Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Personal Update, SMART & HOV

My name is Russ and I haven’t had a bet today or since my last meeting. It’s been a few weeks of big changes to my recovery since my last blog post. First of all, I no longer have a Sponsor due to reasons I do not want to go into right now but let's just say there was a clash of personalities and faults on both ends and one of us (me) held our hands up but the other did not. Since then there has been no contact from him and it’s just not how I expected my Sponsor of over a year to act. He also runs the Problem Gambling Support Group I have talked about in the past which ran meetings via Skype before moving to Zoom and I have, with a heavy heart, left those meetings as well. Those meetings were a big part of my recovery and I’ll be forever grateful to the people in them but to be honest, I haven’t been getting anything out of them for a number of months. The way they are run now with the amount of people in them just wasn’t working for me. So I, along with two other close friends in recovery, decided to move on and set up our own group with a different format and a smaller, more intimate feel. We have had a fantastic couple of meetings already and I look forward to seeing how this group grows going forward. The main thing for us is to keep what we feel makes the group special and worthwhile. 

I did attend three Problem Gambling Support Group meetings a week so I have replaced one of them with the new group, I also have a weekly catch up with my Sponsees via Zoom and I attended my first SMART Recovery meeting on Friday night via Zoom. I really enjoyed it and hope to make it a regular Friday thing for myself. That’s why the first line of my blog has changed. I have removed the fact I am a compulsive gambler because the label, I feel, is unnecessary. Now that’s not to say I’m cured or anything, it’s just factual that I am not a compulsive gambler anymore, I am in recovery. Am I an addict? I believe so and it is my opinion I will always be an addict and I need to maintain my recovery for the rest of my life. 

I also removed my bet date because I don’t say it in meetings so I don’t see why I am saying it here. If it ever changes I’ll be sure to write about it but it remains April 2nd 2019. I don’t get too hung up on my date to be honest. Yes, milestones are amazing and I like to celebrate them in my own way and I love celebrating other people's milestones but the only thing that is important to me is getting through today. It’s all about the journey and there is no destination and if this journey is going to be for life, well, I don’t feel the need to focus on my last bet date when sharing. It doesn’t bring anything to the table for me or others. When I first went to G.A. I immediately listened to those with longer in the program (maybe I guessed that those with longer would be older as well but don’t tell them) because I assumed that they would know best but over time I realised it doesn’t matter how long someone has been in the program, everyone has something to offer me if I actively listen. Also, with what has happened recently, I realise that those with years in the program aren’t always the ones I should be looking to for guidance as they have their own issues and defects, some more than others. 

So yea, it’s been a frantic start to May and change can always be a scary thing at first and I’ll be totally honest, when the stuff happened with my Sponsor it did get to me. Luckily, I knew what I needed to do. I reached out to those I knew I could trust and talked about it. It took a few days but I got over it and began to look to the future. I saw this as an exciting new opportunity in my recovery to go on an adventure and sample the various delights in the recovery world. I have always said that there is no one size fits all approach to recovery and I am open to new ideas and thought processes and I will build the bespoke recovery program that works for me.

So, onto the actual blog post which is going to be based around SMART Recovery and one of their tools called the Hierarchy of Values (HOV). Now, before I get to that, what exactly is SMART Recovery? According to the SMART Recovery Handbook (which you can purchase here for UK folks and here for North America);

What is SMART?

SMART Recovery started in 1994. SMART, an acronym for Self-Management and Recovery Training, emphasises “self” - your role in your own recovery. We’re a nonprofit, science-based program that helps people recover from addictive behaviours.

Whether your addictive behaviour involves substances - alcohol, smoking, or drugs - or behaviours - gambling, sex, eating, shopping or self-harm - SMART can help. We understand the work ahead of you. No matter what your addictive behaviour, you’re not alone.

So instead of Steps like G.A. SMART has The 4-Point Programme. The fours points are:

1 - Building and Maintaining Motivation
2 - Coping with Urges
3 - Managing Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviours
4 - Living a Balanced Life

SMART says these are not sequential for some people but I bought the handbook and I am going to get my money's worth out of it and work through it all. The handbook is a really good resource and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in other ways to potentially improve their recovery. So now onto the Hierarchy Of Values and you can get this worksheet below from here.

HIERARCHY OF VALUES

From the work of Joe Gerstein, MD

(As written by Lorie Hammerstrom and Jim Braastad)

Joe Gerstein, a very generous man who was a major player in the founding of SMART Recovery®, served as its first President and a long-time member of the Board of Directors has a great little tool that he has used with people in the SMART Recovery® meetings he’s facilitated. It’s called the “Hierarchy of Values, and goes something like this:

Take a few minutes or so and make a list of the things that are important to you. Once that is completed, pick out the five things that you would place at the very top of the list—the five things that are MOST important to you. There is no "right" or "wrong" answers, as these are the things that are most important to YOU!

(NOTE: If you haven't already done so, please take the time to create your own “Top Five” list before you read on. This exercise will have more meaning and a greater impact if you take the time to determine and write out your “Top Five” before continuing.)

(I used questions 1 and 2 from here to answer A and then used question 3 to answer B)

Hierarchy of Values Worksheet

Complete this worksheet to determine what is MOST important to YOU.

Effectively used for which of the 4 points? Building Motivation

Take a few minutes or so and write down a list of things that are important to you:

Family, Appreciation, Encouragement, Health, Kindness, Love, Passion, Quality,Relationships
Responsibility, Simplicity, Thankfulness, Thoughtfulness, Usefulness, Well-Being.

Friendships, Contribution, Credibility, Dependability, Loyalty, Reliability, Teamwork, Trustworthiness.

Recovery, Acceptance, Accountability, Benevolence, Calmness, Caring, Challenge, Commitment, Compassion, Dedication, Empathy, Fairness, Honesty, Humility, Mindfulness, Open-Mindedness, Optimism, Self-Control, Understanding.

Humour, Cheerfulness, Enthusiasm, Fun, Happiness, Individuality, Joy, Originality, Playfulness, Uniqueness, Warmth.

Personal Development, Advancement, Ambition, Consistency, Flexibility, Growth, Knowledge, Learning, Motivation, Resourcefulness, Success, Versatility, Vision, Wisdom.

From the list above, look through and choose those that you consider to be your “Top Five”…the five things you consider to be the MOST IMPORTANT to you (in no particular order):

  • Family
  • Friendships
  • Recovery
  • Humour
  • Personal Development

What’s missing? Is it missing from your list as well? What Joe has noticed is how rarely people put alcohol (or whatever other substance or maladaptive behaviour) in the list of the things that they deem “most important” to them. Yet often their actions would suggest otherwise… that it was the most important thing in their lives!

When we sit down and really think about what we value most in our lives, it's (most likely) safe to say that our DOC (drug of choice) isn’t one of them. Yet every time that we use, we are placing those things in jeopardy; we are gambling with the things that we treasure and hold dear, putting them at risk with the potential of losing them.

So effectively, when we choose (and yes, it IS a choice) to drink or drug (or whatever other maladaptive behaviour), we are choosing that over the things we value most! Even if that choice is made mindlessly or without thought, it doesn't change anything—our DOC is being chosen over what we deem to be most important!

That was quite eye opening for me as I didn’t realise how many values I actually have now and that is down to recovery. When I was gambling, it was the top priority for me over everything listed above. To be honest, half of those things wouldn’t have been on my Hierarchy Of Values if I had done this when gambling. It would have just been gambling and me as those were the only things I cared about. Working that tool has made me realise what I would be throwing away if I went back to gambling but it also helped me see how far I have come already in my journey. I am looking forward to using more of the tools from SMART Recovery and I will be sure to write about them.

Russ

Friday, 1 May 2020

Working The Steps: Step 10

Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and
when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.


Step 10, Exercise 2

My name is Russ and I am a compulsive gambler. My last bet was April 2nd 2019. I am on to Step 10 and there was a previous exercise which was writing down 3 things I did well and 3 things I could have done better at for a week. I couldn't get the table attached due to formatting issues but trust me when I say you didn't miss much and most of it is covered in the questions. As always, anything in bold or italics is taken from the work sheet and the rest is my own.

Write about:

What insights have you gained from doing the Daily Inventory for a week?
Acknowledge areas of growth, achievement and progress.

I’ve realised how much I make myself available for people who reach out to me and it is something that I enjoy doing. I am a firm believer that you have to give it away to keep it and I will continue to believe that. I have also started to eat healthier and my running has improved. I managed to run for an hour which is my longest length of time and the distance of 8.5km was also a personal best. I can see that I do a lot with my family and for my family. These are things that I enjoy doing such as cooking for them. It’s the little things in life that make me happy. I can see growth in me just in the past week and I am trying to do the right things each day and I know if I continue to do that I will not gamble.

Are you promptly admitting when you are wrong? If not, what are the barriers to your doing so? (for example: denial, ego, pride, justification)

I feel like I am promptly admitting when I am wrong because I am not afraid to hold my hands up and say sorry I shouldn’t have done something. If I behave in a way that hurts someone else then I will apologise because I never intentionally go out of my way to hurt someone. Things happen though and in life, feelings will get hurt. I am willing to be an adult and make the first move when this happens. If the other person chooses to forgive me, well that is up to them. 

Are you living in a more spiritual way -- this is, with kindness, generosity, honesty and humility? Be watchful for any patterns of selfishness, dishonesty, resentment and fear.

Again, I am going to have to say yes to this question for the most part. I like to hope that I not only talk the talk about kindness, generosity, honesty and humility but that I walk the walk. Actions speak louder than words in my eyes and I would not want to be a person who says one thing at a meeting but when it comes to putting it into practice can’t quite manage it. I have certainly experienced resentment and fear about certain things that have happened but I am aware of how to deal with these. For me it’s important to talk about them, write about them and seek advice from other people who have experienced similar things. The worst thing for me to do is bottle stuff up because I have done that in the past and it ends up with the relationship eventually falling apart because small issues have been left unresolved and festered. You are then sitting on a powder keg and at some stage something small ignites it all. These patterns will no doubt continue to come up as I continue on my journey and for me the important thing isn’t trying to stop them from happening (because I think that is impossible and a waste of time personally) but it’s reacting in the right way when I start to feel them. 

How do you intend to continue to practice Step 10? (for example, do a daily, nightly, or weekly inventory; schedule a review or reality check with your sponsor)

I had a reality check with my sponsor, and it didn't end well. All joking aside I do not intend on practising Step 10 in written form going forward. I know this probably goes against traditional G.A. views but I don’t feel like I need a daily, nightly or weekly inventory on paper. If this is something I cannot be aware of in my day to day life then writing it down on paper each day isn’t going to help. What I am going to commit to doing is a written Step 10 at least once a year.

Have you developed constructive ways of releasing/expressing feelings? If yes, what are they? If no, what could work for you that you would be willing to make a part of your Step 10 practice?

The answer to questions regarding feelings and emotions are always the same for me. I talk about them and I write about them. Those are the constructive ways for me to deal with these feelings.

Are you taking better care of yourself and minimizing stress in your life? Give specific examples.

I am running at least twice a week (was three times a week but dodgy knee) and I am tracking my calorie intake. I also purchased a NutriBullet as I was not eating any fruit and veg in my diet. I have never felt as fit and healthy as I do today and it’s helping me keep stress to a minimum. Listening to relaxing music in the evenings is another thing I have started doing and just trying to switch my brain off a bit when I get time. Life moves so fast and I am starting to realise that I need to slow down a bit to really appreciate it. 

I’m going to be brutally honest here, this was probably the Step I got the least out of but it is something I would work once a year just to make sure I am still living the way I think I should be in recovery. I would hate to think I was lying to myself and acting in a way that reminded me of pre recovery and Step 10 would help me see this.

Russ

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Working The Steps: Step 9

My name is Russ and I am a compulsive gambler. My last bet was April 2nd 2019. I am back to Step Work and today it is Step 9. This was an interesting one for me to write (peak behind the curtain, I write this intro after I write the blog) and I have approached it and worked it in my own style. I do feel a lot better having worked through it and once again would recommend the steps to anyone, even if you don’t have an addiction! As usual, anything in bold or italics is from the worksheet (bar the forgiveness piece).

Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Step 9, Exercise 1

The thought of making amends raises the fear of consequences and the shame of apologizing. The act of making amends creates the hope of forgiveness and the joy of freedom.

If you haven’t already forgiven yourself, face yourself in the mirror and do so now. Describe your feelings afterwards.

This is an interesting one for me as I have always said I am not sure how important it is to forgive myself for what I have done but what is important is that I have accepted that what has happened in the past has happened and cannot be changed. Then I thought I would look up the definition of the word forgive (a certain someone in my PG Group started me on this) and it says; “stop feeling angry or resentful towards (someone) for an offence, flaw or mistake.” I also delved a little deeper into the “true definition of forgiveness” and came across this article from Berkeley which I am going to copy a few pieces from and paste them below; (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/forgiveness/definition);

What Is Forgiveness?

Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.

I do not hold feelings of resentment against myself for what I have done in the past when it comes to my addiction if anything I embrace my addiction as it has given me an opportunity to become the person I am today and given me the opportunity to constantly improve myself.

Just as important as defining what forgiveness is, though, is understanding what forgiveness is not. Experts who study or teach forgiveness make clear that when you forgive, you do not gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offense against you. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses.

This pretty much sums up how I feel in my recovery, I have no issue talking about what I have done in the past and I do not try to run away from it and forget about it. I also take ownership of what I have done and do not make excuses.

In that way, it empowers you to recognize the pain you suffered without letting that pain define you, enabling you to heal and move on with your life.

I approach recovery with this mindset, the pain and suffering my addiction causes does not define me, I define myself by becoming a better person on my journey.

So, in answer to the question, having looked up the definition and reading a bit more about forgiveness I have forgiven myself for what I have done.

Are you willing to make amends to yourself and others now? If not, what do you need to do to become willing?

Yes I am willing to make amends to myself and others.

Step 9, Exercise 2

Review your lists from Step 8, Exercise 1 (of harm done to yourself and others) and write out how you intend to make your amends to each person on the list. For example, if you embezzled money, indicate how you will make restitution. If you neglected yourself or your family, lied to a loved one, abandoned a friendship, or duped your employer, indicate how you intend to acknowledge it (in person, wherever possible, or by telephone or in an audiotape, videotape or letter).

Step 8 asked me to write about the ways (spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically, financially) I harmed myself through gambling. So I intend to make amends as follows:

Spiritually - I wrote in Step 8 that “gambling was destroying the inner me so much that I had no idea who I was anymore.” Well, I can say that I am beginning to understand exactly who I am now and that is because I have been working hard on my recovery and will continue to do so. I will continue to get in touch and improve my inner self.

Emotionally - I had no emotions when I was gambling, I was numb and used gambling as a means to escape. I do not do that anymore. I face my emotions and I am learning to deal with them and it isn’t easy but it becomes more natural with practice. I know what happens if I bottle my emotions up and it is a dangerous game to play. I will continue to stay in touch with my emotions and continue to talk about my emotions with others.

Physically - No sleep, no exercise, eating shite or not eating anything at all, I was a complete mess. Now I have got myself into a pretty solid sleep routine of around 6 hours a night (I have two kids so blame them) and I have started running a couple of times a week and I am tracking my calories. So I intend to keep doing that and trying to get myself into the best physical condition I have been in for years.

Financially - This one is fairly straight forward, I am in a Debt Management Plan with Stepchange and I will continue to pay my debts off monthly until they are clear. This will take years but it is important for me to tow the debt as a reminder of the damage I could cause if I went back.

Step 8 asked me to make a detailed list of all others I had harmed through gambling and I intend to make amends as follows:

My Partner - If I am being totally honest things between me and my partner are probably better than they have ever been and that is because we are more open with each other recently. For me to make amends it is important for me to continue in my recovery and to be there for her as a supportive and caring partner. 

My Kids - My kids are unaware of my addiction but I have no doubt I was a miserable Dad to be around when I was gambling. I feel like I have been more present in their life over the past year and my bond with them has grown stronger. One area where I do need to improve is my temper and shouting at them too much which I will work on in recovery.

My Parents - They have been bailing me out my whole life and gave me a helping hand financially to cover immediate bills when I came clean. Again, me being in recovery, becoming a better person is the best way I can make amends to them and I have been more present and thankful of them since entering recovery. I will also continue paying them back the money I owe them until the debt is cleared.

Other Family Members - I am much more open to family gatherings since entering recovery and spending time in the company of other family members without being glued to my phone and gambling. I will continue to do that as my way of making amends and I will continue to be more in touch with my other family members. I always had to be reminded about my Gran’s birthday before entering recovery but now I no longer need to be as I know when it is and have it saved on my calendar. 

Friends - I have lied and borrowed money from many friends and I am in the process of paying them back. Those who I have paid back, once I have made the final payment I have reached out and apologised for what I have done and thanked them for standing by me. I feel like I am there for my friends more and I will continue to be.

My Job - I have spoken to my manager about my recent performance over the last couple of years and explained the situation to them. I need to get back to being the best employee I can be and to start taking pride in my work again. All employees should strive to be a model for good practice regardless of their career area and that is something I am going to do moving forward.

Prioritize your list of amends to be made, starting with those to yourself, and then, one by one, begin to make them. Write about how you feel as you move through the process.

I don’t feel like I need to prioritize my list of amends to be made as there is a theme that runs through what I have written. All the people I hurt stood by me and have supported me on my journey of recovery so for me to stop recovery or to start half assing it would just be throwing that support back in their face. I was open and honest with those closest to me from the start. I approached those I owed money to and those I had harmed and told them about my addiction. I’m not sure how important it is for me to write a letter, audiotape or videotape (good to see the Steps upgraded for 2020). 

Actions speak louder than words in my opinion and I have acknowledged the harm I have caused and for me to make amends, and to continue to make amends and be a better person for those I have harmed to be around, I need to continue on my journey and to keep improving myself. If I am constantly trying to become the best version of myself then, in my opinion, that is the best possible amends anyone close to me could want.

Are there any people, to whom you owe amends or others, who could be injured in some way by your making amends? If yes, how can you reconcile it and move on? (For example, you might write a letter of apology to them but not send it. Or you could make an anonymous charitable donation in their name).

I feel like I have listed those who I need to make amends to and there isn’t anyone I am leaving out. I am not one to, for example, reach out to an old manager and apologise because I was constantly late for work because I stayed up all night gambling. That isn’t something that is weighing heavy on me (or at all).

I have said this line before and I will end with it, I am focused on making amends to those closest to me and to continue on my recovery journey and to strive to become the best version of myself.

Russ

Sunday, 19 April 2020

Quotes, Questions & Answers

My name is Russ and I am a compulsive gambler. My last bet was April 2nd 2019. Managed to get a few hours to myself this morning to sit and write which always makes me feel better and works my brain. This week I have set myself a task to start working on the Diploma in Counselling Skills Level 2 course I have signed up for which I am looking forward to. With that being said, time for some more quotes, questions and answers.

Day 9

“Safety isn’t always safe. You can find one on every gun.”

Andrea Gibson

Describe a typical pattern that led/leads to your addictive behaviour.

I didn’t have any typical pattern if I am being honest. I gambled because I loved it and it was the only thing I felt that I had in my life. I would gamble every waking moment of every day when I had money and if I ran out of money I’d spend all my time working out how to get more. If I was happy or sad I would gamble. It didn’t matter. There was no one thing that led me to gamble. In recovery I have started to realise it was an escape for me from my life, from reality and responsibility but there was no set pattern that would lead me to gambling.

Day 10

“If you place your head in a lion’s mouth, then you cannot complain one day if he happens to bite it off.”

Agatha Christie

Come up with three simple solutions to break this pattern before you relapse.

There are a few sayings I constantly have in my head that has helped me during my recovery, especially in the early days:

You are not in control of your first thought but you are in control of your first action - This is a simple reminder that no matter the thought or urge, it cannot make me gamble, I have the control over that action. As long as I am aware and do the right thing, such as reach out and talk to someone, then I will not place that bet.

HOW, Honesty, Open Mindedness and Willingness - I truly believe these three things are the cornerstone of my recovery. Being honest with not only those around me but also with myself, being open minded to recovery and the benefits of it and also to other people's suggestions when I do reach out and a willingness to reach out. Reaching out didn’t come naturally to me but I have found talking and even just venting is one of the most powerful tools at my disposal.

It’s not a financial problem, it’s an emotional problem - This reminds me that if I have a thought about gambling that it isn’t about money, it’s about something deeper so something must be getting to me for me to be having these thoughts. 

Those three things are all linked for me. It’s all about awareness and realising that there are various opportunities to prevent a relapse from occurring but I need to be able to recognise the signs and those three things have been huge in my recovery.

Day 11

“I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts.”

John Locke

What have you tried to escape with your addiction?

The two R’s, reality and responsibility. Those were two of the main things because I thought I hated my life. It was so dull and boring and it was just the same shit, different day. I had kids pretty young and I felt it robbed me of any sort of life that my friends had. This was all bullshit and just what the addiction made me think. My life is actually amazing and I am an extremely lucky man but during my active addiction I was blind to that. Another thing I tried to escape was myself. I suffer from low self esteem and I hated myself and thought I was useless and a waste of space.. I spent my days trying to please everyone and give off this idea that I was a happy go lucky laid back guy when actually I was fucking miserable. The only place I could be myself was online gambling. It didn’t ask any questions of me, it didn’t expect anything of me, it just allowed me to escape and all I needed was money and I could escape for as long as I wanted. Once the money ran out then I was forced back into reality and that is when the desire to chase my losses kicked in because I was so desperate to get back into what I considered my safe space of online gambling as I only felt happy when I was gambling.

Day 12/Day 13

“When shall we live if not now?”

Shirley Jackosn

“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”

Soren Kierkegaard

What would you ask your 80-year-old self and what would he or she answer?

I’ll keep it pretty broad because I don’t think I’d want to know the future so I would ask “Are you happy?” and I believe the answer would be “yes.”

If I could kill a word and watch it die
I'd poison "never", shoot "goodbye"
And beat "regret" when I felt I had the nerve
Yeah, I'd pound "fear" into a pile of sand
Choke "lonely" out with my bare hands
And I'd hang "hate" so that it can't be heard
If I could only kill a word

Kill A Word - Eric Church

Russ

Quotes and questions taken from “The 365 Addiction Recovery Journal: Daily Journaling With Guided Questions, To Become A New You” by 21 Exercises.

Friday, 10 April 2020

Quickfire Questions

My name is Russ and I am a compulsive gambler. My last bet was April 2nd 2019. I’ve fallen a little bit behind on my aim to write daily and that’s OK, it’s more of a bigger picture view I am taking on it. I want to write about each question in “The 365 Addiction Recovery Journal: Daily Journaling With Guided Questions, To Become A New You” by 21 Exercises and sometimes it will look like this where I combine a couple of questions (or six) based on my time available and motivation to write. So with that being said...let me begin.

Day 3

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”

Zora Neale Hurston

List the three most inspiring things that caused you to question your addictive behaviour.

My kids
Problem Gambling Support Group
Gamblers Anonymous

Just to briefly touch on why these three things stand out as the most inspiring, if it wasn’t for the people in my P.G. Support Group and my G.A. Fellowship I would never have questioned my addictive behaviour. To meet people who have literally changed their lives for the better inspired me so much on my journey, especially early on, they gave me hope. My kids were an easy one because I look at them every day and they inspire me to want to be a better person for them and that all begins by questioning my addictive behaviour.

Day 4

“That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.”

Emily Dickinson

How could you help yourself to express yourself more authentically?

This was something I really struggled with early in recovery because I didn’t know who I really was to be able to express myself authentically. What helped me was listening, actively listening to people so I could become more aware of what other people were dealing with. I was also able to become more confident at expressing my thoughts and opinions and that came through practice by sharing at meetings. Writing this blog also helped me. One thing I always said to myself was I didn’t want to become a recovery robot, I didn’t just want to digest a load of literature and regurgitate it word for word. That’s not who I wanted to become. I have my own way of speaking (for most to understand me they require subtitles). I swear a lot. I am who I am. One thing I am currently working on is to not overthink how people will react to what I say and I have gotten a lot better at that. I clearly need a filter because if I said what was in my head, well, probably best I don’t go there but I have started to realise what I say doesn’t really matter, what matters is the intention behind the words and inside I am a good person so my intentions need to be good for me to be authentic.

Day 5

“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

J.K. Rowling

Write a response to your addiction for this thought: “Why put so much energy into recovery?”

Dear addiction,

I was told at my first G.A. meeting that “if you put half as much effort into your recovery as you put into gambling, things would work out,” and they were right. I put all this energy in because it works for me. I am also aware I will never be cured so for me to put less energy in would be playing into your hands. You would begin to creep back up on me, your voice would become louder in my head. Recovery also gives me things that you promised me but never delivered; self respect, happiness, money, freedom, peace of mind among many other things. It also has given me a place where I belong which is something I truly believed I could only find through gambling. That’s not the case. My eyes have been opened.

Day 6

“In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.”

Leo Tolstoy

Write down all the critical thoughts you have about yourself. Let them out. Release them.

I deserve to suffer
I am a bad parent
I am pathetic
I am a bad writer
I do not deserve happiness
I am fat
I am not attractive
I am a bad person
I don’t have any friends
I am a bad sponsor
I am a bad sponsee (shut up Jeff)
I will never be successful
I am an asshole

Day 7

“Human minds are more full of mysteries than any written book and more changeable than the cloud shapes in the air.”

Louisa May Alcott

List five things that don’t matter so much if you were going to die within two months.

My debt/lack of money
My lack of career progression
Gambling
My car being old
My kids being annoying

Day 8

“The kernel of all jealousy is lack of love.”

Carl Jung

Do you have a recovery plan?

My recovery “plan” is quite straightforward. I will try to do the right things today. If I do that I won’t gamble. Then I will get up and do the same again tomorrow. Then the next day etc. If there is a meeting available and I do not have anything planned I will attend. I tend to work my recovery around my family life and commitments as best I can. I do step work, I work the steps with the two people I sponsor, I write this blog, I mean the list goes on but without trying to do the right thing each day my “plan” will fall apart.

Happy Easter

Russ

Quotes and questions taken from “The 365 Addiction Recovery Journal: Daily Journaling With Guided Questions, To Become A New You” by 21 Exercises.

Monday, 6 April 2020

To My Younger Self

My name is Russ and I am a compulsive gambler. My last bet was April 2nd 2019. Another week of lock down completed and I am trying to make the most of it. I have started running. The last time I ran (or did any meaningful exercise) was in the Summer of 2018. I’m finding it really good for my mental health, especially as I am confined to the house most of the day. Writing helps as well and I have fallen behind by a couple of days on the questions so I will try and catch up this week. 

Day 2

“We are not rich by what we possess but by what we can do without.”

Immanuel Kant

Write a response to your younger self for this thought: “But I can’t do without gambling.”

It is scary to even think about living without gambling, after all it is the one thing that you love the most, even over your two kids. It’s something that you do every waking moment of the day that you have money and if you don’t have money you think about gambling or work out how to survive the month because of gambling. You think gambling makes you happy, that it is the way you can achieve a lifestyle that will make you look and feel successful. If you feel successful you think that people will like you. In your head it is also an easy way to make it in life, a way to get things for free. It’s the thing that you do, the only thing that you do. It’s how you make and maintain conversation with people. When you win it gives you a feeling of superiority and reinforces the idea that you are better than everyone around you. Most of all, gambling gives you a feeling of belonging, it’s your safe place that you can be yourself.

Well, I hate to tell you, but all of that is pure bullshit. You may love gambling but I can tell you how much more meaningful the relationship with your two kids becomes when you finally enter recovery. You are their hero, they idolise you and quite honestly you don’t give a fuck about them, but recovery changes that for you. It’s hard to fill the void at the start but you manage to do it and shockingly you actually start to become a bit more productive at work (eventually).

There is no longer the worry of how you are going to survive the month because you have money, not a lot, but you have money. You buy more pairs of trainers in your first year in recovery than you have done since you turned 18. You wear socks without holes in them in recovery. You have new hoodies. As of April 2020 you have an addiction to buying Kindle books but that’s OK! You are in lock down because of Covid-19, the whole world is except for Sweden (there’s a pandemic, starts in China, tell someone).

You think that gambling makes you happy but it is the reason you are miserable. It is one of the reasons you hate yourself more and more with each passing day. It is why you hate people and blame them for all of your problems. It is why you hate the world. Gambling is the reason the first thing you do when you open your eyes in the morning is roll them and think “why the fuck did I wake up”. That lifestyle that you want to achieve to make you look and feel successful, to make people like you, it’s all an illusion. No one knows about your gambling because you work so fucking hard to keep it a secret so even if you were successful (you weren’t) then no one would know because it would expose you as the addict you are. As for making conversation and maintaining it, in recovery you learn how to talk to people properly and actually figure out what empathy is. The new relationships you build in recovery are deeper than any you have experienced before and the old relationships you start to repair become even more meaningful. 

That feeling of superiority you think being right gives you, that’s your ego talking and boy do you have a big ego. You will find out that you know pretty much fuck all about life when you get into recovery. You have been escaping into the world of online gambling and living in this fucked up bubble you created for yourself. It’s unhealthy and it will destroy you from the inside out. 

The biggest thing I can tell you is that in recovery you have finally found the place you truly belong and this is what you have been searching for your whole life. It is a place where you are constantly learning and constantly thriving. You are helping not only yourself but also helping other people some of whom are complete strangers. When helping others you are not looking for anything in return either, you are doing it because you want to do it, because you are in a position to do it. You have good intentions in recovery and you help others for the right reasons. You work on your character defects and start to become a better person. 

I’m not going to sit here and say everyday is all flowers and sunshine in recovery. It’s not. Some days are a struggle. Some days are fucking brutal. At some point life will ask you to make chicken salad out of chicken shit but you know what? Recovery gives you the tools to be able to navigate through that.

I know that if you somehow could read this you would laugh at it and delete it, saying it was a load of shite. I know this because I am you and that is exactly how I would have reacted if someone had tried to tell me I needed to stop gambling and get help. The date you start your journey is April 2nd 2019 and it is the best journey you have ever been on. Best of all? There is no destination.

Russ

Quote and question taken from “The 365 Addiction Recovery Journal: Daily Journaling With Guided Questions, To Become A New You” by 21 Exercises.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Light-Bulb Moment

My name is Russ and I am a compulsive gambler. My last bet was April 2nd 2019. I celebrated my one year anniversary the other day and I am so grateful that I have come this far in my journey but there is no destination and the growth will continue as long as I continue to put the work in. The day I start to think I have this addiction beat is the day I start gambling with my recovery.


Day 1

“If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.”

Henry David Thoreau

Describe the moment you realised you were addicted. 

The moment I realised I was addicted was April 2nd 2019 which was the date of my last bet because that was when I finally realised I needed help. Now, looking back, there are many red flags that should have been enough for me to realise I was addicted (these are covered here) but I truly didn’t have my “light-bulb moment” until April 2nd 2019. So what happened? 

Well, at 08:52, what would turn out to be my last bet (as it stands) was settled a loser on Bet 365. This was on some terrible women's tennis match in the Far East between two people no one has heard of outside of me and their immediate family. That was it though, the last of not only my money but also money that should have been used for direct debits. I was a mess. I sat at my desk at work looking at a notebook trying to figure out how I was going to make it through the month. This was something I did often and usually found a way but this time not even Houdini could get himself out of this. I’d only been paid a few days prior and it was all gone. My mate who sat opposite me saw there was something clearly wrong and he asked if I was OK. That question was probably the beginning of my recovery.

Normally I would have lied to him, said I was fine, I was just thinking or some other bullshit but I just replied with “no”. It was the first time I realised things were not OK. He offered to take me for a pint at lunchtime and have a chat and off we went and I opened up to him and explained what was going on. He didn’t judge, he just listened, let me get it all out. I was fighting with myself if I should or would tell my partner, running through all the scenarios in my head, generally focusing on the worst case that she would kick me out and I wouldn’t see my two kids everyday. By the end of the pint (alright maybe it was two pints but who's counting) I realised what I had to do. I realised this was it. This was the time to come clean.

So I spent the rest of the afternoon in work writing out all my debts to the penny, a budget going forward and found my nearest Gamblers Anonymous meeting address and wrote it down as well. I was shitting myself. I went back and forth all afternoon if I would tell my partner or not and the stress was getting too much. She had went to the gym as well so I was pacing back and forth waiting for her to come home and when she did I finally spat it out and told her “I have a gambling problem and I need help.” 

I feel like the reason I finally opened up to my partner and my family was because I realised that day what gambling was doing to me. I was oblivious to all the red flags beforehand but that day it became clear. I could see the person I had become was not good, I was broken. I was rotten. I wasn’t the person I wanted to be for my kids. They deserved better. I realised I would rather be a part time Dad in recovery than a full time Dad in active addiction so I was willing to open up to my partner and take whatever consequences came my way.

Russ

Quote and question taken from “The 365 Addiction Recovery Journal: Daily Journaling With Guided Questions, To Become A New You” by 21 Exercises.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Thank You Letter To Myself

My name is Russ and I am a compulsive gambler. My last bet was April 2nd 2019. I am continuing on with the next question from “The 365 Addiction Recovery Journal: Daily Journaling With Guided Questions, To Become A New You” by 21 Exercises and I’m not going to lie, it felt weird doing it. Although I do think it was a positive exercise.


“No man burdens his mind with small matters unless he has some very good reason for doing so.” 

Arthur Conan Doyle

Write down a thank you letter to yourself, for all the effort you’ve put in this year.

Dear Self,

I think we can agree that this has been the best and most fulfilling year of your life and there are a lot of things I am thankful for and want to list them. Before I do, I would question why you had to be such a selfish asshole for 32 years and why you had such a love for gambling over everything else, especially your kids. You have covered plenty of that this year in your blogs I suppose so there’s no point “shooting the wounded” as an Italian friend of yours would say. So onto the positives and what I am thankful to you for.

I am thankful you eventually found the balls to reach out and ask for help with your addiction because it was killing you slowly. I know you always thought you could dig your way out of this hole on your own, gamble your way out, but as you know now at some point you have to put the fucking shovel down and ask for help out of the hole.  I get it, honestly, you were too proud to ask for help, too ashamed with who you had become but more importantly scared what people would think, because that’s really all you ever cared about wasn’t it? What people thought of you. Your ego was fucking huge and even in recovery it took time to deflate. I mean, you wrote the longest blog by far on your own ego, the irony isn’t fucking lost on anyone. I am just thankful you finally did it, you finally made that decision to ask for help because at some stage you would have been cawt (#InJoke) and who knows how things would have turned out.

I am thankful for the effort you have put into your recovery because I don’t think you have ever put as much into anything bar gambling and as you were told at your first G.A. meeting, “if you put half as much effort into your recovery as you did into your gambling things would work out,” and he was right. Not only G.A. but your Problem Gambling Support Group Meetings (literally saved your life) , working the Steps, having a sponsor (literally drove you mad), sponsoring two AMAZING people, passing on the message, learning about addiction, reaching out to people, writing your blog, podcasts and the list goes on. You reap what you sow and I just want you to know that the hard work and effort is appreciated by me.

I am thankful you have started writing because I had no idea you were actually good at it and I know you struggle with that idea sometimes but yes, you are fucking good at writing and people enjoy reading it...so fucking deal with it. It also gives you the ability to construct your thoughts properly and dig far deeper than you can when you are talking. Plus, people can actually understand what you are saying, which is a benefit to everyone.

I am thankful you have figured out how to open up and talk to people when you have a problem or an issue because you never did that. You are starting to deal with emotions you haven’t dealt with for years and you know that keeping them bottled up is asking for trouble. That is amazing growth for someone who was as stubborn and full of themselves as you were when you came into recovery.

I am thankful for the friends you have made in recovery and that’s exactly what they are, friends. You have a deeper connection with a lot of these friends than anyone you know in real life and they see the real you, the you that you actually are and that you want to be. They are there to celebrate the good times and support you through the bad times.

I am thankful you have realised it is ok to be vulnerable in front of people and you have learnt that it’s not important to say the right or wrong things, what is important is the intention behind those words. When you have been living a lie as long as you have it’s hard to know if you have good or bad intentions but I can see that nearly everything you do has good intentions behind it and you should know that.

I am thankful you have become the Dad to those two kids of yours that they deserve. You have become present in their lives in a way you never were before. They love you, you are their hero and if that isn’t enough to continue on this journey then I don’t know what is. You should also be proud of how good a Dad you are. Well done.

I am thankful that you can look in the mirror and not be ashamed of who you see looking back at you. That you finally give a shit about other people and realise the whole world doesn’t revolve around you. That you want to help other people because you can and because you care and it isn’t about what they can give you in return. You have grown so much in the past year and you deserve this because you have put the work in.

I'm fucking proud of you.

Self

Monday, 30 March 2020

Who Am I Becoming?

My name is Russ and I am a compulsive gambler. My last bet was April 2nd 2019. Going to give shorter form blogs a go for a while, see how it works out. I needed to get back to writing and I was struggling with ideas so I bought “The 365 Addiction Recovery Journal: Daily Journaling With Guided Questions, To Become A New You” by 21 Exercises on Amazon and it has a quote and question each day and I am going to use these to try and write daily. For the purposes of this I am starting at Day 363 in the book and will finish off the year before starting again.

“We have two lives, and the second begins when we realise we only have one.”

Confucius

Who are you becoming?

To get straight to the point I am becoming a better person with each passing day in recovery and I can see and feel myself growing during this journey. As I have talked about before, when I entered recovery I hated the person who I was inside, I didn’t really know who that person was, who I was or who I was supposed to be. Recovery has given me an opportunity to create the person I want to become but it has taken a lot of hard work and a lot of digging.

I will kick off with one of my old favourites “HOW” which as you know stands for Honesty, Open Mindedness and Willingness. Those three traits now flow through me at all times which when I consider who I was less than a year ago is quite frightening. I used to lie everyday about something, at least one thing and now I struggle to keep things to myself, in fact I probably find it impossible. Luckily I have such an amazing support network around me that I don’t have to keep things to myself anymore. Open Mindedness again is new to me and it was hard at the start because I had to check my ego at the door when I entered recovery. I was never open to anything else because if it wasn’t my opinion or my idea then it sucked. If I was forced to go along with it I would do my best to ruin it because that’s just who I was, an asshole. In recovery I love being presented with new ideas or opinions and even if I don’t like them or agree with them I am getting better at appreciating other points of view. Finally we have willingness and again, outside of gambling, I wasn’t willing to do anything or try anything new. I had no interest and I also believe I had a fear of trying something new because I was scared it would expose me as the fraud I was. Whereas now I am willing to try different things and put myself out there. The biggest example is this blog, I have never in my life put myself out there as much as I do on this blog and I love doing it. It helps me so much and the feedback I get from other people is that it helps them which is great encouragement to keep going.

Another huge trait I have gained is empathy which is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. (I never used to look up the meaning of words until I entered recovery...thank you Dan for that habit!) When I was in active addiction I couldn’t even understand and share my own feelings nevermind giving a shit about someone else's. This journey has given me empathy and it has been so important for me as I feel like it allows me to have connections with people I quite honestly have rarely made in my life. I feel so close to people I have met in recovery, the bond we share is unbelievable and the support we give each other is like nothing I have seen.

I was a selfish bastard when I was gambling and as far as I was concerned the world revolved around me. Turns out that was incorrect. I have started to become someone who actually cares about other people but not only that I want to help other people...without looking for anything in return! It’s a crazy concept I know but I find myself helping people for the right reasons. My favourite step is Step 12, “Having made an effort to practice these principles in all our affairs, we tried to carry this message to other compulsive gamblers.” I love nothing more than doing that and you know what, I am good at it. I have been told I have an ability for recovery and I have so much to give others and I have a desire to do that as well. I sponsor two people now and a few months ago I was like there’s no chance I’m sponsoring anyone but now I am so glad I am because it not only gives me an opportunity to help people but also the relationships that are growing out of that are extremely important to me and rewarding.

I touched on it slightly above but I have become more self confident as this journey has progressed and it’s not in a negative way, it’s not becoming cocky, I am simply starting to believe in myself and what I have to offer not only those closest to me but to others as well. I still find it hard writing or saying good things about myself as for years I have always assumed people who did that were full of themselves but I am working on trying to overcome that. I am realising it is a good thing to realise what I am good at and express it as well. My self esteem was non existent for a long time and honestly it’s only over the last few months I am making strides in trying to improve it.

I want to finish with this because it’s the most important thing in my life and it’s how I will be remembered when I am gone. I am becoming a better father to my kids. They are my Higher Power and they are a huge part of the reason I want to continually improve myself. Am I the perfect Dad? Absolutely not, I’m still grumpy and miserable at times because as anyone who has kids knows...they can be fucking hard work a lot of the time. The difference is that I am present now not just in body but in mind as well when I am with them. I feel closer to them over the past year than I ever have and recovery has given my kids a Dad they can be proud of.

Russ

Saturday, 7 March 2020

Working The Steps: Step 8

My name is Russ and I am a compulsive gambler. My last bet was April 2nd 2019. Back to Step Work for this blog and Step 8 is the next one up. I’ve gotten so much out of working the Steps it really has helped me on my recovery journey. As usual, anything in bold or italics is from the worksheet, the rest is my own.


Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and
became willing to make amends to them all.

Step 8, Exercise 1

Write about:

In what ways (spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically, financially) did you harm yourself through gambling. List and write about them. Be specific.

Spiritually - Psychology Today states “Spirituality can mean different things to different people. For some, it's primarily about participation in organized religion. For others, it's a non-religious experience that involves getting in touch with their spiritual selves through private prayer, yoga, meditation, quiet reflection, or time in nature.” So, with that, considering I am not a religious person and I don’t want to avoid answering this part of the step I am going to focus on the non-religious part. I view spirituality as getting in touch with your inner self, being able to focus and improve the inner me and the only thing my addiction did was make me truly hate who I was deep inside. The further I got into my addiction, the deeper I dug my own hole, the more I hated and resented who I was. Gambling was destroying the inner me so much that I had no idea who I was anymore.

Emotionally - My addiction made me emotionally numb, I couldn’t feel anything for anyone, not even myself. At the start I would be emotional about wins and losses but towards the end I didn’t care anymore. When I look back now I can see the vicious cycle I was stuck in, I’ll try to explain it here. I gambled to escape, I fully believe that. What was I escaping from? Who I was inside was one, gambling would allow me to escape that person for a short time. The real world, responsibilities, gambling allowed me to escape those as well. Emotions though, these were the big things I feel like I was escaping from. They were always something I have struggled with, expressing them, being honest about how I felt, controlling them and gambling allowed me to escape having to deal with them. When I gambled it would numb my emotions, I thought I was happy when gambling but really I was just escaping. I didn’t feel anything, the addiction took over and it was like I was on autopilot. At that point though I thought I was controlling my emotions by gambling. The chasing my losses came when the money was about to run out and I realised I would have to go back into the real world and no longer would I feel safe the way I did in my online world of gambling. So I would chase my losses to get more fuel to allow me to escape longer. The longer I could escape the more numb my emotions became until I came back to reality once the fuel finally ran out. I couldn’t deal with who I was, responsibilities or emotions in the real world so I desperately needed to get more money to get allow me to escape. This was the cycle I was stuck in. I didn’t realise at the time that gambling was causing a lot of this damage because I was blinded by my addiction. Towards the end I still had that small hope, that little thought that somehow, someway, I could gamble my way out of this mess. That was the addiction talking and thinking for me because it had totally consumed me.

Mentally - I was a broken man when I finally owned up to my partner about my gambling addiction. It was like my brain had put me into a nosedive and was flying me towards rock bottom. The weekend before I asked for help I could feel that sensation, that sense of inevitability. This was going to end in disaster unless I reached out for help. The thing that scared me the most about asking for help and admitting my problem was at the time I knew I would lose the one thing I loved the most in this whole world. It wasn’t my kids, it wasn’t my partner, it was gambling. Even at that point, after all it had put me through, I was still terrified that I would never be able to gamble again. That’s how mentally broken I had become. I loved gambling, I still do in a weird way but that’s for another time. My addiction had pushed me to the edge, my mental edge of how much I could take at that moment. I think addiction has a real bend but don’t break mentality. It wants to push us to that edge, to push us far enough that we still come back to it each time. Once it breaks you though, there only seems to be two options, recovery or death. I still can’t believe I admitted to my partner I had a problem, but I did and it’s saved my life.


“You hear that, Mr. Anderson? That is the sound of inevitability. It is the sound of your death. Goodbye, Mr. Anderson.” 

Agent Smith

Physically - I wouldn’t eat healthy when gambling because I saw it as a waste of my money. I would live on energy drinks, coffee and biscuits while at work. Have dinner at home and snack into the wee hours while gambling on shite tennis in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t exercise (to be fair I still don’t) but I wouldn’t want to leave the house at all when I was gambling. Lack of sleep was another massive thing for me. It wasn’t unusual for me to be sitting up until 4am and then waking up with the kids at 6am. Doing that day after day eventually catches up with you. I’d crash early one night then just repeat the cycle. I was constantly late for work as I couldn’t motivate myself to get up and get going. I was a mess.

Financially - Gambling has destroyed me financially when I look at it. I’ve debt that will take me 10 years to pay off at the current rate, my credit rating is destroyed and I have to deal with the consequences of my actions for a long time. I’ll probably never be fully trusted with money by my partner and anytime something happens with regards to money the first thought in everyone's mind will be was I gambling. The chance to buy a nice car or house in the near future are out the window and I have to make do with what I have at the moment. This next part is going to sound super selfish because when it comes to finances I don’t care how long it takes to pay back, it will be paid back eventually. I don’t focus on it, I’m in no rush. Now, it has impacted other people as well which I will get to in the next section, but for me personally my attitude to it all is...it is what it is.

Make a detailed list of all others you harmed through your gambling. Describe how you harmed them. Be specific.

My Partner - This links nicely after the financial section above because, although it isn’t the main issue, I believe my partner has been hurt by me financially. Now all the debt is in my name, it is my own debt, but obviously there is the wasted money and the money I am paying out each month in debt repayments. More importantly though is the lies, the hurt, the bullshit I have put her through over the years. She said to me recently, “you are so in touch with your emotions now when for years you didn’t give a fuck about mine when you were sitting up all night gambling.” She’s not wrong. My behaviour has definitely had an effect on our relationship. 

My Kids - I’m lucky in a way that my kids are so young that I probably have a chance to make things right with them. They are blissfully unaware at the moment about my gambling addiction but it is something I will talk to them about when they are older. What I do know I have done to them is shouted at them for no reason, making them feel bad because I was having a shit time gambling. I ignored them to gamble. I made them feel like they were annoying me when they were fighting for my attention and affection. Bottom line is, they played number 2 to my gambling, to my addiction.

My Parents - The bank of Mum and Dad was a thing I took the piss with right up until I was 32. I was constantly borrowing money, of course all based on lies, and then struggling to pay it back. When I struggled I just assumed they would be ok to wait but I didn’t think how that made them feel. Turns out it made them feel awful because they didn’t like asking for the money back. I used them as a babysitting service but could barely muster up a conversation with them. My Mum had cancer during my addiction and I never asked her how she was, I didn’t show concern, I just let her get on with it. I also hurt them by not feeling like I could open up to them about how I was really feeling.

Other Family Members - Birthdays, anniversaries, visits, whatever it was I was on my phone gambling and ignoring what was going on. I didn’t want to be at these things because they were getting in the way of my gambling and I was anti-social at events. More than that, I was an ignorant bastard. January 2019 my Granda passed away and at the funeral everyone was so emotional, I didn’t understand. I didn’t feel anything. It makes me feel terrible now but that’s just the truth, I couldn’t feel anything because my addiction had destroyed my emotions.

My Friends - The amount of lies I told my friends, from why I couldn’t go out to why I needed to borrow money from them. It was all the time and got worse over time. I owed my friends so much money and on top of that I stole from the NFL fantasy football leagues I run. I broke the trust of everyone close to me, I lied to their face or over text, I avoided them when I had to pay back money.

My Job - Honestly, I’ve no idea how I’m employed. In fact, I got a promotion during my addiction, towards the end of it. My productivity was terrible, my interactions with other staff members was awful and my level of customer service was a disgrace. This is worse because I am dealing with vulnerable people.


Step 8, Exercise 2

Write about:


Review your lists from Step 8, Exercise 1. Are you carrying any guilt or shame over the harm you did to others? Are you still angry or blaming others for the harm done to you? Write about your feelings of guilt, shame, anger or blame.

Currently I have to say I am still ashamed of what I have done in the past and how my actions, especially those to my family, have affected them. I didn’t lose any relationships over this addiction, although that doesn’t mean it can’t happen if I do not keep up with my recovery. When it comes to anger and blaming others for the harm done to me I never experienced that in recovery. From day one I fully accepted I was to blame for my addiction and although the gambling industry could be doing a lot more, the bottom line is, no one held a gun to my head and made me gamble. Plus, if any bookmaker had stopped me when I was gambling I would have just found another one. The person who needed to change was me.

Choose a way (visually, symbolically, spiritually or physically) to release your feelings of guilt, shame, anger or blame. Describe this process of letting go and how you felt afterward.

I still get feelings of shame when I go back and write about certain things that have happened in the past but in general I feel like I am in an ok place. Writing has really helped me process thoughts and feelings of guilt and shame and the other thing that has helped me was understanding and accepting the serenity prayer.


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

Are there any legal or financial situations you created while gambling with which you will need additional assistance or support to make direct amends/repayments? Are you willing to ask for help with them (i.e. from a sponsor, Pressure Relief group, employer, court system, bank/creditor)?

Yes, I am currently in a Debt Management Plan which is through Step Change debt charity and they have helped me massively.

Russ

Monday, 2 March 2020

A Milestone, Sponsoring and Stoicism

My name is Russ and I am a compulsive gambler. My last bet was April 2nd 2019. 11 months ago and fuck me, time flies when you are having fun. That’s one of the things that has shocked me the most in my recovery, how much fun I am actually having. I really have made it a new lifestyle for myself and I feel like I am reaping the rewards. There are a few things I want to write about today and it’s really just to remind myself how far I have come, and not just since I stopped gambling, but I can see major leaps forward in myself during my recovery as well.

I have written before about my struggles with low self-esteem and how I basically didn’t believe in myself. How I couldn’t see the good in what I was doing, my actions, my writing or my recovery. I had this little voice telling me I was a fraud. That I was the same old guy who for 14+ years destroyed his life and damaged the lives of those closest to him. Through the help of my awesome support network (and I’m going to touch on one or two individuals in a moment) I have started to believe in myself.

There’s two people I really want to focus on here, and that’s not to take away from the impact everyone else has had on my recovery, because I will get to that as well, but these two people are a major reason as to why I feel I have taken another major leap forward in my recovery. The first person I have only started to get to know fairly recently but we clicked pretty quick and talk daily. They have made me realise how much I offer to other people, how far I have come in my journey but most importantly, for me, they have pushed me to be the best version of myself. Often they’ll call me out on my bullshit, which I definitely need from time to time but I feel like I can tell them anything and because of this, because of our chats, I have started to believe in myself. I feel like I can do anything in my recovery, including something I never thought I would do which is become a Sponsor.

Which brings me nicely onto the next person I want to talk about, no Jeff it isn’t you, I wrote enough about you in my A-Z, it’s my Sponsee. Since getting the opportunity to sponsor this person I have realised how much I have to give. If it’s just listening, chatting, sharing or working through something, I now know I am able to do that and it’s down to my Sponsee. They have truly helped me in so many ways take that major leap forward. They’ve made me realise I deserve recovery and more than that, I deserve to be happy. I now have a confidence I didn’t know I had, I walk a little bit taller and with a spring in my step. I’m smiling more now than I have done in a long time. Seeing them making progress, doing so well, it drives me forward. I am so happy for them and I am so glad we are sharing this journey together.

Then we have everyone else, and that is so mean to group everyone together because I have gotten so fucking much from everyone else I have encountered in my recovery. I wouldn’t have made it past a month without the support of people in my G.A. or my Skype group. So many people have shared what worked for them and gave me the blueprint to make my own recovery work for me. I started putting effort into the GamCare chat rooms from about November time and have again connected with some wonderful people there who have helped me so much. The random people who leave messages on my Reddit Problem Gambling posts, thanking me for sharing my writing, that is an added bonus that makes me smile.

So where am I going with all this? I’ve started to realise I am doing things for the right reasons now, which wasn’t always the case. When gambling, and even early in recovery, I craved praise when I did something. I needed to know that people thought I had done a good job or that they enjoyed what I had done. If I didn’t get that I’d start to think the worst, that people didn’t like me. Conversely, if I had done something wrong or hurt someone's feelings I needed to try and fix everything right away, for my benefit because I didn’t like tension or confrontation. Bottom line, I was a people pleaser and have been my whole life. Now I am starting to really focus on what I can control, and that is me. I don’t always get it right, but it’s progress not perfection.

I’m reading The Little Book of Stoicism at the moment and it sums up how I feel right now within myself. It’s called The Stoic Happiness Triangle, and although it isn’t what the Stoics taught per se, it’s the authors visualization of their core teachings.

Eudaimonia: At the core of the triangle is eudaimonia - the ultimate goal of life all ancient philosophies agreed on. This is the main promise of Stoic Philosophy and it’s about living a supremely happy and smoothly flowing life. It’s about thriving in our lives. So how can we achieve this? By living with arete.

Live With Arete: Express your highest self in every moment. If we want to be on good terms with our highest self, we need to close the gap between what we’re capable of and what we’re actually doing. This is really about being your best version in the here and now. It’s about using reason in our actions and living in harmony with deep values. What supports this ambitious goal is to separate good from bad and focus on what we control.

Focus on What You Control: This is the most prominent principle in Stoicism. At all times, we need to focus on the things we can control, and take the rest as it happens. What already  is has to be accepted because it’s beyond our power to undo it. What’s beyond our power is ultimately not important for our flourishing. What’s important for our flourishing is what we choose to do with the given external circumstances. So no matter the situation, it’s always within our power to try to make the best with it, and to live in harmony with our ideal self.

Take Responsibility: Good and bad come solely from yourself. This follows the first two corners that say external things don’t matter for the good life, so living with arete, which is within your control, is enough to flourish in life. Also, you’re responsible for your life because every external event you don’t control offers an area you can control, namely how you choose to respond to this event. This is crucial in Stoicism, it’s not events that make us happy or miserable, but our interpretation of those events. This is when a tower of strength can be born - the moment you decide to give outside events no more power over you.

The above was taken from The Little Book of Stoicism: Timeless Wisdom to Gain Resilience, Confidence, and Calmness by Jonas Salzgeber, Nils Salzgeber and available on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07MY2VFQD/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_d_asin_title_o02?ie=UTF8&psc=1

So that was supposed to be one of my shorter blogs and I’ve just crept onto page three while typing this. Again, progress not perfection eh?

Russ