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.