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

1 comment:

  1. Awesome read as usual Mark. I love your take on Step 9, and the need to reach out only to the people you have hurt because of your gambling, and for which you are still feeling guilty about.

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