28 August 2013 at 5:10 am #9123
Its been 27 days since my last bet, and it feels like years.
Bottom for me came the morning I walked into my employers 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.
Ive 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 Ive 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. Ive 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 doesnt 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 doesnt understand the emotional and psychological components of the addiction. He isnt 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 dont live together and I dont 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 cant 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 lets 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 Sirena0215.2 September 2013 at 7:12 am #9124
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 Sirena0215.2 September 2013 at 3:26 pm #9125
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.
2 September 2013 at 8:44 pm #9126
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 Sirena0215.5 September 2013 at 2:26 pm #9127
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.
6 September 2013 at 8:56 am #9128
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 Sirena0215.7 September 2013 at 2:14 pm #9129
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*.
Day 27. Much better that last week.
13 September 2013 at 6:19 pm #9130
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 …
14 September 2013 at 5:09 am #9131
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 🙂25 September 2013 at 4:55 pm #9132
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.25 September 2013 at 4:59 pm #9133
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&user_id=a23e19ec8f6de54508d485d07e071c1b&email_type=eta&task_id=1378649399125298®i_id=0.
And I thought to myself, “What possible use or value could suffering serve?” Apparently suffering does serve a purpose.
It’s called growth.29 September 2013 at 9:14 am #9134
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.
Adele29 September 2013 at 9:16 am #9135
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!
Adele29 September 2013 at 2:16 pm #9136
Thanks for your note Adele, hope you and everyone on the site is well.29 September 2013 at 2:39 pm #9137
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.
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.