Friday, 21 February 2020

A-Z of My Story So Far

My name is Russ and I am a compulsive gambler. My last bet was April 2nd 2019. I have a lot of things on my mind right now, although the urge or thought to gamble isn’t one of them, and I feel like I have a lot to say but just need time to figure it out. I think my head is a bit all over the place and I want to tackle various issues at once instead of taking a step back and approaching it one at a time. So I thought that an A-Z of my journey so far, life, gambling and recovery, might give me an opportunity to touch on various things just a little and maybe allow some of the thoughts I have to escape.

A is for Abstinence - There is a huge difference in my mind between abstinence and recovery as abstinence simply involves stopping gambling. Now, for some that may be enough to stay away for the rest of their lives and that is fantastic, but for me, I knew through experience it wouldn’t be enough. I have tried to stop on my own in the past and eventually my “will power” ended and I went right back. I was never actually trying to become a better person or trying to learn a better way to live, I was simply stopping gambling in the hope that everything would fix itself which was never going to be enough. Now, abstinence is vital for my recovery because I need to stop gambling but I have done, and continue to do, so much more than just stopping gambling because I need to do it. I’ve come into recovery not knowing who or what I am or should have been. I’ve been gambling since I was 18 years old, dabbling before that as well, and I never “grew” into the adult I was supposed to be or could have been. So I really have to start from the beginning with a blank canvas, which I honestly feel has massive potential for me, and get to write my own story of how my life goes from here on out, but I can’t do that simply by abstaining from gambling.

“We can't just hope that something will happen. We must put in the work.
If we simply wait for our life to improve without putting in the necessary work then we aren't going anywhere.”

B is for Blog - I read a fellow Problem Gambler Support Group members blog not long after I joined and it was all about his gambling journey. I thought “that’s a good idea, I’m going to steal that” and set up my own website. It didn’t quite go like what but I thought there would be a benefit from writing my story out, for me at the very least. Turns out people liked it and said it was good and well written and they got something from it. So I wrote more and I kept getting the same feedback then decided to share my step work and tackle other topics to do with my recovery. I’ll be honest, I’m still unsure if my writing is any good, but people like it and tell me it is, so I’ll just accept that and be very happy with the compliments and keep on writing. I get so much from writing my blogs, it allows me to formulate my thoughts so much better than I do when I am speaking, cause i’m Irish and I use fuck like a comma when talking, less so when writing. I also find it allows me to dig down really deep when reflecting back in my gambling past or thinking about any topic to be honest. I have found out so much about myself from my writing that it’s been a huge benefit to my recovery. It’s also amazing when someone tells me that they could relate to something I’ve written or that something in my blog has helped them with their recovery. That sort of feedback is priceless for me and I’m just happy I have an opportunity to give back because at the end of the day you have to give it away to keep it.

“I’m usually terrified people will hate my writing.
My only saving grace is how I direct that fear. I use it to motivate me to find better ideas and share more useful examples rather than allowing it to prevent me from sharing at all.
Fear is the gas pedal, not the brake.” James Clear

C is for Choice - “You aren’t responsible for your first thought but you are responsible for your first action”. That is one of my favourite quotes and probably one of the first things I will tell a newcomer or someone who is struggling with urges (people are probably bored of it by now but sometimes boring is good). I am a firm believer that if I want to gamble I can, yes I have blocks in place, but if I really want to do it I can choose to do it. At the same time, I also have the choice not to gamble and that is what I choose to do. Now, I understand that people suffer from urges and these can get to a point where it feels like there is no choice so they gamble. For me, it’s all about knowing what to do in those situations and what I have learned it recovery. I know if I am struggling to reach out and talk to someone (more on that later I am sure) as that is the most important tool for me. We also have the choice to break the triangle that compulsive gamblers require to gamble, money, time and opportunity. Anyone can choose to break that triangle if they want to. It all comes back to the initial quote for me though, I am responsible for my first action, it’s all about making the right choice.

“The 3 C's in life: Choice, Chance, Change. You must make the Choice, to take the Chance, if you want anything in life to Change.”

D is for Desire - The only membership requirement for Gamblers Anonymous is a desire to stop gambling. April 2nd 2019 is the first time I have truly had that desire. Up until that point the only desire I had was to hide my secret life from those closest to me and to be able to gamble as much and as long as I wanted. The definition of desire is “a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen”. I feel like where I am now in recovery, I have no desire to gamble which has given me an opportunity to focus on my recovery.

Gala -  “Freed from desire, mind and senses purified”.

E is for Excitement - That excitement or buzz that I used to get from gambling was something else and I’ll be honest, I haven’t found anything that can match it on a consistent level since entering recovery. Sometimes meetings will come close, I will leave one buzzing after what I have just heard or shared, but in general, for me, recovery as a whole is a lot more relaxed. This is perfectly fine as I feel that I have accepted that I no longer need the buzz or excitement in my life all the time and that I can lead a perfectly enjoyable and fulfilling life without those high highs, because, as I know too well from experience, eventually the highs run out and they are followed by low lows.

“Take a break and chill out. We are always on the go, doing this or that. Sometimes we just need to sit back and relax or else the world will simply pass us by.”

F is for Family & Friends - I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t be in the position I am in today if it wasn’t for my family standing by me. I fully expected to be kicked out by my partner when I told her and I wouldn’t be able to see my two kids everyday. I was terrified, so I am aware of how big a step it is to tell your loved ones, but it was a step I had to take. I would rather have been a part time Dad in recovery than a “full time” Dad in active addiction. Plus, over the last few months I have been talking to more partners of gambling addicts and I really appreciate learning how they feel and are affected by compulsive gambling. The money isn’t the main issue, it’s the lies, the broken trust and the fact we put them in a position of enablers. I know I manipulated those closest to me to get what I wanted and I didn’t once care how they would feel about it. They are also affected and some may need support and for me hearing their experiences are a vital cog in my recovery wheel. I also wouldn’t be where I am without the understanding and support of my friends. I owed a lot of my friends money which I lied to get and I broke their trust, but they all stood by me and told me how proud they were of me for admitting I had a gambling problem. That support, along with the support of my family gave me a strong foothold when I entered recovery. The best thing I can do to repay my family and friends is to remain in recovery and work towards becoming a better person each day.

“Living a double life of addiction can be exhausting. Pretending everything is okay to our family and friends when we know it isn't. Once we surrender to our addiction we open up the possibility of Recovery.”

G is for GamCare - This is only been a place I have been fully utilising over the last few months because before then, I’ll be honest, I didn’t get it. I would go onto chat regularly but usually just sit there and read what other people were saying, I rarely got involved. I feel like part of it was my ego, I didn’t understand how people could just use a chat and recover. Then I started to learn that there is not a one size fits all recovery program and around November 2019 I started to get more involved. I not only used the chat room but started to post on the forum. I had a place where I could talk to other compulsive gamblers and not only help myself but help them by passing on the message. I have met some wonderful people via GamCare and some I have a great connection with, one which I hope to maintain. It was simply a case of me getting out of GamCare what I put in at the start, which wasn’t much. Now I absolutely love the place and totally see what a great tool it is for people looking for support with their recovery.

“If all we do is take and never give, we will surely be weighed down by our loot. 
Recovery is as much about giving as it is receiving. We must give it away to keep it.”

H is for Honesty - One of the mantras I constantly say to newcomers is that you need three things for a chance at a successful recovery, HOW; Honesty, Open Mindedness and Willingness. For me being honest with those closest to me was a vital first step and it lifted a huge weight of my shoulders. Then each day in recovery I have been trying to be as honest as I possibly can. It’s so much easier if you tell the truth because you only have to tell it once. Looking back to when I was gambling it was crazy the amount of lies and bullshit I was telling people, by the end I wasn’t sure what was true and what was a lie. It’s not like that today though, I can look myself in the mirror and know that I am an honest person. I feel like I am honest in my meetings and through my writing. I share things that I probably do not need to share but it helps me not only get my thoughts out but at some point someone else may hear or read it and realise they aren’t alone.

French Proverb: “There is no pillow so soft as a clear conscience.”

I is for Intention - The subject of intent was briefly discussed at one of my Skype meetings and I feel quite strongly about this. I fully accept responsibility for my actions when gambling because when I break it all down, I was the person who chose to gamble in the first place. Each time I gambled it was my choice. The best example I have is if I went to a bar and had 5 or 6 pints and got in my car to drive home but on the way crash and kill 4 people. My intention was just to drive home, I didn’t intend to cause pain and suffering but I knew the risks when I got in the car. For me it’s the same as gambling. I may not have intended to cause pain and suffering to my kids and partner and those closest to me, but I did. These were consequences of my actions. I may not even have been fully aware of the pain I was causing or didn’t want to be aware, either way the intent was in my initial action which was gambling. Were there other outside forces at work, such as advertising and offers encouraging me to keep gambling? Yes there were but again I do not want to waste my energy blaming the industry for what has happened to me. The responsibility of what I have done lands firmly at my feet. Does that mean the industry should continue to get away with what they do? Absolutely not. Are people groomed by the industry and bled dry of all their money? 100% and it is a disgrace. There needs to be accountability of the gambling industry but for me personally, with what I went through when gambling and for my own recovery, the focus of responsibility needs to be on me and me alone. I’ve been in recovery for over ten months now and the person who has changed is me, not the gambling industry. That’s what I focus on because it’s the one thing I can control and that I can really change to make a difference.

“It’s not intentions that matter. It’s actions. 
We are what we do and say, not what we intend to.”

J is for Jeff - If I said I owe this man a lot it would be an understatement as he was instrumental in helping me from when I got into recovery. Jeff is the man behind the Problem Gambling Support Group and I had messaged him on Wednesday 3rd April 2019 asking to join the group as I had seen a post on Reddit about it. This wasn’t my first time speaking to Jeff though, that was November 2018 when I had been on Reddit under a different name and was trying to stop casino gambling online but wanted to continue sports betting...yea, didn’t work out well. Jeff contacted me around that time and we messaged back and forth one afternoon, with Jeff telling me the benefits of recovery and me trying to tell him how I could still gamble responsibly. Bottom line, I wasn’t ready for recovery then but when I was Jeff could not have been more welcoming. Jeff took me under his wing and spoke to me often in the early days and I asked him to be my Sponsor. He has helped me work the steps and has been a part of my recovery journey the whole time. I feel like I have someone who I can reach out to at any time and he’ll be there for me. It’s hard to really do justice for the impact Jeff has made on my recovery, but I honestly believe things would be a lot different if it wasn’t for his support and guidance. Sponsorship has been so important to me and up until recently I didn’t believe I had what it takes to be one but I have been given an opportunity to be a Sponsor now and I am loving it. If I can be half the Sponsor that Jeff has been to me I know I’ll be a success.

“Fellowship is so important to Recovery 
What we can't do on our own, we can do together. From Friendship to Sponsorship to Relationships we need people in our life to help us with our Recovery.”

K is for Kids - My kids are my life but I have not hidden the fact that I had gambling above them when I was practicing my addiction. I don’t say that lightly as it really does upset me to think about it but that is how it was. I gambled without a single thought about them and I needed gambling in my life more than I thought I needed them. Now, my kids were always looked after, mainly by my partner, but I also spent time with them, only they had me there in body but my mind was escaping into the world of online gambling. Since entering recovery I have realised how much I actually love my kids (even though they can be wee bastards at times) and they are my Higher Power. When I am struggling with a choice to make I think how my actions will impact my kids. I’ve spent so much more quality time with them and I love spending that time together. It’s easy to sit here now and say that I have made it up to my kids or that they were too young to understand, but when they have experienced their Dad shouting at them for no reason because I was losing bets or they were interrupting my gambling that leaves emotional scars for them. I’ll never be able to remove those scars, all I can do is continue on my recovery journey and become someone they are proud to say is their Dad.

“If we hold onto the past it is bound to weigh us down. The past made us the people we are today but holding onto shame and guilt will inevitably lead us back down the rabbit hole. Don't forget the past, but don't let it prevent you from living for today.”

L is for Life - There’s so many different ways I could take this but where I will go first is that I truly believe that I will be a compulsive gambler for the rest of my life. Now, that sounds quite scary, I’ll be going to meetings for life, I’ll be unable to gamble for the rest of my life, I’ll potentially have an element of fear for the rest of my life. The good news is I just have to worry about arresting the addiction a day at a time, it’s a lifelong journey with a daily program is how I look at it. I also want to briefly mention how I got a life back, not my life but a life. That’s because I have grown into an adult with my addiction, I have met my partner with my addiction and I have had kids with my addiction. I have no idea what my life is supposed to look like without gambling in it or what it should have looked like as I grew into an adult. So I have been given a clean slate to make a new life for myself, to become the person that I want to be. That is exciting and of course a little scary but it is an opportunity I am grateful to receive.

“Entering Recovery represents the start of a new Life 
A life where we don't have to worry about how to get the next one or if we remember the mess we got ourselves into last night. Recovery is the start of a good life.”

M is for Meetings - Many meetings make it easy was a saying I heard at my G.A meetings and I have to say I agree with it. I do one in person G.A. meeting a week (#MondayNightCrew4Life) and I also do three Skype meetings a week with my Problem Gambling Support Group which involves gamblers from all around the world. Both are different which I like but I still get so much from both groups. It helps the people in both are brilliant and I feel I have gotten really lucky in that regard. Looking back to my first G.A. meeting, I assumed I would be sat with a bunch of old men trying to convert me to religion or else desperate for a bet and I thought it wouldn’t be for me, but up until that point the decisions I had made weren’t exactly the best so I thought fuck it, what’s the worst that can happen, I waste a couple of hours. My first meeting was amazing, I left absolutely buzzing. I found a group of people who could relate to me and who understood what I was going through, but more than that, they had actually been in my shoes and knew how to walk this journey. So I said to myself I’m going to share in meetings but the most important thing for me was to actually listen and take on board what was said. It was the same for my Skype meetings, although a different format, it was full of people who once were in my position. Many meetings not only make it easy in my opinion, but they make recovery.

“We take solace in the rooms of Recovery 
There is comfort and love in this place. We feel safe.
Just For Today I am grateful for all the rooms of recovery which house those in need.”

N is for Neglect - Where do I even begin with this one. I neglected everything in my life when I was gambling, my health from hardly eating and hardly sleeping to my job where I didn’t do any work to my friendships that I allowed to drift away because I didn’t put any effort into them as they got in the way of my gambling to relationships which I allowed to turn to shit right before my eyes. I think the relationships with those closest to me is what hurts the most and it’s because of the hurt I have caused them. They’ll have to live with those scars for the rest of their life. It’s all good me being in recovery and wanting to become a better person, but I wasn’t the only one being harmed for 14 years, those closest to me were also harmed and I don’t even know how much hurt I inflicted. I’ll probably never know. My kids are what kills me when I look back, as they had to deal with me shouting at them for no reason because I was having a shit time. I was taking the consequences of my choices and my actions out on them and I wasn’t a nice person to be around. Although I was never violent I also know that words hurt and the fact is I wasn’t the sort of Dad I wanted to be, but more importantly, that they deserved to have.

“A little neglect may breed great mischief.” Benjamin Franklin

O is for Open Mindedness - The second part of “HOW” and something that was alien to me coming into recovery. To me being open minded meant listening to other people's opinions, which if I didn’t already know and agreed with, meant I thought they were shit. There was no winning me round with facts, I’d just try to convince you that I was right and my way was the best way. Well, once I got into meetings I sat on my chair (or virtual chair for Skype) and closed my mouth and opened my ears. The best story I can relate to this in my recovery is from my G.A. meetings. There was one member the first few times I listened to him share I thought “fuck me he goes on a bit and I don’t get it” then a few weeks later he shared a story and I was like “that’s me, that guy is me and if I go back out there I’ll be living his life story”. From that point, I’ve listened to everything he says and he’s one of my favourite speakers but it also taught me to listen to each person because you never know what they will say that just hits you. Another part of open mindedness for me is listening to what everyone suggests to me and trying it because if it’s worked for them it might work for me. Not everything has worked for me but I’ve yet to get a suggestion that harmed me or my recovery in any way.

“Our best thinking got us here... We must remain open-minded to new ideas in Recovery. They may not all work for us, but we should at least be willing to hear what they are about.”

P is for Present - Not Xmas presents but present as in today. I really struggle to recognise the progress I have made in my recovery so this feels like a good way to take this word, comparing me today vs me when I came into recovery. Honesty is a big one which I have obviously covered earlier but I do find myself being much more honest than I was. Do I always get it right? Not at all, either withholding thoughts or feelings or only telling part of a story has got me into bother on occasion but I am trying to be as honest as I can. I’ve spent most of my life lying about everything so it’s hard to be so honest, but if you tell the truth you only have to tell it once. How I feel about other people has also changed massively as I used to fucking hate the world. I hated everyone in it and assumed they were going out of their way to make my life miserable. Turns out the only person going out of their way to do that was me. Now I really, genuinely care for other people, in recovery, outside of recovery, I have empathy, I’m willing to reach out and let people know they aren’t alone. My mental health has also definitely improved and although I struggle with low self-esteem, I am generally in a good place whereas when I came into recovery I was broken. Relationships with those closest to me are something that have improved but there is still a lot of work to do in one of them. That’s something that hopefully will continue to improve over time. I’ll finish with this, I have a voice now, a voice that I can use for myself but also for good. When I came into recovery I was used to just telling people what I thought they wanted to hear as I was trying to hide my secret life, now I can just be me and feel comfortable using my voice.

“The past is a place of reference, not a place of residence.”

Q is for Quitting - Quitting is something that has come so easy to me in other aspects of my life, quitting hockey, friends, hobbies whatever it is, but I couldn’t quit when I was gambling. I would always tell myself if I got ahead I’d quit and withdraw but rarely did I manage it, and if I did it was deposited straight back into the bookies once it hit my account. After a while there was no quitting when I was ahead because I was so far behind I was never going to be able to get ahead. I even tried quitting the casino side of things after it became a problem (I only started playing the casino side the last 18 months of my active addiction) to focus on sports betting because in my head I wasn’t addicted to sports. That was a lie of course, but I still went back to the casino side of things when I had money because I just could not quit that buzz and excitement.

“I honestly thought I would use until I died. The thought of quitting gambling wasn't plausible, impossible actually. 
Just For Today I will believe in the impossible because at one time this current existence was impossible.”

R is for Recovery - I’ll be the first to admit that I have thrown myself head first into my recovery and fully embraced it. I get so much out of it and I put a lot of work into it. This is what my recovery looks like, and while all of it isn’t for everyone, I feel it shows the difference between abstinence and recovery. I attend one in person G.A. meeting a week, three Skype meetings with my Problem Gambling Support Group, I have a Sponsor, I Sponsor someone, I work the Steps, I write my blog and post it on the Reddit Problem Gambling Sub and GamCare forum, I use the GamCare chat rooms twice a day most days, I reach out and offer help and support if I can, I listen to podcasts about addiction, I have been on two podcasts sharing my story, I do my own research on addiction and I am going to start and learn about SMART Recovery. Think that’s it all, and while it looks like a lot, it’s nothing compared to the time I spent gambling and it all fits around my life. I feel like recovery is the thing that has been missing from my life, that place where I am accepted for being me, a place where I can make a difference. Recovery is so important to me and my life and without it there is no way I would have stopped gambling.

“Recovery is a transformation of self. From the ashes of defeat in the battle of Addiction to a renewed sense of purpose in the triumph of Recovery. We strive to become better and better with each passing day.”

S is for Springsteen - I love Bruce Springsteen and listening to his music really resonates with me and can help me think and process my emotions and thoughts. Music really does have that sort of power and it has been a vital tool during my recovery. I can get lost in music, almost like an escape, but for me it’s a healthy escape. My personality needs some alone time to be able to recharge and that’s when I turn to music. I find lyrics jumping out at me and meaning different things at various stages of my recovery. A lyric will transport me back to a time or place and make me remember, good or bad, what had happened. Music can also just help me go from feeling down to feeling happy and realise that things aren’t as bad as I thought there were.

“Bruce Springsteen is the direct line to all that is true in this shitty world”.

T is for Talking - This was something I have come to find is one of my most useful tools I have developed and used in recovery. In the past I would never have opened up and spoken about my feelings but now I am in recovery I feel more confident to talk to at least one person about what is going on in my head. I’ve found talking has been an amazing way for me to solve problems that have been bothering me and eating away at me. Even just to vent is such a powerful tool, it can make me realise that I am making a big deal out of something that really isn’t. It also allows me to ask for advice and to get used to the fact that I do not possess all the answers. It was about swallowing my pride and realises that the main benefit of a support network is to rely on it when you need it. Sometimes I have asked questions that have made me feel stupid, but I have never been judged. Talking is one of the most important tools I have and it is something I always say to anyone I talk to in recovery, if you are ever struggling then reach out to me or to someone else, even if it’s just to say what is on your mind.

“Asking for help is hard. It certainly didn't come naturally to me and can still be a struggle.
Just For Today I will ask for help when I need it.”

U is for Understood - Recovery is the first place I have really felt that people have understood me and what I have put myself through with my gambling addiction. “Put myself through” sounds like I am a victim, they have understood what I did when gambling. The longer I have been in recovery the more I feel people understand this new me that I have become, even more so than those in my life outside of recovery because they see me “in action” so to speak, in meetings, through my writing, helping others etc. There is something about going into a meeting and knowing, that no matter what you say or feel, you can feel safe sharing it and will not be judged.

“I am not a perfect person, I make a lot of mistakes.. but still, I love those people who stay with me after knowing how I really am.”

V is for Vicious - The vicious cycle that I was in when gambling broke me mentally, it was insanity when I look back on it. I would get paid and the first thing I would do is stay up until my pay hit my bank account around 1am and deposit and gamble. I would then pay back any money I had borrowed from friends or family and pay bounced direct debits from the previous month. I would then gamble more than I intended, have to bounce more direct debits, had to borrow more money from friends and family by lying to them. My phone bill was around £275 a month because of my insanity on top of all this. I was borrowing more money from people and from companies (although luckily I had wrecked my credit rating early on in my gambling career or it could have been far worse) and it was just getting worse and worse each month. One of my friends asked me before, “how the fuck did you sleep at night?” and looking back I have no idea.

“We are grateful to be in Recovery today. To think the pain of active addiction is in the rear view mirror, but we must remain vigilant. If we let up in our program for too long our addiction will surely catch up to us. 
Just For Today I will commit myself to my program.”

W is for Willingness - The final part of “HOW” and without it, for me, recovery would have been impossible. I threw myself head first into my recovery and was open to whatever people suggested to me and was willing to try. Someone once told me I was very teachable when it came to recovery and I think that proves the willingness I had. I knew if I was going to come out about my gambling, if I was going to admit I had a problem and needed help, I would lose the one thing I loved at that point and that was gambling. If I was going to lose gambling I was going to make sure it was worth it. Quickly in recovery I realised that my kids were the most important thing to me and that if I went back to gambling I would lose them. I am not willing for that to happen. I want to become a better person, I want to become a better Dad and I want to improve myself in all possible aspects. Recovery has given me a new lease of life and a willingness to succeed. I have even started a Diploma in Counselling Skills - Level 2 online which is something I would never have done if I was still gambling.

“At some point there is no excuse, either you want to do everything it takes to make it happen, or you don’t.”

X is for X Roads - Or crossroads, yeah I cheated a little, big deal. I feel like I have had two massive crossroads in my life regarding my gambling and recovery. The first is obviously when I decided that I was going to come clean to my partner. I have written before about the weekend prior to entering recovery and that was the pivotal moment. Without going into the details I’ll just say it was an up and down roller coaster of emotions and money that ended up with me at zero. It was at that point something in my head clicked and realised I was never going to be able to win my way out of this mess, it was only going to get worse. The question was did I want to own up and face the consequences or did I want to keep digging? For me the consequences of telling my partner was her kicking me out and me not being able to see my kids every day, that scared me to death. I can still remember the day I told my partner vividly. She had gone to the gym with her friend and I was pacing around the living room with a notebook in my hand. Earlier that day a friend of mine at work realised I wasn’t my “usual” self and asked if I wanted to go for a drink at lunch. So I did and told him what was going on. He was great and listened and said he reckons I should tell my partner and get the help I needed. So I wrote out all my debts, my budget going forward and my closest G.A. meeting, just in case I would forget anything when I was telling her. So her friend's car pulls up after the gym and she comes in and sits down. At this point I am still 50/50 in my head if I am going to tell her or not and my head is spinning. Then she starts telling me about the gym and how she got on and I was thinking to myself, “WHO THE F**K CARES ABOUT THE F**KING GYM! I’M TRYING TO DECIDE IF I SHOULD TELL YOU ABOUT MY GAMBLING ADDICTION!” My heart is beating so fast at this point like it’s going to jump out of my chest and I am panicking. So she finally stops talking and I just spit it out that I have a gambling problem and need help. I was crying, not for sympathy but because of the relief of finally admitting it, not only to her, but to myself, for the first time. I handed her the notebook and I was just waiting for her to throw me out but she didn’t, she stood by me. Got me to call round my parents and tell them and that’s when I officially entered recovery. The other crossroad was fairly recently in recovery, and I would say it wasn’t long after I was ten months gamble free. I basically had a real crisis of confidence, my low self-esteem came to the fore and I was debating if this new me was the real me or was I actually just a fraud. I think this came from a perfect storm of things. I always struggled with low self-esteem but I hadn’t really addressed it in recovery and I did my therapy reading at my Skype group and the feedback I got was overwhelmingly positive. People were saying really good things about me and I don’t think I was expecting it. Then around the same time I also had some other people telling me how much I had helped them, how good my writing was and how good a person I was and I think I just panicked. That voice inside my head telling me I wasn’t good enough was getting louder and louder and I was afraid that I was a fraud. I was afraid my recovery was a lie. I reached out and talked to people close to me and after several pretty intense hours I realised that it was down to me, I had to believe in myself. I had to take that leap of faith. I was also told to “remember that someone believes in”, and that will stick with me forever. So, in my head I was standing on the top of a cliff and I just had to take a leap of faith and embrace this person I had become, waiting for me on the cliff top was the old me, my old behaviours and I didn’t want any part of that. So that’s what I did, I took that leap of faith and believed in myself.

“Feeling our Emotions again after we stop using can be very difficult. After suppressing what we felt for so long it is completely foreign to feel so much. Learning to process these feeling is important to maintain our Recovery”

Y is for You Know Who You Are - If I tried to name everyone who has had an impact on my recovery I would easily miss people out, so instead I am going to list what people have done for me or how they have made me feel and as the name suggests, you know who you are. You are the person who made me feel welcome, who made me smile, who made me laugh when I thought it was impossible, who stood by me, who looked after my finances, who gave me time to pay money back, who helped me up when I was down, who celebrated the good times with me, who talked to me when I needed someone, who listened to me when I needed to vent, who called me out on my bullshit, who gave me opportunities to improve myself, who made me believe in myself, who told me I was good enough, who told me I deserve this, who told me they were proud of me, who appreciated my help, who asked me for advice, who was honest with me, who made me see clearly, who inspires me by their commitment to life, who inspires me by their commitment to recovery, who read my blogs, who wanted me to succeed and who told me I could achieve my dreams.

“Time goes by so fast, people go in and out of your life. Don't miss the opportunity to tell these people how much they mean to you.”

Z is for Zombification - Is an instance or process of turning into a zombie. The process of zombification involves poisoning an individual with toxin from a puffer fish. So, I guess gambling is the puffer fish in this case because I could literally feel myself dying inside as I gambled at times. Time just slipped away while I said I would gamble for an hour, I was transfixed by the world of online gambling, it sucked me in and slowly sucked the life out of me. I would sit until the wee hours of the morning with no idea what was going on around me. I’d barely eat when gambling, I didn’t need to, there was no feeling of hunger. The longer I gambled the more numb I became to my emotions until the point I literally could feel emotion. I didn’t get angry or sad or happy, I was just meh. I went to my Granda’s funeral in January 2019 and couldn’t understand why people were upset. I felt nothing. Gambling had turned me into a zombie. Recovery is the process of de-zombification.

“At your very core, you are energy.
Stop killing it by killing yourself.
By slowly poisoning yourself.
By destroying your mind.
By chasing negativity.
Nurture your energy.
Let it grow & thrive.”

That was a long one but well worth the effort. I hope there’s something relatable there for anyone who reads it. I got a lot out of hitting on different topics in a shorter form and some stuff may not have made it into a “regular” blog.


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