The first time I started to think I might have a gambling addiction was when it was suggested to me by my manager at work. She saw that I enjoyed talking to coworkers about my gambling — even laughing off my appreciable losses. Until then, I didn’t give it all that much thought.
I was taken a little off guard by my manager’s comment, in which she actually asked me to watch how much I talked about gambling in the workplace because coworkers might think I had an addiction. But the message hit home for me — she was telling me I should consider that I had an addiction.
At my very next therapy appointment after that conversation I used my therapist’s phone to call the gambling helpline. I knew it was time.
Although I was decisive in seeking help once my manager talked to me — and I took the initial homework assignments very seriously — I still had relapses in the first several years while going to Gambler’s Anonymous (GA). And while I know that others might not return to GA after relapsing, I was struck by the welcoming, nonjudgmental outlook they shared, and so I never missed a meeting.
Two things motivated me to become more steadfast in my recovery. When visiting my father for six weeks before he died of cancer, I had to drive right past the casino. But despite the stress of my father’s health and his proximity to the casino, I never gambled.
The second motivator was the lingering feeling I had the last time I gambled. I distinctly remember how I wanted to drive my care into a wall to kill myself. I didn’t wish to revisit that awful feeling, and I also knew that my father would not want me to do that.
Over the years, I’ve learned about the various situations with other problem gamblers. Our stories always have similarities and differences. Unlike a lot of others, I never lied, cheated or stole. I was always honest with people and confessed when I had relapses. I’m also lucky because I never dipped into retirement savings, though I can only wonder how much more I’d have saved had I not spent so much money gambling.
With the work I’ve done to overcome my gambling addiction along with various other addictions, I’m very familiar with many of the processes, including the 12 steps. In my work in the social services industry, I’m able to provide insights to people when I share my own story.
I encourage others to replace gambling with another activity. And if drinking is also an addiction for them, I tell them to replace alcohol with another beverage of choice that they always have on hand. I also encourage people to reward themselves with jewelry or something else as they reach clean milestones to keep them going.
In August, I will have ten years clean from gambling. I live what some might call a boring 12-step life, but I’ve never been happier and more optimistic about my future.