The World Breaks Everyone

It’s been 27 days since my last bet, and it feels like years.
Bottom for me came the morning I walked into my employer’s office and stood face to face with my friend, mentor and boss. Looking him in the eye, I admitted I had made cash advances from the company credit card and advances on my salary from the company bank account to fund a gambling addiction I had been struggling with over the last 9 months. Damages were somewhere in the range of $85,000. In addition, I also have overdue credit card debts, unpaid taxes, and loans from family and friends for about half that amount.
In 27 days, I survived the things I had feared the most. Letting down the people I loved and respected. Admitting I had failed and subverted my financial responsibilities and obligations. Admitting how deeply I had deceived myself, and by extension, everyone around me about my activities and wrongdoing. Losing my career. Losing trust. Losing friends. Losing loved ones. And the obvious, losing all my money.
I’ve been in the process of taking the fearless moral and financial inventory we talk about at my weekly GA meetings. It is a wonder to me that I have not gone to jail or faced legal action as a result of my gambling addiction. But that is one of the greatest gifts I’ve been given in the last 27 days. Did I ever expect to be met with kindness & forgiveness in one of the darkest moments of my life? Never. My boss listened silently, and did not interrupt or react once until I got to the bitter end. He then proceeded to offer assistance in the gentlest way possible. It was one of the noblest acts I had ever witnessed.
Truthfully, it was an astounding miracle to me that the ones I harmed understood my misdeeds in the context of my addiction, and in many ways, better than I did myself. I had never known or had experiences with addiction, but my boss and his board of directors had firsthand experience with addiction (one is a Ph.D. in Psychology and used to be a counselor early in his career). Looking back, their decision was more well-informed and enlightened than anyone could hope to expect, but ultimately, I am prepared to finish my current project through the end of next month and begin to repay my financial debt and my debt of honor to my boss over time. Prudent steps to limit liability to the organization have been taken, and I am actively seeking work that does not require me to handle finances or money. I’ve been with my boss for the last 15 years. I will miss him dearly, but it will be a hard and necessary transition for all of us.


I, on the other hand, am only beginning to understand and come to terms with what I had done. I am working with a therapist and Gamblers Anonymous weekly. My past actions still weigh profoundly on my heart. I experience daily moments of anxiety and have to do breathing exercises to cope with them. I also struggle to communicate with my boyfriend about my addiction, and he thinks it is mostly a financial problem and doesn’t want to talk to people who have been through this. He has not looked into any of the literature or resources I have forwarded to him. He doesn’t understand the emotional and psychological components of the addiction. He isn’t ready, and may never be ready, or even capable of understanding. He has stated he cannot understand any of it, and has backed off and stopped communicating for the last week because he needs time away from the problem (without telling me he would be doing this). We don’t live together and I don’t owe him money, but he must believe that somehow he will be “on the hook” if I slip up someday. I grant him that distrust, and also acknowledge his doubts and fears and worries. But I also feel under-qualified to educate him on these things and can’t provide him with the help he needs while also working on the help that I need.
There are many moments of heaviness, minor depression, and anxiety for me these days. But they are balanced by small gestures of empathy, as well as grand demonstrations of humanity. But one memory stands out for me. As I walked out of his office that day, my boss said, “You are the most efficient and effective person I have ever met and worked with. I know you can beat this thing.” I hold that thought dearly and closely, as I try to remember how others see me when I am not gambling.
Surprisingly, after I did my homework, there was one more loss I had to learn to acknowledge, and probably the mother of all losses in my situation. Unlike a set of car keys gone missing, this had gone completely unnoticed, but may be the underpinning of my self-destruction. In my addicted state, I was able to lose all sense of self and time. The act of gambling allowed me to neglect my true needs and ignore my deepest aspirations. In the absence of inspiration, the abandonment of my ideals slowly followed. Subconsciously or not, through the culmination of my addiction, and let’s face it, there are only a few possible endings to a gambling addiction, I was forced to start to “see” myself for the first time in many years. I am awake in this moment, and I am awake to myself when I am not gambling.
The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places. - Ernest Hemingway-- 8/28/2013 6:47:42 AM: post edited by Sirena0215.-- 8/28/2013 6:48:47 AM: post edited by Sirena0215.


Yesterday marked my one month anniversary of recovery.

This last week was about acceptance, grieving, and a slow, inevitable move from immediate crisis to the real work of rewiring my daily thoughts and behavior. Brief bursts of bawling still hit me out of the blue while I was driving, or I’d find myself sniffling into my bowl of soup while watching Breaking Bad. I only had one instance of waking up in the middle of the night with a heavy chest and needing to get my breathing under control this week. But I allowed these short fits of emotion and anxiety to pass. Most importantly, I remembered to acknowledge whatever feelings were coming up for me. I understood that I was crying for the loss of the past, as I fired off emails to co-workers about meetings and events, two months from now, that will not include me.

I also started to watch Breaking Bad from the first season all the way through to the current season, and it has been fantastic therapy! A little passive, but cathartic and riveting, to say the least, and I so enjoyed watching a former mild-mannered suburban father and high school chemistry teacher, turned meth-lab **** lord, undergo one of the most villainous transformations on TV. I read a great article about what makes a person bad, “…— his actions, his motives, or his conscious decision to be a bad person? Judging from the trajectory of its first three seasons, Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan believes the answer is option No. 3.” (http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/6763000/bad-decisions.)

This week I also started to **** – as in food – not Breaking Bad “****ing" . This was quite a shock, as I’d never had any interest in ****ing my entire life. I was never food motivated, and usually the slowest eater at the table. Until recently, I often found myself skipping meals. And then seven days ago, I started preparing and ****ing every meal for myself, every day. My therapist and I believe it’s an expression of nurturing behavior, re-learning how to care for myself, and taking the time to slow things down. I enjoy cutting and dicing, the visceral experience of handling the food, and the process of preparing a healthy meal. It's a soothing and meditative practice that I am coming back to, through a new activity, transferring some of the meditation skills learned from a lifelong avocation in the martial arts.

So with these fairly normal and minor activities, the daily restructuring of my physiological and psychological well-being had begun.

I also told my therapist that, with the exception of one instance of thoughts about my unused free play this month, I was a little confused that I wasn’t experiencing more gambling cravings. She explained that once a CG has been able to make the connections between their addiction and the underlying causes, then the cravings naturally start to drop off. I said, “Okay, and then what?” My perceptive counselor asked, “And then what about ‘what’? Do you mean, specifically, what happens after our calls end, or what happens next week? Or…?” I beat around the bush a little bit by clarifying the first items, but came around to my real fears.

My real fears came up whenever I started to think about the future and the unknown. Like every normal human being would in my position, I suppose, I was struggling with where I would be working and living in two months. I’d been running or hiding from making changes in my life for many years, and I’d come to a place where all of that work started all over again. What happens now? The answer is I don’t know. It's a little less scary to admit that this week. I just need to continue to keep breathing and to keep ****ing for now.-- 9/2/2013 7:51:04 AM: post edited by Sirena0215.


Good job on the month.  You  reminded me of a quote - "The days are long but the years fly by".  Isn't that the truth?  By going a month, you've proven to yourself that you can go a lifetime. 

But that's not the real underlying problem (not currently gambling), is it?  I know it isn't for me.  The gambling is a by-product of a bigger issue.  But just what is that issue? 

Speaking of movies/shows, you (also) reminded me of a quote from another movie, As Good As It Gets, when Nicholson is standing in the crowded lobby of his psychiatrists office and boisterously asks, "What if this is as good as it gets?"

What if this is as good as it gets?  I'm on my 22nd day, and I can honestly say that I felt stronger and more motivated  about my recovery when I was having to fight off the first few weeks of recovery -arguably the noticeably (consciously) hardest - than I do today, even though that fight is over and has been won.

Why is this?  Is it that the rush of the bet that is now gone...forever?  Do I need to set another goal for myself, like going another month and if so, how do I psyche myself up for this to the same level and with the same enthusiasm that I did for this last one?  Is it the having to accept the financial reality that is mine, without the illusionary belief (escape) in my ability to acquire more, easy money from gambling?  Is it lingering guilt and regret, or a combination of all of these and maybe many more factors?  I'm more than happy to work on my 'thing' that has lead me back to gambling so many ***** before, but just what is this 'thing'?  How can I fight an enemy that I cannot recognize or understand the motivations of?

I'm simply left tense and waiting, on guard.  For what?  I don't know, all I know is that I can't gamble and later on, I'm told (by others and myself), it'll be easier and I'll feel better and understand myself more.  So...OK, this is my goal.  Blind faith.  Can't live with it, can't live without it.  Day to (son-of-a-bitchin') day.

I can easily see why cross-addiction exists because this **** ain't easy, to the contrary, it's extremely frustrating.  Turning to the bottle or a pill would be so comforting at the moment.
*phew*  That felt really good typing that! 
ps - I also am a HUGE fan of Breaking Bad.  Too bad it's almost over.  No need to panic though, Breaking Bad fans also enjoy Homeland and House Of Cards. 

pss - Judging from your posts, Sirena, it's obvious your educational background is substantial.  Mine is limited.  But in a strange way, it's comforting to know that gambling addiction can suck us all in, regardless of whatever knowledge we've armed ourselves with.  That we're not ignorant freaks, just regular people who got unwittingly caught up in an addiction.
 

 


You're so right, Danchaser. Our underlying issues, and working on our 'thing' after our initial gambling crises requires some different thinking and methods. I've had to put down the sledgehammer and pick up the chisel, and this phase of work seems a lot harder to me, because as you say, it is now all about the long days. I definitely relate to your frustration and so glad you're able to get it off your chest here. And I really do hope this isn't as good as it gets!
None of us ever planned on becoming compulsive gamblers. I've certainly opened my eyes to the fact that this addiction can bring down the best of us, as well as the most fragile of us. But I do hope that after the work is done, that those things we are longing for, like strength, meaning, renewed sense of purpose, and a measure of peace can be found. It took most of us years to get where we are, so I doubt progress ever happens quickly or in a straight line.
I hope your next goal is a worthy one that will make you whole.
Ps, also sad BB is ending so soon, but I'm looking forward to Homeland too! Will check out House of Cards.-- 9/2/2013 8:48:26 PM: post edited by Sirena0215.-- 9/3/2013 2:37:11 AM: post edited by Sirena0215.


Poetry.

I thought I'd heard all the phrases, 'Rome wasn't built in a day', 'change takes time', One day at a time', etc., but "a chisel instead of a sledgehammer" is a new one for me, yet, it defines me.

I want instant results...too much.  I'm afraid I want/demand this more than a healthy person.  In fact, this just provided me with illuminating insight into the primary reasons I gambled in the first place - instant gratification for fun, excitement and quick cash.  Eventually, the fun yielded to excitement and quick cash and then excitement yielded to solely quick cash and I had arrived at my destination.  Gambling wasn't fun or exciting any more, I was on a mission of instant, financial gratification and I believe its safe to say that using gambling to achieve this goal is the very definition of using a sledgehammer.  It only makes sense that I would also use this strategy in my thought processes for recovery and/or anything else I'm attempting to achieve.  A chisel versus a sledgehammer...it's so simple and unintimidating at the same time.  I can see how the application of this mental imaging could be beneficial.

I also appreciate how you pointed out that recovery doesn't necessarily move in a straight line of emotional successes.  Yet, this is what I was expecting; that the optimism I feel about my gambling abstinence and emotional recovery should get better and my resolve stronger each and every day/week, not stagnant or worse.  Unrealistic demands will simply accomplish nothing, other than grief and quite possibly could be damaging.  I had forgotten what was so obvious to me in the beginning of my recovery - that freeing (not forgetting) oneself from excessive guilt and shame is absolutely critical to a durable and lasting recovery.  Another day of not gambling gets me another day closer to the person I want to become, regardless of the peaks and valleys of unrecognized emotions.

Your post really helped me to look at my recovery from a different perspective these last couple of day, and I thank you for this.  I'm sure grateful I'm not alone in this quest as it sucks enough already.

Day 25 for me, with no end in sight. 
 


Hey Dan - wow! That is a significant insight you gained from a simple metaphor. (Not mine by the way, just heard it somewhere.)


How you describe chasing was almost like being inside my head, and all of the Compulsive Gamblers reading this will surely attest to that. Yes, Danchaser, you nailed it. "Put your sledgehammer down, keep your hands up, and back away from the casino tables slowly."


You reminded me of how the winning felt great at first. I think it was someone on this forum who posted that when Kelsey Grammar was interviewed about his ******* addiction and asked about his regrets, he said he never regretted any of it because he felt f'--ng great while he was doing it. Like most of us, my excitement was fueled by increasing amounts of winning and wagers.


Looking back, however, the increase in excitement and increase in gambling was inversely proportionate to the decrease in excitement from other (healthier) parts of my life. These healthier parts disappeared and left big holes for the addiction to sweep in and fill. I study those healthy parts of my life that disappeared very closely now. The autopsy helps me with my recovery. It happened over many years, but the lack of excitement and the absence of joy in my life were the truer sources of my addiction. There were others, and they all progressed over time, but I am reminded that an important one was excitement. Where'd that all go? And then the gambling fun turns into that monstrous realization we all face in the end. One of the most demoralizing experiences we go through is that walk of shame after it stops being fun and we lose everything. To top it off, those of us in denial and still unaware of our addiction always walk out thinking, "What the **** is wrong with me?!" "What happened just now?" "Am I slowly going insane?" I say yes to that last one, though. Especially because there are only a few possible endings to our road as Compulsive Gamblers: prison, death, insanity. Recovery, as you mention Danchaser: Recovery is never-ending.


Celebrating your victory and breakthrough as if it were my own. - S-- 9/6/2013 9:15:14 AM: post edited by Sirena0215.


Matters little to me where you got that phrase from, the end result is it made it's way from God's lips to my ears, via you.  I've used that mental image in the last few days and it has worked for me. 

What else explains having to get my money back from the casino...RIGHT NOW(!), with almost entire disregard to what will happen to the longevity in my business' and my family's future should I lose? 

Of course, I actually did consider what would happen should I lose (barely), but the sledgehammer aspect of my addiction made me think like this: "Maybe I should wait before I go back and try to win the money back...NO!  I have to go right now!  This is probably the precise moment when I should go.  If I don't go now, I'll miss this golden opportunity to win it back and will instead lose later when I should have gone and won NOW!"  That right there is some pretty screwed-up and desperate thinking.  But that's what I did...many, many *****.

Using a sledgehammer also explains why I feel so tense and stressful when I'm in recovery and expect results to happen sooner than they actually do/can. 

It's impossible to sculpture the crevasses with a sledgehammer.  You can demolish them or not touch them at all, but not sculpture to desire.
Sledgehammer = danchaser*.
 

*past-tense.
Day 27.  Much better that last week.
 


Hi Sirena,

Just wanted you to know I was thinking about you.

I have been following your thread with great interest and I hope your ‘rewiring’ is going well.

How is the culinary therapy / exploration going? Maybe you could share your favorite recipe – I love to ****!

Looking forward to your posts …

Adele

 


Good to hear from you, Adele. I'm in the middle of the busiest work week of the year, so little writing opportunities recently, and also still processing some very important new learning from the last two weeks. Maybe it's you who should share your recipes with me, since I'm sticking to very simple pastas and a variety of salads :-)


Well, it looks like my last post was erased. This site provides a valuable humanitarian service, but I'm hoping they won't need to do another website migration - ever.


September 13, 2013


A month and a half ago, my CG recovery began with the biggest mistake of my life, brutal honesty, and then forgiveness. I’ve continued to follow-through on my decision to live a gambling-free life through daily introspection, meditation, and an effort to get back to my core through new activities and ventures, like cooking and therapy. I’m also reincorporating old interests, like reading and writing. Music has made a comeback too. I started connecting with random tracks in TV and movies, and spending more time using my music apps. I hadn’t noticed how much I was dulled to music and didn’t notice when I had stopped listening to it. The renewed sensitivity to music actually makes sense to me, as the numbing and distracting effects of my gambling addiction begin to wear off. And that’s when the showdown with what I’d been suppressing for the last 7 years happened. The day I was expecting for some time came around two weeks ago, during the holidays. The “feelings” I had been avoiding through compulsive gambling finally caught up with me on one of the busiest day of my year. Maybe it was the long weekend and a combination of the break up with my boyfriend, but the whole week was leading to a meltdown.


It only took 33 days of recovery to move from my state of emotional avoidance--to bouncing off the walls in fury. For twelve hours, my head and heart were making the rounds through past disappointments, betrayals, heartbreak, rip-offs, and bad endings. I hadn’t been successful at completely making sense of key events in my past, and the process of reconnecting with myself surfaced some deep-seated feelings of anger. The more I reflected on the past, the angrier I got. And I eventually worked myself up into such a fury that I spent a sleepless, restless night and a 6-hour day of work doing exactly 4 tasks. That was new. As a workaholic, I was a pro at avoiding feelings by burying myself in work and effectiveness, so this constant distraction of overwhelming, intense waves of hurt and fury were a very different experience. I’d always been able to bury feelings in work, gambling, exercise or other activities in the past. It wasn’t working anymore. So, I gave up trying to figure it all out on my own and called the 800-Gambler hotline. Even as I made the decision to call, I had to squash the thought that I was supposed to be able to handle my problems on my own. Whoever programmed that into my thinking early on – thanks! Deciding that it was okay to seek help from someone more educated and qualified to tell me what was going on in my head, was another decision I made differently. Plus, I obviously didn’t have my **** together enough to figure it out on my own. My therapist was kind enough to put it more gently, “Let’s just say you’re too close to the problem.” Even though I didn’t have the cravings or urges to gamble, I knew that the feelings I struggled with were what nudged me towards trouble and allowed my addiction to take hold in the first place. The phone call to the hotline calmed me down just a little bit. But the exercises that the counselor suggested, like ******** to ten (I was way beyond that) and redirecting my thoughts didn’t help. What did help was this: After I hung up, I noticed a news article on the table that was about a woman who had been kidnapped, held hostage and held for ransom in Somalia for 460 days, and had 12 minutes of freedom during that entire time. She was never alone, and most days she didn’t even know whether she was going to live or die (gulp). Here I was, banging my head over feeling ******* out of the last few years of my life, and then I realized that there were people out there who actually were ******* out of years of their life, and also deprived of their freedom. Thank you, Universe, I got it. Hotline counselor should’ve just prescribed a dose of the NY *****. But I’ll take the help in whatever unexpected form it’s offered.


Processing those intense and difficult feelings ended up becoming the most important part of my recovery these last couple of weeks, even though it felt like hell. I learned that when I felt “it” was becoming too much to process, going out into the world (figuratively or literally) helped to break me out of my cycle. It was exhausting. And I was so relieved to hear that my feelings would probably not be as intense moving forward now that I’d gone through this thing. My counselor said, “That was so good for you to go through. When it happens again, you’ll know what to do and be better prepared.” The analogy she used was it was like going to the dentist. It’s gotta be done. Somehow, I need to learn to regard my feelings less like a root canal and treat them with more respect and attention as they come up. I am so bad at sitting with my feelings, stewing in them and exploring them like some of my wacky, but emotionally in-tune friends. I grew up with great examples of stoicism and toughness--emotional acknowledgement and expression, not so much. Since attaining emotional coping skills overnight is pretty unrealistic, I know that getting through my redo (my new chance at a different life) is going to require some new behaviors where my emotions are concerned. That or suffer the consequences of a relapse. The power of negative feelings to undermine health and happiness is astounding to me. My dark side behaviors came from a place of avoidance, and I definitely do not want to repeat old patterns.


I suppose some feelings, like some things in life, can never be fully explained or justified or analyzed. They just happen. The things I had been obsessing over …it was just life happening to me.


But I think that’s only half of it. The implied idea that life was happening “to me,” versus me making my ideal life happen…Yes, there are things that happened that I didn’t choose, and then there were things I did do to try to create a life of meaning. When the latter didn’t work out it, it was alright on a normal day. But when the two converged, my actions with other major bad experiences not of my choosing, during a period I was severely burned out and had no energy left and battling other issues, I think I had shut down just to try to protect myself. I began gambling more during that time period.


When the time came for me to tackle and square those things in my past, I had a chance to rework my leftover feelings in one maddening day, and I survived.


I recently read an article about the value of suffering: http://p.nytimes.com/email/re?location=InCMR7g4BCKC2wiZPkcVUiGuHDNB+q0J&....

And I thought to myself, “What possible use or value could suffering serve?” Apparently suffering does serve a purpose.


It’s called growth.


Sirena,


You are a study in critical thinking and I am appreciatively fascinated with your ability to convey your experiences and thought processes. I am always enlightened by your posts. If you have those lost posts somewhere, I hope you will copy them back in to your thread.


Stay strong,


Adele


Are you maybe having trouble posting on the new site?


I'm running around sharing a way that I figured out for getting my comments to post at the end of the thread instead of landing somewhere in the middle.


Here it is if you're interested:


Don’t use the “Add new comment” box for typing your comments.


Instead, click on the dark purple “reply” button (next to the “Complain about a message” button) just under the last comment posted on the thread.


When you click on the “reply” button, a new window pops up where you can type in your comment. Then when you hit “Save”, your comment will post at the tail end of the thread like it’s supposed to!


I hope this helps and you start posting again soon.


This new site has some really cool features I think we're all going to like once the GT team gets all the kinks worked out!


Adele


Thanks for your note Adele, hope you and everyone on the site is well.


I've tried re-posting my last journal entry and it appears that the new Forum censors are turning some of the words in my posts, like stolen and times to ****. Normal words like cooking and ******** in older posts have been converted to ******* and giving my past posts a slightly obscene twist. Rather than trying to post on my old thread and risk some pretty normal comments becoming crude and harsher where they are not intended, I'm going to close this thread and begin a new one, in hopes posting to new thread will happen without inaccurate censoring and twisting meaning.


Since the new forum censors have been updated (thanks GT!), I am going to try and continue my old thread and see how that works for now.


I joined GT on August 27, 2013 under my original post “The World Breaks Everyone.” The quote is from Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms:

“The World Breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”


62 days ago, I admitted to myself, to my colleagues and to my loved ones that I had a gambling addiction. And in that order because my compulsive gambling eventually led to acts of embezzlement, which resulted in legal/financial trouble and a fall from grace in the eyes of people I admired most in the world. Financial damage assessment to date is approximately $150,000, including loans from various friends and family members, credit cards and other personal debt.


During GT’s transition to its new website and format, I re-visited my old posts to see if my thread was salvageable. In the process, I had a chance to re-read my story with fresh eyes. During my first month of not gambling, I binged on TV as a source of therapy and a passive substitution for gambling. The TV show Breaking Bad embodied a particular inner struggle for me. (Spoiler alert: Jesse Pinkman lives!) Looking back, my story wasn’t only a story about how I broke bad, but also a testament to the good in my life. When I hit rock bottom, through the grace of their combined experience, kindness, compassion and forgiveness, my employers, my family members (not all), my very dear old friends, and some new CG friends supported me, loved me, and encouraged me to continue to beat my addiction. This restored my faith in others, and gave me hope for the future.


Through the filter of those early, fraught days of desperation and despair, I saw that I also struggled with huge fears of the unknown. It’s easy to see why I identified and resonated so strongly with words “breaking” “bad” and the world “breaks” everyone. I was broken. But I see now that I’m no longer in that place. And I’m also no longer that person.


In my second month of recovery, I moved from a state of “broken” to “wounded.” Somehow, I turned a corner and was fortunate enough to be able to come to some realizations about a new way of life. I began to build a life that incorporated my new-found CG knowledge into my daily living.


Now in my third month of recovery, I’ve started moving from a state of “wounded” to another, newer state. If I were to start a new thread at this moment on this new site, it would be called “And the Healing Has Begun.” (Van Morrison)


" ...And we'll say baby ain't it all worthwhile when the healing has begun?"

the Van


Adele


:-)


You just get it, girl!


Hello Sirena,

You have written an incredibly brave post and your words have moved me tremendously.

It must have taken an enormous amount of courage to walk in to your boss’ office that day. You painted a very clear picture of your anguish and described it as the bottom for you. To me, I think it was a moment to be extremely proud of.

But then I am not a compulsive gambler – my husband is (not yet in recovery), so I am not necessarily able to relate to the emotional and psychological aspects of your addiction. I can only offer you encouragement to continue working hard on your recovery, and I can wish you my sincere and heartfelt best wishes for your journey.

You have made so many very wise and informed decisions already, and you are extraordinarily introspective. I believe your boss is absolutely right in his assessment of you and in his faith that you will beat this thing.

I think it is good that you recognize you cannot provide your boyfriend with the help he needs while you are just beginning to get the help you need. Perhaps he has backed off because he does understand on some level - or intuitively recognizes your need to do this work without distraction. Of course I don’t know, but I do know the addiction can distort your perception so I offer another.

I tend to go on and on in my posts, and I really have no business doing that here on your thread. Others will post soon who can better understand what you’ve been through and what may be ahead for you. I hope Velvet will share her thoughts with you about the separate paths of CGs (compulsive gamblers) and non-CGs (friends and family of CGs).

In your moments of heaviness I hope you will come here for support and understanding - perhaps to one of the live groups – or call a sponsor or friend. You need not go through this alone.

Keep holding those good thoughts dear and close - I feel certain your ideals will resurface.

You have an amazing gift in expressing yourself with words and I am enlightened by your experiences. I look forward to reading your thread.

Adele


Dear Sirena,

your journey to date has taken tremendous courage and I admire you for that. To take responsibility for our actions going forward is a turning point. You stopped yourself from continuing to take advantage of your employer. You owned up to those in your life who can support you in your recovery and who will perhaps know if something isn't "right" again. You are owning this illness/addiction/compulsion. Thank you so much for putting your journey into detail for others to learn from and to know they are not alone in this. I don't know if your career including writing in the past but it would seem you are extremely good at it. so thank-you again for sharing your gift. Stay strong and keep working recovery. Glad you found this place. Laura


Thank you for your kind words, Laura.

I'm not a writer, but I have stacks of journals from the last 30 years that have prepared me to be as brutally honest as I can with myself in writing.


Not coincidentally, journaling had ceased to be a refuge and creative outlet, and a truly inadequate exercise to address/appease this growing emptiness I'd been feeling for quite a number of years (right around the time I started gambling). I wasn’t experiencing depression exactly, but was badly burned out and unhappy. No matter what I tried, except for gambling, I found nothing worth investing my time and money. Sigh... A really good therapist would've been able to avert a disaster at this stage.


But I was so very grateful to find this site a few months ago early on in my recovery. It allowed me to identify and reconnect to old practices like writing, meditation, while identifying new practices (cooking, calligraphy, binge TV-watching) to move me along on my recovery. Last but not least, I was able to offer and receive insight from others.


Although my journey has been profoundly humbling, enlightening, and humanizing (I am a much kinder person than I used to be), I've caught myself resisting change through self-sabotaging acts of procrastination these last few weeks. As hard as it is to deal with bouts of financial worries and regrets, better to stick with a sense of renewal/hope, self-discovery, vigilance, and awareness.


Hoping your journey finds you well and in good spirits, Laura.


All the Best, - S


Thank you Sirena!


Permalink Submitted by adele on Sun, 10/13/2013 - 01:05


Sirena,


I greatly appreciate your kind and encouraging words, and thank you for the good thoughts - I've needed them lately. My health is improving thanks to really good drugs and lots of rest. So now I just need to find ways to regain my energy because I'm going to need it.


Your posts always make me think, and send me googling many times, lol. I think some of your posts are missing from your thread because I was looking for one in particular where I believe you mentioned the UCLA Gambling Studies Program (which I have used a great deal) and you were researching a theory about the addiction and how it affected the brain. Do you still have that post?


I have found a few of mine missing, so I have copied and pasted them back into my thread. It is possible to insert them in the right place chronologically by clicking on the Reply button on the post just before the post you are trying to repost. (that sounds pretty confusing - hope you are able to make sense of it!)


Anyway, thanks for posting here, and I hope you will continue to post your thoughts and experiences as you proceed through your recovery. It is tremendously helpful to me and many others I'm sure, and I think it can't help but be beneficial to you too.


Hope to see you on here soon,


Adele


Hi Adele,

So sorry for the delay. I did check on my missing posts and the GT team will probably not be able to find and reload the missing posts, which is sad because the messages from you and others during my first few days of recovery were a life-saver.


I believe we were sharing my resources, the "where" and "how" I was able to get the help I needed in those first weeks, especially for someone like me who had no experience with addiction in the past - not one single friend or family member who had suffered through a similar experience. When I get a break this evening and back from my meetings, I will post back in more detail about my process too, since I think that was something you had expressed interest in, as well.


I'm glad you're feeling better and on your way to a healthier you!


Take care and will be in touch again soon,

- S


Hey Sirena,


I have some pretty strong, hurt feelings about everyone's lost posts, so I'd better not get started about that here ... he he


I did repost (back on your thread) one of my lengthier posts to you that I had saved in my Word documents. I clicked on the reply button of the post dated the closest to the date I first wrote it and inserted it there I think.


It sounds like you are still working after all, and I assume this is a good thing. I suspected from your initial posts you were in a position that could cause hardship for everyone concerned for you to leave on such short notice. I hope it is all good news and good reason that you are working.


Yes, I would very much like to know more about your process - in your counseling and your thinking. I am genuinely interested in your recovery for one thing, and, admittedly, I have everything to gain from your knowledge, resources and experiences since my husband and I have just entered in to counseling. But as much as anything I find your writing completely engrossing, so I hope it is therapeutic for you!


It is good to hear from you and I hope things are going well for you.


Adele


Hi Adele,

OMG – I agree, we can’t go there about our long lost posts :-) Better to make some new posts now.


Thank you so much for re-posting your original message to me! It was a great help then and a great help now.


Yes, I am still working for my organization, and you guessed correctly, it would have been a disaster for me to leave during the time I was struggling with my initial recovery. After our annual conference ended, the Board met and one of the items on the agenda was my future with them. I had a very strong champion (not my boss) who really fought for me. So once again, I was given a reprieve until the beginning of December, when they will make a further assessment on my progress. They are taking things slowly and in small steps (rightly so). But this is also a transitional moment for me because there are very good reasons for me to be looking at other options that might provide a fresh start. I’m currently at about 50% below salary median at my experience level in similar positions at larger companies in LA and San Francisco. I’ve discussed this with my boss and told him there were two ways to go if I planned to repay him and all of my creditors in a 3-5 year time frame. So, one item that needed to be considered was finding a job with a significant salary increase, or secondly, getting a 2nd job to supplement my current one, if they decide to retain me beyond December (which appears to be on track). I’ll probably need to make a move in either direction in mid-November and trying to figure out the best course of action until then. There are obviously things I need to change in my life, including those underlying issues that triggered my addiction. This is a huge opportunity to make some important and critical changes.


By the way – I am very happy to hear you’ve begun counseling with your husband – that is a very important step. If your therapist ends up being a good fit, you’ll be surprised at how much progress you’ll be able to make with professional help. Your skepticism is healthy too. I’ve heard and read horror stories, although my own experience was superb. Sounds like you are keeping an open mind, so keep up the work. Sounds promising!


When you had originally asked about how I began my therapy, I mentioned that I called the 800-GAMBLER national hotline. They are all trained to address gambling addiction. They connected me to the Call to Change program (co-run by the UCLA Gambling Studies dept.) and I was able to receive 8 one-on-one phone sessions at no cost. My program ended two weeks ago and I was surprised at how much I miss my sessions with my counselor. (Like a baby bird leaving the nest.) She gave me the option to choose from a list of local therapists for 8 more in-person sessions at no charge, but I’ve yet to follow-up. On my phone sessions, they used the UCLA pamphlet (I think you’ve mentioned maybe seeing this on the UCLA gambling studies website). I also went to local GA meetings weekly (big help the first month, less effective and helpful as time went by), and also did a ton of internet research on GA, group therapy, addiction therapy, addiction theory, etc. By the time I had gone to my 3rd GA meeting, I knew which pieces were working well for me in group and figured out what was working for me well outside of group and one-on-one therapy.


The reason I was able to get through so much of the work in that first month was due in large part to past meditation practices, training in visualization techniques, and physical/mental discipline (all through martial arts over the last 30 years). All of this stuff translated into much the same skills needed to identify triggers, formulate and follow through on self-binding techniques (all the barriers we need to create for ourselves to prevent a relapse/recurrence), creating clear goals, developing self-awareness and mindfulness, making self-corrections, and cultivating a motivated mindset. Many other vehicles like Yoga, painting, team or individual sports, music, etc., would do the trick also (although maybe some practices are certainly more effective in certain areas, like for instance, mindfulness – Buddhists have a 2,000 year tradition in active contemplation and unbroken studies of the mind, so that’s where I’ve gone to get most of my mindfulness training), but I highly recommend working through any hobby, art or sustained activity that gets to the skillsets that develop mind/body.

So for you, Adele, here’s my process in a nutshell:

1) establish a clear goal, and believe me, you won’t get to this one until you’re completely honest with yourself (see my notes below on the last bet I ever made*)

2) establish new mental models

3) identify the strongest, deepest motivation to achieve the goal (quit gambling)


*The last time I made a bet in a casino was on July 31, 2013 during an exercise to determine and prove to myself once and for all that I was still in control, or not in control, of my gambling. With a free play card of $300, and not a dime to my name, I told myself that IF I was able to walk out with at least $20 in my pocket, then I was still in control. I lost everything. Until that moment, I still believed I might be okay. But on the heels of absolute proof that I had lost control of my situation, I forced myself to sit calmly for 5 minutes as people walked by to absorb this truth. I sat there until I accepted it. I was addicted, and I couldn’t deny it. I walked out of the casino that day wanting out of that madness for good and found myself in my boss’s office the next morning. Another week later, I self-excluded from both casinos within driving distance. Long and drawn out discussions rarely take place in my head. Once the goal to QUIT was established, the only thing left to do was to figure out how.


During my research the first two weeks, I also went through a ton of Psychology Today articles on addiction. I probably started with this one: http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200411/addiction-pay-attention


I also found some really devastating stories in a darker, grittier publication called The Fix:
http://thefix.com/search/site/gambling


If you ever get to the contending arguments on disease based theories of addiction, these were two articles I found helpful:


http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/addicted-brains/201205/addiction-disease-or-not



http://www.thefix.com/content/addiction-DSM-5-diagnosis-brain-disease-compulsion8091


I may not get back to posting for a few days so I threw in as many references I could and hopefully it improves upon our earlier thread.


Have a great weekend!

- S


Dear Sirena,


I think my husband has experienced the scenario you describe any number of times – unfortunately he has long conversations in his head …


I would imagine a fresh start holds a great deal of appeal for you right now. Even with your resolve, resourcefulness and your “champions”, it must be very difficult, after 15 years, to continue working in an environment where not only you are ‘awake’ now, but those around you are awake - and aware. I have absolutely no doubt you possess the grit to do this (I still cannot imagine the courage you’ve shown), and perhaps it provides a sense of accountability important in your early recovery, but in some way it must, at times, feel a bit like self-inflicted punishment.


As I have been told, read, and needed reminding many times, recovery is a process, not an event: Complacency is the addictions’ advocate for a slip or total relapse. And I think procrastination can only lead directly to complacency – especially in the possibly deceiving ‘comfort’ of early recovery. I hope you will call one of those recommended counselors soon – I’m sure you know better than anyone you still have a long way to go.


Thanks so much for sharing an outline of your processes beginning recovery – and for the references. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought to turn to Psychology Today! I found the articles discussing the theory of disease (or not) especially interesting … remembering that one of the comments my husband said to me when we first started talking about his problem was “I wish I’d never heard this referred to as a damn disease – it makes me feel like I can’t be cured.” A little further in to his recovery I’d like to discuss the argument with him and see what his opinion is then.


Sirena, I remember reading you were no longer with your boyfriend (and I’m sorry to hear that), but I don’t remember if you’ve said you have family support there close to you. Family usually (not always of course) knows something about our troubles, and that can be comforting in times of vulnerability. Do you have someone that knows about your ‘broken places’?


From everything I have read you are reconnecting with your inner self and beginning to reclaim your aspirations. You have made tremendous progress toward your goal and I truly appreciate you sharing the journey here.


Post when you have time my friend …


Adele


Hi Adele,


At work, I most definitely walk a tight rope between managing guilt and making things right. From the start, my counselor was concerned the work situation might hinder my healing. If I hadn’t learned to place gambling-related theft in the context of addiction, while also remaining accountable for my choices, I don’t think I would’ve been able to do my job or regain some measure of self-respect these last couple of months. I’m starting to wonder if I’m a masochist, though, since dealing with my wrongs on a daily basis comes with some unique hazards. I normally would be the one to write up the report to handle a situation like this, and basically had to help my employers write myself up. It has been an exercise in taking ownership, as well as learning to not buckle under the torture of guilt. The final formal documentation has been processed and life goes on until my review in December. I do still wake up in the middle of the night from horrible bouts of guilt and anger and deep, deep regret. But in the morning, I know I've got this, because no one else can make it right but me. And I so want to live up to my integrity again. That is what drives me the most when I think about gambling. My addiction destroyed my integrity once. And that is something I can simply never allow, or let happen ever again.


I feel there’s also a danger in idealizing a fresh start. So, I’m focusing on making my current situation work, while casting an equal eye towards new possibilities. I can’t deny that it’s been emotionally draining, though. In a normal year, I would have taken a vacation by now to recharge, but instead, I’ve been sick twice – had the flu and a cold after kicking that. I’ve been moving boxes of stuff into storage while cleaning up and rearranging my home office. The stacks of books, paperwork and clutter sitting in my living room for the past couple of months have also begun to shrink.


Mental techniques and discipline are strongly in place to deal with urges. Thoughts of winning money come up for me between 5-10 times each week, but after letting those irrational thoughts run their course, the practice of seeing myself losing all of those times and reminding myself of rock bottom and all the worst case scenarios I’ve memorized during GA meetings has been the norm. I hunt down each and every gambling thought/urge and ask “why do you think that?” answer, ask why again, and continue until I’ve answered every “why.” I also ask myself what I think winning more money, or chasing after lost money, is going to fix in my life. Then I calmly go back to doing the laundry or whatever it is I’m doing.


Even though my relationship with my boyfriend didn’t make it, I have a handful of girlfriends I’ve depended on since I was nine years old. My sisterhood of the traveling pants, if you will, without the pants. And I have been blessed with a cadre of dear friends I’ve made over the last 15 years, and a handful of mentors who’ve provided solid advice and support, and probably saved me from myself a few times. Being the black sheep in my family, I was never close to my parents and brother. My habit of adopting surrogate siblings and parents began when I was five.


My heartbreak and loss of a significant other is receding slowly, but making room now for the hope and possibility of meeting someone again someday. It is tough, and as it should be, but I no longer feel cut off from the support and love of those around me and feeling grateful to be in my hometown again. Accepting generosity and love in full measure is also tough for me, since I grew up in a family that did not share positive or loving feelings. Digging out of my many years of avoidance, re-imagining a new future, and creating slow forward momentum are the gifts I’m experiencing at the moment.


You're doing precisely what I'm doing. I'm not only suppressing my desires to win my money back, but more importantly (I believe), trying to discover why those desires present(ed) themselves in the first place. I wonder if we'll discover it?


You're brave to continue working at that same job considering all that transpired. Admirable. This alone shows remarkable courage and character.


I'd venture a confirming guess that you're well on your way to earning your integrity back.


Hi Dan, glad you are following your own positive feedback/reflection loop and not acting on urges. (Go us!)


Tragic personal experiences often lead to some degree of discovery or questioning, right? I'm more interested in causes at this stage, and not symptoms (for me these urges have largely dwindled). And I'd like to believe that if we pay attention and work hard enough at it, then yes, we're likely to find some answers.


These days, I'm just relieved I've stopped trying to go it alone. It is humbling and a privilege to share difficult and agonizing experiences with fellow CGs/F&F, and I feel like I'm becoming part of a bigger picture (and mystery - since science doesn't have all the answers yet). I've fully accepted membership in the CG club. Like you've mentioned before, it's strange, but comforting, knowing that this is a universal problem striking all ages, genders, and across every socio-economic and cultural group. I understand now that I've survived a very real human condition that falls under the general category of 'suffering.' I've become less robot and more human, I suppose.


Really, what choice am I left with but to continue with what I've got each day? I'd like to think I'll have a little bit more knowledge tomorrow, than I did today, and then a little bit more every day after that. So, I'm feeling hopeful about that, but not quite "normal" - if there ever is such a state for an addict.


Hoping this finds you and everyone on this site well,

- S


I've started working out at a new gym and signed up for the How a CG Got Her Groove Back Program, but my trainers are calling it Cross Fit, Aqua Fit, Boot Camp, etc. But I know better, somewhere in those classes, I am hoping to meet someone who is a balanced version of old me, and becoming the new me.


This was the hardest piece of my roadmap to recovery to figure out, and one that I've implemented last for a couple of reasons. One, I've been sick twice last month. A huge indicator that I was severely rundown from stress. I've also finished my first round of bodywork. I went through several Chiropractic Doctors and Massage Therapists and my poor body is still a work in progress. Not sure I've found the right fit yet, but giving the clinic another week to see if my body responds to treatment. The last 3 months have taken a very real physical toll on my health, and I feel like I've been in a car accident. My body is acting like it has, anyway.


My commitment to physical training was what I had been most apprehensive about in my recovery for many, many reasons. In my late 20's and throughout my entire 30's (I'm 45 now), I was always working on ways to get myself killed (climbing, big mountain treks, surfing, martial arts, solo travel). This is the adventure-seeking, risk-taking part of my personality that had translated so strongly into gambling and why gambling was able to substitute some of the excitement, rush, and flow experiences that many past activities had provided.


I've been working out a program to manage my life in middle gear. I'm operating in low gear right now and won't get into trouble any time soon, but from experience, physical training is an area where I need to proceed with caution so I don't try to do too much, too soon. Probably no need to worry because I am in bad shape (sigh). Working through the disappointments around my BMI (body mass index), which had been steadily increasing during the last 5 years. Wow - what a round about way of saying I'm getting fat , old AND lazy!


But once I make a commitment, this is where I tend to get really compulsive and try to conquer or master a program very aggressively. I'm finding that my 'chasing winnings' tendencies come from this part of my life. Being goal-driven has been working against me for the last several weeks too. I've had trouble coming to an incremental gains mindset (both financially and physically) versus trying to achieve the usual big goals/milestones. Yet this incremental approach is exactly what I need to succeed in my new physical program and in my CG recovery! And the light bulb just flipped on, and I get why I've been saving this battle for last.


When I measure how many hours I had been spending gambling before I quit, it was approximately 20 hours per week, with most of it taking place over a 2 day period. That was exactly how many hours, prior to becoming a CG, that I was spending on physical training when I was involved in various projects, that in some cases, took several years to complete. This is also the number of hours I can spend on TV-binge watching or reading books and various other activities on a given weekend. So my pattern and preference is to try to sustain activities in large blocks of time.


Without a doubt, not having a physical goal was a huge missing component in my life, and I am really trying to take my counselor's advice to do things that feel good versus imposing my annoying habit of pushing for big results in a certain direction. My ego and brain pathways are screaming, hell no, you can't expect me to do that, but I'm hitting the delete button and walking into the gym saying "slow and steady, girl."


When I was five and heard that old Tortoise and the Hare fable, I kind of felt sorry for the hare and thought, no way a rabbit could possibly have lost to a turtle. From a CG standpoint, I'm beginning to agree with Aesop about who really won that race.


Hi Sirena , I just love reading your posts. I would like to join your How-a-CG-Got-Her-Groove-Back Program! I'm trying to find my groove, but I am not sure I ever had it. I, too, need to get to the gym. I will start (as I start/don't start everything) on Monday! So many things to try that could help us get our groove on, if we just allow ourselves to do so. We might even begin to enjoy ourselves! I agree with your counselor that it is all about doing things that feel good. I know that I can never gamble again and feel good about it, no matter what the outcome might be. When urges come, I try to fast forward to how I know I will feel afterward. Not just bad...devastated, miserable, sorry (and I am really sick of feeling sorry), and I am really sick of feeling sick!!! We can choose to want to feel better, and then we can choose activities that will help us feel better. Little things can make a big difference. Slow and steady progress wins the race...one day at a time!


Hello I Can,


Were you able to get to the gym today or doing anything for yourself? I have no doubt you will find something that allows you to feel good AND find your groove!


My legs and abs are mad at me today, but totally expected from being away from training for so long. Tomorrow morning is my swim/cycle day.


For me, the game changer of this new program has been the nutrition side of the challenge, since 80 percent of body composition is from food and 20 percent from exercise.


Fortunately, one of my new interests at the beginning of my recovery was learning how to cook and preparing homemade meals. What a coincidence, right? I'm finding out my food discipline needs a lot of work, though, since I've never had to watch what I eat before. Meal planning is time consuming, but I don't mind. This new program is going to keep me really busy for the next couple of months.