Saturday, 1 February 2020

Ego - Part One: The Definition

My name is Russ and I am a compulsive gambler. My last bet was April 2nd 2019. Since being in recovery and working the steps one character defect I keep seeing raise its ugly head is my ego. I have decided to do a bit of research on egotism and trying to see how it fits together with my actions in addiction. I say research, I have been Googling it but what more do you expect folks!

Per Cambridge dictionary the definition of egotism is “thinking only about yourself and considering yourself better and more important than other people.” Now there is a lot more to it than that but first I am going to concentrate on the two things mentioned in this definition and see how they link into me during my addiction and were they apparent in my behaviour before my addiction.

Thinking only about yourself

Quick background on me, I have a partner, two children aged seven and three, my Mum and my Dad, no siblings and other family members and friends. I now realise, in recovery, how much of a support network I do actually have and how many people care about me. Sadly, when I was gambling, I did not give a fuck about anyone and all I cared about was me and gambling. I loved my family and friends when I was gambling, deep down that love was there, but when I was gambling they did not enter my thoughts.

When it came to the money I was gambling I never thought about what I could have bought my kids with that money or how I could have taken my partner out for a meal to show her how much I appreciate her staying at home with the kids while I go off to work. No. That money was MY money and no one was going to get their hands on it apart from a bookmaker.

Simple things like making conversation did not enter my mind when I was gambling. I did not think to look up from my phone or laptop to ask how my partner was doing in the evenings, I pretty much sat and ignored her. If she tried to speak to me I would answer back with as few words as possible and if she kept talking I would get agitated. Generally I would end up causing an argument just to get her to be quiet. I barely spoke to my Mum and Dad when I was at their house or they were at mine, generally I was picking up my kids who they had taken for the day to help me out. They had given up their day for me and I couldn’t give up 15 minutes of my time to make conversation.

I had little interest in going out and doing things with anyone as it would get in the way of what I wanted to do. Perfect example of this was the final weekend before I entered recovery. My partner and I were invited to my Aunt and Uncle’s anniversary dinner (I cannot even remember the year they were celebrating, that is how much I was paying attention) without our kids, a night out together where we could unwind and enjoy ourselves. I spent the whole night gambling away on my mobile phone on in-play tennis and barely spoke a word to anyone. I did not care and I did not want to be there as it was getting in the way of me trying to dig myself out of a hole that I had dug for myself. I was in such a bad way financially I didn’t even bring my wallet with me as I had no money in my accounts. I had to lie to my Dad about why I didn’t bring it and he ended up buying me and my partner drinks for the night. I was even gambling on the drive down (I was driving!) with one eye on my phone and one eye on the road. I was in a desperate situation and could feel the walls closing in but I was confident I could win my way out.

When I think back to the number of times I told my kids to be quiet and play or shouted at them when they would ask me questions when I was focusing on gambling really does fill me with a great sense of sadness. I did not think about how they would feel when I acted that way, all I cared about was me. I can remember them pretty much climbing over me, wanting my attention while I just maneuvered around them so I could see what was happening on my phone or laptop. What makes it worse is that they think I am the greatest person that ever lived and love me so much, reflecting back on my behaviour during those days is tough but I feel it is necessary for me to do so as I do not want to go back there.

I had a fantastic upbringing and I am so grateful for how my parents raised me and how they provided for me. Growing up I was an only child so everything to an extent has always been about me in my family. People think that only children are spoiled and I have no shame in admitting that I was extremely spoiled, not to a degree where it was damaging as my parents always made sure I appreciated the things I had and to always be thankful. I never had to learn to share with a brother or sister so when I was at home my toys were mine and I did not have to think about anyone else. Maybe that is where I planted the seed that I only need to think about myself and maybe that is why I enjoyed my own company so much because everything when I was on my own was about me and that is how I liked it.

Considering yourself better and more important than other people

This is a hard one for me to get a handle on simply because I do not feel that I came across this way when I was interacting with people, well at least I hope I did not. What I can be sure of is that in my own head I totally believed I was better and more important than other people.

I felt like my opinion mattered more than other peoples opinion and if I was discussing something, lets use football as an example, I would totally shit all over a different opinion to mine, but I would do this in my own head, by talking to myself. I would laugh at how wrong people were when they gave their opinion, again, in my own head. One thing I would do during a discussion is to continue talking about my opinion until either the persons involved agreed or until I rationalised it in my own mind that they knew I was right.

Without sounding like a lunatic I have an internal monologue going on in my head all the time, even in recovery. I talk to myself quite a lot and would almost have conversations with myself about everything and anything. My brain feels as if it is always active. When I was in active addiction my internal monologue was extremely negative and dark. I tried to keep it buried deep inside me as I was a horrible person who thought he was the best at everything and back then I knew if that person came out in public it would be make it hard for me to keep my addiction secret. I was aware that I needed to keep people onside so they could help fund what I was doing.

I would rarely listen to advice from anyone because in my mind if I did not already know something then clearly it was not worth knowing. My Dad found out about me spread betting when I was still living at home and told me about the dangers of gambling and how easy it was to become addicted. I just brushed it off because I thought I knew better. I at least knew I didn’t have a problem. I did not want someone telling me I was wrong about something because how dare they correct me about anything! Everything I said was right and nothing would change my mind about it. I enjoyed reminding people when I was right about something as well, the smug look on my face, I took so much joy from that, it reinforced to me that I was better than everyone. I would constantly bring things up that I was right about and when someone tried to do the same I would pick holes in it and call them out for talking rubbish.

If I was in a group or going out I felt the need to be in control of the situation, I wanted to be the leader because no one else could lead as well as I could, no one else was my equal and in my mind I wanted people to see how great I was, as a leader I was in the spotlight. Being in control of the situation also meant I could decide what we did and make sure it was something that I enjoyed doing.

Emotionally, I was empty during my addiction; I did not care for how other people were feeling or what problems they had. If someone was telling me a problem I would listen but I would not care, in my head I was just asking myself why? Why are you telling me this? Why do you think I care what is going on in your life? Why do you think I give a shit? That’s simply the mentality of someone who think they are better than other people.

In general I just believed I deserved to have the best things in life and I deserved to have them handed to me on a plate. Why should I work hard and save up for things like everyone else when I could just gamble and win them. I was so much smarter than everyone else, I could make this work and people would be asking me what my secret was. I was better than the bookmakers, I could beat them and their odds, I could figure out a system to win. Towards the end I actually abandoned any tipsters or systems because I felt I could just “feel” the right bet and I would be able to dig myself out of the hole.

Back in November 2018 I spoke with my current sponsor for the first time ever and we had a chat over text message. I was explaining to him how I had managed to control my gambling on sports, I was proud of this fact by the way, which has not aged well, and I was trying to explain to him that this was something that compulsive gamblers could try. I felt like I was a pioneer, like I had solved life’s great puzzle, people would thank me for this revelation. Here are some of the deluded messages I sent him;

“I just know personally, I went from having a bet on every minute of every day. £20+ each time. Betting on every horse race in work to now I can put £1 on the NFL game I’m watching or £5 on the Breeders Cup if I want and walk away. It didn’t happen overnight either. I stopped for a while.”

Jeff was calm and polite and listened to my nonsense while of course explaining to me the benefits and options of recovery. Looking back I can see he made some excellent points, asked me had I tried every reasonable step out there to stop gambling to which I responded with;

“I’ve done none of that. For one reason. I don’t want to stop some forms of gambling.”

Now, what the hell does that have to do with thinking I am better and more important than other people? I honestly thought Jeff was full of shit, that he had no idea what I was saying and that he just did not get that I had figured it out. Reading back through that chat I can see I was trying to convince him that I was right and he was wrong. Everything he threw at me I had an answer for it and it was all bullshit, but I believed that I knew better and that my opinion was more important. Luckily Jeff doesn’t hold any grudges or didn’t let that first impression put him off me when I finally entered recovery, funny enough because my sports betting was completely out of control, and he welcomed me with open arms.

It would be unfair to say I was like this all the time during my addiction but I believe I acted in these ways often enough for it to be considered an issue and something that I need to address in recovery. I believe that my ego was a problem all along and while I have no doubt the addiction amplified it, I have to be honest with myself in recovery and face up to the fact that I was, and still am to an extent, an egotistical person.


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