You are not alone! GamTalk is an online community for people with gambling issues to share their experiences and ideas. Whether you have a gambling problem, know someone who does, have stopped gambling completely, or just want to get ideas on playing safely, GamTalk can help. Please take a look around. You can leave comments or take part in the discussions on the forum. Use the...
We are putting together a Google Map that shows problem gambling treatment and support resources world-wide. It should be a great way for people to easily see what is available in their area. The idea is to add as many resources as possible. If you have details of resource/s that you would like to share, then you can add them to the map by following the instructions below. The map is available here https://mapsengine.google.com/...5B9VhF4.kW2mTj3fSxrk
Instructions to add resources to the map:
Type the address or postal code in the search bar on the map. Some address options will appear, select the most accurate one and a green pin (bubble type thing) will appear on the map in the correct location.
Click on the pin and then select ‘Add to map’ after which the pin will turn reddish.
Now when you click on the pin a box will appear which can be edited by clicking on the pencil icon (bottom right of the box). You can add the name of your service, a description including contact details and web address. You can also add a picture if you wish.
If you don’t want to add a resource to the map yourself, you can send me the details instead and I will do it for you. Please include the following: Name of the organisation, physical address (so I can place it on the map), a few lines describing the service, phone number, email, web page to be listed.
This is hard for me. It’s been suggested to me several times to share my story, but I have always hesitated. Not certain why I haven’t done so, one reason could be that in the past, showing my vulnerabilities lead to ridicule and humiliation as a teenager, emotional, verbal and physical abuse, combined with guilt and shame in my early adult years. I swore I would never put myself in a vulnerable position again. To my mind, vulnerability was a sign of weakness. If you didn’t let anyone in - to see the real person inside – you couldn’t get hurt. I believe the driving thought in this process was my upbringing; secrets stayed in the home, one never exposed their personal issues in public. So telling my story has always been difficult for me. However I have come to the conclusion my story is something I should share. Not only for my own recovery but also with the thought it may help someone else who is still lost and looking for hope. I started gambling in 1998. Sorry, no, that’s not true. I really started gambling in 1994 shortly after the birth of my son. A friend asked me to go to Bingo with her. It was harmless – a fun night out with the girls maybe three or four times a year. In 1996 while having a couple of beer after work with friends, someone suggested putting twenty bucks in a VLT. We didn’t win a lot, but we didn’t lose either. We had a great time and the few beer and a couple of bucks in the VLT’s became a regular outing with one friend. The frequency of these outings escalated fairly quickly after that. After about six months, we were gambling on our own machines and the amount of money was considerably more. A few months later, I was out on my own at the VLT’s at my local pub. You’ll have to forgive me on the dates; the progression of my addiction is still somewhat foggy. I do remember very clearly the first time I gambled my half of the mortgage payment and how in true dramatic fashion, hit the jackpot and won it all back. Talk about relief. I walked away from the machine then. I was in control – or so I thought. I remember not having the money to buy an Easter present for my son and having to borrow the money from a co-worker. I remember that humiliation of having to ask the friend for the money as I couldn’t ask my husband – he would find out – and how I promised her I would stop playing the VLT’s and the shame when I didn’t stop. Looking back as the fog slowly clears, it is hard to realize how far into the addiction I was even then and how easily I convinced myself I was fine. I was my biggest cheerleader. My husband knew nothing. He trusted me. It was a night out with the girls. He had no idea I was gambling, that would be the last thing he would think of. After all, there was only one casino in town and I worked as a dealer at that casino. Casino policy barred me from gambling in any of their properties while an employee. Ironic isn’t it? I stood there forty hours a week dealing cards, spinning the wheel, all the while aware that for some patrons, it wasn’t a fun night out. I felt physically sick as I watched some of the patron’s personalities and demeanors change; watched as they lost their savings and their sanity. We were trained to watch for the signs and report it so our supervisors and management could soothe their conscious and meet their social responsibility by handing those individuals a pamphlet. So I knew better right? I had everything under control. That wasn’t me…I didn’t gamble at the tables; the few times I had (out of province of course) I exhibited some control and was able to walk away every time, win or lose. I couldn’t be a compulsive gambler; I didn’t fit the definition because I could walk away from other forms of gambling. After all, I didn’t gamble big money at the casino on the slots…it was just the 5¢ machines. The first time my husband caught me in a lie about my gambling was 2003. He returned from a lengthy deployment to discover I had borrowed money to make the mortgage payment from my in-laws. After all, I had tapped out my parents twice already. I was so ashamed of myself, guilt ridden and embarrassed. Of course I promised never to do it again and repay the money. I repaid the money, but I never fulfilled the other part of the promise. The second time my husband found out I hadn’t stopped gambling was shortly after my mother died. I recall sitting by her bed as she died, and I lied to her face when I promised I would not gamble any more. I lost three of the most amazing people in my life during my addiction, my dad in 2005, my mother-in-law (to whom I was very close) in 2006 and my idol, my mother in 2007. Now, when I think back to how self-absorbed I was in feeding my addiction, how careless I must have been towards those I lost and cannot make amends too, I am overwhelmed with guilt, shame and remorse. Nonetheless, I took the small inheritance she left me to pay off my gambling debts, swore to my husband that I wouldn’t do it again, that our posting to a new city would be a new beginning. After all, I had a clean slate. I know I promised my husband upon pain of separation and my mother on her deathbed that I wouldn’t gamble again; I had learned my lesson. I would control it this time. Yeah…that promise lasted approximately one week. How now to get around the fact that there are no VLT’s in the province we relocated too? Ah, how convenient – there are two casinos within a half hour drive. Not that I enjoyed playing the slots – my particular poison was the VLT’s; so with this in mind I was certain I could control my gambling. Didn’t like slots, so I wouldn’t spend as much – after all, it was just to pass the time until I met people in a new city. Unfortunately, all did not go as planned. My gambling increased, not in the frequency - that actually did drop off (my husband was getting sharper and I couldn’t use the excuse of meeting with friends like I had previously), but in the amount of money I bet. I didn’t have the leisurely time I had while on VLT’s. I became more of a binge gambler. I couldn’t get away as often as I would like so when I did, every two to three weeks or so, my philosophy was go big or go bust! I went bust again in 2010. Caught out by my husband, I used loneliness as an excuse and he forgave me yet again with the agreement that I would seek help. The same help I had promised to find the last time and never had. This time I followed through. I began attending counseling. I managed to stay clean for about six or seven months. My husband attended some sessions with me and we both felt progress was being made. I felt good and I stopped seeing the therapist. I was cured! Life was great. I had beaten the odds…. Needless to say, I fell and fell hard in 2011 and continued my descent into the pit until I hit rock bottom in July 2012. By early May I had finished my last work contract and did not have a new job lined up. I had no way to cover my debts. My credits cards were maxed out. I didn’t have access to our credit line (that had been suspended the last time I was caught). I didn’t even have the funds to gamble. I did find part-time employment, but unfortunately the pay was far short of what I needed, let alone enough to gamble. I managed to hide some money transactions and juggle some back and forth for two months, but at this point, I was sinking fast. Although I hadn’t gambled in two months, more from a lack of funds than a desire to stop, I knew that once I got a new position, I would flush with cash again and I knew beyond any certainty I would go out and gamble again despite my best intentions. The enormity of what I had been doing; the shame, the guilt, the remorse as well as the reality of the amount of money I had lost was overwhelming. I didn’t even have the guts to confess to my husband face to face. I wrote him a letter. I knew when I confessed to my husband he would leave. After all, he had threatened to do so on several occasions, but this time, I knew I had truly pushed him too far. If he left I had nothing; I would loose my son – how could he or my husband forgive me for what I had done? After all, my son’s future and our retirement dreams were affected by my gambling. He would have to take out student loans to attend school. I considered suicide as an option, quite seriously, but thankfully sanity prevailed and the thought of what the consequences of my suicide would do to my son, kept me off the ledge. At that point I feel I truly hit bottom. I was willing to live on the street, in a shelter, do anything that was necessary to get my life back on track. If I lost my husband and son, so be it, I would gain back my sanity and my soul. On July 12, 2012, I made a phone call that set me on the road to getting my life back. I reached out for help and on July 15, 2012 attended my first GA meeting. I needed to know there was a light at the end of the tunnel; that the mess I had created could be overcome and I could climb out of the fog. The meeting showed me that I wasn’t alone in my struggle, the members offers of open and honest support as well as the stories that they shared gave me strength to share my story with them. I was fortunate enough to receive three weeks intense in-patient treatment that has also provided me with tools to refocus my thoughts, change bad behaviors and strength and confidence to keep moving forward out of the darkness towards the light at the end of the tunnel. The overwhelming sense of relief, a lightening of the burden that came when I had shared my story has given me hope, strength and the desire to stop gambling and stay clean from day one - one day at a time, all the way to 473 days clean and hopefully beyond.
Thanks for listening (reading) Puddsley Oct 31, 2013
Here is a little of my story that I made public in Nov of 2011 during addictions awareness week. I have gambled across Canada and in the United States. This is some of my story of gambling and recovery. Along the way I have led a life of secrecy and anguish. Two and a half years ago in the fall of 2009 after many years of depression/ addiction I left The Pas, MB, and all of MB without warning to anyone. I lived Terri Clarks song "A million ways to run". I was reported as a missing person across Canada. I had held an important position at the United Steelworkers Local 1-324 at the time helping to represent workers across Manitoba in workplaces. While being able to help others I was unable to help myself for well over twenty years. The journey to the end of my life via suicide which compulsive gambling and it's destructive behaviors often lead to began. My story which I share is with the desire that it will help other addicted gamblers know there is hope. It can get better.
AN ADDICTED GAMBLERS JOURNEY BACK TO SANITY POSSIBLE THANKS TO A LOT OF HELP In the middle of nowhere in an isolated field north of Kingston, Ontario a Manitoba man battling decades of depression/gambling addiction life ends (or so I thought) after placing his final bet of his life with his last $18.00 on a baseball game between New York Yankees & the Seattle Mariners. I was listening to the game on the car radio. The date was September 18, 2009 NYY were up 2-1 with 2 out and a man on second for Seattle in the bottom of the ninth. I had picked NYY to win which would have completed a four pick combo ticket where all games had to be correct for the bettor to win. Mariano Rivera was in relief for NYY and he had won 40 of 41 games that season in relief. Up to the plate stepped Ishiro Suzuki with first base opened. NYY decided to pitch to him. Ishiro Suzuki hit a home run off Rivera and won the game for Seattle 3-2. it was indicative of my life. My life was made up of many many days when it was the bottom of the ninth while I was gambling and a home run was hit (metaphorically) leaving me wiped out again. Fate had other plans and my suicide attempts weren't successful following the game in September of 2009. I still don't know why my suicide attempts weren't successful, however thats not important. Subsequently I ended up in a hospital on a psychiatric ward in Kingston, Ont.
My journey back to sanity began. Instead of a journey to the end of my life. This was only possible with plenty of help from very caring people. For the first time in my life I was willing to ask, and accept help for my depression & addiction. The United Steelworkers who I worked for got in touch with me and said "you get the help you need, and if there's anything we can do please let us know". Where does one begin when it comes time to reveal publicly that you are sick with an incurable illness which is a gambling addiction fueled by depression that you hope to have in remission for the rest of your life? I want to reveal this publicly because too often people are found dead because they didn't feel there were any other options. It's been tough these last few months. High profile news showing hockey players taking their lives as they fought depression and coming to know their demons won. These last two years in my own recovery I had thought of doing the same thing yet survived. I recently wrote to Michael Landsberg of TSN's OTR about the loss of his friend hockey player Wade Belak who committed suicide and Michael was kind enough to write me back. Michael also suffers from depression and wrote a wonderful letter about his buddy Wade on his website revealing to all what depression does to us. I highly recommend reading this should you be wanting to discover more about depression and how a seemingly happy person would rather die than breathe and face the pain of depression and addictions.
I left the Addiction Center in Brandon run by Addictions Foundation of Manitoba on October 18th, 2011. It was my second time participating in the fourteen day program in two years after over 20 years of compulsive gambling & depression. My gambling of choice was primarily Proline Sports Select & VLTs. However I gambled on most everything at one time or another. AFM has helped me save my life these past two & a half years. My experiences at AFM have been extremely positive. It was November 3rd, 2009 when I first left Parkwood Treatment Center as an in-house patient following the 14 day gambling addict program. "We can only recover by being willing to help ourselves. Others can provide us with the tools however we must be willing to open the tool box to repair/heal ourselves". My tool box has been opened thousands of times these last two years. I was a very secret gambler all my life which is another reason I believe it is time to speak out publicly about problem gambling in Manitoba. I hope the Provincial Government continues to support AFM and all the great work they are doing by increasing the amount of resources available to AFM for problem gamblers.
The Manitoba Government has done much great work, however I believe we can do even better. There are too many of us who need help and can't find our way to get it, because of our pride or barriers that are self imposed, and others that are not. We need to talk about such barriers and eliminating them. I wish to share what life in the shadows is like with your readers, listeners, watchers and those of us who have lived there yet found our way back to hope and the promise of better days ahead. It is with understanding and optimism that I share also for those who are still in the shadows. In the dark unforgiving horror story which is their life of addiction/depression so that they may know there is a way to win the battle with your demons. In most cases folks like me would keep a low profile and attempt to hide their illness. I have chosen after a 5 km walk in the Brandon Hills today and a lot of thought to communicate rather than be silenced due to stigma, and potential consequences which may not be favourable. However it has taken me two years since my first time in Parkwood Treatment Center to reach this point. My health is a work in progress. Healthcare providers in Brandon and across Manitoba such as AFM Councillors, Nurses, & Doctors have been instrumental to my being able to cope, and build hope. I refer to it as my "hoping and coping skills".
Due to measures I put in place when gambling not even my immediate family, or employer knew of my problem gambling/depression and all of its consequences. I did everything necessary to fly under the radar and not be detected. Many gamblers are secretive because there is a huge amount of shame and guilt in the fact we can't control or manage our lives anymore due to our gambling addiction. Too many of us would rather keep our illness secret. Taking it to our graves. I want to talk/share and reveal that the option of openess is far healthier. Prior to arriving at Parkwood many of our lives were without much meaning, or direction. Mine was such a life. My life was a lie. It couldn't be a truthful honest life because I was someone I didn't want to be, or never thought I would become. The high I got from gambling is the similar high that cocaine brings drug addicts healthcare professionals have advised me.
We can never cure our addiction. We can only put it in remission as we will always be compulsive gamblers. Better days ahead are possible thanks to the healthcare providers at the Addictions Foundation at Parkwood in Brandon, along with those at AFM on 7th Street in Brandon, whom I have come to believe are our guardian angels. It is also due to the help of loved ones who aid us in times when we don't have the will to help/save ourselves. Along the way due to gambling I declared bankruptcy, lost a house, cars, everything except my life. I never got married, or had children due to not wanting them to be a part of my chaos. I never had one visitor in my private residence for the last 6 years prior to 2009. I was ashamed of my living conditions given that every dollar I could I put into gambling. I was homeless when I first came back to MB following trying to take my life, and needed help from family to have shelter and food. There are many of us compulsive gamblers who thanks to the help of others have a roof over our head. When I lost my house due to gambling in the early 2000's I had to give away my 5 year old dog that I adored to a better home. It was like losing family. Although on the outside it would appear I was doing relatively well, because I always wore a mask, a facade which was a smile to avoid detection. Us addicts in many cases won't ask for help or don't want to burden others with our demons. Under the surface if you were to scratch a little there was nothing but numbness, chaos, self destruction, and sabotaging life again and again by "all or nothing gambling/life behavior". Self destruction is one of the patterns of behavior many of us compulsive gamblers excel in.
Now when I smile there is authenticity to it. I continue to work hard to assure that. I would encourage all problem gamblers to attend twelve step programs which provide support for one another right across Manitoba, and around the world. Due to traditions and understanding it is anonymous I won't comment any further about members and their incredible efforts to help one another. I make amends now for the wrongs I have done. Which will continue for the rest of my life, to which I am grateful to have the opportunity. I accept full responsibility for my addiction/illness as it is mine and mine alone. It also is my recovery that I take full responsibility for and it becomes clear that sanity can only occur when you are open and transparent about your mental illness which has a stigma attached to it. Some would prefer to leave it in the shadows so that it may go away and be buried. Wanting to bury your life, and its stigmas has consequences attached. How can you help others to know it's okay to not be well and ask for help? Insanity, nervous breakdowns, unmanageable stress levels, depression, addiction combined with loss of respect/dignity due to doing things that I would never do in a thousand lifetimes at one point in my life that I did in just my one lifetime of being a compulsive gambler. I couldn't ask for help as mentioned earlier, I would rather die.
Us recovering gambling folks usually have to hit bottom in our lives to be saved. Some of us hit bottom several times in our lifetimes. When gambling first took serious hold of me was approximately a week after my first visit to the Crystal Casino located on the 7th floor (I believe) of the hotel Fort Garry in 1989/90. My all or nothing personality was a perfect recipe and had all the ingredients necessary to self destruct. Following the opening of Winnipegs Crystal Casino in the Hotel Fort Garry where I found when I sat down I couldn't get up until I lost all my money, I was attracted by the prospect of playing Proline Sports Select when it started in 1990. I remember the location I placed my first proline bet at a drugstore on Portage Ave. It was exciting and fun. However soon afterwards it wasn't fun anymore. It was catastrophic to my life. I lived in the shadows. In the darkness. Now I am living in the light. As well as shining a light on something I believe deserves serious attention. This letter is dedicated to the memory of those who died in the darkness of their gambling addiction. Thank you K... you are my hero for lending me your flashlight which I took the batteries out of my toolbox and lit up to help me find my way. I haven't gambled since September 18th, 2009 on anything. Today I have hope, and look forward to sharing it with those who may not.
I was born the product of an alcoholic & compulsive gambling, Irish Catholic, father & a strong, courageous French Catholic mother. I grew up in a large family with 2 sisters and 6 brothers. My home life was chaotic & dysfunctional with no apparent loving intimacy between our parents. In our home, gambling was a way of life; my father, along with his mother, held frequent weekend poker sessions. My childhood was affected by my father's alcoholic rages. This caused me to experience shame, fear, guilt & low self-esteem amongst my peers.
My Dad was born into a wealthy hardworking family in New Brunswick. He was a very selfish & jealous person. In later years after I left home I began to understand my father's behaviour but never really forgave him for not supporting us financially. His parent's (my grandparents) sent him off to boarding school at the age of 5 years with a peck on the cheek and would not see him for months. They lavished Dad with an abundance of material objects which of course spoiled him and never taught him to be a responsible citizen. Dad had the material world by the tail but did not know what to do with it. Their wedding present was a completely outfitted 350 acre farm on the ocean.
I realize now that my Dad probably tried as best as he could to achieve a balanced life but he was limited in his ability to do so. The alcohol addiction always won the battle. Both Dad and Mom lacked the knowledge about addictions. Mom had an overwhelming faith and confidence in the church's ability to help an alcoholic with his addiction by taking a pledge in the presence of the parish priest. Perhaps Dad thought so too but all failed each time he took the pledge.
Within our Irish community it was the norm for most men to drink alcohol in excess and play poker. It was not considered a good party or dance unless there was a rip-roaring fist fight with bloody nose & all. So all this made for a frightening childhood.
During Dad's alcoholic rages he never hurt his children physically but wounded us emotionally. He repeatedly threatened to hurt our Mom. One of my vivid childhood memories was to hide all the sharp knives in the flour bin when we received word that Dad was on his way home inebriated. My sister & I would put Mom between us in our bed to keep her safe from being attacked by Dad. To this day, I do not leave sharp knives on the kitchen counter.
I give credit to my Mom's incredible example of strength & courage she instilled in me which helped when making meaningful decisions in my life. It always amazed me how my mother survived the dysfunction in her own family – no alcohol, drug or gambling addiction but a religious addiction. Her mother was an extremely rigid religious person. This was very detrimental to Mom leading a normal life. Her mother was adamant that anything which gave one joy was sinful. ONE MUST SUFFER TO GAIN ENTRANCE TO HEAVEN.
After Mom's 9th child was born she said “enough is enough”. Mom being a devout Roman Catholic, she could not practice birth control. If she chose to she would be condemned by the church. Mom had to hitch a ride home from the hospital ( 20 miles away ) after my baby sister's birth because Dad had to play a baseball game. He arrived home the next day inebriated. Everyone in the community loved Dad. He was very atheletic, handsome & comical to outsiders. ( Dr. Jekyl & Mr High ). So Mom told Dad to leave that very day. Because Mom asked Dad to leave she was persecuted by the community. Excommunicated from the communion rail, not allowed to play the church organ on Sundays which she had done since she was 14 years old.
Following the birth of my baby sister there were a number of meagre years for all of us when Mom was struggling to find ways to support us. Mom refreshed in her hairdressing profession and set up her own shop- sold Avon – hitched rides – no car- to sell shoes, fuller brush household items and also held a part-time position with Stats Canada. Later she took in boarders when some of us “flew the coop”. Mom would say “ where there's a will there's always a way”. Another belief was “when all fails Good Ole Saint Anne will help us”. Those were words I heard from Mom often.
Although Mom showed strength, positive attitude and tireless energy the community never forgave her for telling “poor Charlie” to leave. We as children were abused verbally by the community calling Mom a prostitute for separating from her husband. They never appreciated the abuse which Mom had endured from Dad. Mom always held her head high with dignity and believed that she had made the right decision by separating and trying to achieve balance and success in her life. She directed each one of us to discover our potential. As each one of us graduated in our field we helped share the expense of educating the younger ones. Many times Mom would become discouraged but always found a positive perspective to the challenge.
Mom certainly was a perfectionist which affected all of us children- sometimes good and sometimes not so good. It was difficult to satisfy Mom when we did a household chore. Sorry to say, I have inherited some of Mom's imperfections e.g. Mom had difficulty accepting a gift graciously. Not too long ago I caught myself making the same error. My daughter presented me with a box album for my birthday. My immediate response was negative -” I do not need this dear, I have all my photos in albums”. It took me a few seconds to recognize my horrible behaviour and apologized, then mentioned how nice this box will be for my favourite recipes. My new ability to recognize and make amends is mainly due to the principles of the GA program.
Of course, the separation of my Mom & Dad had some ill effects on me. When my Mom separated from my Dad, she was one of the first women in the community to do so. I felt shame, guilt, & low self-esteem. I possibly believed that my Mom should have stayed with my Dad. The power of the church had a strong hold on me at that time. Perhaps, I naively believed that my Mom was wrong for leaving him. I know that I was totally confused and unhappy that we did not have a Dad in our home. On the other side, I was in a happier state of mind because we did not have to worry about Dad arriving home inebriated.
I remember that during my teenage years I had to take charge of my younger siblings because Mom's main concern or focus was to find ways and means to support us. Each one of us had to be responsible adults at an early age. No time for me to be a carefree child. Due to a lack of interaction with a strong, loving, responsible male figure during my childhood, I suffered from lack of trust in men. My early childhood was a roller-coaster of fear, guilt, sadness and a love/hate relationship with my Mom because I had to work so hard helping her.
Although I missed the stability of having two fully functioning parents during my early years, I, somehow, moved beyond all that. I graduated in my field of studies, travelled, married, raised 3 children; and generally lived a happy life for many years. It probably was due to the example of consistent achievement goals which my Mom always set for herself -” JUST DO IT AND SOMEHOW WE WILL ACHIEVE” and she did.
When I was a child I was always trying to please to qualify me to be liked or accepted. There was
little room for me to err without feeling unworthy.
Self confidence and a positive state of mind began when I succeeded in becoming a Registered Nurse. I often think that life includes many transitions. Of course, I have had my difficulties coping with the challenge of raising my family and maintaining a healthy relationship with my husband. This year we celebrate our 46th Anniversary.
Our daughter's adoption at 18 months. was a major adjustment. My husband had difficulty
adjusting to this stranger in our midst, consequently, causing conflict between us. Our daughter experienced a few troubled teenage years mostly due to emotional turmoil within herself. Our two sons appeared to be well adjusted children, teenagers and young adults. However, our eldest son after his marriage, allowed his dysfunctional wife to sever his relationship with his once very close brother and sister and to continue a distant & cold relationship with all of us including her own mother & her siblings.
And welcome to Gamtalk. Hope the site will become another tool in your recovery.
As I told you yesterday we try to have an online Meetings at 5pm on Monday Wednesday and Friday. Also hope you will the posting feature and visit in chat. I am there off and on Monday to Friday between 10am and 6pm.Hope you enjoy your weekend and hope to see you at meetings.
Do you play bingo, slots, scratch tickets, casino or other games of chance?
We are seeking women (from N.America) for a pilot treatment study. It aims to test the use of the Web in a live group discussion format to support women who want to make changes, making use of treatment materials in a self-help workbook.
If you gamble, have concerns about it, but are not currently in a gambling treatment program (GA is ok though), we would like to hear from you.
You will be asked to participate in a weekly web discussion (12 weeks) and provide feedback on the helpfulness of the workbook.
Today if you will allow me, I will share a portion of my gambling story. I must admit I will redact some things that could be incriminating or that I don't feel comfortable sharing in an on-line forum. I will start in 1979 my first encounter with GA, I had already been gambling approx. 22 yrs compulsively for 20 yrs, I was 34 yrs old. My father passed away in April of that year, and thankfully the funeral was short and my late mother had the wherewithal to pay, cause I didn't have two cents to rub together. I had gone through one marriage (high school sweetheart), one child, one car, one boat and numerous other crap and had a huge CC debt that I couldn’t pay. Thank you MOM, my last bailout. My second wife badgered me for days to go to GA, ironically she had been in and out of AA for a few years. We were a dynamic duo, she would be drunk and be an absolute honey until we got home then she would do her best to beat me to death. Many hospital visits, was I a whimp? No, just couldn't see any reason to beat the crap outta her....Might end up in jail.....and I didn't want to be away from gambling that long. Sad commentary but true.
Anyway, I entered GA for peace and quiet, and I stayed maybe a year and learned a lot. In those days it was war story after war story, I learned some stuff about gambling a lot of stuff. Not much about abstinence and recovery. It was amazing, kite checks, $500 chocolate bars, 8-10 credit cards on the go, and some things best left unsaid. At any rate my wife was in AA by then also a year clean and her sponsor convinced her to dump me (okay with me). No more accountability. I was then posted to Keflavik Iceland, No GA.....but the military had a slot palace. I hated slots but as a good CG'er it didn't matter, gambling was gambling. I went to the local AA meeting they were welcoming and I wasn't accepting. No defeat, no surrender........call me White knuckle Tony.
That was 1981 and I went back to gambling with a vengeance. At this point in my life, I was a chameleon and a jellyfish. Spineless with zero self esteem, and at the same time able to change colours to fit the situation. My favorite colour was green and if you had any I would do whatever it took to relieve you of it. I lied, I cheated, I cajoled......what ever it took. Of course, you were going to get it back with interest. Interestingly enough I progressed in my career (I wont tell you what my field was, but rest assured I was in a position of responsibility). And the beat went on, I never took a vacation. It was always a gambling junket. I never took a military assignment that wasn't in the vicinity of a gambling venue. I never took a military Temporary Duty Assignment that would interfere with my gambling.
By 1988, I had stopped gambling 3 or 4 times, only with the intention of "digging out" at which point I would gamble again and again and again. No step 1=No staying stopped. I was back in the States and was living and working 2 miles from the local OTB my real drug of choice, and 3 hours from AC my ego drug of choice. In 1990, I was on the ropes with my job but managed to escape. I admitted my addiction, and without blinking an eye announced to everyone, my friends, my family, my co-worker, my boss, that I would no longer entertain questions about my gambling. If you didn't like it or me, check the (F) out. I didn't want you in my life. At that point things began to change.
Then enter a girlfriend, by the way up to this point from 1985-1990 I dated only married women, had my way with them and sent them home to hubby, a real nice guy. My GF had heard my tirade and said I don't care what you do as long as you don't rip me off and treat with dignity and respect.....WOW...powerful words. She was posted to Washington State., while I remained on the East Coast, but we stayed in touch. In 1993, she returned and I retired after 30 yrs of Naval service. I had a brilliant idea, I would go into the gambling business, I will leave it to your imagination as to what that was. It entailed of lot of work on Saturdays and Sundays especially. I was very very successful, the amount of money is inconsequential. Why because I was a minnow running amongst the sharks. They didn't gamble I did, still in the OTB/casino scene.....These people would take my bets for any amount because they knew, that I was a sick compulsive gambler, feeding off of other sick compulsive gamblers. A mere conduit for the money.
I did this 1993-2001, then the roof fell in. Some of the people I was dealing with were arrested, I escaped. But I couldn't outrun my first bout with cancer. Recovered from major surgery, worked for one more year in my field of choice. Quit and in 2002 move to be with my honey, she was still with me. And I must admit I had tried, in my sick CG way, to maintain our deal. We moved, were married in 2002 (and are still together today) and the beat goes on. I'm still gambling of course, now I'm a poker champ....no not quite. ‘Chump’ would be a better way of describing the situation.
In 2003, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer (#2), I was angry and had many conversations with my "HP", they always started with “why me?” But life goes on and the gambling continues. I was running up debt, but had a good retirement and would sometimes take under the table jobs. We had a home in Canada, (not in my name) she had bank accounts (not in my name).....nice guy eh? Now I was blowing 3/4 thousand a month, while continuing to provide my half and only my half of expenses. Nice guy eh!....2010, we returned to Canada it was to be our last move and to this point is. I continued to gamble daily and it was getting to be as much as 18-22 hours day. My wife was gone on a 6 month posting out of the country and I managed to run up a CC (my cc) to $20k ......but it wasn't overwhelming, no kids, house essentially paid for cars paid for.....neither of us extravagant (how do u like that, gambling 3/4 grand a month with no job). At any rate, I felt us moving apart and got scared....if she tossed me I was left with nothing and I do mean nothing, just my clothes (maybe).
I was 65 years old (for the record my wife is 18 years younger than me.) I was playing four screens of poker on sunday morning 28th Aug 2010 and reading the online newspaper. There is an add from a local university for problem gamblers to participate in a cessation/study program. I called, answered the questions and continued to play poker. The lady asked what I was doing instead of gambling that morning and I laughed and said you must be sh........me. I'm playing on line as we speak. Monday I got the "fateful" call, I was in....I said what the hell might as well check it out nothing to lose. They didn't say I had to quit gambling, just had to sign an agreement to be HONEST. Can you imagine? I was introduced to a counselor as part of the program. We met weekly for almost 5 months in that time actually .28th Oct 2010 I had "quit" gambling.
Feb 22nd 2011, the roof fell in, when my counselor told me my time in the gambling study was over. She would be glad to see me, but we would not and could not discuss gambling as it was off limits. She would help me with anything else. Needless to say I turned the room blue, said a lot of nasty things CG'er are capable of when they don't get their own way. She said her "ADVICE" was GA.....I will spare you the diatribe that ensued. I came home changed clothes and head for the medication parlor (casino). I am thankful and grateful that I never made it .....divine intervention, coincidence whatever. 24th Feb 2011, I made my way to my first GA meeting in over 30yrs. I sat there and listened and for 2 months I actually called every one in the rooms ‘A-holes,’ I mean literally. I (f'd) GA up one side and down the other literally. Nobody judged me, a few of the more senior members asked me to tone it down, but never shut me up (thankful and grateful).
Finally, on the last Sunday in May I'm sitting in a meeting and something came over, call it what you want (epiphany) (awakening) whatever. I hadn't gambled in 6 months, people were clapping, the same people who I said the worst kind of things to. I choked up (near tears) and made a decision there and then to surrender. I wanted abstinence and more than that I wanted recovery. I wanted a journey to a better way of life. No more excuses or the blame game. Worked the program, got a sponsor, attended numerous meetings per week, used the phone list, came on GamTalk and another site. Did my best to pay it forward.
I'm about to close, but want to share one more thing. Jan 2nd 2012, I was again diagnosed with a 3rd form of Cancer the most deadly to date. Again, “my God my Higher Power where are you, why me?” F....k it, going to gamble, but oddly enough was too physically sick to go. But more importantly, GA people actually sat in the Chemo room or the radiation waiting room with me. I had calls, some at times that I really didn't want to talk to anyone. The desire to gamble increased and magically the presence of GA increased. I told my oncology team about my disease and they recommended I wait 6 weeks before spending anytime in close quarters with a lot of people. Two weeks after finishing treatment I went to a GA meeting. Why? Because with much help of others I hadn't gambled although the pull was huge. Because through my abstinence I had learned that I had a choice and how to make the right choice. So you know who I am? A grateful recovering compulsive gambler. I want to wish you all a safe 24 and I'll keep one for myself. I have a firm grip on the ‘Rope of Hope’ and each day I remember to keep a firm grip on it. One sec, one minute ....ODAAT...Indulge me one more thing, nobody can make me gamble but me. I don't give anyone permission to interrupt or impinge on my abstinence and recovery. Why would I want to gamble when I know that outcome? That's the definition of insanity. In my case, I have a million bets left in me. I'm not sure I have the humility or strength or courage for another recovery, hence my vigilance and strong belief that Step One is the only requirement Thank you! YBIR
P.S. To my wife Rachel you have stood by me through the last 23+yrs....and I can not even begin to thank you. . cant tell you enough your are the sunshine of my life.
My name is Ken and I am a Compulsive Gambler. I would like to share as we say in Gamblers Anonymous my
Experience Strength and Hope in the event that it may help someone out there struggling with the pain and misery our illness brings us.
I was born in Montreal Quebec in 1950 and grew up with one brother and four sisters. My Dad was a hard worker but could be a hard drinker as well. Usually when he came home after a drunk he was very abusive towards my Mom and when a fight started I would huddle my sisters off to the back bedroom and try to calm them down. Problem was that when my Dad sobered up my Mom became verbally abusive to him and this usually ended up with him going out again a few days later and getting drunk.This cycle continued for years and when my Dad wasn't home by 6pm I knew this meant it was going to be another night of yelling and fighting. When I was 10 I had money from doing a paper route and on those nights I would leave home right after dinner and go to the corner store where they had pinball machines and escape there until I was pretty sure my Dad had fallen asleep. My escape of using the pinball machines was later replaced with slot machines when the casinos opened and I needed to escape from any stress in my life. And as soon as I turned 21 I got married and moved away to Toronto and there was no stress for the first 7 or 8 years.
My Mom and her parents were / are as I know today compulsive gamblers and gambling was a normal way of living for me. I placed my first bet at Blue Bonnet Race Track when I was 10 and was betting with a bookie at 16. But once I met my first wife the gambling slowed down and my new life was peaceful. But I truly believe that I missed the chaos of the family life I grew up in and set about creating my own chaos in my life with both drinking and gambling. This ended with my first wife and I splitting up. She was a diabetic and while we were separated she had complications due to her illness and asked me to come back. But being stubborn I said no and started a new relationship with my current partner. A year later my first wife died at 30 years old while having a kidney transplant. And of course I didn't talk to my new partner about the guilt this caused me. I thought if we had gotten back together she wouldn't have passed away. Today I know that isn't true but took me close to 20 years to understand that.
Again my new relationship was going well and I became the proud Dad of a daughter and later a son. I was focused on not becoming an abusive drinker like my Dad but I wasn't paying attention to my gambling. And after about ten years in this relationship my gambling was starting to increase. My partner was busy with the kids and I was on the road for work and my job brought me lots of stress. I had become an escape gambler just like my Mom. For the next three years from 1999 to 2002 my gambling became out of control and I was about to lose my family my home and my job. On June 13th 2002 I decided the only way out of this mess was to end my life and I took off for the family cottage to try and find the courage to do it but instead I found something else. That day around noon there was a knock on the cottage door and I answered it to find a man and woman who were going door to door sharing the word of God. I had been going to that cottage for close to 40 years and had never seen that before. I thanked them and decided to go into the little village near the cottage and buy what was to be my last meal. That night while I was eating steak and potatoes I turned on the new TV my sister and her husband had installed the weekend before and watched two movies in a row. First one was 28 Days about a lady who had a drinking problem and went away for treatment and second one was called Pay It Forward.
Maybe I didn't really want to end my life but I took these three things as a sign from a Higher Power (in my case God ) and returned home not knowing if I still had a family a home or a job but I knew I needed help. I called GA the next day and attended a meeting that night. I was greeted by a fellow member who shook my hand gave me a hug and told me she was glad that I was there and there was lots of hope. I just had to keep coming back. That was about 8 years ago and One Day At A Time I placed my last bet June 13th 2002.
My life isn't perfect I still have many life issues that I face daily but today I don't have to do things alone. I stay connected to others in GA and visit sites like GamTalk daily. I like to say that "my worst day today without gambling is still better than my best day gambling." Also when I attended my first GA meeting I said Hi My name is Ken L and I am a Compulsive Gambler. Today I say My name is Ken L and I am a Grateful Recovering Compulsive Gambler. If you are struggling please reach out for support as this is a very tough addiction to recover from on our own. Thanks for letting me share.