Thursday, 23 April 2020

Working The Steps: Step 9

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

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

Step 9, Exercise 1

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

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

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

What Is Forgiveness?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 9, Exercise 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russ

Sunday, 19 April 2020

Quotes, Questions & Answers

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

Day 9

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

Andrea Gibson

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

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

Day 10

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

Agatha Christie

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 11

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

John Locke

What have you tried to escape with your addiction?

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

Day 12/Day 13

“When shall we live if not now?”

Shirley Jackosn

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

Soren Kierkegaard

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

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

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

Kill A Word - Eric Church

Russ

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

Friday, 10 April 2020

Quickfire Questions

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

Day 3

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

Zora Neale Hurston

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

My kids
Problem Gambling Support Group
Gamblers Anonymous

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

Day 4

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

Emily Dickinson

How could you help yourself to express yourself more authentically?

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

Day 5

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

J.K. Rowling

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

Dear addiction,

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

Day 6

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

Leo Tolstoy

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

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

Day 7

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

Louisa May Alcott

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

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

Day 8

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

Carl Jung

Do you have a recovery plan?

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

Happy Easter

Russ

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

Monday, 6 April 2020

To My Younger Self

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

Day 2

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

Immanuel Kant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russ

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

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Light-Bulb Moment

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


Day 1

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

Henry David Thoreau

Describe the moment you realised you were addicted. 

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

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

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

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

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

Russ

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