Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Paths to Recovery

I’ve stopped gambling…now what?

In the beginning..I had so many QUESTIONS!

How did this happen to me?
How do I get out of debt?
Why do I feel this way?
Can I ever gamble normally again?
What will people THINK?
Can’t I just FIX this??? I just want it to go away…and go back to the way things were before.
Am I gonna have to attend meetings my WHOLE life???
Can I get better?


The first time I sought help…I called the toll-free number on the back of my Platinum V.I.P Casino Card (I was such a ‘good’ customer) and the lady…after talking with me for a bit…suggested I get to a meeting…a gambler’s anonymous meeting.

I didn’t go.

Well…the addiction progressed..the debt increased…my desperation began to consume me…and eventually I found myself at a meeting.

(Of course…I didn’t stop then…..the addiction, the debt AND the desperation became much much worse before I was finally able to break free).

Back then, I believed that the gambler’s anonymous program was the only way out of the hell. For some people, I’m sure that’s true.

I know that g.a. has helped me…continues to help me…and I will be forever grateful for that…but

I have come to believe that there are many paths to recovery….

Five paths are identified in this essay:

(full essay here: )

1. Affiliated recovery is a phrase that depicts the traditional pathway of initiating and sustaining recovery within an organized recovery mutual aid society. This path would include 12 step programs, such as GA.
2. Virtual recovery or cyber-recovery is a phrase that describes people who have initiated or sustained their recovery from addiction through internet discussion and support groups, without face-to-face contact with other people in recovery.
3. Disengaged recovery is a term that depicts people who initiated their recovery within a professionalized treatment context or a recovery mutual aid group, perhaps even sustained that recovery for an extended period of time within that professional or mutual aid structure, but then disengaged from active participation while continuing to maintain their sobriety and emotional health through other methods.
4. Solo recovery is a term that describes people who recover from severe alcohol and other drug problems without the aid of either professionally-directed treatment or participation in recovery support groups.
5. Manual-guided recovery is a term reflecting a mid-point between affiliated and solo recovery. Here the individual seeks outside assistance in the form of a written manual that provides a highly proceduralized approach to altering his or her relationship with alcohol and other drugs without face-to-face contact with others in recovery.

Geez….more options mean more questions…and...some of those 5 choices can include many different ......WHAT DOES ONE DO?

Personally, I have tried several different methods…and different things have worked (or not worked) for me at different times.

I was unable to stop gambling without the support of a group. That’s not everyone. That’s me.

The first time I broke free…it was by attending gambler’s anonymous meetings…and reading.

I was also seeing a therapist…and taking meds for depression---I believe that these things contributed (still do) to my progress..but…I was unable to break free from the cycle when I depended on these things…WITHOUT the ‘fellowship’ (defined: an association of people who share common beliefs or activities).

This time…I broke free using an online fellowship…I still see the therapist..I still take the meds…and I do attend g.a. meetings from time to time…but…the relationships that I developed online…and the knowledge (on abstinence and recovery) that I gained there… is what truly empowered me.

Solo didn’t work for me…I tried to quit a million times all by myself…I was gambling, usually within 24 hours of having ‘quit’.

But…that….QUITTING…becoming abstinent…is different than recovery…Recovery begins AFTER one quits gambling.

My first shot at recovery was using g.a. because I didn’t know that anything else existed.

Most of the people that were achieving success in the program were very active in the program…picnics, parties, etc…. and I wasn’t interested in doing that..also…I wasn’t successful in finding a sponsor that I clicked with, which meant I didn’t work the steps (or really understand the ‘program’ at all)…so I sort of made the ‘peg program’.

The Peg Program consisted of…attending occasional g.a. meetings, but never more than one per week. Sometimes going out for coffee with other g.a.ers after the meeting….reading literature sometimes…but basically…once I became abstinent…the Peg Program consisted of getting on with my life…I began to feel ‘normal’ again…and I had no desire to gamble…

I stopped seeing my therapist.
I stopped taking meds for depression.
I stopped attending meetings (maybe once every 90 days I’d pop in).
I stopped reading..or doing anything recovery related.

That worked just fine for me.

Until it didn’t.

I was still the same girl that I was before I began gambling…only…BEFORE I began gambling..I had no coping skills…I did not know how to self-soothe.

Now…I did. My addiction gave me comfort.

I once again found myself back in the cycle…unable to break free..

So I started again with the therapist.
I started again with the meds for depression.

Both…my prescribing dr. (specialist in addiction) and my therapist kept urging me to return to g.a. meetings…but I refused to go…. I DID attend one or two meetings….and stopped to gamble on my way home….I didn’t have time for meetings in my busy life…and besides…they didn’t work anyway (that is the addiction talking).

They both began suggesting that I find something online…online meetings…an online sponsor…so one day…the day before an appt…when I KNEW that he’d bug me AGAIN about not having looked for something…I used find some resource…so that I could tell him that I did it….and tell him why it wouldn’t work for me.

I wasn’t really looking to stop.
I wasn’t happy….actually….gambling was making me quite Unhappy…but I didn’t want to stop.

I walked into that chat room…and I connected.
There were a handful of (truly awesome) people there…that spoke to me in a way that no one had before.

Not about…that I had to stop or I would go insane (which I was) or end up in jail (YET) or dead (which I had considered)….we didn’t talk about fear.

We talked about pain.

We talked about…the way that gambling made me feel…the ways that gambling had changed me…I stayed and chatted for a while…and..while I was there…something happened…I think that, perhaps, I relaxed, for the first time in a long time…relief…I was not alone…there were others…like me…people who understand… I had hope.

I have not gambled since that moment.

I still see my therapist.
I still take meds for depression (and see my dr).
I do attend g.a. meetings from time to time… I find them uplifting
I work the steps (well…off and on I focus on this)
I read TONS….I read books, I read about programs online and ways that other people have worked/are working recovery…and when I come across something that sounds like it may be of use to me…I incorporate it into my own recovery.
I participate (sometimes actively..sometimes I am more passive) in online recovery groups (fellowships)….but daily…I am there.
I have made many friends online who I communicate with often…several of them on a daily basis.
There are many additional things that I am incorporating into the New and Improved ‘Peg Program’… I am more diligent about some than others. – meditating, other relaxation techniques, recovery worksheets, practicing mindfulness, discovering my spirituality, identifying my feelings, practicing being organized and being responsible, etc. etc.

Oh yeah….and I’m living my life :)

If something doesn't seem to be working for me...I change it.

The key for me TODAY is…growth.

I am no longer the same girl that I was before I started gambling. Being active in my addiction is no longer an option for me. It is no longer an acceptable coping mechanism.

Is this what the Peg Program will always look like? I seriously doubt it…this is what’s working for me today…. I am much more aware of my thoughts and my feelings now… as I grow…I am sure that what I am doing for myself will evolve.

Will I always have to do this stuff?

I used to loathe the thought that I’d have to attend meetings my whole life.

The fact is…I don’t HAVE to do anything….today….I have choices…I have knowledge and I am empowered…so the question is…

Will I always choose to do this stuff?

I don’t know.
I don’t know what I will need.
I know what I need today.

Today is all that I have.

All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware. Martin Buber

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