Life with a Gambling Addiction..

My First ‘GA’ Meeting by a Recovering Addict

“At first, addiction is maintained by pleasure, but the intensity of this pleasure gradually diminishes and the addiction is then maintained by the avoidance of pain” – Frank Tallis

The above picture is one of twenty questions I had to answer yes or no to at my first ever ‘GA’ meeting this evening. I was told after answering these questions, that if you said yes to seven or more, you were considered a gambling addict. As it turned out, I had answered yes to sixteen of those questions. I knew already I was an addict but to find out I had answered yes to so many of these questions, really hit home for me..

When I woke up this morning, my heart was racing. I was extremely nervous as I did not know what to expect from a ‘GA’ meeting. I thought it might have been interesting to have a look online, to find out what to expect. However, any chance I had time to do so, I panicked and decided not to bother looking. I had never been to a meeting before and was still coming to terms with the fact that I had only just admitted to myself, my family and a few close friends, that I was a gambling addict. The idea of what I was going to do that evening was incredibly daunting to me.

In the afternoon when I had time, I remembered I had looked a few days ago at the list of meetings for ‘GA’. Some of the places listed said that beginners were welcome and others just gave their address. The meeting I planned to go to that the evening only had an address, so I looked for a number to call to find out if I was eligible to attend. The only number available to call was the ‘GA’ helpline and unfortunately it went through to voicemail. I never left a message as I feared I was going to get a call back and be asked to discuss my addiction further there and then and I wasn’t ready to do this. In my mind at that time, I was already trying to mentally prepare myself to be strong enough to be able speak out at my first meeting. I knew I’d likely be asked to do so. Discussing it beforehand felt far too much for me. I then found a live chat on the site, where you could type away any questions you had to a ‘GA’ support worker. I decided I would give this a go and see if the person was able to help me answer my question. He did answer my question and very quickly. The man I chatted to online was extremely helpful and friendly. It also turned out that he knew two people who would be attending the meeting and gave me their names to ask for when I got there. This helped massively in easing my anxiety about going. He did ask me questions about my gambling addiction. However, I didn’t mind answering. I felt completely different about typing my answers out on the computer. I felt comfortable with it, in a way I wouldn’t have if it had been done so by telephone. It was also nice to finally discuss my addiction with someone who knew exactly what is was I was going through. It definitely helped me.

It approached time for me to leave for my first ‘GA’ meeting. The area where the meeting was taking place was somewhere I had decided wasn’t too far. Distance enough though, that I should hopefully not meet anyone I would recognize. The idea of bumping into someone I knew was terrifying to me. Earlier on in the day, I had looked online to find the best way of getting there by public transport as I do not drive. Unfortunately, it was going to take over an hour and I would have to take various buses and trains. Whereas if I drove, it would have taken me less than fifteen minutes. The idea of going now was less appealing. I decided I would be strong and not let this defeat me, so I called up my local taxi company. The meeting was being held next door to a very popular restaurant in the area. I asked the taxi operator for a quote from where I lived to this restaurant. If I had told the operator the building I was going to, she likely wouldn’t have been any wiser as to why I was going there. The fear of the possibility she could be however, played on the back of mind. The quote I was given was just under ten pounds each way, I wasn’t very amused by this at all. I thanked the operator for her help and hung up the phone. After this, I contacted a friend who was aware of my situation and told him of my disappointment. How difficult it was to get to the ‘GA’ meeting and how much it would cost me to get a taxi there. My friend quickly pointed out that when I gambled I would normally spend a lot more on one hand of ‘Three card poker’, than how much it would cost me to get a taxi to the meeting and back. A good point, very well made. A taxi to the ‘GA’ meeting it would be.

My taxi dropped me off at the restaurant, it was dark and I couldn’t see the building that online showed to be next door. I panicked and decided to call the friend I had spoken to earlier. He decided not to answer and I knew this was intentional. I knew he was aware just as I was, that I was worrying about the meeting and that it would be best to leave me to it. It’s something that I had to have the strength to do on my own. I did and I found the the building a couple of minutes later. There were lots of people standing outside of all ages, male and female. As I began to wander over, I started thinking it may not be the group for the meeting. These people could have been there for something completely different. The building was a very big place. I walked past them to open the door to enter when I heard my name being called out in a mans voice. I turned round and the man was looking at me, I then confirmed to him I was the person whose name was called out. It turned out the group standing outside was for ‘GA’ meeting . The man shook my hand and welcomed me to join them for this evenings meeting. The support worker I had spoken to earlier in the afternoon had made a phone call and told him I would be attending that evening. The support worker also told the man to look out for me as I was very nervous and this would be my first meeting. I thought this was very kind of the support worker. The man who had called out my name told me not to worry and that everyone there was in the same boat as myself. Each person then standing outside from the group walked towards me, shook my hand and introduced themselves. I was starting to feel a bit more comfortable. After the introductions were done, we made our way into the building and I was shown the way to the ‘GA’ meeting room.

When we entered the room there was members already seated. I noticed when entering that the majority of people at the meeting were men. I looked around and eventually saw two women sitting down beside one another. I thought about going over to sit next to them and introducing myself but I was still feeling a bit too nervous. So I sat down at the opposite side to them. As soon as I did sit down one of the women came over and asked me if it was my first meeting. I replied that it was and she kindly invited me to come over and sit with them. I couldn’t believe how kind and friendly everyone was being towards me, especially with me being a stranger to the group. I was welcomed by them all with open arms.

The ‘GA’ meeting started and for the first five minutes the topic from last weeks meeting was discussed. After this was done, two members were asked by the chairman to take me into another room and explain to me more about ‘GA’ and what to expect at meetings. The chairman changes every week and is always one of the members that attend. When I was taken into another room, I was asked how I felt about attending and then to answer the twenty ‘GA’ questions with yes or no. This is where I found out I had answered yes to sixteen out of twenty. The three of us chatted and shared our stories of what had brought us there. I learned a lot and related to what they had to say in a big way. I knew then that I was in the right place.

The three of us after our discussion went back to the ‘GA’ meeting room. The topic that day was ‘fill the void’. This sparked interest in me straight away. I had been thinking constantly of late, other things I could do to keep my mind and body active in order to help me stay away from gambling. Various sports were discussed and many members were spending their free time reading books or going to the gym. A few of the members were also reaching out to friends from the past. A lot felt that they had lost many good friendships, through their gambling addiction. The time then came where I was asked to chat to the group about what had brought me to the ‘GA’ meeting that day. I was nervous but I spoke out to them all. I was surprised as it actually felt like a big relief for me to say it all out loud. I felt my emotions go all over the place whilst talking about it. There was sadness, anger and resentment for what I had done over the years, I let it all out. After I had spoken, the chairman asked the group if there was anyone at the meeting who would like to offer me some advice. One by one they came forward. Members spoke to me about what they could relate to from my story and gave me great advice on what has helped them in their journey in recovery. Newer members discussed how they had a day to day plan, to keep themselves busy and keep their minds off gambling. To give their lives structure. This is definitely something I am going to implement to my life. I intend to write down a plan for myself starting tomorrow, my day off work. Halfway through the meeting we stopped for fifteen minutes for a coffee break. During this time, more members came over to speak to me and many told me that if I ever wanted to talk outside of a meeting, they were more than happy to lend an ear. I was also handed some booklets for beginners to take away with me, to refer to whenever I had the urge to gamble. The chairman took my number also to give out to members, as part of everyone supporting one another. A lot of members got in contact with me as soon as I got home and offered their support going forward. I no longer feel alone in this anymore.

All in all, the experience was very helpful, insightful and positive. I have no fear of going back to a ‘GA’ meeting. I found out that there are other meetings nearby where this evenings was held. Available to go to throughout the week and I have every intention of doing so. I am very glad I faced my fear of going to a ‘GA’ meeting this evening. I feel a lot better for it and sense that I am now on the right road to recovery. .

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