Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Day 934 - Is GA The Only Way?

Evening all,

This post is likely to be a little longer than my usual, but I want to make sure I say all I need to say to make my points correctly. Sorry....

The other night I posted about how one of my main internet recovery tools, the Compulsive Gamblers Hub website was closing down. I guess it can't go down without controversy.

I have shared here in the past that as much as I believe that the internet chat rooms, posting boards, and research sites can be very valuable tools, for ME those tools must work in conjunction with the human face to face contact of Gamblers Anonymous meetings.

In addition to the meetings I must PARTICIPATE in the various aspects of the fellowship, social and otherwise. I must then APPLY the knowledge I gain from the program in my daily life.

See, I tried to stop gambling on my own hundreds of times over the 9 years or so that I gambled, never with much success. Until I was ready to surrender completely, I was always looking for the "easier", "softer" way to stop. After all, I had been living my life in this same manner...trying to get more money than I really "needed" the easy way by gambling, doing just enough at work to get by, telling juussstt enough truth that for a long time I was not questioned about my gambling etc. Why not do the same thing to stop.

BECAUSE, for me, it never worked! Sure, I managed to stop for a little while...but once the pain went away even a little bit, I was right back at it. I thought I knew it all and could control everything around me.

Which brings me to the CGHUB closing and the controversy. In an organization as large and diverse as GA, there are many different viewpoints on how the program works best, and the best way to stop gambling. We TRY to limit some of this in the meetings themselves by adhering to the 12 UNITY steps . It works pretty well actually. When a group of compulsive gamblers get together to share our experience, strength and hope...that is the primary focus. We try not to take each others "inventory".

Even with all these safeguards, sometimes the personalities creep in. People try and "tell" another what they need to do to keep from gambling instead of merely sharing how they themselves did not place a bet that day.

But, of course on a website, there is not as much of that control exerted. As a result, some of the "Die Hard GAers" as they are called, get frustrated with those that have decided not to attend any face to face meetings and continue to try to remain abstinent by using internet means alone. Sometimes these people get downright mean and harsh, calling the strugglers names and offering them NO hope if they do not attend GA meetings face to face.

These posts of course then beget posts from the accused, who defend their views that they do NOT need GA and on it goes.

Of course the GA believers point out time after time that the strugglers are constantly posting new "last day gambled" dates and say "see, this internet thing will never work!", forgetting how many people in the face to face meetings attend a single meeting never to be seen again.

On the other side, the strugglers use these mean spirited posts as their "reason" for not trying to apply whatever means necessary to stop gambling. They claim that many they have met in face to face meetings have portrayed similar attitudes. So, even if what they have been doing doesn't seem to be working, they keep doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result! (Our program definition of insanity by the way! See, as a compulsive gambler no matter what the damage I caused with the last session, the next time I told myself it would be different.)

In my experience VERY few people in a meeting try and force anything upon anyone, or say there is only a certain way to stop gambling. Even our literature allows for the common sense fact that the steps may be interpreted slightly different from one to another based on that person's life experiences. And yelling in a meeting? I honestly can't remember a single regular meeting where yelling has occurred. At the business meeting sometimes, LOL, but not in a regular therapy meeting. We all realize this is a matter of life and death for many and treat things as such.

My view? Both sides are kind of right. I am in no position to know whether the ONLY way to stop gambling is by attending and participating in the Gamblers Anonymous fellowship. How do I know? There may be many people out there that manage to stay away from the bet without a 12-Step program. What I DO know is that my experience and observations seem to point out that although far from a 100 percent success rate in GA, people do seem to remain abstinent more often in the F2F meetings than those I see solely posting on the internet. I tend to think that it probably falls into that "softer, easier" discussion I wrote about above.

Bottom line though? It shouldn't matter that much to me. I have plenty to do to keep myself in line. Of course I care, and want to help the newcomer or the struggler, but those who have been to many many more meetings than I have tried to show me through example that the best way to keep someone coming back is by showing them something they might want. I will be here when anyone is ready, in any forum. But when they ask me how "I" stopped, I will tell them over and over it was the GA program. After all, they asked!

So,that's what I do. I start EVERY one of my therapies in a meeting with the same sentence - "My name is John M. and I am a compulsive gambler. Thanks to FINALLY admitting my powerlessness over gambling. and TRYING to apply the steps of the GA program in my life EVERY DAY, I have not gambled now in 934 Days..."

That sentence really is the substance of how I finally stopped, and how I continue to try and not place a bet each day. Then I share a little piece of where gambling took me (bad places), how I stay away from gambling now (meetings, fellowship, step work etc..), and how it can work for anyone who is READY to do the work required. Am I always eloquent? NO. Do my therapies ever get a little wierd and contain personal aspects and opinions? Of course. I am TRYING to apply the steps of the program. Progress, not perfection is my goal. But I am never mean spirited. When I see someone struggling in and out of gambling I will sometimes tailor my talks in a direction that might nudge someone in a different direction than they may have tried in the past. But, in the end the person will make the choices they want to make. I cannot control people, places, or things.

I hope serenity will finally be restored to the CGHUB soon, but I have to remember that some of us are still sicker than others, on BOTH sides.

Thanks for letting me ramble.