Monday, 2 March 2020

A Milestone, Sponsoring and Stoicism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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