A Short Piece On My Addiction
As I look back on my life especially my adult years, I see so many points that should have been warning signs that something was not working for me! Now each one was “big” in its own right, each incident could have been a wake-up call, if I was listening. One time where I realized something was wrong, was in 2000. That year I was spiralling deep into an addiction. Before I get into what it was, I want to define addiction as it pertains to me.
Addiction: Doing anything in a compulsive manor that will cause harm to the person committing the act with repercussions on those around them. By my count there are over 50 groups that have patterned themselves after Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). This list is not extensive as I could only search a few websites. Another belief I hold around addiction (and there is evidence within psychology to back-up this belief) is you can’t have an addiction without having a mental wellness concern.
My addiction took the form of gambling; this was a long slow boil into mental oblivion. First of all I started placing bets really young, the first time I remember being apart of organized gambling I was around 5 years old. In our family we loved the horses and most Wednesdays or Saturday nights in Barrie Ontario you could find someone from my family at the horse track.
My first memory at the track and likely one of the strongest came when I was allowed to bet for the first time. I was with my grandparents in the bar and we were sitting at a round table with a brown top and in red cushioned chairs. Two things sat in front of me; a program which I could not read but helped me play the part and four stacks of quarters, each stack was four high. That night with four dollars, I was able to bet every race. When you bet a horse to “Show”, your odds are higher and it pays as long as they come in first, second or third. If my memory is correct, I went home that night with $8.60.
Now at that time, 1976-77 gambling addictions were fairly new on the scene. The Gamblers Anonymous (GA) program only came into being 20 years earlier. Since it impacts about 1.6% of the population, I am sure, at the time it was not in anyone’s radar as an issue. AA was formed in 1937, so society had a few extra years with understanding that addiction. However, please remember there is a ton of shame attached to any addiction, especially if you have not found recovery yet or are new to your recovery. I believe the word anonymous helps keep that shame alive. It tells me, like many other things in my life, this is something I should hide. I should meet in secret rooms in the basements of churches or old buildings, I should not talk about it because someone might not like it and I could get fired. The word anonymous has it’s place yes, but I am no-longer ashamed about this addiction and I choose to no-longer be anonymous.
As with all of my recovery, there is no blame being placed on my most amazing grandparents. I know that if my grandmother was aware or had a crystal ball into my future, I would have never seen the horse track that night. Here’s the rub, I would have found another addiction. With my experiences in life, having PTSD and wanting to find a way to shut off the pain I felt in my head, I would have found something to ease the thoughts and numb the pain. Going into addiction for some reason was easier then facing the mirror.
Another thing within my addiction besides numbing the pain, in the end, I hated myself even more. This addiction was just another reason to prove I was useless, I was not a good person, and I was worthless. As usual the list and the stories I attached to myself grew even larger. These stories and feelings did not disseminate with my recovery from gambling, they only hid under the Band-Aid. This was another example where I was not fully vested into the “Work”. The good news was that I wave not placed a bet on anything since January 16, 2001.
One of the lines in the GA literature states, “Is knowing why we gambled important? Perhaps, however insofar as stopping gambling, many Gamblers Anonymous members have abstained from gambling without the knowledge of why they gambled.” For me knowing why was very important. At the time I just did not know how important. I did not realize I was a digger. I needed to know the “why” as part of my recovery. Because not knowing “why” means I was destined to crash again and again and again. I never relapsed into gambling; I just found new ways to destroy my essence.
Looking back only allows for understanding. I do not look back and say I should have known about the PTSD, the depression and all of the other beliefs I was struggling with. I know that you could have rubbed my brain with real sandpaper and it would not have made a difference. I was not willing to admit I had a problem beyond gambling and I was not willing to surrender my ego and ask for “HELP”.
Today my recovery goes far beyond the rooms of GA. For my recovery to continue it needs to. The emotions and memories I am dealing with tried to use gambling to hide deep within my spirit, I know now that gambling was a symptom of bigger issues. My gambling addiction was a messenger with one of the many lessons I have had to learn to find my essence.
Keep Chasing Those Cars
With Love, Respect and Admiration