Tuesday, 4 August 2020

No Blame, Just Focus

My name is Russ and I haven’t had a bet today or since my last meeting. My posts are getting a bit more strung out over the past few months as I just don’t feel like I have anything worth talking about/I am being lazy. OK, mainly I am being lazy. Personally, I am doing fantastic. I just reached my 16 month milestone the other day and my recovery feels stronger than it ever has. I am attending more meetings on a regular basis now and feel like I have found an amazing group that I really enjoy being a part of and am I grateful someone (you know who you are) reached out to me to invite me to join. I am also starting to read more about Stoicism and it is a philosophy that really resonates with me and that is the point of this post today. I recently purchased a new book called The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday which you can purchase from Amazon.  There is a quote for each day then a small bit from the author himself. I’m going to relate to what has been written to my addiction and/or my recovery and hopefully it works well. I hope you enjoy it.

August 4th

No Blame, Just Focus

“You must stop blaming God, and not blame any person. You must completely control your desire and shift your avoidance to what lies within your reasoned choice. You must no longer feel anger, resentment, envy, or regret.”

Epictetus, Discourses, 3.22.13

Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for resistance to the brutal apartheid regime in South Africa for twenty-seven years. For eighteen of those years, he had a bucket for a toilet, a hard cot in a small cell, and once a year he was allowed a single visitor - for thirty minutes. It was vicious treatment meant to isolate and break down the prisoners. And yet, in spite of that, Mandela became a figure of dignity within the prison.

Though he was deprived of many things, he still found creative ways to assert his will. As one of his fellow prisoners, Neville Alexander, explained on Frontline, “He [Mandela] always made the point, if they say you must run, insist on walking. If they say you must walk fast, insist on walking slowly. That was the whole point. We are going to set the terms.” He pretended to jump rope and shadowboxed to stay in shape. He held his head higher than the other prisoners, encouraged them when times got tough, and always retained his sense of self-assurance. 

That self-assurance is yours to claim as well. No matter what happens today, no matter where you find yourself, shift to what lies within your reasoned choices. Ignore, as best you can, the emotions that pop up, which would be so easy to distract yourself with. Don’t get emotional - get focused.

When I was gambling I would blame everybody but myself for my gambling losses and financial problems. I would blame losing bets on a dodgy referee or a useless player or a crook of a jockey or trainer. The fact I had no money wasn’t down to me and my gambling, I would blame other factors such as my kids, partner or bills. I couldn’t face the fact that I had a gambling problem and I continued to chase my losses and escape day after day because, honestly, it felt like the easiest thing to do. It felt like I was in control of everything back then and that trying to fix things would be removing that control from me. Actually, that’s not the case at all because I had no control when I was gambling, my addiction controlled me.

When I finally came into recovery I realised this was the case and although it was a huge and scary step admitting that I had a gambling problem, the first thing it actually did was give me control of my life. Now, I had to learn what to do with that control because it would have been so easy to go back out there by thinking I could just stop gambling and everything would be OK. One of my favourite mantras in recovery is “you can’t control your first thought but you can control your first action” and this is what I take from the book above. Controlling my first action has been a vital part of building a strong foundation for my recovery. I know that each day if I get up and try to do the right things then I will not gamble that day. I get up the next day and do the same. Rinse and repeat. 

As I got further into recovery I started to realise what is and isn’t in my control, and as the serenity prayer suggests, I started to gain the wisdom to know the difference. I still do not get it right every time and I still find myself getting emotional or frustrated with things outside of my control but if I take a deep breath, if I take a minute to think about what is going on and ask myself “is this something in my control?” then, usually, I am able to quickly snap out of it. Sometimes it will take more than that. Sometimes I will have to talk to someone or more accurately, vent at them, but it is all about progress, not perfection. 

An example of this would be gambling adverts. When one comes on the TV I could get really frustrated and start shouting about how it is a disgrace that they are on TV and how they destroy lives. I could then let it get to me, start to get emotional, keep thinking about the advert and allow that to progress into thoughts about gambling. Or…I can react with what is in my control. The easiest thing is the remote control and I can switch the channel, which is something I did in the early days. These days I barely register that they are on the TV because I do not let them bother me. The fact is, I cannot control what they advertise and I can either choose to let it affect me or I can choose to not let it affect me. Either way the advert will still be on the TV because it is out of my control.

Another example would be blaming myself for what I have done in the past. I could sit and feel guilty over what I have done, I could dwell on the past and constantly relive it and let it keep me down or even worse, let it drag me down further. Or I can accept that I cannot change the past but I can control my future actions and make sure that I am trying to do the right things each day. I still reflect back on the past and try to see how far I have come or try to find character defects that I still need to work on. Focusing on what I can control instead of blaming myself for things that have happened and I cannot change just seems like the logical option.

I am starting to realise that if I focus on what I can control and put my energy into those things instead of wasting it focusing on what is outside my control then I can get closer to living a good and happy life. To steal a saying from the video game world, recovery is, in my opinion, “easy to learn and difficult (or impossible) to master.” The basics are easy to pick up but after that it takes a lot of work to keep improving. The payoff is worth it though because the more work I put in the more enjoyment I get from my recovery. 


Thursday, 16 July 2020

Finishing The Steps & Update

My name is Russ and I haven’t had a bet today or since my last meeting. I took a break from writing for a couple of months, mainly because I didn’t actually have much to say during the lockdown but I can report that I have never felt better mentally, physically or emotionally. I have still been working hard at my recovery via Zoom meetings and talking to other compulsive gamblers outside of those meetings. I even joined a new G.A. group on a Thursday night/Friday morning my time in Georgia and it has been fantastic. Really good for me to get to know new people on my recovery journey and it’s a group I intend to join once a week...as long as I am awake. 

As the title of the blog suggests, I have finally finished Steps 11 and 12 which I have been putting off for a few months. Mainly putting off Step 11 as having read the worksheet I just knew I wouldn’t get a lot out of it. I got it done though and I am glad I have worked through the Steps. If I’m being totally honest, I don’t see me working them all again in the way I have done but I will definitely revisit some in that format and I am potentially working through them with a few members from my local G.A. My view on the Steps is that they are worth doing but they are not the be all and end all of recovery. There were some Steps I didn’t get a lot out of and others that I did but I can see the benefit they could bring to others. 

So, what’s next? 

Well, I plan to work through the Smart Recovery Handbook and share that on my blog as I think it will benefit my recovery in a major way. I will also continue to attend meetings on a regular basis and try to improve myself as I continue on my journey. I’m nowhere near the finished article and I doubt I ever will be but recovery still excites me and I still get something from it. Honestly, 15+ months ago when I entered recovery my biggest fear was I would get bored of it and complacent. It still is my biggest fear in recovery and I am surprised I’m still this keen about it. It really does feel like a lifestyle change and not just a temporary fad. 

Simply put, recovery if possible and it is there for anyone who wants it. I have no desire to go back to gambling and I am excited for the future. That said, I still take it one day at a time (or ODAAT...I hate that so much) and I know that if I try to do the right things today then I won’t gamble. Any plans I have for the future hinges on me getting through today gamble free. 

So, that’s it for a quick update. Steps 11 and 12 will be published on the blog following this and I will be back with some SMART Recovery soon. 


Working The Steps: Step 12

Step 12: Having made an effort to practice these principles in all our affairs, we tried to carry this message to other compulsive gamblers.

Step 12, Exercise 1

Write about:

Are you practicing the 12 Steps in your life, one day at a time? Give specific examples.

I’m not practicing every Step every day but I like to think I apply them a lot of the time. Step 12 is an easy example and that comes with attending meetings, Sponsoring, writing my blog etc etc. Probably the most important part of this question for me is the one day at a time part. I do live my life one day at a time now. It was important for me to realise that if I try to do the right things today, I won’t gamble. I then get up and do the same again tomorrow and repeat each day. I have incorporated one day at a time in my recovery and it does make a lot of things easier to handle, especially things that are not positive. That’s not to say I don’t plan for the future or look ahead, I do, but I am also aware that if I do not get through today, then any plans I have for tomorrow may not happen.

Step 12 involves showing that we care for other compulsive gamblers. We demonstrate caring through our words and actions. What words and actions of yours demonstrate your caring for your GA brothers and sisters and for compulsive gamblers who still suffer? Give specific examples.

I still attend three to four meetings a week, one of which is the group I helped set up and another is my local G.A. Monday Zoom meeting that I set up. I also attend GamCare chat a few times a week and of course I still sponsor two people. I also write this blog, put my Step work out there for people to read. I like to think through my words and actions that people know I am there for them should they need to reach out.

How will you balance carrying the message to others with taking care of yourself and your own recovery? Give specific examples.

It’s quite simple, if I am not getting something from a meeting or an activity linked to recovery and I do not feel like anyone else involved is getting something from it then I will take a step back and I will find something different to try. I also make sure that my meetings etc do not have a huge impact on my family life. All of my meetings take place when my kids are in bed and after dinner with my partner. If I am busy and someone reaches out to me I will inform them I am busy and will get back to them. It is important for me to maintain balance and I do not want to simply swap a gambling addiction for a recovery addiction. My recovery is about a change of lifestyle of which meetings and carrying the message are a part of but there is also plenty of room for other things in my life. I do not want to be tethered to my recovery because I fear relapse, I want my recovery to be a part of my lifestyle going forward. I want to enjoy my recovery and be able to see what good it is bringing. For me that is something that I have worked hard to achieve and have been successful at. 

Step 12, Exercise 2

As the Combo book reminds us, the greatest challenge with which we will be faced is that of bringing about a character change within ourselves. This challenge should be worked on immediately and continued throughout our lives, through the study and practice of the Twelve Steps of Recovery.

After having worked all 12 Steps, ask yourself these questions:

Am I still powerless over gambling?
Do I believe that a Power greater than myself can restore me to a normal way of thinking and living?
Have I made a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of this Power of my own understanding?
Have I made a searching and fearless moral and financial inventory of myself?
Have I admitted to myself and another human being the exact nature of my wrongs?
Am I entirely ready to have these defects of character removed?
Have I asked my Higher Power to remove my shortcomings?
Have I made a list of all persons I have harmed?
Have I made amends to all the people of my list?
Have I continued to take personal inventory and, when I was wrong, promptly admitted it?
Have I improved my conscious contact with my Higher Power?
Am I carrying the message of recovery to other compulsive gamblers?

If you answered “No” to any of the above, or if you have any doubts, please take this opportunity to look inside yourself and see what’s holding you back. This exercise may help you to become more willing to commit to doing the work that will enable you to answer “Yes” to all of these questions.

Now, ask yourself and answer one more question;
Am I willing to work the 12 Steps again starting with Step 1?

Absolutely not. There are a few of the Steps I have zero interest in working again and I’m not ashamed to admit that. I can see myself doing a yearly Step 10 and maybe going back and working Step 4 again as it was one of my favourite Steps. Of course, Step 12 is an obvious continuous one but that is probably about it. I know where they are if I feel the need to work any in this way but for me applying them to my daily life is the next step for me.


Working The Steps: Step 11

My name is Russ and I haven’t had a bet today or since my last meeting. I’ve been dragging my feet on doing Step 11, not because it’s difficult but because having read the worksheet I know I won’t get too much from it. Alas, I should be doing two things I don’t want to do, just for exercise, so I guess this can be one of them. 

Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Step 11, Exercise 1

Review your writings from Step 2, Exercises 3 and 4, and Step 3, Exercises 1 and 2.

Write about:

Has your willingness to turn your will and your life over to your Higher Power created miracles in your life? Give specific examples of the miraculous differences you have experienced in your journey through the Steps.

The definition of miracle, as per dictionary.com, is “an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.” It could also be “such an effect or event manifesting or considered as a work of God,” or “a wonder; marvel,” or finally, “a wonderful or surpassing example of some quality.” I’ve stopped gambling, not cured cancer or ushered in world peace so I feel labelling my achievements as miracles is a bit much. Are they difficult to believe? I would say they are. If someone had told me 16 months ago I would stop gambling and be in recovery I would not have believed them, yet here I am. The Steps have helped me a lot on my journey, some a lot more than others. I’m not a believer that working the Steps is the be all and end all of recovery but I am certainly glad I did. The bottom line is that my Family is my Higher Power and before I entered recovery the only thing I cared about was gambling. So that is an extremely positive change in my life.

Has your open-mindedness improved? Are you asking for and accepting help from others in the program and in your life? Give specific examples of how your asking for and acceptance of help have contributed to your recovery. 

There has been an improvement here for sure. I’m extremely comfortable opening up in a meeting and asking for help if I need it. The same can be said for those closest to me, I would have no problem asking for help and accepting it. There have been meetings where I have opened with a “pressing problem” which at the start can feel daunting. That is probably the best example I can think of in recovery to truly ask for help. 

Step 11, Exercise 2

Through prayer, you can communicate with your Higher Power and ask to know your Higher Power’s will for you. In meditation, you can release and surrender your own will, and receive your Higher Power’s answers.

How you improve and maintain conscious contact with your Higher Power is YOUR CHOICE. Only YOU can decide how much time to devote to it, how often to do it, and what form the practice/ritual will take. Step 11 asks you to make those decisions and then commit to making those practices a part of your daily life.

Write about:

Are your prayers based on spiritual objectives or are you praying for material gain or intervention? Do you have a prayer practice? Describe it.

The short answer is that I do not pray.

Have you embraced the practice of meditation? Describe how you quiet your mind.

I have tried meditation but I haven’t been able to get anything out of it. In general, to quiet my mind, I try to just do something that I enjoy, listen to music, watch a film, anything that will just allow my mind to wander.

How will you keep the practice of prayer and meditation alive in your daily life?

Never say never, but I very much doubt I pick up the practice of prayer but I will try my hand at meditation again. It’s important for me to know how to quiet my mind and not feel like it’s something I need to do everyday.

What is your greatest source of personal satisfaction today? Peace of mind? Freedom? Integrity? Choice? Attitude toward others? Spirituality?

Peace of mind probably sums it up best. I have a great life, a great family, a great job, everything anyone could want. My days can sometimes be quite boring and I enjoy that now. I enjoy when things are just quiet and normal. It’s relaxing.

Step 11 was never going to be a Step that I got a lot out of but it is also important for me to look at things like this and work through them. Will anything change? Probably not. I won’t start praying for example but maybe I’ll try meditation again and see how it goes.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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
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


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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.