Just so you know

When I read back on these posts I can see how ridiculous they can be, I am aware of it but I'm trying to demonstrate the thought process of an addict as he tries to rationalise, blame others and abdicate responsibility. I want to put it in writing so, when I read back I will spot the warning signs as I start to try to find excuses to gamble again, as demonstrated in previous posts.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Higher Power ?

Step 11 of the "recovery" program is

"Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. "

This is a bit of a dilemma for me as I'm not religious, I only associate prayer with desperation or seeking forgiveness, and those are two mindsets I'm avoiding. As soon as I hear reference to God I tend to tune out, but, at a recent meeting I was interested to hear the other members describe their higher power as something other than a deity, it is whatever the person wants it to be.

I do a lot of walking now with our new puppy, and I speak to him as we walk, yip, I told you I was nuts, but I have decided he is going to be my power, but, by virtue of his size, a lower power.

On another note, I noticed last night that I now have the same hands as my father, if only the rest of me was similar, life would be a more noble journey.

Anyway, no bet since the last post, aren't I the great fellow ?

Thursday, 21 November 2013

What's different ?

Hello, my name is Paddy, I'm a compulsive gambler and I haven't had a bet for over 6 month now.

So what has changed ?

First things first, I admitted to myself I have a major problem, this admission was forced on me by my circumstances but it does not make it any less true.

Making the admission is fine but how does this result in one changing the habit's of a life time ?

The most important step I took was telling the truth to my wife and siblings. This seems relatively simple but the concept of telling the truth after a lifetime of deceit is not even on a compulsive gambler's radar. I was lucky and was immediately offered support by my wife and family. Support came in the forms of emotional and financial, but the emotional support and the sense of relief I felt after sharing my issues far outweighed the financial stress.

The next step I took was to approach MABS (money advice) and worked with them to act as a third party between me and my creditors to create an agreed payment plan. I discovered that if one is willing to try the financial institutions will negotiate and come to some kind of agreement. The presence of a recognised intermediary was crucial in this process for me as it removed the stress in the process.

I handed ALL my access to finance and funds over to my wife, with the structure as follows.

My wages are paid into a current account, we have direct debits set up to service our mortgage, agreed payments to creditors and regular household bills. We then have a small surplus (agreed through the MABS budgeting service) to cater for other budgeted costs such as education, childcare, clothing, car expenses, medical costs. This money is removed from our current account and lodged every month into a Post office account that is only accessible by my wife. When my wife went to open this account she was asked for a utility bill or similar that had her name and address on it as proof of identity bit did not have one. She did not have one because I controlled all financial aspects of our lives for over 20 years, such are the manipulative powers of the gambler in me.  It sounds contradictory but this is a great relief, If I have access to money there is a strong chance that the gambler in me will surface. I do not have much, but I have more than I had when I was "winning".

I also do not carry money, the maximum I carry on a day to day basis is €5, and it now astonishes me how little I need to spend.

I was also advised also not to read the papers because of the drawing power of the back pages. I don't purchase them, but I do spend a large amount of time perusing electronic media. I love sport and read the sports section keenly along with current affairs. I do not visit the racing section as I have no interest or compulsion to do so.

I try to be truthful. My default response for years was to lie, it's a hard habit to break but I'll get there.

I participate in home life, homework, chores, and all the things normal people do, I ignored these for years and isolated myself from them.

I talk to my wife and tell her how I see things. I spent years internalising and obsessing, now I verbalise and it just makes things simpler.

I try to live for today, if I obsess about the past I will return to the place of self hate and re ignite all the negative things that were present when I was gambling. If I dwell on the future I will begin to worry and scheme. This is not good for me so I try not to do it.

I go to GA meetings at least once a week, Wednesdays and Saturdays are when I get my GA medicine. Once a week is not enough for me at the moment as I find my mindset changing if I go too long without listening to others, where they have been and where they are now. There is also the fact that I have never left a GA meeting feeling worse that when I entered it.

Which step is the most important ?

I don't know, everyone is different, for me the relief I experienced when I shared my issues with my wife was a paradigm shift. The financial improvements and the subtle behavioural changes I made simply would not have occurred if I had not shared. For others it's admitting powerlessness over gambling, but deep down, I always knew I was powerless.

I'll never be powerful, but I will be better.

My name is Paddy, I'm a compulsive gambler and I'm stuck with me, but it's better, so much better.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

How did I get here ?

How does one become a compulsive gambler ? I don't know but here's my story.

My first memories of betting are as a kid in our village playing pitch and toss. This was a regular enough event in the village, usually a Saturday or Sunday morning where people bet on the resultant toss of 2 coins, the "tosser" traditionally backed 2 heads and threw the coins and he didn't toss until he had someone to oppose the bet. The mechanics are irrelevant but what I now realise is that when I did get involved there was only one of two outcomes for me, win it all or lose it all. I never considered leaving the "toss school" until I was broke or everyone there were broke. My losses would be very small as I was young and 1 or 2 pounds would be my bankroll. The financial aspect to this is largely irrelevant but the mindset I had was already developed at 15 or 16 years old. The dream of "breaking the school" was my only aim and I could not figure out the others who could win a couple of quid and leave or conversely, lose a couple or quid and leave.

I went through school pretty uneventfully with good results and finished secondary education with a myriad of options regarding further education, and was lucky enough to have a family home that was able to support me in further education, despite it being in the middle of a recession (mid 80's). At the time I didn't realise this ,so off I went, oblivious to my fortune and I can now see that this is where my real obsession began. I spent a lot of time in a snooker club that had poker machines. When others were in college, I was in a dingy club watching a blue screen and listening to the non stop beep, beep, beep of these machines. When I did actually attend college I spent most of my time in a poker school that had formed in the college canteen, again the results were binary, I lost everything, or I won everything. When I say I lost everything, I mean my rent, my food money, my bus money and often hitched the 60 miles home in the rain having not eaten for 2 or 3 days. I regularly invented scenarios that required my parents to send on more cash to keep me funded but saw nothing wrong with it. Manipulation and lies were second nature to me, all to fund my gambling.

I bombed out of college in third year having failed my exams, somehow I managed to get to this stage without attending lectures or tutorials by virtue of having a good short term memory and the ability to distil the important information from reams of irrelevance, I also have an aptitude for numbers and hence science based subjects were never really a problem for me. It still hadn't dawned on me that the reason I failed was purely and utterly because of gambling, If I had dedicated the huge amounts of time to study that I did to gambling I have no doubt I would have graduated.

Did I regret this ? No, is the simple answer, I can see now that I was already a compulsive gambler, liar and thief. It's hard to explain but when a gambler reaches this stage he simply doesn't care about the lies, the larceny, the people we deceive and those we hurt the most. We only care about one thing, money for gambling. This troubles me now, as crazy at it seems I had no tolerance for these traits in others, people were either good or bad. No middle ground, no mitigating circumstances, not tolerance for others, but this did not apply to me, I simply did not realise that the things I hated most in others were what I had become.

My girlfriend and I had a child at this stage and I entered the world of full time employment. My father had a major role in securing me my first job and I was not grateful as this was my entitlement. That's the thing with gamblers, we are entitled to everything. I'm entitled to your money, his money her money and everyone's money. My girlfriend worked and we intended to marry and set up savings accounts to save for our first house, just like everyone else fortunate enough to be in full time employment. I made sure I managed the funds, I made the lodgements, I made the secret withdrawals to give the money to Paddy Powers. I stole from us, I stole from our future. Again, I had no guilt, it was my money, I could do what I wanted with it. One can ask now as to why my girlfriend did not notice and there's a simple answer. She loved me, hence she trusted me and it never occurred to her that the love of her life was a lying thief. Normal people have trust, they don't suspect that the one they love is not like them. Gamblers are not normal, we control, we manage all events to suit our needs, the needs of our addiction.

We got married, but we could not afford a traditional marriage so we went to exotic climes with a couple of members of my family. I progressed in jobs, earning more but no richer. We built a house, we got a mortgage, we appeared to have the life of a normal couple. All during this time I was gambling, I had loans that my wife knew nothing about, I had credit cards she knew nothing about, I had a life she knew nothing about. I juggled a bank loan, multiple credit cards, credit union loans just to hide my addiction. How is this possible ? I had a good job as I never had issues progressing by virtue of being a hard worker and demonstrated competence. How did I have so many loans ? How did I get credit ? This was simple, I lied, I am an accomplished liar. I also have a hyphenated surname , so if my name is "Compulsive-Gambler", I got loans and credit cards out in the name of "Compulsive" and "Gambler" and "Compulsive Gambler". I got loans out to pay loans, I got credit cards to transfer balances onto, in one case I had 4 cards from the same company, making 4 transfers a month to pay each other. We extended our mortgage term by multiples of what it was originally, I convinced my wife this was necessary, why did she accept ? It's simple, she loved me and accepted what I said.

Did I love her ? In my mind I loved my wife and child but in reality I did nothing to show it. I stole from our future, I only loved my mistress and she is insatiable, she takes all you have and gives nothing back.

In case this post is me trying to portray myself as the victim I do not mean it to be. I am not seeking absolution, this is the way things were. This existence continued for years to the point where we are still married but with another little girl and my wife's world has changed utterly.The last few years of my gambling almost killed me and here's why. I stopped getting credit so I had to begin to pay my credit with real money. When I looked at my income versus my commitments they could not be maintained and I concentrated my gambling to achieve the unachievable. I was on Betfair, initially straight betting,but then trading, predicting the price movements and trying to profit as a result.

For the past 3 or 4 years my life had become unmanageable, and here's how I existed. I came home from work and did not eat, I went to the laptop and turned on the races. I entered "my" room at 5:00 pm and gambled. My wife is a kind, loving person, but I did not interact and our relationship was purely one way, she gave, I took. My kids now had a Dad they didn't know. I was a shell. My mind was full of only the following, money, debts, betting, fear.

I spent every waking hour thinking of money, thinking of how to get more, I couldn't sleep and didn't go to bed until 4 or 5 in the morning and when I got up at 6:30 the first thing I did was check the account balance. I stood in the shower before work most mornings and cried. I did not cry from self pity, nobody made me do this, I did it, but I did not know how to make it stop. I looked at my wife and all I did was hate, I hated myself  because of the love she had for me that I did not deserve. I looked at my kids and hated myself for what I was dong to their lives, their future. I looked in the mirror and then I really hated.

I decided I would end it, I picked a spot in a wall that I would crash into and die, I have a good job so my wife and kids would be cared for financially, and I knew they would have been better off without me. At this stage it was not the bills, it was not the money, it was that I knew what I had become, a worthless person.

This is where the gambler kicked back in and I found an out. I begged my brother for money and even manipulated that situation to get him to keep it secret by emotionally blackmailing him. I began attending Gamblers Anonymous for a couple of months and felt better.

I didn't commit to GA so I used the money my brother had given me to clear debts to gamble again, and I lost it all. Last may I went back to him again for money, he refused money but did not refuse to help. He told my sister because he feared form my mental state, she arranged for me to break this to my wife , they saved my life. I have no doubt that I would be dead now if it hadn't been for this intervention. My wife would be a widow, my kids would be fatherless, and they would not know why.

I broke down, I told my wife of my sins, of the lies, the theft, the person I had become. Her response to being told that 20 years of her life had been a lie was "We'll get through this". I still cannot understand this unconditional love for another, would I have been so forgiving ? I unburdened my sins and a weight lifted from me, I had actually told the truth for the first time in as long as I can remember.

So what happens next ? I obviously have a huge financial burden that I cannot manage so I went to MABS and they acted as intermediaries between me and my creditors. I will pay them but it will take 8 or 9 years.

I went back to GA and still go, I'm going in 45 minutes to today's meeting. I am learning that I'm not alone in my issues. I'm a gambler but I'm not gambling today and have not gambled for 6 months. My life is unrecognisable, I spend time with my wife and kids, not with betfair. I'm learning how to love, both others and myself. I don't obsess about money, about debts. I don't spend all day every day in a shroud of fear, loathing and angst. I don't want to die.

I am not a good person and have done horrible things to those that love me the most. All is not rosy, my default personality is not nice after 25 years of lies and deceit. I am learning to change, I am trying to mature.

I still obsess about whether gambling is an addiction or if this is just a convenient get out of jail card, and perhaps I'll never know.

I do know that if I attend GA meetings I will not bet, I can atone and become what I hope I can be, someone who can laugh and cry, love and hate, and create rather than destroy. I don't know why these meetings work and I don't care.

I do know if I stop going I will gamble, I will lie and steal, I will hate and I will decay, and then I will die.

My name is Paddy and I'm a compulsive gambler, I have not had a bet today or since my last post, and I'm still here.

Gamblers anonymous website

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

New BLOG to Visit

Hello, I have just added a link to a new BLOG that covers a similar subject matter to mine, please drop in and have a look.


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

It aint all that bad.

My name is Paddy, I'm a compulsive gambler, I have not had a bet today or since my last post.

When I read back through this BLOG it strikes me that it can be interpreted as one long tale of woe and misery. This is simply not true.

I post when I feel I need to, when I'm suspicious about myself, my behaviours and my thought patterns.

I don't post when things are good, when life is not overcomplicated or I'm happy. This is most of the time, the last 6 months have been an awakening for me. Sure, I still have bad days but the good ones far outnumber the bad ones and I think it's important for me to state that. Not Gambling has given me a perspective on life and myself that I couldn't have thought possible.

Here's some of the positives,

I don't wake up every day full of fear and dread.
I am building real relationships with the people that really count.
Every day is not a day I wish I don't exist.
I don't feel the need to lie at every opportunity.
I am learning how real relationships work.
I don't try to manipulate everything I do to suit my means.
I am in the process of reclaiming my life.
I still have the same insecurities and crazy thought processes but now I recognise them for what they are.
I am building a sense of self worth, and by learning to value myself I am valuing others.
I am a human being that has all the frailties of every human being.
I want to live.

My name is Paddy, I'm a compulsive gambler, but hey, it aint all that bad.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

There's none so blind as those that cannot see

Hello my name is Paddy, I'm a compulsive gambler, I haven't had a bet today or since my last post.

I attended a GA meeting last night, on the way I was questioning the relevance of these meets as my thought process has recently changed regarding my "addiction".

They way they usually work is someone is nominated to be the chairperson for the night and speaks about their experiences and feelings, thoughts and actions. It sounds cosy and a bit questionable but as the meeting progressed the relevance of it became more and more apparent to me.

Not for the first time the thread of the meeting seemed focussed on the very questions I had been asking myself recently, regarding the question of powerlessness and abdication of responsibility, self justification and self pity. The structure was quite unusual in that the sharers (cosy term for contributors) followed a clockwise pattern round the table. Three previous speakers articulated their mindset, and their observations on their journey. It's an eclectic mix comprised of the young, the old, the brave and the bold, all different, all the same. These are people who have been dealing with their issues a lot longer than me so acquired wisdom should apply rather than inexperienced insights.

For some reason they all referred to the stage of their journey that I am at now as one of the most dangerous. The honeymoon period, the one whereby you convince yourself that the reason you gamble is as a result of your odious character, that you are now cured, that it's not really an illness. When one referred to the fact that this "addiction" is the only one that convinces you that you don't have it, it struck me, that's me this week. I  bored you with it yesterday and I still think it today.

Whether they or wrong or I am wrong is irrelevant, what really matters is that based on what I heard at the meeting I am now at a point of reasoning that these people were at before, and they returned to betting and gambling. No one told me what to do, or think, but I heard of the consequences of their "return to action" and the resultant desolation, and the rapid descent to rock bottom.

Rock bottom is a personal place, for some it is homelessness, for others it is loneliness and self hatred, for some it manifests itself in illegal activities, for me its a world devoid of hope, no will to wake up , no will to love, a mind that contracts so fast that I don't want to exist. I've been there and I don't want to return. I struggle to accept helplessness, addiction, but I now know that if I attend a meeting I feel better in my skin.  I can live with that, I'm not sure I can live with the other.

My name is Paddy, I'm a compulsive gambler, I haven't had a bet today or since my last post, but that means fuck all.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

6 months on

Hello my name is Paddy, I'm a compulsive gambler,I haven't had a bet today or since my last post.

In fact I haven't had a bet in over 6 month now and my world is a different place. I still spend an inordinate amount of time over analysing myself and every little thing that occurs in my tiny universe.

I revisited Gamblers Anonymous just over 6 month ago, broken and bewildered. It was a massive step in continuing my existence and empowered me to deal with the bumps on the road I encounter as part of everyday life.

The first step in the process is an acceptance that one is powerless over gambling and all that is needed to attend is a common desire to stop gambling. I admitted and subscribed and my life is better. I owe money, but I don't hate the world I inhabit, I don't hate myself or everything that surrounds me.

Whilst acknowledging the powerlessness was cathartic for me 6 months my thought process simply doesn't accept this abdication of responsibility any more. Every bet I placed, every penny I wasted and every destructive thought and action I initiated was NOT as a result of some irresistible external force, it was an action I knowingly took and disregarded the consequences.

They were the actions of a selfish being, and although I can try to convince myself otherwise through the adoption of the "powerless" defence I know this is not true.

I am the person who made those decisions, and that side of me is still there, dormant, but ready to reappear without notice. I can no longer blame external influences for my odious shortcomings, but I can now see there is another path, the one that the vast majority of people follow every day of their lives, it's called normality, or decency.

I despise people who are incapable of accepting personal responsibility, ergo, I despise the me that destroys. I cannot hide from me, I can recognise what and who I am, and only I can decide who I will eventually become. The choice is mine, I am not powerless, I am cowardly and immature, but I don't have to be.

Ian O' Doherty gets it right, again.

Anyway, my name is Paddy, and I'm a compulsive excuse seeker, but I can fix that.