My name is Russ and I haven’t had a bet today or since my last meeting. I’ve been at a couple of meetings this week and the topic of boredom has come up and while sharing I came to a realisation that I wanted to explore a bit more via my blog. Before continuing on to talk about boredom it’s always good for me to get the definition from the Cambridge Dictionary, which is;
“feeling unhappy because something is not interesting or because you have nothing to do”
Firstly, I am going to start off with feeling bored in recovery because it is something that I know I was worried about experiencing, not just in the early days, but also the longer I stayed in recovery. In the early days I was told how important it was to fill the void left by gambling and I did that through various means, like digging out my old PS3 and buying cheap pre owned games or spending Saturday evening at a friends house and vice-versa. Of course I did other, more important things, such as spend more time with my kids and partner and go to meetings but because I was an online gambler the void was more noticeable late at night when I would be on my own. I also wrote my blog and worked the Steps, listened to podcasts, basically whatever it took. There were plenty of things I had neglected or not experienced due to gambling and this gave me an opportunity to explore new things or rediscover previous interests.
In addition to this, there was (still is) the fear that I would get bored with recovery and slowly drift away from it which in my opinion means it is just a matter of time before I slowly drift back towards gambling. Luckily that isn’t a fear that has been realised and I will continue to do all I can to make sure it stays that way. With Covid-19 forcing many people to Zoom, the amount of meetings that have either been created or had an increase in numbers has given my own personal recovery a huge boost. It also seems like this format will remain popular when Covid-19 eventually (hopefully) comes under control worldwide.
Following on from this, during my first year in recovery I was a member of a group that met via Skype then Zoom before it was cool. Things changed in that group and stuff happened between me and my former sponsor and I left the group for the sake of my own recovery. It was a toxic atmosphere and to be honest being in that environment was the closest I got to my fear of getting bored with recovery becoming reality. So I left and found a new group and through that group I have met amazing people and made real friendships which have taken my recovery further than I could have ever imagined. What it also showed me was that there is no excuse for me being bored in recovery. There is so much recovery out there that if I do feel like a group is having a negative effect on me I can go somewhere else. Of course if this happens on a regular basis then maybe the problem is me and not the groups but that’s probably a different topic for a different day.
Another issue I have had, and I know from listening to others I am not alone in this, is not finding something else in recovery that gives me the same highs that gambling did. Now anytime this comes up my response is the same, I don’t think it is possible for me to find something that gives me the same highs as gambling did but that is fine because after the high highs there always followed low lows and I don’t experience them in recovery. Even saying that, there becomes a perception that without the highs, life in recovery is just boring which I probably would have agreed with in the early stages of my recovery. Now to be clear, I had no problem with being bored in recovery, I quite enjoyed it but I do feel like I am doing a disservice to my life I have now by claiming it is boring. Going back to the definition at the start of the blog it talks about having nothing to do or not being interested in something. Recovery has given me not only the time but a clear mind to focus on things. Given the fact I have two young kids I have no excuse to not be interested in something they are doing at any point in the day. I am able to enjoy time with them now, which was something I didn’t do when I was gambling. Even when they are in bed though I have so many things available to me that if I claim to be bored then it is a problem with me and not with recovery. I can pick up my Kindle and read a book, I can watch a film on Netflix or Amazon Prime, I can join a meeting or I can talk to my friends both old and new. That list is not exhaustive.
Which brings me to the realisation I had surrounding boredom and it isn’t to do with my recovery but it is to do with my gambling. I’ve already mentioned the highs and the buzz that gambling gave me that I know can not be replicated but looking back the only time I felt true boredom was when I was gambling. Those times I was waiting the 10 minutes between horse races that felt like hours. Or when I logged into my account in the morning of an international break in soccer and the games were so spread out for in-play betting that I was waiting hours between games to get my fix. Another example would be with tennis, where at the start of the week there are so many games because tournaments have just started but by the time you get to the middle or end of the week and they are winding down there are hardly any games on. Don’t even get me started about rain delays in tennis when that would wash out any betting “opportunities”. Xmas Day was another day full of boredom when I had either Egyptian soccer or Israeli soccer to bet on in the afternoon before a few NBA games at night. As I said earlier, I have two young kids and I was bored on Xmas Day which is a disgusting admission but it is the truth. Gambling destroyed my ability to find anything else in this world interesting and I was constantly bored with life. Even with things that no decent person should be bored with. I blamed everything else around me for this feeling and gambled more to escape it. It was a vicious cycle. To steal and reword a quote from the highly intellectual Fat Bastard from the Austin Powers movies in regards to this particular topic;
I gambled because I was bored, and I was bored because I gambled.
This was an important realisation for me to have because although I do not suffer from urges or a desire to gamble at the time of writing this, my perception of what gambling gave me has now changed. I haven’t left behind some exciting life by coming into recovery and turning into a boring bastard, I’ve left behind the boring bastard who did nothing only gamble and I have opened the door to a new and exciting life for not only me, but those around me.