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The Journey Begins - Printable Version

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The Journey Begins - StrengthToStop - 09-01-2018

Hi guys,

I'm newly registered, but not new to the GA site and forums, and have browsed the forums over a good few years.

A little bit about my story so far....

I've been a compulsive gambler from about the age of 15 when the bright lights and 2p fruit machines lured me in. And pretty much for the last 28 years I've got steadily worse, spending more and more on slots, and progressing from xx to xx a spin on some occasions. Of course the really folly was graduating from the local arcade to the bookies where the FOBT machines made everything seem dreamy and hypnotic.

I'm married, have been now for 15 years, and have 2 young sons.

I was also caught by the wife 10 years ago, and we embarked on a rescue mission to help me involving a second mortgage to repay the numerous credit card debts. It worked for 6 months but I have since relapsed and got worse and worse.  Thankfully, I've had a reasonable job and not got in so deep that I couldn't make at least the minimum repayments, but that's about all I could do.

I've known for about the last 12 months that it's time for me to realise that I have to change, people can't do it for me, and to stay on the straight and narrow a lot of things have to change. In October 2017, I could also see the same obsessive character traits in me bubbling to the top in my eldest son, and I know that I want to be able to educate him as best I can and work with him so that he never develops into a problem gambler like me, I can't do that in my current state without being a hypocrite, and I can't do that to my son.

So, I've been slowly coming around to the realisation that the GA program is for me, and I started putting in some of the pieces of the puzzle.

From early December I self excluded from all the bookies in my area, for the small amount of online accounts I have, I've permanently excluded myself from them too. I haven't had a bet since, and whilst with friends in the pub for Christmas, I managed to walk away from the fruit machine without being drawn to put any money in.

For me, it's only and always been about fruit machines. I've never been bothered by sports bets, bingo, roulette, poker, blackjack or any of the other things designed to take every last penny from you, it's only slots.

Still, it wasn't enough, and despite exclusions my head was telling me that you haven't yet committed to giving up and that this whole journey cannot even be started without getting help and support from my family.

And so a week ago, I firstly opened up to my wife, about everything leaving no parts hidden, and laying bare the depths of my problems. Of course she's hugely upset with me, angry at me for the lying and deceit, but being a pragmatist has also thanked me for coming clean so that we can work through it together. With her encouragement I visited my parents and laid my soul bare to them as well. The biggest shock for me was that to them it didn't come as a shock at all. They knew I had a problem and never interfered but were waiting for the day I finally admitted it.

OMG, the emotions that came out. As a grown man who seldom cries, I have been a blubbering wreck for the last few days. The wholehearted realisation of just what I've messed up, just what I've wasted and just how close I am to losing everything has finally hit home.

I was heading to this point in my head, but now that it's here, I'm relieved to have my family to support me. I count myself lucky, others haven't had the family support from the outset.

I went to my first GA meeting last week, and I was surprised to see a good number of people all with stories like mine, with all being able to share with me their experiences. I know that this is something that I need to continue doing, and I will attend another meeting in the next day or so to continue this path.

I've given my wife all my cards, all my accounts and passwords, and for the first time in a quarter of a century feel naked with only a few pounds in my wallet. Early days, but very liberating so far, I have no desire currently to gamble.

I fear there will be dark days, but at the moment I'm high with that I'm not too late to have opened up and sought help. 

Sorting the money, and largescale repayments out I feel will be the easy thing. Making lifelong changes and committing to them will be a much harder test, but it's one I will pass. Maybe there will be some bumps along the way, but having got to the start myself there is no reason I cannot make the right choices now and not the wrong ones.

I'm looking forward to working through the 12 steps, and if I am lucky enough to be needed, then I hope one day to be able to help others and inspire them to make positive changes too.

Thank you for reading. I'm gamble free for almost 4 weeks now, to achieve what I want to achieve this needs to be for the rest of my life. One day at a time, but I start this process determined.


RE: The Journey Begins - StrengthToStop - 13-01-2018

+1 week, and I will be going to my 3rd GA session tomorrow.
So far, so good, no dark thoughts, no impulses.

Have taken advice from members, and the national lottery also considered a temptation so have indefinately excluded myself from that site as well.

stay strong everyone, one day at a time, this disease will not beat me.


RE: The Journey Begins - StrengthToStop - 17-01-2018

+2 weeks and 4th GA session this evening.

A few dark thoughts this week, enhanced probably as I'm currently searching for a new job so am at home by myself for much of the day.

The dark thoughts extended as far as thinking that I may go and try some slots on "free play" mode. I'm pleased to say though they were only thoughts, and I did not follow them through.

Other than thoughts, I will be gamble free for 5 weeks tomorrow and I'm super pleased to be able to say that.


RE: The Journey Begins - StrengthToStop - 23-01-2018

Where does the time go? I am beginning to feel a sense of achievement, and I treat my next GA session as a goal post.

6 weeks are up, and the thoughts about the machines are beginning to subside, I'm putting my focus into my family and they are responding too which makes the enjoyment even greater.

Why o why have I been such a fool for so long, I'll guess I will never know the answer to that. I can only see and make the future I have to let all of the past stupidity go. Will I ever find inner peace, knowing that through my actions my wife who wanted to be a stay at home mum, has had to work.

Have to say, the GA meetings are the focus for me. From all the people I've met, the message is clear in that sobriety seems to stick for those who regularly attend. Those that drift have a high chance of one day going back to their old ways.

On that basis I will gladly give up 2 or more hours of my time to be free of demons.

Stay strong all, one day at a time I will not gamble.


RE: The Journey Begins - Simmo - 24-01-2018

It's refreshing to see progress, and also comforting to see others getting from the fellowship that I once felt in early days of recovery, and still do today.

Keep going to meetings, keep working on recovery, keep off a bet.

One day at a time

Simmo


RE: The Journey Begins - StrengthToStop - 01-02-2018

Another week on, and refreshingly the demons for this week have been quiet. I know they will never truly go away, but for now they have been banished to a close cupboard of history in my mind.

Feeling good and strong, and with the help of an active lot of GA members in my area I'm finding it refreshing to talk about all the things that do bother me still.

I'm a realist, and this week I asked the group for advice on putting together a battle plan for an up coming birthday party that I would like to attend.

My fear which is unlikely to be realised is that when out in pub after the day event the group decides a trip to the casino is in order.

I've only told and only plan to tell my immediate family, my friends are unaware of my illness.

so...what do I do should that happen?

a) Go in - but be strong enough to abstain from all the delights on offer ?
b) Come clean to my group of friends, potentially damaging my image of which I am not bothered about on a personal level but within my field of work it would/could be a problem?
c) Make up some excuse and don't go?

The voice in my head is saying go on son....do a) you are strong enough, you can do this. And do you know what, sober and with no peer pressure, I reckon I could walk through a casino and turn the opportunity down. but under the influence this would be the absolute worst thing I could do...maybe it's the demon talking, not the voice of reason?

So, with debate, and with further debate with my wife, my battle plan is formed. I will be choosing option c) and not going. Without giving too much away about my illness I will simply tell my friends that I do not gamble anymore, and have no wish to put temptation in the way so will stay in the pub/retire to my room etc. I can take any ridicule that may come my way, but my mind is clear.

Leave temptation at home, stay strong, and keep working a day at a time.
Thank you to all the GA members who spent some time with me talking this through, I am now clear of mind.


RE: The Journey Begins - StrengthToStop - 13-02-2018

Been almost 2 weeks since my last post. In my head I am convinced it's only been a week but the posting dates indicate otherwise.

Life has flown by, I'm very pleased to have got past 60 days now, and in the last week or so I have had a test or two which I'm pleased to have passed. I live to fight another day and I am another further away from my last gamble.

Life in group has been good, and I've seen a lot of the regular members pick up awards for longevity of abstinence. They are insipiring and I'm hopeful that one day I will also earn such awards.

So what was the test? Well.....I was sent a cheque from my outgoing energy provider, and I needed to pay it into the bank. As I'm now full time working in a small village without my bank, I'm limited to the main town centre on a Saturday morning.

I parked up and walked the shortest route to the bank without giving a second thought to my route. It was though straight walk through the worst part of town and past where there are 6 bookies and a number of pawn shops.

As I was walking, the demon on my shoulder was chirping in my ear, "go on lad, you've got some money in your pocket", "can't do that much damage you don't have your card", "little bet won't hurt". Thankfully though I sped my pace up and ignored the little blighter and got to the bank safe and sound, duly paid in my cheque and then turned around to come home again.

This time, knowing the voice of unreason was close I decided to call my wife on route and keep her on the phone long enough for me to walk past without another thought. I congratulated myself with a KFC for the family on the way home, and yes I'm pretty pleased that a coping mechanism worked well and that I was able to keep away. I honestly thought though I'd be a lot stronger and would give it not a second, but the truth is, this illness will rear up at every opportunity.

I've taken to watching the odd YouTube video about recovering gamblers. But the first thing I watched yesterday was a BBC documentary starring the greek guy out of the real hustle. It was very enlightening, and there was a section on how the brain of a compulsive gambler is wired very differently to that of a non compulsive gambler. To me it helped rationalise how and why we are different to our friends and nearest and dearest. And I enjoyed the program as the message that came out loud and clear was just how invaluable the meetings are.

I'm fast becomming proud to be a GA member, and not ashamed of my illness. I will ultimately use the knowledge to help others, but first I must become stronger myself.

Stay strong, and keep at it one date at a time.
I will not give in to this illness.


RE: The Journey Begins - Simmo - 13-02-2018

I too have that little voice pop up from time to time. Had it today even, "go on, just have some fun, you've got money in the bank now". I was on the chat room and a newcomer was reaching out for help, so I got his number and gave him a call. It helped me so much, that voice soon disappeared sulking "Damn, he's determined to stay on track with his recovery".

Giving back to GA what was freely given to me is one of the reasons that keeps me coming back week after week. It's less of what can I get out of GA but more about what can I put into GA this week.

Fantastic progress mate, keep posting, I enjoy reading your posts. Could you please PM me the link for the BBC documentary, I'm interested in giving that a watch, or just the name of the program please.

One day at a time.

Just for today I will live this day only, and deal with this day only, so that I can get to bed without a gamble and let more be revealed tomorrow.

Simmo


RE: The Journey Begins - StrengthToStop - 20-02-2018

So what can happen in a week?

Well an awful lot, but again I am thankful that another week has passed and I have been resolute in my defense against the "downward escalator", love that phrase, thank you Simmo!

So life has dealt some cruel blows to me, but has been crueller to many others. In the last week I have been sent a speeding ticket which annoys me as I'm normally so careful, however I have the option of a speed awareness course, so I'll take it as a positive in that I can learn more of the dangers and avoid taking 3 points on the licence.

Cancer has taken away from me a close friend and long time drinking buddy. Thankfully whilst he had cancer he wasn't in pain for long and knowing him well he wouldn't want any of his friends moping around after him, so with his son's blessing we'll be celebrating the life he had and not comisserating about the life he's lost.

It looks like the positivity that has come from stopping gambling has rubbed off in other areas, and I am hopeful that by the time I post again my short term contracting role will have become long term or maybe even a permanent opportunity.

I am so grateful to the GA program and for my new bunch of friends for their inspirational advice and collective strength, I'm being changed bit by bit as a person, and for the first time in nearly 30 years I can look at my growing bank account with a bit of pride. Yes I owe the bank of mum & dad a small fortune, but I have managed to save half the target for holiday spending money without getting it on credit or via some loan. It's been saved from what I would previously have wasted.

I feel a sense of pride in being a GA member. For too long long I have been lost in some sort of gambling wilderness, and the program is helping my find my way back to a largely normal, rewarding and fulfulling life.

Thank you for reading, I hope this helps you in some small way.

One day at a time I will not gamble.


RE: The Journey Begins - StrengthToStop - 28-02-2018

Hello all,

I'm now on day 77 since the last and (I hope) final bet. In 29 days time I will be going on holiday for 2 weeks.

Question, is there any protocol/guidance for when on holiday? I don't at this stage feel that I should seek out a help group in Orlando, but is there anything you'd suggest that will help to keep me strong.

Thinking maybe, checking in with my groups chairman/secretary, posting in the whatsapp group etc? Will also be happy to continue my journal on here, as I find that whilst I waffle a bit the act of writing/typing itself brings me comfort and therapy.

I have some brilliant news this week, and this is also a real test of my resolve.

When I was out of work in December and preparing to change my life forever I decided to follow the money saving expert forums and ask the banks and credit card companies that I've used frequently over the years if I had any PPI.

Well it turns out that I have, and 2 weeks ago I received a cheque from one company equal to around half a months wages. I used this windfall to purchase holiday spending money so have had no urges to waste it.

This week though, the other company I contacted have also upheld a ppi complaint, and within the next 28 days I'll be getting a refund equivalent to 4.5 months wages. So my test will be to allocate this correctly and not listen to chirpy on my shoulder urging me to head to the downwards escalator. I don't know when it will arrive but my plan is simple...repay my wife what I owe her, roughly a third of the total amount. Repay the last of my credit cards in full and close the account, roughly another third of the total. Of the balance that is left tuck 40% away into savings for a rainy day as it's about a months worth of committed expenditure and pay the rest back to the bank of mum and dad who helped me clear the majority of my credit card debts when I confessed and embraced the GA program.

I expect to pass this test, however I will be honest and describe my feeling and thoughts when I actually get the money.....could be up to 28 days away so I have up to 4 weeks to prepare myself for the emotional onslaught. This is a massive deal to me, and important that I do not squander this once in a lifetime opportunity. I have to stay strong.

Can't wait to get to my next GA meeting and asking the room for their input too.

One day at a time I will not gamble.