Tuesday, May 6, 2008

What I now know to be true

Gamblers Anonymous meetings provided me with a place to be…..with other people ‘like me’ even tho it took me a while to ACCEPT that they were, in fact, ‘like me’….

A place where I could talk about this stuff and people understood..they didn’t look at me like I had two heads….and suggest that I was weak or stupid…or that I should ‘just stop’.

They got it.

I almost always felt better after leaving a meeting (at least…once I got past the ‘corny’ stuff, like holding hands or the ‘I’m Peg and I’m a compulsive gambler’ stuff)…oh yeah…and the ‘Higher Power’ thing….once I got past all of that…the meetings lifted me.

I left feeling better.

I learned a lot in those meetings….and having coffee AFTER the meetings with some of the members.

I was hungry for information….I wanted my life.
Or…at least…. I wanted to STOP wanting to die.

One night, a g.a. old-timer (who is also aa) brought me a copy of the Big Book of AA and said ‘Read this. Wherever it says drinking, mentally substitute the word gambling’.

That’s when I found out that my ‘disease’ or ‘disorder’ is not gambling…it is addiction.

That book….about alcoholism…was all about ME....yet I am not an alcoholic!

The people in that book became better, they said, by finding and trusting in a ‘Higher Power’.

I was in trouble.

Attending g.a. meetings I heard all sorts of things…..

That the gambler’s anonymous program is the only way I could stop gambling.
That there is a difference between abstinence and recovery…and ‘recovery’ meant working the 12 steps of G.A.
That g.a. was a selfish program….that my recovery had to come first.
That meetings make it.
That I would have to attend meetings, and work the program for the rest of my life.
That I was going to struggle with this addiction for the rest of my life..and that I should focus on not gambling one day at a time.
That I should stop thinking about all of this stuff…not try to figure things out….my thinking had gotten me into trouble…it was time to stop thinking and just work the program.
That everyone who TRULY worked this program got better.
That having a higher power was completely necessary to working the program.

For a long time, I believed all of those things.

By attending meetings, taking anti-depressants, seeing a therapist, by putting many roadblocks in place, like giving up access to money and the loving support of my family, I was able to stop gambling.

I am a busy lady.

After a while….my attendance at meetings dropped off..and eventually I wasn’t going at all.

I didn’t gamble for 20 months…life was good…

I stopped taking my anti-depressants and seeing my therapist…

I was good….

Until I wasn’t.

In 2004 I became pregnant.
I had just turned 40.
I had my tubes tied two years prior….

I was devastated.
Didn’t want a baby.
We had decided.
Our family was complete.
This wasn’t a part of the plan.

For months….I was in a daze.
How could this happen to me?

One day

I began to get excited, make preparations, pick a name.

The following week…I went to ‘meet’ my baby…we were having an ultrasound.

He wasn’t moving.
The baby was dead.

I took medication to induce labor and delivered my dead baby boy two days later.

Then I went home…to recuperate…..and then, began the process of helping my father in law to die.

Overwhelming grief.

One morning, I was able to justify it….gambling.
Who could blame me?

That day, I didn’t gamble too long or blow too much money.

Which enabled me to justify gambling again…a few days later.

I was back in the cycle.

Back in my bubble….where everything else goes away.

I began seeing my therapist again but I would not return to ga. Meetings.

I gambled for nearly two more years….in secret….I didn’t blow thousands and thousands of dollars this time….but slowly….I lost myself again…

On October 30, 2006, after much prodding from my therapist…I located a group that held meetings online.

I found safe harbor.

I have not placed a bet since that day.

Most of the people that I encountered there are working the g.a. program…..and I returned to ‘live’ meetings myself.

I found other resources online also.
I made many friends.
Some of them were NOT working the steps.

I was reading all sorts of books..anything I could get my hands on…THIS time..I wanted it to ‘stick’….whatever it took…

I ended up reading a book entitled ‘Sober for Good’ and there are hundreds of stories in that book of people…addicts (alcoholics) who have remained alcohol free for five years or more.

Many of them…without AA and the 12 steps.

Up until then….and even AFTER that….any thoughts that I had..that I might be able to do this without GA..were quickly abandoned….that must be my ‘addictive thinking’ trying to get me to NOT get help!

But there were so many things about g.a. that bothered me.

I seriously doubted that I could or would attend meetings for the rest of my life. That’s ok…I thought…I can and will do it TODAY…and I did.

I don’t any more.

I know that GA saves lives…and is a wonderful program for the people that are able to benefit from it….but the fact is….less than ten percent (probably MUCH less than ten percent) of people who attempt to stop gambling using ‘the program’ are able to live out their lives…free of their addiction.

And to be honest….many of those who HAVE broken free….well….what THEY seem to have….it’s not what *I* am after.

I do not WANT to wake up every day HOPING that I have a gamble free 24 hours.
I do not WANT to interrupt my life…leave my family…to attend meetings when my family wants or needs me…

I do not want to live in fear.

That’s it in a nutshell.
I do not want to live in fear.

In many respects, the gambler’s anonymous program appears to have been hi-jacked.
The big book of AA….and much of the g.a. literature speaks of freeing ourselves of fear.

But that’s not what I HEAR in the meetings…it’s not what we’re told…what we’re taught.

A lot of what I heard in g.a. meetings...is not what the program REALLY is...or what it started out to be.

For a while…even though I felt strong and joyful…and free of the fear of gambling….I was afraid to speak of it….of the ability to do this…any OTHER way…because…

what if I am wrong?

What if….I *DO* someday gamble again….


If I *DO* someday gamble again (and I don’t plan to)…all that means is….I neglected to continue doing what *I* needed to do…

I imagine that GA *IS* the ONLY way for some people live addiction free.

But….over 90 percent of us…that are seeking help….are not going to be successful there.

If it is working for you…..WONDERFUL…if WHATEVER you are doing is working for you…WONDERFUL…KEEP DOING IT.

IF…..whatever you are doing is NOT working…if you are unable to break free…then make a change….if you HAVEN’T tried G.A….then perhaps it’s EXACTLY what you need!!!

I believe that g.a. does a disservice to us….by discouraging us to look elsewhere.
When we come to g.a….most of us are without hope….many people know….at first glance, that they will never be able to work the program……and they are told that if they do not….there IS no hope for them.

It isn’t true.

Seek Knowledge.
Seek Answers.
CHANGE something.
And know that…as hopeless as it seems…as desperate as you may feel….
As empty…as you are….all is not lost…..it is never too late.
Never stop trying to stop.

* * *

What I now know to be true:

There are many paths to recovery.
There IS a difference between abstinence and recovery.
Recovery does NOT necessarily mean working the steps….the steps are ONE method….to heal.
I want to heal.
While there IS a difference between abstinence and recovery….EITHER…are better than the living the hell of the gambling cycle.
My recovery does come first….I cannot have my life without it…but I do not want to sacrifice everything else….for fear of placing the next bet….I have to find balance.
Meetings are no longer vital to my recovery…however….contact with other compulsive gamblers in recovery….staying connected….remains an important factor for me.
I have been empowered by the knowledge that I’ve gained….including my knowledge of GA and the 12 steps. Much of what I’ve learned there has been the foundation of what I do and believe.
That this truly is an ‘emotional’ illness….and learning about my emotions…and LIVING with them is critical.

My brain has found a way of coping….and any time that I need to be soothed or comforted, the possibility of my brain REMINDING me….where ‘relief’ can be found…will always exist….I respect that….I am aware…and I respect it.

I will never be able to gamble normally again…..and I am OK with that.

I fear not.

I am powerless over gambling…but in every other aspect of my life…including having the ability to CHOOSE not to START gambling….I am more powerful than I ever dreamed possible.

1 comment:

WingingIt said...

I'm really glad I found your blog. I'm tired of putting myself in an unnecessary position of poverty a few times a year because of gambling, and I've got debts I need to get paid off.

But at the same time, I thoroughly enjoy going to the casino resort that's ~4 hours away with a dear friend a few times a year, and when I'm there with her it IS fun and I don't feel disgusting.

For me, the problem seems isolated to gambling alone, which seems more manageable than eliminating gambling from my life completely. So this time around I'm just focusing on that. Your holistic approach to the whole gambling issue is refreshing and helpful for me, and I look forward to reading more of your wisdom.

Take care!