Thursday, May 12, 2005

Day 907 - How Did I Stop? Compulsive Gambling That Is?

At my Gamblers Anonymous meeting last night the reading from our "Day At A Time" book offered the suggestion that instead of trying to have the courage to stop gambling forever all at once, that it is better to try to have the courage to do it just one day at a time and then repeat it each day. I thought about a television commercial I had seen recently about a bank that processes billions of checks a year. The good-looking guy on the TV said they did it by developing a system that accurately processes a SINGLE check, and then they repeat that process billions of times. Seemed a lot like my approach to recovery! If I get through today without placing a bet, I suppose the most logical thing would be to do the same thing tomorrow!

Later in the meeting a newcomer asked me how I made it through the difficult first days of abstinence. Those days where the urge to solve the problems I had created BECAUSE of gambling, BY gambling were so great. Each of us has our own experiences to draw from, and our bottoms are different. But, I have met a lot of people saying the same things the first time they get to a meeting, and it is awfully similar to my story, maybe just with different numbers. I shared with the member what I had done, and decided to journal a little bit about it here. Please remember that I (nor is any compulsive gambler really) am not an expert on this subject. I only know that so far for 907 days I have not placed a bet. That could change tomorrow as the reading suggests, so I really do just work on what I can TODAY.

So, here are my experiences of those first 90 days. There are really only three main areas I concentrated on. Here they are:

#1 - First on my personal list, by no accident is that I DID NOT TRY TO SOLVE ANY PROBLEMS! Yes, this is a slight exaggeration, but only slight. What I mean is that my one and only focus was to NOT GAMBLE TODAY. Of course I had to try and figure out how to get work, and figure out where I was going to eat etc.... But, those things were completely secondary to not gambling. I had to trust that somehow, someday those things would work themselves out. Every day I had to convince myself that placing a bet would only make it worse as it had every time before. No matter how much I may have wanted to turn $20.00 into $40.00 so I could get out the homeless shelter sooner, or eat at McDonald's instead of the soup kitchen, I had to be patient. I could not solve any problems if I gambled. Of course, magically by NOT gambling, solutions to the problems did appear. Not as fast as the compulsive gambler in me wanted, but slowly, one by one, things started to get solved. Things are still getting solved today. Problems I have today are not as dramatic as those in the beginning, but the process I follow is the same today.

#2 - I jumped full steam into Gamblers Anonymous. In a way for me, being homeless and jobless in Las Vegas was a blessing. Since there were close to 100 meetings a week in town at that time, I could really get to a lot of meetings. Remember that #1 was my highest priority and in the meetings I saw that people had managed to stay away from gambling, at least for longer than I ever had in the past. I did not understand how or why the program worked, nor did I really care. The members with clean time said go to meetings. I went to 2 or 3 a day at first. They said do not associate with people who gamble. So, I stayed to myself and the meetings for awhile. This wasn't that difficult because frankly by this point I really didn't have any friends left. They said do not try to solve all your problems at once. This worked out ok for me since I had already kind of had #1 in mind. Finally they said trust in a power greater than yourself...Uh oh...GOD? They said yes, but not necessarily TODAY. Just accept that there is SOMETHING that will provide you with the tools you need to survive each day. THAT I could live with.

#3 - GET HONEST. I had to really accept the fact that my life was where it was. I had to give up hoping for a better past. There was nothing I could do to change those I had hurt, lied to, stolen from. Eventually I would come to begin to make amends to each of them, an ongoing process even today, but in the beginning I just accepted the fact that I had hurt them and vowed to not hurt them anymore today at least.

That was really it. Of course there were specific little things within these big three, but most of those I learned through time and experiences of the fellowship. I learned to set up roadblocks. I learned to limit access to cash. I learned to "play the tape all the way to the end" when gambling urges came. I learned many more things as well, but that was just all noise underneath the big three.

I am not saying that my way will work for anyone else. But, I can say that I just did what basically many before me had done and it seemed to work for them. 907 days later, with all the tremendous improvements in my life I still do not understand how it works every day. I only know that today I did not place a bet and my life did not get worse.

I think I will try and repeat it tomorrow, just like the bank processes the checks.