it manageable.

2. What can you identify as your social unmanageability?

a) Being a people pleaser, I was so desperate for everyone to like me that I would become who I thought they wanted me to be. There were days where I felt like Mick Foley in the 1998 Royal Rumble (three different characters in one night). The longer this went on, the more I felt like I ended up as this mishmash of characters that I had created to please other people and I didn’t know who I was anymore. I had just lost complete control of who I was as a person.

b) At the same time as being a people pleaser, I fucking hated people. Just being around them was enough to put me in a bad mood but when I had to actually go and do something with friends or family it was just the worst. I would use any excuse to get out of doing something and it sort of became a joke in my house that I would volunteer to stay at home with the kids if we were invited out anywhere. Instead of getting someone to mind the kids I’d try to encourage my partner to go instead. Wedding invites or birthday invites; hateful. That’s genuinely how I felt about all this stuff and it just got worse and worse the longer I was in active addiction. Socially, I was close to a recluse. 

c) I lacked the ability to care about anyone else other than myself because I was a selfish bastard. As long as I was doing what I wanted I was happy, at the expense of other people's happiness. Where it extends into social unmanageability is that when I didn’t get my own way and I had to do something I didn’t want to do, then I would make sure it was known that I wasn’t happy. I would be miserable, angry or just not interested, instead burying my head in my phone gambling. I did this without thinking how other people would feel about my actions and it was almost automatic. If I was told by my partner, for example, that we needed to go do something important for her I would instantly complain and get into a bad mood. Probably start an argument and ruin everybody's day. It got to the stage I couldn’t be asked to go to the shop 5 minutes away without giving off and storming around the house.

3. Give six examples of your personal unmanageability while not gambling.

a) I wouldn’t eat properly during the day at work because I had no money or wasn’t willing to spend any money on food. My diet would consist of biscuits that were on offer in the shop on the way to work and energy drinks. I didn’t care about my diet. I didn’t even really want to eat. If I was hungry I would just try to ignore it if I had ran out of biscuits until I got home.

b)My personal finances were completely unmanageable and this was obviously enhanced when I wasn’t gambling because that meant I was out of money. I then had to try and juggle bills and money for petrol to travel to work for the rest of the month. I wasn’t able to afford to go to the shop for a loaf of bread if my partner asked me to.

c) Lack of honesty. I lied to cover my gambling, like a compulsive gambler does, but my lies began spreading to every aspect of my life and the longer I was in active addiction the more detached I became from what was real and what was actually lies I had told. The lines were becoming blurred and I was believing my own bullshit. From lying to my partner about why I had no money to lying to my friends and family about the reasons for needing to borrow money. Even little things, like when someone in work asked me how my weekend went. I was hardly going to say “I lost my balls gambling, how was yours?” I would lie and make it sound like I was doing stuff with my family and give off this vibe that I was a family man and I started to believe it myself.

d) I used gambling to escape the following three things so when I wasn’t gambling I have to say they were unmanageable. First up is reality. I could not handle my own personal situation. Having two young kids at a young age, working two jobs, no social life, a relationship with my partner that was disintegrating from my point of view (because of me). My own personal reality was so distorted because of how I was thinking.

e) Then comes my responsibilities. When faced with those I just could not cope well and everything felt out of control. It’s the same list as above but actually trying to be a Dad, working my jobs and trying to have a relationship with my partner were just close to impossible. When I think about work, I was constantly late, like every day and my productivity was non-existent. Yes, gambling caused that some days but I was mainly a paycheck to paycheck gambler so for a good part of the month I couldn’t gamble and I still couldn’t produce an acceptable level of work. 

f) The last of the three is my own self-worth. The thoughts I had, the internal monologue I had with myself, I was my own biggest critic and I verbally abused myself when I couldn’t gamble. I couldn’t understand why I felt the way I did and was too blind to see that the gambling was causing my issues. The only time I felt truly happy was when I was gambling and when I wasn’t gambling, I felt like a piece of shit.

4. What goals have you set for your life?

a) Each morning when I get up, I will try to do the next right thing and I know if I do that, I will not gamble today.

b) To become a better person, to improve my own self, be there for my family and support them and to hopefully help others in the program through Step 12.

c) To become debt free and buy a house. 

5. Prior to entering G.A., how did you try to achieve these goals?

The only goal I had prior to G.A. would have been to become debt free and buy a house and I tried to achieve this by gambling. I had budgets worked out years in advance that showed me I just needed to win £x per month to be debt free within a certain period of time. Of course, I never would have become debt free because it wasn’t actually about winning money for me, it was about being in action.

6. Give three examples of feelings you tried to alter by gambling.

I used this article on for this question as I could relate to a lot of it.

a) Enjoyment was difficult for me to find when I wasn’t gambling because I didn’t see it in everyday life. Gambling allowed me to feel safe and secure, I didn’t need to pretend to be someone else was when I was gambling online. It also gave me sensory pleasure which kept me coming back. I was able to lose myself in a world of online gambling and become absorbed in it. All of these things allowed me to feel relaxed and find peace. Or at least I thought it did. The article suggests, if enjoyment and its related feelings feel elusive, try to take a look at other emotions or feelings are getting in the way, such as: trouble focusing on what’s happening in the present; worry; stress; a low or anxious mood. I didn’t want to take a look at these feelings and used gambling as a means to escape them. Of course, that didn’t solve my problems, it just kept putting them off while also adding more on top.

b) Sadness was another feeling that I tried to escape from through gambling. The article suggests trying to do something meaningful. Doing something to help others or give back to society can help you feel more connected to other people. If you’ve recently lost someone you cared about, consider finishing a project they cared about or donating your time to a cause they supported. As I’ve mentioned before, I didn’t give a shit about anyone but myself so the prospect of me doing something meaningful for other people was non existent.

Another tip is to reach out for support. This is easier said than done when you’re at a low point. Try to remember the people in your life who care for you and likely want to help you. The pain of heartache does ease in time, even if you can’t imagine that at the moment. Again, this was never going to happen when I was in the midst of my addiction because I knew if I told someone about my gambling they would tell me to stop and I did not want to stop because I didn’t see it as a problem. Everything else around me was the problem and in fact, the only time I didn’t feel sadness was when I was gambling.

c) Finally we have fear. I lived my life in constant fear that my financial problems would be found out by my partner and that my whole world would come crashing down if that happened. So I was only left with the solution to try and gamble my way out because again, I couldn’t see that gambling was causing the issues, I just saw it as my only solution to get out of the mess I was in. The article above gives three suggestions to combat fear and I just briefly want to touch on them. 

Confront fear instead of avoiding it. If you’re afraid of something, whether it’s a serious discussion, meeting new people, or driving, it’s natural to want to stay away from the source of your fear. But this can often just make your fear worse. Instead, try to face your fear safely. For example, if you suddenly develop a fear of driving, get back in your car and drive again right away. Stick close to home at first if it helps, but don’t avoid it. 

Distract yourself from your fear. Sometimes fear can become so overwhelming that it’s hard to think about anything else. But ruminating, or letting the same thoughts play out over and over again, can have a negative impact on your emotional state. It can also make fear worse. If you feel yourself fixating on a worry or source of stress, try something distracting. Listen to an audio book or podcast, cook with a new recipe you have to concentrate on, or go for a walk or jog with some energising music. 

Consider the fear logically. Take a moment to think about your fear. Is there anything you can do about it? Can it actually harm you? What’s the worst thing that could happen if your fear came true? What would you do in that scenario? Knowing how you would deal with your fear can help you feel less afraid. 

On those three points, while in addiction, I assumed that I was confronting it. I was working two jobs, I was trying to gamble my way out of debt. I convinced myself that all of my gambling was to try and solve my financial problems. So it did feel like I was confronting my debt head on. At the same time I used gambling as a distraction. Gambling was the only way I could relax and not think about my debt. Which sounds insane and that’s because it was. Finally, considering the fear logically was just something I could not do. My mind would think of the worst possible scenario when it came to my partner finding out and it was something I couldn’t face. If someone had told me I needed help and to come clean I wouldn’t have done it because I wasn’t ready to face my fear. That’s why I don’t hold the gambling industry responsible for my own situation. I was not stopping until I was ready or I was caught, which question 8 touches on.

7. How did you try to change your image prior to entering G.A.?

I lied, lied and lied some more. I told people what I thought they wanted to hear. I acted how I thought other people would expect me to act. The longer I was gambling the less I talked about my own personal bets to other people, win or lose. It goes without saying why I wasn’t telling people I was losing £x on the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters. The reason I stopped talking about any winnings was that within days they were gone and when I was asking to borrow money the first question would be, “I thought you got a bet up the other day, what happened to the winnings?”

8. What crisis, besides the one that got you into G.A. would have happened eventually?

I would have been caught and it would have happened within months of when I actually came clean.I know this because two things happened to me and I may have been able to talk myself out of one, but not both. First, there was a note through the door from a debt collection company saying that someone would be calling at the house to discuss my debt. My partner rang me when this happened and asked me what it was about (I was in recovery at this stage). I wasn’t paying my creditors because I was paying back friends and family first and this company was chasing me up. Now, if I was still gambling I wouldn’t have been paying them and the same note would have come through the door. 

The other incident was when a creditor took me to court because I had not paid them anything for a long time. I ended up with a CCJ and this was all done via the post but there was no way I would have been able to hide this from my partner. I was able to set up a repayment plan with not just that creditor but the rest of them which just would not have been possible if I was still gambling.

So those two things combined would have happened eventually and my secret would have been exposed. Worst case scenario I would have lost my family and best case I would have been forced to stop gambling and go to G.A. I’m convinced if I was forced to go to G.A. things wouldn’t have worked out as well as they have done so far and I believe I would have relapsed and went back to gambling because I just would not have been ready to stop on my own terms.

9. What is different about you from other people?

a) I feel like I try to look at things from a different perspective than the obvious at times. I’ve found this more when it comes to recovery because I am interested in bringing other ideas, topics and theories into my own recovery. I’m not content with the status quo, I know that there is more out there that could enhance my recovery and I want to find out what it is.

b) I am unconventional and I’m not sure if that’s a strength or a weakness to be honest. It probably hovers somewhere in the middle between the two depending on the situation. I don’t want to just regurgitate literature when it comes to recovery, I want to bring my own personal spin on it. The people who do that are the people I find myself connecting with the most in meetings. Even outside of recovery, I don’t follow trends or fashion, I just like to do my own thing and because of recovery I’m learning to enjoy it.

c) I am teachable. I may be opinionated, have a huge ego and I’m sure I am not everyone’s cup of tea, but I am apt and willing to learn. 

10. Give 10 reasons why you should continue with the Programme.

a) It will help me not to gamble today.

b) It will help me become a better person.

c) It will help me connect with other people and human connection is the opposite of addiction.

d) I will have the opportunity to help other people.

e) I can be inspired by someone.

f) I can inspire someone.

g) I will have the chance to learn things I wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn without the Programme. #CollegeOfKnowledge

h) Teamwork makes the dream work.

i) It will help me to achieve my life goals.

j) I want to continue with the Programme and I want recovery.

I’m firmly of the belief that the Programme can only help me to do things, I need to be willing to put in the work and effort to achieve the things on this list. Just turning up and hoping it will happen, for me, isn’t enough.