Thursday, 16 July 2020

Finishing The Steps & Update

My name is Russ and I haven’t had a bet today or since my last meeting. I took a break from writing for a couple of months, mainly because I didn’t actually have much to say during the lockdown but I can report that I have never felt better mentally, physically or emotionally. I have still been working hard at my recovery via Zoom meetings and talking to other compulsive gamblers outside of those meetings. I even joined a new G.A. group on a Thursday night/Friday morning my time in Georgia and it has been fantastic. Really good for me to get to know new people on my recovery journey and it’s a group I intend to join once a week...as long as I am awake. 

As the title of the blog suggests, I have finally finished Steps 11 and 12 which I have been putting off for a few months. Mainly putting off Step 11 as having read the worksheet I just knew I wouldn’t get a lot out of it. I got it done though and I am glad I have worked through the Steps. If I’m being totally honest, I don’t see me working them all again in the way I have done but I will definitely revisit some in that format and I am potentially working through them with a few members from my local G.A. My view on the Steps is that they are worth doing but they are not the be all and end all of recovery. There were some Steps I didn’t get a lot out of and others that I did but I can see the benefit they could bring to others. 

So, what’s next? 

Well, I plan to work through the Smart Recovery Handbook and share that on my blog as I think it will benefit my recovery in a major way. I will also continue to attend meetings on a regular basis and try to improve myself as I continue on my journey. I’m nowhere near the finished article and I doubt I ever will be but recovery still excites me and I still get something from it. Honestly, 15+ months ago when I entered recovery my biggest fear was I would get bored of it and complacent. It still is my biggest fear in recovery and I am surprised I’m still this keen about it. It really does feel like a lifestyle change and not just a temporary fad. 

Simply put, recovery if possible and it is there for anyone who wants it. I have no desire to go back to gambling and I am excited for the future. That said, I still take it one day at a time (or ODAAT...I hate that so much) and I know that if I try to do the right things today then I won’t gamble. Any plans I have for the future hinges on me getting through today gamble free. 

So, that’s it for a quick update. Steps 11 and 12 will be published on the blog following this and I will be back with some SMART Recovery soon. 

Russ

Working The Steps: Step 12

Step 12: Having made an effort to practice these principles in all our affairs, we tried to carry this message to other compulsive gamblers.

Step 12, Exercise 1

Write about:

Are you practicing the 12 Steps in your life, one day at a time? Give specific examples.

I’m not practicing every Step every day but I like to think I apply them a lot of the time. Step 12 is an easy example and that comes with attending meetings, Sponsoring, writing my blog etc etc. Probably the most important part of this question for me is the one day at a time part. I do live my life one day at a time now. It was important for me to realise that if I try to do the right things today, I won’t gamble. I then get up and do the same again tomorrow and repeat each day. I have incorporated one day at a time in my recovery and it does make a lot of things easier to handle, especially things that are not positive. That’s not to say I don’t plan for the future or look ahead, I do, but I am also aware that if I do not get through today, then any plans I have for tomorrow may not happen.

Step 12 involves showing that we care for other compulsive gamblers. We demonstrate caring through our words and actions. What words and actions of yours demonstrate your caring for your GA brothers and sisters and for compulsive gamblers who still suffer? Give specific examples.

I still attend three to four meetings a week, one of which is the group I helped set up and another is my local G.A. Monday Zoom meeting that I set up. I also attend GamCare chat a few times a week and of course I still sponsor two people. I also write this blog, put my Step work out there for people to read. I like to think through my words and actions that people know I am there for them should they need to reach out.

How will you balance carrying the message to others with taking care of yourself and your own recovery? Give specific examples.

It’s quite simple, if I am not getting something from a meeting or an activity linked to recovery and I do not feel like anyone else involved is getting something from it then I will take a step back and I will find something different to try. I also make sure that my meetings etc do not have a huge impact on my family life. All of my meetings take place when my kids are in bed and after dinner with my partner. If I am busy and someone reaches out to me I will inform them I am busy and will get back to them. It is important for me to maintain balance and I do not want to simply swap a gambling addiction for a recovery addiction. My recovery is about a change of lifestyle of which meetings and carrying the message are a part of but there is also plenty of room for other things in my life. I do not want to be tethered to my recovery because I fear relapse, I want my recovery to be a part of my lifestyle going forward. I want to enjoy my recovery and be able to see what good it is bringing. For me that is something that I have worked hard to achieve and have been successful at. 

Step 12, Exercise 2

As the Combo book reminds us, the greatest challenge with which we will be faced is that of bringing about a character change within ourselves. This challenge should be worked on immediately and continued throughout our lives, through the study and practice of the Twelve Steps of Recovery.

After having worked all 12 Steps, ask yourself these questions:

Am I still powerless over gambling?
Do I believe that a Power greater than myself can restore me to a normal way of thinking and living?
Have I made a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of this Power of my own understanding?
Have I made a searching and fearless moral and financial inventory of myself?
Have I admitted to myself and another human being the exact nature of my wrongs?
Am I entirely ready to have these defects of character removed?
Have I asked my Higher Power to remove my shortcomings?
Have I made a list of all persons I have harmed?
Have I made amends to all the people of my list?
Have I continued to take personal inventory and, when I was wrong, promptly admitted it?
Have I improved my conscious contact with my Higher Power?
Am I carrying the message of recovery to other compulsive gamblers?

If you answered “No” to any of the above, or if you have any doubts, please take this opportunity to look inside yourself and see what’s holding you back. This exercise may help you to become more willing to commit to doing the work that will enable you to answer “Yes” to all of these questions.

Now, ask yourself and answer one more question;
Am I willing to work the 12 Steps again starting with Step 1?

Absolutely not. There are a few of the Steps I have zero interest in working again and I’m not ashamed to admit that. I can see myself doing a yearly Step 10 and maybe going back and working Step 4 again as it was one of my favourite Steps. Of course, Step 12 is an obvious continuous one but that is probably about it. I know where they are if I feel the need to work any in this way but for me applying them to my daily life is the next step for me.

Russ

Working The Steps: Step 11

My name is Russ and I haven’t had a bet today or since my last meeting. I’ve been dragging my feet on doing Step 11, not because it’s difficult but because having read the worksheet I know I won’t get too much from it. Alas, I should be doing two things I don’t want to do, just for exercise, so I guess this can be one of them. 

Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Step 11, Exercise 1

Review your writings from Step 2, Exercises 3 and 4, and Step 3, Exercises 1 and 2.

Write about:

Has your willingness to turn your will and your life over to your Higher Power created miracles in your life? Give specific examples of the miraculous differences you have experienced in your journey through the Steps.

The definition of miracle, as per dictionary.com, is “an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.” It could also be “such an effect or event manifesting or considered as a work of God,” or “a wonder; marvel,” or finally, “a wonderful or surpassing example of some quality.” I’ve stopped gambling, not cured cancer or ushered in world peace so I feel labelling my achievements as miracles is a bit much. Are they difficult to believe? I would say they are. If someone had told me 16 months ago I would stop gambling and be in recovery I would not have believed them, yet here I am. The Steps have helped me a lot on my journey, some a lot more than others. I’m not a believer that working the Steps is the be all and end all of recovery but I am certainly glad I did. The bottom line is that my Family is my Higher Power and before I entered recovery the only thing I cared about was gambling. So that is an extremely positive change in my life.

Has your open-mindedness improved? Are you asking for and accepting help from others in the program and in your life? Give specific examples of how your asking for and acceptance of help have contributed to your recovery. 

There has been an improvement here for sure. I’m extremely comfortable opening up in a meeting and asking for help if I need it. The same can be said for those closest to me, I would have no problem asking for help and accepting it. There have been meetings where I have opened with a “pressing problem” which at the start can feel daunting. That is probably the best example I can think of in recovery to truly ask for help. 

Step 11, Exercise 2

Through prayer, you can communicate with your Higher Power and ask to know your Higher Power’s will for you. In meditation, you can release and surrender your own will, and receive your Higher Power’s answers.

How you improve and maintain conscious contact with your Higher Power is YOUR CHOICE. Only YOU can decide how much time to devote to it, how often to do it, and what form the practice/ritual will take. Step 11 asks you to make those decisions and then commit to making those practices a part of your daily life.

Write about:

Are your prayers based on spiritual objectives or are you praying for material gain or intervention? Do you have a prayer practice? Describe it.

The short answer is that I do not pray.

Have you embraced the practice of meditation? Describe how you quiet your mind.

I have tried meditation but I haven’t been able to get anything out of it. In general, to quiet my mind, I try to just do something that I enjoy, listen to music, watch a film, anything that will just allow my mind to wander.

How will you keep the practice of prayer and meditation alive in your daily life?

Never say never, but I very much doubt I pick up the practice of prayer but I will try my hand at meditation again. It’s important for me to know how to quiet my mind and not feel like it’s something I need to do everyday.

What is your greatest source of personal satisfaction today? Peace of mind? Freedom? Integrity? Choice? Attitude toward others? Spirituality?

Peace of mind probably sums it up best. I have a great life, a great family, a great job, everything anyone could want. My days can sometimes be quite boring and I enjoy that now. I enjoy when things are just quiet and normal. It’s relaxing.

Step 11 was never going to be a Step that I got a lot out of but it is also important for me to look at things like this and work through them. Will anything change? Probably not. I won’t start praying for example but maybe I’ll try meditation again and see how it goes.

Russ