“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living”. – Gail Sheehy
In today’s blog I would like to talk about a gentleman from my GA meetings. This man has been a member of GA for nineteen years now. He travels all over to attend different meetings, to hear others stories and offer advice from what he has learned through his own experience in recovery. Every morning when I wake up, there is a message from him telling me to stay strong and that I can get through another day without gambling. That I have it in me to overcome my addiction.
During the break at tonight’s GA meeting, the man I speak of told me that I will I go through many ups and downs during my recovery. That the first ninety days without gambling are the toughest and that I will go through a roller-coaster of emotions. He advised me to have a look at a poem that helped him, when he first joined GA. I found the poem to be very inspiring. Any time I feel as if I’m struggling, I now have something to refer back to, that will encourage and motivate me. I thought it would be an idea to post this poem, in hope that it will help others who are currently battling with addiction.
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will, When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill, When the funds are low and the debts are high, And you want to smile, but you have to sigh, When care is pressing you down a bit, Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns, As every one of us sometimes learns, And many a fellow turns about When he might have won had he stuck it out. Don’t give up though the pace seems slow – You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than It seems to a faint and faltering man; Often the struggler has given up When he might have captured the victor’s cup; And he learned too late when the night came down, How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out – The silver tint in the clouds of doubt, And you never can tell how close you are, It might be near when it seems afar; So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit – It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.
“All the suffering, stress and addiction comes from not realizing you already are what you are looking for” – Jon-Kabat-Zinn
At the GA meetings I have attended so far, ‘filling the void’ has been a massive topic of discussion. In today’s blog I will discuss what I have done so far to ‘fill the void’, as well as plans that I have for ‘filling the void’ in the future.
Throughout my life, I have constantly found it difficult to relax. I have always felt that I should be doing something. In the past, this usually resulted in going out gambling. Since I have stopped gambling and went into recovery, I have been looking to find out what my interests are. Gambling had more or less taken over my life and in the beginning when I was looking to ‘fill the void’, I got quite upset at the fact that I didn’t have any hobbies or major interests. It was a frightening realization, I did not know myself or what I enjoyed outwith gambling. Over the past week, I concentrated on discovering myself and what it was that made me tick. This was an experience in itself.
My main interest now, is writing. It had been an interest of mine in the past and something that I had once wanted to pursue as a career. I did a lot of work experience at a major newspaper. I had written and co-written a few articles and was always asked back. Sadly, this came to an end and I decided to stop going when I began gambling. The way I now view writing, is a way of expressing myself. Writing a blog has assisted me greatly so far on my journey to recovery. Typing out my thoughts, feelings, actions taken and generally just getting everything out of my system, has helped me to move forward. Writing the blog has also forced me to analyze situations that I really needed to take a closer look at. For this, I’m glad and feel I definitely made the right decision to create a blog about my addiction to gambling. I’d like to thank those who have taken time out of their day, to read my posts, like and comment. Your support is very much appreciated.
In addition, I have found that listening to music has helped me to ‘fill the void’, as it eases my mind. I now listen to music for half an hour before I write in my blog. I’ve found that music relaxes me, enabling me to think more clearly about my journey so far. This in turn, helps bring to light the important matters that I want to discuss on my ongoing recovery. On the topic of music, before I was a gambling addict I used to attend various concerts. I had a friend who I would attend these gigs with on a regular basis and we have recently started to talk again. We spoke this evening about going to a concert in the near future. He is going to look tonight for concerts we would both have an interest in and get back to me tomorrow with a list of a few. A hobby from the past that I think will be beneficial for me to make a current one.
There are several other ways I have ‘filled the void’ recently. I have caught up with various friends from the past, have spent time rebuilding relationships with family members and attended GA meetings. One of the men from my last GA meeting had discussed how meditation has helped him in his recovery and I found this quite interesting. I had been looking into mediation and breathing techniques recently, for other ways of helping me to relax. He sent me a message last night with the name of the meditation app he has been using. It is called CALM and is free to try out. He told me that there are many meditations on the app and also sleep stories. I’ve struggled for years to switch off and get a decent nights sleep. It will be interesting for me, to try out this app.
I think for being in recovery, for just over a week now. I’ve made a decent amount of progress so far. I want this to continue and will do my best to ensure that it does. I’m beginning to see life very differently and I want to build a brighter future for myself. I have set my own personal goals and have a plan to help me reach them. Overall, I would say I have a much healthier look on life now.
“Sometimes we motivate ourselves by thinking of what we want to become. Sometimes we motivate ourselves by thinking about who we don’t ever want to be again.” – Shane Niemeyer
It has been just over a week since I last gambled and a week today since I admitted to being a gambling addict. There has been many ups and downs over the past week. However, I am proud to say I have not gambled and that I continue to battle on in my journey to recovery.
This last week has taught me a lot. I have learned to come to terms with the fact that I am a compulsive gambler, I have learned that there are many people out there dealing with the same problem as I am. That there are many ways of getting the help you need to turn your life around. By seeking out help, I have maintained recovery and now view life from a different perspective to what I did before. I would say above all, what I have learned most this week is who my real friends are and who the people were that were only gambling acquaintances. I looked at the different relationships I had with people. Sussed out the negative influences in my life. Thought about peoples intentions towards me. Analyzed if they were honorable or if they had just wanted to drag me along on their destructive path.
I felt really happy this morning, I was delighted with my progress so far. I felt that I had a lot more structure in my life and I was looking forward to my GA meeting, later in the evening. I could see the difference not gambling was making to me. I have been a lot more sociable, have made various plans for the future and my relationship with my dad and other family members is now a lot better than it has been for a long time. The main thing I noticed was that I was smiling again. Not that I didn’t smile before but this time it was real. It wasn’t a front, I was genuinely content with life and excited for the future. I was starting to believe in myself again and felt that I was beginning to overcome my addiction.
All had been going well until the late morning. I received a message from someone I now considered to be part of my past. I read the message and didn’t know how to take it. It was one that could have been seen as either supportive or a dig made towards me. From how I was feeling at that time, I decided to look upon it as a message of support. I messaged this person back saying thank you and that I felt I was now on the right path.
Late into the afternoon the message from this person continued to bug me. I was no longer in the good mood I had been earlier. They had managed to knock me off my stride. I was beginning to think that the message had been a dig as the last time I had spoken to this person, the conversation was less than a delightful one. I had said goodbye to them. They had been a very negative influence in my life, in various ways, not only to do with gambling. This had been the case for a very long time. I had enough and I don’t think the person realized that this time I was closing the door on them for good.
It really irritated me, the fact that this person had got in contact with me. The fact that they had also managed to have such an affect on my mood, didn’t make matters any better. I was not at all pleased and wanted to find out if this person was trying to be supportive or if they had just been trying to have a go at me and hold me back. I contacted this person in hope of finding out the true intention behind their message and they decided to ignore me. Later on that day, I contacted them again. I couldn’t understand why this person would get in contact and then suddenly decide to ignore me. Yet again, my message was disregarded. Was this a game to them? When I calmed down and thought about it afterwards. From knowing this person, I wish I hadn’t reacted to their message. I knew this person would be taking pleasure in the fact that they had left me feeling annoyed and uncertain. It was a quick reminder of why I chose to say goodbye.
I attended my second GA meeting this evening, it was in a different building to the last one. It was however, in the same area. My dad took me there and back to save me paying for a taxi, which was very kind of him. I must say my dad has been my rock in all of this. He has been there for me anytime I have needed someone to speak to about my recovery. Always there to lend an ear and offer advice where he can. I feel very lucky to have such a wonderful father.
At the GA meeting, I saw quite a few faces from the one I had attended on Thursday. The people I had met on Thursday came over to say hello and told me that it was great to see me back again. The people I hadn’t met before were just as friendly. They came over and introduced themselves and welcomed me to the meeting. The topic of this evenings meeting was ‘The Twelve Steps to Recovery.’ We were asked to pick one of the twelve steps and discuss our views on it. When I was asked to speak I chose to discuss step one. This step is about accepting the fact that you are a compulsive gambler. I discussed my experience of it openly and told of how I viewed it be the most critical step towards recovery. After this, I was asked to discuss my first week without gambling. I talked about what I was doing to ‘fill the void’ and how I was now determined to live a life that was gamble free. I also spoke of how I had to remove certain people from my life in order to move forward. I remembered one thing in particular that had stuck with me from my first GA meeting last Thursday. A woman had spoke of what it was like to be in a relationship when you are a gambler. How you aren’t actively taking part in the relationship, only existing within it. This comment really made me think over the last few days and the more I thought about it, the more I could relate to it. This woman was at tonight’s meeting. During my talk I told the woman how this part of her discussion, had an affect on me. That I can now see how negative and destructive my last relationship was. I thanked her from opening up my eyes to this. I have only been to two GA meetings so far and they are already having a positive affect on me.
When I returned home from my meeting, I thought again about the message I had received earlier. How I had let a negative influence into my life once more and allowed them upset my day. I chose to deal with this by sending this person one last message. I told them that I had put my gambling ways and anything that was once between us, behind me. I told this person that I was happy now. I want to continue smiling and for it to be real. For me, they are a chapter in my life that has now ended.
“We are the creative force of our life, and through our own decisions rather than our conditions, if we carefully learn to do certain things, we can accomplish those goals.” – Stephen Covey
We all make decisions in our lives, small ones, big ones, ones that we feel are necessary and others that can be life changing. A lot of the bigger decisions we choose to make aren’t always ones we want to at that time. They usually come from necessity. Belief that we need to change, develop and move on with our lives. To move forward towards a new chapter.
As a gambling addict and coming to terms with the acceptance I am a compulsive gambler. In order to move forward in recovery, there have been various decisions I have had to make over the past few weeks. All of which I’d known were necessary, however not all I’d been happy deciding on. After reflecting on this, I am now aware the decisions I had not been so keen towards making were ones I hadn’t wanted to fully analyze. This had been due to fear of seeing certain situations as they truly are. I had to acknowledge people and matters in my life that I knew would hold me back. I understand that going forward it is important to remove any destructive patterns, behaviors and people from my life in order to progress.
Last night I was working and I received a message from a friend, a girl I had talked about in ‘My Backstory’ blog. This was the friend I had first visited a casino with. She had messaged me asked if I was in town and if I would like to meet for a catch up. I knew right away what this message was about. It had nothing to do with catching up. We could catch up any time, she literally stays five minutes around the corner from me and could call me up at any point for a coffee and a chat. Yet, she has never done so. I knew the reason she had decided to message me whilst in town, was in hope that I would accompany her in gambling.
Me and this girl have been friends for over twenty years. We used to be able to finish each others sentences, know what one and other was thinking and be able to read each other like a book. The type of friend where if you had forgotten something that had happened to you in your past, you could be sure they would remember. We had grown apart in the last few years, as many friendships go. Both of us had wanted different things out of life. Sadly the only thing we had now in common was gambling.
In reply to her message, I stated that not only was I not in town but I did not gamble anymore. When she replied back to me she asked me why I had stopped gambling and stated that it will be fun to have a night at the casino and to catch up on each other lives. ‘It will be fun’, the statement that sticks in my mind. I would say this when I spoke to anyone about going gambling with me. It certainly was never fun going home afterwards to count out coins and work out how I would scrape by until my next pay day. Fun may have seemed to be what it was there and then but for the majority of the time this was short lived. I told my friend that I had no longer any interest in gambling. I did not want to share with her any details of what I was going through. I have chosen to do so only with a select group of family and friends and viewers of my blog. This is what I am comfortable with going forward. Although she is aware of how much of a gambler I was and the amount of money I would spend. I feel it is important to only let those around you know who you trust in helping you move forward in your journey to recovery. Sadly, even though I have known this girl for most of my life. I knew she was definitely not one of those people.
Message after message came through on my phone that evening from her. She would not stop trying to convince me to go and gamble with her. I knew then that I had to make a decision. I thought about it and finally contacted her back. I told her I would be sticking to what I had said earlier on, that I would no longer be gambling and not to contact me about any nights at the casino going forward. She was not at all happy with this and began to call me out on times when she hadn’t wanted to gambling but had done so because I had wanted to go. I knew she did not know the full situation of what was going on, so I decided not to answer her back. Not answering seemed to only make matters worse and the messages kept coming through. In the end I told her that I had said all I had to on the matter and that if she wanted to be my friend, she would need to stop asking me to go out gambling. After this, she never replied.
What had happened last night made me question whether this girl was still a friend of mine. Maybe we hadn’t really been friends for a very long time. Just two girls who would meet up on occasion to gamble, I do not know. All I knew was that I had to make a decision and I chose to be strong and stick to what I knew was right. I will not lie, part of me wanted to go to the casino with her last night. However, there was also a part of me telling me not to give in and not throw away all my hard word and effort so far. This part of me is growing stronger every day.
“When we allow negative messages to fester in our head, they take on a life of their own.” – Lolly Daskal
I wasn’t going to write in my blog this evening as I felt I had nothing positive to say. Then I remembered I had promised readers the whole truth from my blog and not just talk of my good days. I would like to confirm just now that I have not gambled.
When I woke up this morning, I had a horrible feeling of sadness. I didn’t understand as I had such a great time last night, catching up with friends from the past. When I went to bed yesterday evening, I had been feeling really happy and ready to take on whatever was ahead of me. So to wake up feeling as low as I did, was a shock to me. I felt empty inside.
The day went on and I was preparing for work in the late afternoon. The feeling from this morning still hadn’t shifted. Thoughts began to race through my head, I started to think that I couldn’t battle my addiction anymore, that I wasn’t strong enough and that I had made too many mistakes in the past and was just going to fail again and make another. Why were my thoughts so negative all of a sudden?
I sat down an hour before work and decided to give some serious thought to what was going on in my head. I eventually clicked at what had been getting to me. For the past week I had been missing someone I cared for, terribly. All the thoughts that had been going through my head, I realized were a trick of the mind. I was subconsciously trying to cover up what had really been upsetting me and my addiction was preying on this.
The person whom I missed is someone I care dearly for. I thought it would be best that I cut contact, whilst getting help for my addiction. I didn’t want them to see the highs and lows of what I wasn’t going to go through. Unfortunately, this didn’t go to plan and I ended up making matters worse than better. The person I speak of had been really supportive about me getting help and unfortunately got the brunt of what I was going through. This person I would say, helped me the most and had been called out for everything and anything and did not at all deserve this.
My biggest regret is that I did not stick to the plan of no longer maintaining contact, until being in a fully healthy state of mind. The person has now seen me at my worst and no longer wants to be a part of my life. I can’t blame them either. The reason I got back in contact with this person was because I was scared. I was scared that whilst I was gone, they would replace me. That they would find someone else, move forward with them and forget all about me. It hurts me thinking about it, typing this out. My self esteem has drifted away over the years and I often worry a lot over things, most of the time needlessly. Inside I’m constantly fighting the feeling of no longer being good enough. I put on a front to the world that I am a strong, confident, proud young woman. Yet I am so far from this.
One of the main reasons I decided to write a blog, was to get everything out of my system. Any thoughts or fears I had and put them all down on here. Before I began my blog, I felt I had no way of expressing how I was feeling about going forth in my battle against addiction. No one close to me could relate to what I was going through. I was about to take a massive step into the unknown and it was incredibly frightening to me. With me not expressing myself, I had a lot of thoughts surrounding my circumstance. Many were negative and made me go back and forth. One minute I would tell myself I was right to seek proper help, then minutes later my thoughts would have went in the opposite direction and I would be convinced I was already too far down the line. I took my frustration out on those closest to me. It now looks like the person I mentioned before, may no longer be part of my life because of this. It breaks my heart that this could be the case. I love this person, a lot more than they know. I would go to the end of the Earth and back for them. Yet, I’ve struggled to show this lately. I hadn’t been thinking about how they had been feeling or the effect my words had on them. More than anything, I wish I could take it all back.
When I started my blog I promised to tell of the ups and downs that I was going through. We all know that recovery isn’t easy. There are the good days, the success stories and then there are days where you just don’t feel so great. What I would advise from what I have learnt today, is to not allow your addiction or any negative thoughts to trick you in to thinking you can’t continue to move forward in your battle, when something else is going wrong in your life. In addition, I feel the most important lesson learned today is to show your care and appreciation towards those who help and support you in life. I have made the mistake in not doing so recently and I regret it massively. Please don’t do the same as I have.
“Once lost, trust can only be regained if we are as good as out word” – Desmond Tutu
Trust is an issue many people have. We all have been let down at some point in the past. Many of us give the people who have let us down, another chance to prove themselves. There are those who come through in the end and stay faithful to their word. Then there are those who let us down again. Like myself, you will have no doubt cared about someone, gave them more chances than they rightfully deserved and felt the pain of being continually let down. It really does hurts terribly. Some people decide to put up a wall to stop allowing others in emotionally, for fear of being hurt again. With all of us being let down at one point or another, how do you know who to trust again and who not to? Most people are quick to give another chance to their significant other, a family member or close friend. Therefore I ask, ‘Is it right to give trust straight away to someone who has lied to you, only due to status?’ Or, ‘If someone close to you has let you down, should they be expected to work harder than others, in order to regain that trust?’ It’s certainly something to think about.
I woke up today, bright eyed and bushy tailed. The ‘GA’ meeting last night had left me with a great deal of confidence. I felt positive about going forward. My first thought after getting up and ready, was to write out a day to day plan of my next week. I felt this was important to keep me my mind off gambling. It was also what the majority of newer members of the ‘GA’ group were doing and it seemed to be working for them. I sat down to type out my plan on the computer, feeling hopeful for the week ahead. I noted my working hours, my ‘GA’ meetings and other commitments I had that week. I then stared blankly at the screen. It hit me, I had no clue at all what to do in my spare time. I didn’t have any hobbies or interests, I had spent all my free time over the past ten years gambling. It was a strange feeling, I felt I didn’t know myself.
I had remembered from last nights ‘GA’ meeting that a lot of members were attempting to get back in contact with friends from the past. Good friendships that had been neglected due to their gambling addiction. So I decided to contact a friend who I felt was still my closest female friend. A girl I used to see more or less everyday and now would only see once every four months at best. When we did meet up, I wouldn’t chat long as I always had plans to go out gambling. My friend had never gambled and lived a happy, respectable life. She had been a great friend to me for a very long time. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been the same to her. It made me wonder if I was right to get in contact. In the end, I thought all I can do is try and put things right. I sent her a text to see if she would like to meet up for a coffee somewhere later on in the day and waited for her reply. Two hours went by, I was scrolling through blogs on addiction, having a look at recovery stories, some of which were very inspiring. I had a look on my mobile and my friend still hadn’t got back to me. This was a girl who always had her phone by her side. I started to think very negatively, maybe she no longer considered me a friend and if so, I couldn’t really blame her. I had treated her badly, she had always been there for me and me not so much for her. All I could think was that I was getting what I deserved.
Evening came, I was preparing to make dinner when my phone beeped. It was the message I had been hoping for from my friend. I hadn’t been forgotten about after all. She wasn’t feeling particularly in the mood for going out. She is reaching close to the end of her pregnancy so I could understand why she wouldn’t want to. However, she was still very interested in catching up and suggested I come over for a takeaway and some girly chat. My friend also had the idea of contacting another girl that had been part of our group, to get the three of us together again. The two of them had still remained close. I thought it was a great idea and my friend contacted our other friend who said she would love to come along and was looking forward to it. I felt I had been given a chance to get my friends back. Although I didn’t feel I deserved it, I was really grateful for the fact they were still there after everything. They never knew I had a gambling problem. I knew my friends wouldn’t judge me harshly if they were to know. If anything they would try and help me. However the way I’m trying to look at things now, is seeing gambling as my past and attempting to create a new, brighter and hopeful future. I was being given an opportunity to get back part of my old life, where I was happy. I made a promise to myself then, that I would never again neglect my friendship with these two girls. They had no idea what they had done for me. I knew it was exactly what I needed.
I was ready to go, I walked down the stairs and my dad was there sitting in the living room. He looked at me confused as he wasn’t aware I had plans to go out that evening. I told him my plans hadn’t long been confirmed and I was going to a friends house for a catch up. My dad wasn’t at all happy about this. He told me it that it was very suspicious that I was going out all of a sudden and that he knew I got paid today. He was angry as he believed I was going out with the intention to gamble. This of course wasn’t the case and I explained that to him thoroughly. He continued on that he still did not believe what I was saying and before you know it, the talk became a screaming argument. I was furious, I was finally doing the right thing and was being accused of going backwards.
I went back to my room, I’d had enough of arguing. As soon as I closed the door, I burst into tears. My emotions hit me and I sunk to the floor, crying my eyes out. I had been trying to be so strong, make plans and do the right thing. I felt like all my efforts had been a waste of time. I was furious and began to text a friend about how out of order I felt my dad had been and how dare he accuse me of something I am no longer doing. I eventually calmed down and started to really think about what had happened. To begin with all I could think was that my dad no longer had trust in me. He had seen everything that I had done recently to battle my addiction. I thought he had started to see a change in me but he hadn’t. To him I was still the daughter that had lied for so many years. It occurred to me then that it was going to take a long time for me to regain my dads trust again. I had believed that because I was his daughter, he would automatically forgive me, like most fathers do. Then I realized, my dad was smarter than that. I clicked and knew he was going to make me go through hell and back to regain his trust. I was due to learn the hard way and I respected my dad more for this.
I walked back downstairs and my dad did not say a word, neither did I. I left to go to my friends and my dad did not stop me. I knew in his mind he was thinking I needed to be left to make the right decisions by myself. I wasn’t going to let him down again and told myself I would do whatever it took for him to believe in me once more. I want to be the daughter that he will be proud of again.
I got to my friends house and she welcomed me in with a smile, offered me a drink and then our other friend turned up. Within minutes, it felt like time hadn’t passed since we had last got together. We chatted and laughed for hours on end, ordered in some delicious food and had a great night. I felt so lucky to have such great friends. I had wasted so much time gambling that I couldn’t see the good things I had in my life. I started to feel more like myself again and that was a great feeling.
Today has been a learning curve for me. When life gives you a second chance, take it. Be grateful for the opportunities you are given in life and choose not to neglect those who are there for you. When you hear something you don’t want to, do not automatically dismiss it. Have a think about it, perhaps it’s for your own good. People have many different ways of showing they care. When you understand this, you appreciate it. It’s good to know they still do.
“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. .
“A Gambler is nothing but a man who makes his living out of false hope” – William Bolitho
As a gambling addict, the amount of times you will see the above picture in real life is frighteningly regular, to the point where it becomes the norm. Yet again, you find yourself waiting on your next payday. You are already convinced that when the day comes, that will be your chance to win it all back and redeem yourself. You can’t run bad forever, right? Wrong!
My story started ten years ago, at the age of 18. Life hadn’t always been great but I was in a position where I was financially stable, I had a decent amount of savings for a person of my age, a job which I loved and made a fair salary from each month. I was very sociable, had many good friends and a future that looked bright and one I looked forward too.
It was the weekend and I was out on the town with my best friend. We were catching up, having a few drinks at a bar. It got to that time where all the pubs were closing and if you wanted to stay out you would have to go to the dancing..or so I thought. I sat and complained about how time had flew in that night and how I wished the night was able continue, neither of us were really dressed for the dancing. We hadn’t planned on staying out so late, it was just the way the night had went. I was ready to go home when my friend made the suggestion of going to a casino. She had been looking online to see what other options were available for us at that time. It turned out to be what we believed then as the only decent option for us. As two young women, looking to continue our chat, have a couple of drinks and not having to be dressed up to the nines for it either. She explained it was a five minute walk around the corner, seemed ideal and off we were. We waited in line to get in, it took around ten minutes. We brought out our I.D to show, had our photo taken, you have to become a member to enter the casino. With our membership we were given several vouchers for the gaming tables, some for ‘Blackjack’, ‘Roulette’ and a variety of different slot machines. There was too many to count. Our plan on going was to stay out for a couple more drinks, finish off our chat from earlier on and get the last bus home in an hour. Watching my friends eyes light up at all the freebies we’d just been given for a chance to win money and the butterflies I was feeling in my stomach at what seemed like a fantastic opportunity. I knew then, we would both be sharing a taxi home.
We walked down a massive flight on stairs to what seemed like a basement, there was no visible windows or doors . However, that did not take the look away from the place. I remember it being very colorful and bright, very enticing and attractive looking. Everywhere you looked people were having fun, laughing, having a drink, winning money. The amount of times you would hear coins falling from the slot machines with people winning money was unbelievable..or so I thought that’s what it was at the time. Me and my friend looked at each other and smiled. We both couldn’t wait to get involved in what was in front of us.
I was in the mood for a glass of wine, it was my round and I asked my friend what she would like and if she had saw where the bar was. Before she had the chance to reply a waiter or how I now know them from casino’s as, a ‘valet’, asked what we would like to drink and told us that he would bring our drinks over to us. Table service I thought, nice touch. Neither myself nor my friend had been to a casino before so we decided to look at our vouchers to see what we fancied to attempt first. I had heard of ‘Blackjack’ before, however I couldn’t recall from where. My friend had too so we decided to wander over to the table to use our free ten pound voucher. What was explained to me by the casino dealer was that you are given one free bet with this voucher, where you have the chance to win ten pounds. There didn’t seem to be any negatives, only an opportunity presenting itself. It was free I thought, I didn’t see any harm in it. My thinking was that I could win ten pounds and that would cover the drinks I had just ordered. At eighteen years of age, ten pounds seems like such a large amount of money, why wouldn’t I play the game? I couldn’t see what was ahead for me at that time and on that day I took my first gamble.
I won the ten pounds, my heart was racing when the dealer went bust and I was handed over the chips. I went to walk away to cash in my chips and the dealer asked me why I wouldn’t want to stay after being so lucky. I agreed and decided to sit back down. When the valet came over I was unaware you could pay with chips to buy your drinks, so I reached into my pocket to bring out my purse to pay for them. Conveniently no staff told me or my friend this was an option that night. After the drinks were paid for my friend then used her free voucher. She wasn’t so lucky but that didn’t bother her, she had just witnessed my win and thought if it was that easy to win ten pounds, surely she could too. We both went home up that night, the exact number I cannot remember. It was nothing extravagant but it was certainly enough to keep us keen to come back the following night and that we did.
For months after this, the casino became our nightly haunt and it started to show it’s darker side. I also started to see a change in my friend as well as myself. I am sure she did as well but it was nothing at the time that either of us were willing to admit. It started with us going in with twenty pounds to play and if we lost this we would go home. We soon began to realize that we were going home earlier each night and after a chat we had came to the conclusion that we must not have been bringing enough money with us to win. Ironically, we would not use the cash machines to take out more money as they would charge for each transaction and we felt that this would be throwing our money away. We had these various, ridiculous ideas. We couldn’t see either that no matter how much money we bet with, it wouldn’t really make a difference to the outcome of how the cards played out. The betting would only continue to get bigger.
A few more months down the line, myself and my friend had a fall out. She couldn’t afford to go gambling and she was furious that I was able to go to the casino and that she wasn’t. I offered to allow her to borrow money but her anger took over and she began to shout at me so I ended up hanging up the phone. That wasn’t going to stop me going out that night. Plenty of people went to the casino on their own, so I could too I thought. Not once did I think about how my friend was feeling at that time, the addiction was truly beginning to show.
That night I went to the casino alone and it was horrific, I had taken one hundred pounds and had lost it all within half an hour. How quickly I had went from taking with me twenty pounds to one hundred was not a thought at all in my head. All I could think about was getting more money out and winning it back. I wasn’t happy about the fact I was going to have to walk for ten minutes to a free cash machine and made a comment to the dealer about this. He then told me that if I went to the cash desk I could put pay for my chips by card, the minimum was £50 and my eyes lit up again. Yet again however, that money went quickly and I was back and forth to the machine more times than I care to remember. It got to the point where I was too embarrassed to go back to the cash desk that I started to go to the cash machine and pay the extra fee. It didn’t matter any more to me. That night I left myself with twenty pounds in my account to get by on and I had a week before I was to get paid. I was not in a good financial state. It was all looking very grim.
The following day I looked for ways of getting more money. I refused to touch my savings as I saw this as a step too far. However strangely enough, I found out about overdrafts and seemed to think that this was a smart way to go. The smiling bank staff made it sound oh so appealing. I was a smart kid and all of a sudden I started to become gullible or perhaps I did not want to admit to myself that I knew fine well what I was doing and how wrong it was. The only aim I had was to get back the money that I had lost and I had every belief in my head that this was what was going to happen. It had to, I refused to believe it wouldn’t.
I continued to go alone as my friends financial situation wasn’t any better and we still weren’t getting on very well. She was now beginning to place the blame on me for her financial state which of course angered me and she wasn’t willing to take any responsibility for it herself. Over time I was slowly beginning to lose my longest ever friendship with a girl I had known since we were at nursery together. My best friend who I did everything with was no longer a concern to me and I couldn’t care less. I began to develop strange friendships with gamblers a lot older than myself. Where we would stay as long as we could in the casino. Time was starting to become no object and I would often see myself leaving the casino and going straight to work. The overdraft was continually extended to the point where I was no longer able to. My work started to suffer as I wasn’t fully there, mentally. Then one month I got my wage in and it just covered my overdraft. I then went back to the casino that evening and spent it all in the one night. I couldn’t believe what I had done. I felt sick with myself. I wish then that I had done something about my addiction but I didn’t. I started to borrow money left, right and center. Pay it back and then still be short myself. After this, I did for me the unthinkable. I chose to dive into my savings. They were short lived and my gambling addiction continued to worsen.
One of the worst times of my life was when I had to go to the bank with my father. I had been given a default on my account. I hadn’t paid into my overdraft for months. I had my wages coming into a my previous savings account so that they were not being swallowed up in to the overdraft. Yet again so I could gamble with them. It was now at the point where I was spending thousands of pounds on ‘Blackjack’, I was completely lost in the game. Before the meeting with the bank, I had to have the awful chat with my father. The situation with the bank had been sent on to a debt collection agency. The letter came through my door and my heart was racing. I had been trying to run from my problem, I wasn’t willing to face it. I didn’t understand what was happening to me, I was terrified. My dad was of course furious with me, as expected. He told me he would pay it off but that I was pay the money back to him. The money was paid to the debt collection agency and the following day we went to the bank. The bank was having none of it, they closed my account. I tried to get a visa debit card with other banks and they would not allow this, I was terribly embarrassed. I had no option then but to go for a basic bank account. My self esteem plummeted, I started to feel myself becoming depressed. I had lost my self respect, my fathers belief in me. Most of my family found out, viewed me completely differently and I thought I had lost my best friend forever. I was disgusted with myself. Sadly though my gambling only got worse.
After everything, I was fed up with myself. I felt I had amounted to nothing, that I wasn’t good enough anymore. I became extremely destructive in all aspects of my life and the gambling was a massive part of this. My best friend eventually got back in contact with me, she was in a better mood as her financial situation had got better. I had also just finally paid my dad back the money I owed him and I had just a little to spare. She suggested we try another casino, maybe we would get lucky the first time going to a new one. She also felt that the one we had been going to had too many bad memories associated with it. I agreed and we went to a different one. I noticed my friend had no intention of playing ‘Blackjack’, however she was very interested in another card game, ‘Three card poker’. She had saw it online and was desperate to try it. I left her to it and did my usual and went over to the ‘Blackjack’ table. My money was gone within an hour. My friend however was up over a hundred pounds. I was shocked, I hadn’t saw her have a win in so long. I had six pounds left in my bag and was feeling pretty low. I had done it again. My friend then suggested I try out this game she was winning on. I decided to put on my last and I put it on a bet called the ‘Three card bet’. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing. After two hours my six pounds have managed to transform to over three hundred. I couldn’t believe my luck and I quickly became hooked on it.
From then on I continued to play ‘Three card poker’, I never really went to ‘Blackjack’ and when I did it was only on the odd occasion that the ‘Three card poker’ table would be closed. It became my life, it affected various relationships. It got to the point quite quickly where I wouldn’t even think about all the money I had lost because I knew that I was never going to get it back. Gambling became more about escapism for me. I felt disgusted with myself and my life outside the casino, I felt like a complete failure and that there was no turning back now. I was giving in slowly over the years, I had admitted defeat. I also became addicted to playing poker. Whether that be tournaments or cash games. My money was chewed away on that also. I found that I wasn’t taking care of myself properly. I realized I no longer cared about myself. I wasn’t even at all bothered about this, I was too far gone.
Years later, I came out of a long term relationship, I felt that the person was dull and boring and that they could not keep up with me. Truth of the matter is, I was too busy gambling to see what a great guy this person truly was. I know now, after all this time that the relationship wouldn’t have worked out for various other reasons. However, I am also aware that my gambling certainly did not help matters. It wasn’t until I met and started to see someone who enjoyed gambling on the same things as I did myself, that I started to view things differently. When you really care about someone and you see them lose money you know they can’t afford, it hurts you also. When you see how gambling affects that person and how it makes them change, it scares you. In a way, it forced me look at my life. To do something about my addiction. To think about what it is that I truly want. I still at this point have no idea what that is but I am hopeful that the steps I am about to take will lead me in the right direction, towards knowing. The situation with this person went on for a long time and is no longer. I will say that I have learnt a lot from it and it has made me even more determined not to gamble again.
Tomorrow I will be attending my first GA
session. A new experience for me and one that is long overdue.