Saturday, April 30, 2005

"You Never Have To Feel This Way Again"

Good evening,

Well, I am home after a pretty powerful day of recovery! I was expecting it to be a good day, but it turned out to be better, and LONGER than I anticipated. Today I was basically surrounded with recovery from noon until 8:00 PM. So, now I am sitting here listening to some nice background music from www.12stepradio.com and thinking about how to share such a great day in under 1000 words. I of course will not be able to do it justice, but I might be able to provide at least a flavor.

If you read this morning's posting than you already know I was headed to a celebration meeting/potluck for FIVE (3 men and 2 women) members of GA celebrating from between one year and twenty years free from gambling. I also said, I expected a little bit of a crowd, but we had 70 people there!

There was great food everywhere. All six celebrants were beaming with pride, crying at times with happiness and joy, and providing me and others present with additional tools to aid us in not placing a bet for the day. We also had the fortunate experience of sharing in the no less important milestones of a couple of other women that attend this meeting. One was celebrating 60 days of abstinence, and the other was celebrating 6 months since her last bet.

The only thing we were missing was a newcomer, and sometimes that is ok. It allows the meeting to have a little lighter tone.

One of the great things about these celebration meetings is that there are often family members present. Today was no exception. Mothers, in-laws, friends, granddaughters, sisters daughters, girlfriends, husbands and wives were all there today. You see, we learn quickly that we affect those around us more than we realize (Today there is an especially poignant reminder of this in the Betting Your Life Blog). So, when they cry at the progress their loved ones have made it touches us all.

The meeting was filled with an almost continuous laugh. We joked, roasted, and jabbed back and forth at the celebrants and ourselves. In between there was an amazing amount of recovery shared. I could go on forever sharing each and every tid bit, but one reminder from one of our trustees summed up the entire tone of the meeting for me. He shared about at one of his first GA meetings twenty years ago as he was crying and beaten. Someone took him aside and said:

"After today, you never have to feel the way you do now again."

Today's meeting reminded me of that over and over.

So, what did most of us do after a 4 hour meeting? Went to another one, and then dinner afterwards! Good stuff, but I am tired!

John

Crime Watch - Crying Bank Robber Trying To Cover Losses Sentenced To Two Years

A man was sentenced to two years in prison and two additional years of supervised probation, as well as required gambling addiction treatment for robbing a Lafeyette, Indiana bank last fall. This is according to an article in today's Lafeyette's Journal and Courier newspaper.

The man, who was crying and apologizing to the teller at the time of the robbery later admitted he was trying to recover $2900.00 in gambling losses earlier that morning.

Of course this is more and more common, and goes right into what I am saying about societal costs of REACTION to the compulsive gambling problem being more than those of PREVENTION. Hopefully things are finally turning around.

This particular story is interesting though in that apparently this guy had not lost everything else prior to this robbery. It is not typical for problem gamblers that I have met to resort to criminal activities until every other avenue to get money has been exhausted. But, maybe he felt the pressure to explain the lost money to family or something caused him to take this action. Remember, when in action the compulsive gambler is not thinking clearly.

I wish him well and hope he gets the help he needs.

John

What About Seniors and Compulsive Gambling?

I have devoted some space to the knowledge that is being gained regarding the trend of the younger population to have gambling problems. Discussion about this segment of the population is the trend right now because the "poker craze" is everywhere and this type of gambling is most popular among the younger set.

However, this by no means that the only growing segment of compulsive gamblers are young. The "senior set" or retirees as some call them are also increasingly falling into the problem gambling trap. An MSN Money article posted online today discusses this issue.

The article quotes a study performed by the University of Pennsylvania and published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry that states that approximately 10% of seniors were defined as "at risk" gamblers -- defined as those who wagered more than $100 in a single bet or more than they could afford to lose, or both.

The article also points out how that even those seniors that do stop gambling, have a much more difficult time rebuilding their lives, especially financially. Since they are no longer offered the opportunity to work for as long, they never regain the financial security they once had. Many have lost their entire retirement savings, and even their homes they have lived in all of their adult life.

The article provides interviews with a couple of seniors, providing personal accounts of their gambling experiences.

As most here know, I attend a lot of GA meetings. Here locally I would say the FASTEST growing segment of our groups are seniors. We even have an 80+ year old woman who is approaching 3 years of abstinence and attends several meetings a week!

This disorder truly knows no bounds of color, age, or sex.

John

Day 895 - A Day Of Celebrations

Good morning,

I m going to do a little posting here this morning, but then I won't have much new until tonight.

You see, I am on my way to one of my favorite kind of Gamblers Anonymous meetings today. A celebration of important milestones of abstinence (we call these birthdays). But, this is not your typical celebration. Usually we help a single member share in their recovery on these days, but today SIX people are celebrating birthdays of between 1 and 20 years today! Plus, they are being nice enough to let someone celebrating 6 months join in.

I like it when multiple celebrants share in their success TOGETHER. It shows a great deal of humility that they do this with others instead of wanting a day JUST for them. It is a great example that as much as the work done by each person, and the happiness they EACH deserve, days like this are really a celebration that the GA program CAN WORK IF YOU WORK IT!!

This meeting is always a big Saturday afternoon meeting anyway, and today with all the extra people that will visit, along with one of their famous Potlucks, I would estimate their should be at least 50 people there. It should be a great day.

I am looking forward to it. I will post about it later and let you know.

John

Recovery Saying of The Day...

"What I used to call boredom, I now call serenity."
During my gambling days, I could never sit still. If I had even a moment of free time I was trying to fill it with the opportunity to gamble. If I wasn't gambling, I was figuring out how to cover up for my past gambling indiscretion, or trying to figure out how to get money for the next session.
Then after I started into abstinence I found I had all this time with nothing "specific" to do. I couldn't afford to do much given my financial status, and was often restless.
Now, I appreciate the peace and quiet of a weekend morning, or a night watching a ball game on television. I no longer need to be busy every waking moment.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Day 894 - Working On The Entire Me...

Good evening,

I thought I was going to have time to think through something to talk about tonight, but my San Diego Padres ACE closing pitcher just blew the save, so the baseball game is going into extra innings and I want to get back to it. SO, I am going to steal something I posted on the Compulsive Gamblers Hub board earlier in the day. It is actually relevant though because lately this aspect of my life has been second only to my work to remain abstinent from gambling.

Getting a little time away from my last bet has allowed me to work on various OTHER character defects I possess (no, abstinence from gambling did not make me perfect...darn!). This list is long and UNdistinguished.

As such, once the daily stresses of trying to not gamble subsided somewhat, I started to look at some longer term goals in other areas of my well-being I wanted to address.

Being overweight was one of those defects. At my heaviest in April 2004 I had bloated up to 257 pounds and I am 5' 11" tall. For me that was a huge gain, although I had for years been over the 200 pound mark. During my first year of abstinence from gambling I did not worry about the weight too much, as I had other priorities. I have said here on many occasions in the beginning, the ONLY task I took on was to NOT PLACE A BET each day. By doing so, slowly some of the problems DIRECTLY related to gambling started to ease. Only then was I ready to entertain the task of weight loss, which I knew would be difficult in itself! I had to make sure I was totally ready to face some of the similar ups and downs as I did initially in abstinence from gambling during the eating style transformation (notice I did NOT say diet?), otherwise I might end up not accomplishing EITHER task.

Well, after one year of working to change my eating habits, I am very happy to say I now weigh in at 189.5 pounds this morning!! I still have a little bit more to go, but the best part is I applied similar tools to this issue as I did to trying to remain bet free. I took it ONE DAY AT AT TIME. When things were not moving as fast I hoped, I didn't give up, I just "turned it over" and kept trying to move forward and eat the right way the next day.

ALSO, as has been true with my abstinence from gambling, I now have a truly different outlook on food and life because of the change. I now realize I do not HAVE to have certain foods and I like that feeling. I like being able to look decent again, and I feel much better. Also, since I have not gambled in awhile I actually could afford a couple of new pairs of pants!

I guess I just wanted to put forth the notion that once I stopped gambling using the principles of GA (I call the program "a design for living"), I learned I could do MANY other good things for myself using the same tools.

I'm not sure what I am going to take on next. Right now I am just going to get back to the baseball game.

John

Other Addiction Recovery Section Added

One of the reasons I started this site was to address the fact that there were very few compulsive gambling related blogs, or even web-sites that were continually updated. There are a few, and I have linked to them in the various topic sections of this site.

But, as I have been looking I have found many very nice blogs and sites that are not compulsive gambling related, but are based on the general principles of 12-Step programs. Since Gamblers Anonymous is of course based on these principles, and this is the program that has helped me so much on my journey, I hated to leave so much good information on the table. Some of the sites in the general 12-step blogosphere are beginning to add problem gambling sections to their sites including 12Step.org . Although there is no compulsive gambling section on The Recovery Zone blog, it is a very well done site and offers a good overview of how 12-Step programs work. They also have an online shop if you are interested in buying 12-Step related merchandise.

Anyway, have a look. Remember, I am always looking for good sites to share with everyone. If you know of one, please e mail me.

John

New Link Added - Compulsive Gambling Institute (Powerful Video)

I have added a new link in the "Other places to visit" section for the Compulsive Gambling Institute . This is an organization started by Tom Tucker after he left his position a couple of years ago as the Executive Director of the California Council On Problem Gambling . Like the Council, this new endeavor of Tom's provides education, training, and awareness services, mainly to the casino industry. The goal is to provide enough training to casino employees about the signs that may indicate to them that a patron may be a problem gambler, that they in turn may be able to impact that patron's life before the addiction ruins their life.

As I said, the Institute provides many of the same services as his previous employer, the California Council provides. As you may know from previous postings on this site, I personally am a STRONG believer in the work the state level problem gambling councils do as affiliates of the National Council on Problem Gambling. That said, I have also tried to keep this site open to any and all avenues that may assist the compulsive gambler or those affected by problem gambling. That is why I have provided this link.

Also, the Compulsive Gambling Institute website homepage includes a very powerful 10 minute or so video that appears to be produced for showings to casino employees as part of their training. Most of the video is the interviewing of three compulsive gamblers, each of different backgrounds and type of gambler. It is a good video for anyone to watch who needs an idea of what this disorder can lead to.

Finally, I would like to add a personal note. On my very first day of abstinence in Las Vegas 894 days ago, circumstances made it possible for Tom Tucker to be one of the first recovering compulsive gamblers I met. He took me to dinner, which back then was a HUGE deal to me (See Remembering Day One post to the right). Because Tom and I came from similar "pre-gambling" backgrounds I was able to feel comfortable with him at the time. He was kind and offered sage advice. He definitely helped me in my early recovery and I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank him for that help.

John

A Blog Worth Reading - Really? Thanks!

Just wanted to take a quick moment to thank the Reverend Ref of the blogosphere. He kindly has linked my blog in his "Blogs Worth Reading" section. I appreciate the compliment, especially given the popularity and breadth of topics on his blog.

Take a look at his! It is a well written and interesting blog based on the thoughts of a rural minister in Montana but is by no means limited to religion.

Thanks again Reverend!

John

Canadian Group Brings Problem Gambling Education To Ethnic Communities

"A habit, in fact, is a deliberate behavior, seen as an action with morally reprehensible traits. It's voluntary, in that it can be stopped at will and is often criticized ("I shouldn't do it, but..."). Addiction, however, is a condition that one suffers from and deprives its subjects of something - usually their health. Smoking, drinking, and gambling are 'habits' as long as they stay free of the typical symptoms of addiction: tolerance (i.e. the need for increasing doses of a substance or behavior to get the same thrill); withdrawal, nervousness, anxiety, tremors when one tries to quit; and loss of control, the assumed ability to quit without really doing so. "

I like this quote. It was written by Francesco Riondino, author of an online article in the Canadian newspaper "The Corriere Tandem" as the introduction to an article published today. The article itself discusses efforts by the Canadian immigration services group COSTI to implement compulsive gambling education programs to the various ethnic communities in the country.

COSTI studied 11 ethnic communities in order to identify 'contact points' and mechanisms of denial. Now the organization is giving information to school principals and community centre officials on how to identify the symptoms of this addiction and point anyone in need towards the right support structures. "The first thing to do is to try to understand why, what is leading these people to gambling. Often, by identifying and working on this aspect, gambling addiction becomes much less intractable" said Mario Calla, Director of COSTI.

The article also has an interesting self assessment survey provided by Canada based Responsible Gambling Council.

Recovery Saying of the Day...

"If you hang around the barber shop long enough you're gonna get a hair cut."

It is common for the compulsive gambler to have multiple relapses and return to gambling to do more "research" to determine if they really have a gambling problem. Or some, even though they know they are a problem gambler cannot rid themselves of the urges immediately. One of the best things I have noticed that works is for that person to keep coming to meetings. I have known many members who have gone in and out of the program, but as they kept coming back, eventually something clicks and they are able to remain abstinent.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The Compulsive Gambler Himself...(Photo)



So, here I am. This photo was taken in 12/2004. One of the benefits for me of being in recovery is the ability to work on other character defects and problems I have other than compulsive gambling. As such, since April of 2004 I have lost over 65 pounds. In this picture I am about 20 pounds heavier than I am now, but its the most recent I have. Unfortunately the file size is too large to fit on my profile!

Day 893 - Is My Work Compulsive Gambling?

Good evening all,

I sell electronic components for a living now in San Diego County (all the little things you see inside the computers...). Its a very up and down business. Lately been down, but starting to pick up again. This is quite a change from my law enforcement background, both in the public and private sector. But, as you might imagine it is a little difficult for me to get back into that field after some of activities related to my gambling addiction.

At any rate, I have often talked at meetings about how my current job sometimes can be like gambling for me and I must be careful not to let it tempt me further. I am responsible to both BUY and SELL the components. I make more money if I buy low and sell high. Sound familiar? I was never a stock player, but I ve heard the stories in meetings from those that are.

Thankfully, most of the time my job does not get so crazy that I get tempted. But when I get a big deal going, my mind starts going through a very similar thought process as I did when gambling. Inside my head I'm thinking "OK, I bought these for 1.00, but most places sell them for $2.00. Should I get greedy try and sell them for $1.99? Or just be happy with $1.25? If the client knows about my competition, maybe the client is also paying $1.00 for them? If so, and I try to sell for $1.99 he ll sell for $1.50 and I ll end up with nothing! BUT, if I do get the deal at $1.25 to easily I will beat myself up for leaving profit on the table!" This tug of war in my head can be very nerve wracking, much like the stresses I put myself through during a rough gambling session.

Unfortunately, sales jobs in most business of any kind involves similar processes! Most of the time, the money amounts are small enough that I don not let myself get too carried away. But, occasionally when the commission on a particular deal is high enough, I really stress. I still have PLENTY of financial amends to make and every penny helps. When these thoughts enter my mind, I always remember the first sentence of paragraph 3 on page 17 of the combo book. It states, "don't test or tempt yourself". The sentences that follow are just suggestions to help achieve that goal. Each of us is different. Not everything tempts another in the same way. Of course, resisting temptation is easier for me most of the time as I have been active in Gamblers Anonymous, and am further away from my last bet. Also, because I end up selling the stuff for the lower amount..(I hate to screw my customers and am paranoid of competition), these feelings are usually short lived.

But I must remain forever vigilant!

I am thankful to just have a job these days given my past history. I will forever appreciate the owner of the company for giving me a chance in the beginning. When he hired me I only had about 90 days of abstinence. The job has literally kept me alive for the last 800+ days. No, it is not as much money as I used to make, but so far it has paid the bills and allowed me to make significant progress towards paying back those I owe.

I have thought about getting into something new lately. Who knows where life in recovery may lead?

John

Australian Town Fights To Remove 56 Slot Machines

Personally, I have never heard of the town of Coober Pedy. Apparently it is in the Australian Outback. When I visted the country I am confident I never ventured into Cooper Pedy. Had I known they were a gambling town maybe I would have!

An article in the Advertiser newspaper says the town is becoming a test case over local control over gambling in the country. Apparently there is a growing group that says the Video Poker Machines have ruined the quality of life in an already declining town. School attendance is down more than half since the machines went in 10 years ago. Supporters of the ban say children in the indiginous population are going hungry.

The proprietor of the "pokie" as small casinos are called in Australia says the town's problems cannot be blamed solely on the machines. Unemployment and drug use are also rampant. He says the correct solution is to provide more funding and programs for problem gambling treatment.

I can't argue with him there. I dont know enough about the specifics of this town to know if gambling is the evil beyond all evils. I have said many times, even with the damage in my past, I am not convinced legalized gambling should be outlawed. I AM also a true believer in local government controlling most aspects of the lives of its citizens and many communities worldwide seem to be indicating a desire to slow gambling expansion or even halt it completely.

I will be watching closely.

In a related story Australian Family and Community Services Minister Kay Patterson announced that the federal government has committed up to $3 million to establish a national gambling research institute.

"The Howard government is prepared to commit funds to building the understanding of problem gambling," Family and Community Services Minister Kay Patterson said.

"A combination of a stronger research effort and better information about funding for strategies to address problem gambling will enable us to monitor the effectiveness of our efforts."


Maybe some of that money will get to Cooper Pedy!


John

$400,000 goes to Arizona Problem Gambling Treatment

The Arizona Republic in today's edition reports that Arizona's Gaming Indian Tribes have made their final quarterly contribution to state and local governments. In total 26 million was given this quarter, 18 million of which went to the state. This represents a 21 percent increase over the same period last year.

Problem gambling prevention and treatment will receive $400,000 of that 18 million. The article did not state any annual totals related to compulsive gambling programs.

Im glad to see at least some of the monies from gaming in Arizona dedicated to problem gambling.

John

1.5% Percent Of Teens Admit To Fights With Family Over Gambling

The latest story to come out discussing the issue of teenage gambling appears in today's Shreveport Times newspaper. The article quotes two studies although does not specifically identify to which studies they refer or when they were completed.

In the first study, from Harvard University, the paper says that 78 to 91 percent of teenagers will have gambled before their senior year. The study also revealed gambling teens were nearly twice as likely to have used illegal drugs, been in a fight and carried a weapon.

The paper cites another study from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center . That study claims that 15.9 percent of teenagers between 6th and 12th grade admit to gambling problems and show signs of gambling addiction. Of those, 8.7 percent have had family fights related to gambling, 4.1 percent stole from family members to gamble and 1.5 percent had gambling-related arrests.

Of course we have all heard the saying "there is the truth and then there are statistics", so the 8.7 percent number is likely intentionally broken out separately to have a more dramatic effect. In reality since only 15.9 percent of respondents admitted to gambling problems (a completely unacceptable number if true), 8.7 percent of those respondents had fights with family over gambling, the true percentage of the overall respondents in the study is 1.6 percent. Even fewer teens admitted deeper problems related to problem gambling.

Still though, as Reece Middleton, Executive Director of the Louisiana Association on Compulsive Gambling is quoted in the article as saying "The earlier one starts gambling, the more likely they are to develop a problem. There is certainly an increase in the problem simply because society is making it available, accessible and acceptable to gamble."

I agree completely.

One final thing. This article has a little "sidebar" with some quotes of teenagers answers when asked about teenage problem gambling. Quite enlightening.

John

Like Life - This Blog Is Always A Changin...

Just a reminder to all that this blog is a constantly changing site. I am still continuing to add yet more links I hope you readers will find useful. Also, I will continue to try and add some color and images soon. I want to ensure that images do not slow down the load times too much and I am still evaluating the best methods to accomplish that task.

For now, I just added a link heading entitled "My Gambling Story". Here I have posted some of the original posts I made which go into a little bit about me, how I began gambling, and my entrance in abstinence and recovery from compulsive gambling. As many know I do often post my "personal journal" here also, and I do not believe I will be posting many of those in this new section, but some have sent e-mail to me saying they did not like having to go through so many old posts to find out about my story, so here it is, at least most of it. As I reflect on my life and when I feel it appropriate I will add other posts to that section.

Thanks for all the support. I am truly thankful and amazed at the amount of traffic this site is already receiving! Please continue to pass the word!

John

Recovery Saying of the Day...

"You can't experience victory if you refuse to surrender."

As I have posted here many times, until I was really ready to give up on gambling, I wouldn't. Once I did admit my powerlessness over gambling I was able to begin taking "baby steps" towards recovery. This offered me a chance to set realistic goals on a daily basis and achieve them. One small victory led to more, and so on. Even today I do not always understand the reasons behind things that happen in my life. But I am so much more able to deal with both the good AND the bad.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Compulsive Gambler Gabe Fan Club?

While looking through the referral statistics for this board I have noticed over the last week or so a lot of visits based on search engine requests looking for "Gabe" the compulsive gambler featured on the reality TV show "Intervention" on Arts & Entertainment television. The visits do not appear to be lengthy nor appear to be from people particularly interested in problem gambling as a rule. I have also looked at some comments about Gabe on other blogs (and have even made one or two myself) and found that mostly he seems to have generated some strong emotions. What I have not been able to determine yet is whether the people commenting and searching for Gabe, like him? Despise him? Feel sorry for him? Or all of the above? But I find it interesting none the less.

As I said originally on my post here announcing the re-broadcast of the show last week, Gabe in my view, does in fact exhibit some of the chaotic behaviors that we compulsive gamblers do engage in at times. However, as I also said, I have myself not yet met any pathological gambler quite like Gabe. Yes, he seemed childish in the show. Yes, he acts very spoiled. Yes, I found it UNBELIEVABLE that he felt his parents should support him for life no matter what.

The problem is though, as I have seen people in the throws of this disorder acting much differently than they would normally, I CANNOT TELL WHO THE REAL GABE IS! I have no idea what Gabe may say after a little time away from the bet. He may still be just as annoying as he appeared. Problem gamblers are just as everyone else in most ways. There is every type of person that suffers. On the other hand however, away from the bet a little bit, he may realize (as many of us do) that he was acting childish. Probably I ll never know. Unless I meet him at a meeting one day?

This is my frustration with the show itself. As many people have pointed out on the boards I have checked out, the producers fail their audience when they only offer 30 seconds about the outcome of the person and the addiction they suffer from. In this case compulsive gambling.

OR, maybe all the search activity on the 'net is just a building underground cult of Gabe followers.

John

Problem Gambling Related Events? Let Us Know!

Is your GA intergroup, civic organization, school, workplace Employee Assistance Program, or you personally holding an event related to compulsive gambling, or problem gambler treatment? Let us know and we will help get the word out! Just send the information to the e-mail address in the profile section and I ll do my best to get it posted.

John

Recovery Saying of the Day...


"Without the pain of INTROSPECT, there will ge no gain of SELF RESPECT."

One of the most difficult things to do after achieving some abstinence from gambling is performing a financial and moral inventory as step 4 suggests. But, if you are honest in this self-evaluation, listing the bad AND the good, the feeling you get can be tremendous.

Washington State Legislature Approves Permanent Problem Gambling Treatment Program

The state of Washington has approved a bill which is expected to provide up to 2 million dollars per year to address treatment and prevention related to compulsive gambling according to an article in the April 27th edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The funding will be provided through additional taxes on non-tribal card rooms, bingo halls, and pull tab machines. The State Lottery will also contribute approximately $400,000.00 during the first two years to establish the program which will be coordinated via the state's Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse within the Department of Social and Health Services. Details are still being worked out, but it is likely the program will offer subsidized treatment for compulsive gamblers seeking treatment.

The state had a start-up program in 2003 which was utilized beyond expectation, but the meager funding allocated ran out quickly. Another bill was proposed last year but was rejected by Republican lawmakers who were concerned the Indian tribes operating casinos in the state were not paying their fair share. This year the bill was able to pass after advocates pointed out that tribes voluntarily contributed up to 1 million dollars last year to address compulsive gambling issues.

Still, some groups say the new bill doesn't go far enough. Washington state gambling treatment advocate group "Second Change Washington" leader Jennifer McCausland said "I regret that there was not a collective will in either the governor's office or the Legislature to honestly address the real extent of gambling addiction in this state."

But others praised the effort including Washington State Council on Problem Gambling Executive Director Gary Hanson. Hanson said "It was a major effort," said Gary Hanson, executive director of the Washington State Council on Problem Gambling. "Several groups worked this bill really hard."

This news is a great first step for compulsive gamblers and their families. I will keep updated on the progress of the program as these things tend to get bogged down in governmental red tape as was the case in California although they are moving forward now as I have indicated in previous posts.

John

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Day 891 - Can A Compulsive Gambler Ever Laugh Again?

Went to a nice meeting in Temecula, CA tonight. I have not been to this one for awhile, so it was a nice little change. The first thing I noticed was a very nice blend of abstinence between the 20 or so people that were in attendance. We had a newcomer at his first meeting, some people with just a few weeks, a couple people with a couple of years, and then a couple with 4 years or so. It makes for a great therapy. The newcomers don't feel so overwhelmed by the guy with 30 years of abstinence, yet the pain is still relatively new enough to most to make for good reminders of why I don't want to place a bet again. Also, as has been in the news of late, there were about 6 women at tonight's meeting. Yes, the compulsive gambler face is changing.

The meeting got off into the subject of using laughter as a tool. This of course is not unique to Gamblers Anonymous. Much has been written throughout history regarding the power of laughter. But for the still new gambling addict, laughter can be a very foreign concept. Most of us cannot even conceive of anything to laugh at when first entering the doors. Occasionally, when a new members encounters laughter at that first meeting, they don't come back. They are too bewildered and feel out of place. It is our place as members a little further away from the bet to pick up on those feelings and remember how serious this business of problem gambling can be. It is not hard for me, or others with some abstinence to do as a rule. We can all relate only to well to those initial days of pain.

But, as with much of life, as we apply the program to our daily lives, we do become able to laugh again. We can laugh AT ourselves and things we have done (I mean after all, what else can we do about some of it??). We can laugh WITH another member as they begin to experience life once again. Mostly we can acknowledge the laughter of another and recognize it as a beautiful sign of growth and that life CAN get better One Day At A Time.

Busy GA week for me. I should be able to pretty easily keep my 100% desire not to gamble with as much recovery as I will be surrounded with.

Have a great night all.

John

Youth Gambling Forums On Tap in Connecticut 4/27-4/28

New London, CT newspaper "The Day" has posted an article providing details of a two forums related to compulsive gambling this week in Connecticut.

The first, scheduled for Wednesday, April 27th, 2005 is entitled "Collateral Damage: The Social Impacts of Gambling on the Community”. The forum is to be held on Connecticut College . Scheduled speakers include a recovering compulsive gambler as well as an active gambler in recovery from substance abuse. State Senator Andrea Stillman will also try to attend and speak. The forum is being presented by Citizens Task Force on addictions, in New London County.

On Thursday April 28th, 2005 local recovery center Positive Directions is sponsoring a panel that will discuss issues related to teenagers and problem gambling entitled "Risky Behavior". Speakers include representatives from the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling and other groups.

Compulsive Gambler Blog Added

I got permission to add the link to Paul D.'s blog. Paul is journaling about his current path early in recovery and makes for interesting reading. I happen to know Paul personally and am glad he is writing his daily story. The link is to the right "Another Compulsive Gambler's Blog".

Recovery Saying of the Day...

"People who don't go to meetings never get to find out what happens to people who don't go to meetings."

I am constantly asked why I attend several meetings of Gamblers Anonymous per week. I always answer in the same manner. "I attend because I am a compulsive gambler. Too often I hear the story of the problem gambler who is returning to the fellowship after a gambling binge who says 'I thought I could stop going to so many meetings.'." I must remember these words every day if I am to remain clear of the places of my past.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Appreciating Time

Came across this while going through my e-mail tonight. Not directly problem gambling related, but pretty cool none the less.

http://www.scottstratten.com/movie.html

There are others of these out there, but this is one of the best I have seen.

Enjoy.

John

Day 890 - Recalling some of the Damage

Tonight I had a couple of thoughts running in my head about what to post. You see, I like to post every night if possible. It is very helpful in my personal recovery as a compulsive gambler.

Originally, I was going to post my thoughts about whether I think problem gambling is a "disease" or something else. Although I have not seen or read either of these examples myself yet, apparently some prominent figures on television, radio, and the print media (Dr. Phil, Dr. Laura, and Parade Magazine) have all recently been discussing the topic of compulsive gambling. According to other message boards I monitor none of these entities did justice to the seriousness of this problem. Again, this is according to a admittedly biased group of both active and recovering compulsive gamblers. For now I will just say I prefer to use the terms "addiction" or "disorder" when describing problem gamblers. These terms convey the lack of ability to control the problem on one's own without necessarily implying a true "physical illness". I will comment more on this another time.

But, tonight as I was scouring the internet as usual for more knowledge and tools to help me combat the gambling addiction from which I suffer I came across two more blogs that struck home. I have not received permission from either individual to link to them yet, but when I do I ll post a little update and highlight the links.

The first is from another compulsive gambler who has recently placed his last bet. His story is powerful and in many ways reminds me of myself a couple of years ago. He is currently going through the criminal process regarding accusations that he embezzled money. I call them accusations because it is not my place to assign guilt or innocence. But, the thoughts he is writing each day remind me so much of the early days for me. The ups, the downs, the reactions of the people around him, the worry over money, job, and family. Powerful.

The other is from the SPOUSE of a problem gambler who has just recently discovered she has fallen into this category. This blog is new, so there are only a couple of posts, but I hope she keeps up on it. The story of those we hurt rarely gets told from the actual ones affected. Often they prefer to just get on with their lives, with or without the compulsive gambler. My wife did. But it is such an important story. Again, I will post the link as soon as I get permission.

There are so many things I will never be able to have as a result of my gambling. I am not saying my life is not good. Compared to where I was, I am very happy. Abstinence has led to recovery and I am grateful for that. But no matter how many amends I make, I can never truly take away the hurt I caused those around me. I can do everything possible to not hurt them anymore and that is about it. I have to accept that fact.

I really do realize that yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and I must be thankful for the PRESENT I have been given. But as long as I do not dwell in it to the point of leading me to dangerous places, which thankfully so far I have not, I think it is good for me to remember a little each day.

Have a safe night all...

John

Update - Nevada Problem Gambling Support Fund

Just received an update on a story I first spoke about back on 4/11/05 (See Archives - First Comment On The News).

You may recall I chose this as one of my first comments on news regarding compulsive gambling treatment since I started my recovery from my gambling addiction in Nevada. Back then Nevada State Senate Bill 357 had just been proposed. Today hearings were held by the State Senate Finance committee according to the Las Vegas Sun newspaper article.

The bill will provide approximate 1.7 million dollars annually from additional license fees placed on every slot machine in the state. The money would be awarded in the form of grants for compulsive gambling treatment and prevention. Well known in Nevada and elsewhere for treating the problem gambler, Dr. Robert Hunter and his staff at The Problem Gambling Center says "I think when treatment is more readily available and funded we're going to get those phone calls earlier," according to the article. Testimony was also provided by a convicted felon who is now attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings on the 5 days a week he is not in jail for embezzlement, as well as the wife of a compulsive gambler who is straddled with nearly $250,000.00 in debt.

I ll keep you updated on the progress of this bill. Nevada was early in establishing the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling but substantial funding from the State has been slow in forthcoming when compared to other states as the article points out.

John

Recovery Saying of the Day...

I have been hearing many stories lately about people that are continuing to struggle to remain abstinent for more than a few days. For me, whenever I used to try and do the same things over and over, it never worked. I finally had to try something:

Nothing

Else

Worked

Something new, something I had told myself hundreds of times would never work. Gamblers Anonymous. Once I did, things started to get better.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Another Compulsive Gambling Blog!

During my travels today I came across this nice blog:

GettingPastGambling.com

Its a nice little site affiliated with what appears to be a pretty active Yahoo! message board. I have just joined and I am sure will learn from the rest of the members on the board.

Take a look! I have added a permanent link to her site under the "Other Places" section.

John

Updates

I have been starting to make some slight changes here now that I am learning just enough to be dangerous. I have started to add some links, basically by category. Eventually they will be alphabetical within category, but not that far along. Also, I ve changed some of the link and text colors to what appear to me anyway to be easier to read. Please, if anyone has links they would like me to review for inclusion, e mail me!

Images will be here soon... Just learning about that now.

Let me know if there are any other changes I should consider.

John

A&E TV's "Intervention" Replays Compulsive Gambler Episode Tonight

Arts and Entertainment Television is re-broadcasting an Episode of their new reality show "Intervention" tonight.

For those not familiar, the show tells the participants they are only involved in a show about addiction, in tonight's case problem gambling. They follow the subject, showcasing the daily struggles they face due to their addiction. They also film interviews with family members and others related to the featured participant. At some point in the show, the participant is led into a surprise intervention in an attempt to get them to enter treatment immediately.

I watched this episode the first time around and although I found some of the actions of this compulsive gambler frightening real, other aspects of "Gabe" are NOT typical of most of the problem gamblers I have met. Still, the show does offer some insight into the depths this addiction can take someone to.

As for the show itself. I think they could have done a much better job. They seem to focus on the titillating aspects of the addiction, and then offer about 2 minutes about any recovery that has been achieved. I would not expect much less in these days of ratings at all cost television, but it is a shame none the less.

Check your local listings.

John

Compulsive Gambler Survey Participants Wanted

I pulled this link from the Compulsive Gamblers Hub. I only know what was posted there. The post said a group of Australian students is conducting a survey "examining the feasibility of a new financial control system to help problem gamblers and their families take back control of their spending. This service would be in addition to counseling services already offered by casino companies and government services.

We are looking for people who may have a gambling problem, from around the world, to help us by filling in a survey of 13 quick questions. It will take approximately 1 minute and we appreciate your assistance!!!

---------

I was not sure what they meant by "financial control system" until I looked at the survey. I thought they might be talking about a spending limit in the casinos such as the one in place in Missouri (they limit gamblers to $500.00 every two hours). But, when I looked at the survey what they are apparently thinking of is a way for gamblers to remove the access to money for a short period, turning over power of attorney for bank accounts etc... to this 3rd party.

This is an interesting concept. It may have a place. Especially when used in conjunction with other forms of counseling as the study coordinators mention. In my experience, some members realize they should limit access to money, especially during the first days of abstinence, but may not be willing to let a spouse or family member do this for reasons of pride. A neutral, third party provider of this service may be just the answer. I will look forward to the results of the survey, and any potential programs that result.

If you would like to participate in the survey click here.

Day 889 - April Showers...

Good morning,

Had some severe internet connectivity problems yesterday afternoon and evening and couldn't connect at all. This is becoming all to common on weekend afternoons. I started to become extremely frustrated, but realized there was nothing I could do about it at that time. So, I just let it go, and watched the Padres game. We lost...but it was a great game.

This morning I am in fact waking up to those April showers that were expected yesterday but never arrived. No big deal though. I got the yard work done yesterday as well as managed to make a few extra bucks at a side job that came up unexpectedly. As I still have tremendous financial amends to make from my gambling days, every extra dollar helps.

Not much going on today in my life. I have been thinking a lot about my ex "A" and the kids more than usual lately. I miss them. I have accepted the fact they are living a different life and my place in it has been pretty defined now. But, especially on weekend mornings I think about the breakfasts we use to share, the laziness of a rainy day together, just the act of being together. Some days it is harder to accept than others.

I bring this up mainly for myself, journaling helps me deal with it. But also because it shows that even after 888 days, not every day is perfect. I still have down days. The difference is that I am not making it worse by gambling. I am thankful for that in so many ways.

Well, that's about it for now. I'm off to review the news. I'm sure I will have a few things posted in a little while.

John

Recovery Saying of The Day...

"Just because you're having a bad day doesn't mean you're having a bad life."

I must always remember that not every day will show noticeable improvement over the last on the OUTSIDE. But, INSIDE, how I react to problems that arise on any given day always can improve. Over time, these reactions lead to a better way of life.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Recovery Saying of The Day...

"Trust = Time Multiplied by the Truth"

Even after a little time away fromthe bet, I must remember the damage I have caused to those around me. My wife, children, brothers, sisters and others. Just because I can feel the changes in me each day does not mean everyone around mean has isntantly forgotten all of the past. I cannot control their thinking. All I can do is keep doing the right things and eventually, as I have learned from others with more abstinence than I, the trust will be regained.

Day 888 - Morning Wake Up Call

So, I was all excited last night as I went to bed, realizing I did not have to get up early today. All of this week I have had to get up early to drive my mother to work at the local high school. Normally she only works part-time and takes the bus. But this week she got some extra hours and she does not like to take the bus at 6:00 AM so I offer to pick her up and take her. Problem is I really don't HAVE to be to work until 8:00 AM myself so this is pretty early start for me. But, I didn't think I was going to have to deal with sleep deprivation today, Saturday. No meeting. No work. All that was on the schedule was some yard work, and even that might be postponed because of a possibility of even more rain for us here in San Diego. I put all of that in my head and figured...SLEEP!

About 7:45 though my cell phone starts ringing away. When I am in a deep sleep as I was I am never sure whether the sound is in my dream or real. This time it turned out to be very real.

The call was from a Compulsive Gambler who had been gambling last night. He got my number from the local Gamblers Anonymous phone list. I don't believe I have ever met the gentleman, but that didn't matter. He was hurting deeply and just needed someone to talk to. So, even though I was still asleep really, I remembered our topic from the meeting last night. 12th Step work...carrying the message to those still suffering...that it CAN get better. I took the call.

I listened to the same story I have told a thousand times when I was gambling, and have since heard just as many times from others who join our fellowship. He talked about how he needed $5000.00 just to stay afloat each month since he had borrowed from every credit card he had. He talked about how he tends to gamble when he drinks. Last night he drank. He talked about how he has 2 small children at home and he is so afraid of losing them and his wife because he cannot stop gambling. He said he was just tired of the way he was living. I could relate to every bit of his story even though it has been awhile since this problem gambler placed his last bet.

I tried to offer the man a few suggestions. He asked if he should get a lawyer and declare bankruptcy. I replied not to even worry about the answers right now. The most important thing is to not gamble today. You see he still had a few hundred dollars left at home and I know how the sick mind can convince oneself that $300.00 can be $2000.00 in a short time if we could just LEAVE the casino. I never did and when confronted about it he admitted that he never did either. I tried to tell him there was a meeting 30 minutes from him this morning. He said he did not have a car and could not drive. I offered to come pick him up and take him to the meeting. He had "things he had to do today", but would get to a meeting "Wednesday". Always remembering that he is a compulsive gambler, I still couldn't help but wonder how he manages to get to the casino? See when we gamblers are sick, our thinking isn't clear. We knows we need help, we even make half-hearted attempts to get it. But we always manage to avoid the hardest part until we are truly ready.

We must SURRENDER and admit our powerlessness over gambling. Only then will we do what is required of us to arrest the addiction.

I hope he is ready soon. Before he loses everything he has left. I will try to be here when he does. I am comfortable I did all I can this morning.

So much for sleep....

More later - No rain, so I guess out comes the lawnmower!

John

Friday, April 22, 2005

Day 887 - 12th step work

Just came home from my "home" GA meeting. I call it my home meeting since I guess it is the one I make most of the time, although over the last year or so I have sort of bounced between the 30 or so meetings we have in our county. I find it more interesting to hit various meetings every other week or so rather than the same one week after week. I still go to alot of meetings, but this method seems to keep me in face to face contact with more people. Also, with so many celebrations going on in our area I end up at different meetings all the time anyway. I like to be present for the celebrations, both those with more time than me because it keeps me focused on what I can have if I keep doing what I have been doing, AND those that have come through the door behind me because I feel like I have "been in the trenches with them" and I am truly happy for them.

But, back to tonight's meeting. We always have one of the steps as a potential topic, although this is not a true "step discussion" meeting. Tonight the step was 12. It takes us a long time to actually get to the 12th step because whenever a newcomer is there we revert back to step 1. It seems moree often than not there is a newcomer! I am happy to do the service for GA that I do. I am the liason for our automated answering service, coordinating all of the volunteers who answers callers as well as updated the messages when meetings are added, changed etc. It acutally takes a little time, but I enjoy it. I also sponsor a couple of people, and some other service here and there when I can. I could never give back anywhere near as much as I have received, so I do what I am able.

Anyway, another day without a bet. I am grateful.

Until tomorrow...

John

A Purpose Driven Recovery Program

Personally, I am a believer in the success of Gamblers Anonymous and other "spiritual" based 12-Step programs. I specifically like the fact that we are "not allied with any sect or denomination". People in our fellowship are welcome, regardless of faith, or even if they have none! Many do choose to call a Christian God their own higher power. But other members are Jewish, Muslim etc... I guess the reason I feel this way, is that often when compulsive gamblers enter our fellowship for the first time they are very afraid. Afraid of many things, but included in the list is the fear we are going to "force God upon them". I have heard it said often after a newcomer realizes that GA does NOT do any forcing of anything that one of the reasons they took longer to get to a first meeting is they thought we were religious based. We aren't. Most members in GA do believe a higher power is necessary in order to restore us to a normal way of thinking and living. But that higher power can be a god, the fellowship itself, or the coffee pot for all we care. In the beginning especially this approach is effective for many members. Members eventually discover their own spiritual path once some abstinence from gambling is achieved.

With that said, I do acknowledge that there are those with a foundation in a specific faith, or the desire to combine recovery from addiction WITH a re-connection with God. For those people, or just anyone interested. Check out "Celebrate Recovery" . This is a Christian adaptation of the original 12-Step program. It was founded at and is still coordinated by the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. Some of you may have heard of the Pastor Rick Warren, author of the book "A Purpose Driven Life".

Although I have not personally attended any meeting of Celebrate Recovery the web-site says they incorporates the "8 Recovery Principles" instead of the typical 12 Steps. Of course, the literature and fellowship meetings are strictly Christian based. But the biggest difference I see in their program vs. the other 12 Step programs is that they combine all addictions into a single fellowship. They believe the outward manifestation of problems through addiction is all due to a loss of good communication with God and living life in God's service and that the particular addiction is secondary. I actually find some truth in this theory, but I also wholeheartedly believe that there are benefits to having SPECIFIC programs for specific addictions. I know many GA members who are members of other 12 Step programs and over and over they say that trying to quit gambling through the other program was ineffective.

But, I will place a link to Celebrate Recovery, and who knows maybe I ll try to get to a meeting. They have them nationwide!

John

Compulsive Gambler Suicide Blamed on VLTs

Family members of an admitted compulsive gambler who committed suicide by apparently burning himself to death in a car fire says the proliferation of addictive Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) are at least partially to blame. Canadian province of Nova Scotia John Hamm vows that more money will be included in the budget that will be released this coming Tuesday to deal with problem gambling. Read the entire article here.

Thanks Gamblingwatchglobal.com !

Just wanted to take a second to thank gamblingwatchglobal.com for posting a link and mentioning this humble blog as the start to their new "personal recovery" section!

I love their site and appreciate the mention!

John

Recovery Saying of the Day...

"Recovery is not something you get, it's something you work for."

But, like most things in life...the benefits are so worth it!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Day 886 - The Drive of Shame Revisited

Good evening all,

Just finished watching my Padres FINALLY beat the Dodgers. Man! Have they been having trouble with them so far this year.

Between innings I was reflecting a bit and started thinking about a fellow compulsive gambler who has struggled to keep his abstinence for any considerable period of time. I haven't seen this guy for awhile at any of our San Diego GA meetings and I'm pretty sure he is out gambling as he has been in and out of the rooms for about a year. This is, of course, unfortunately not unusual. Based on a statistical percentage only, MOST pathological gamblers who enter their first GA meeting do not succeed. Success seems to be dependent on what phase of the addiction a person is in. Thankfully, many that do relapse make it back to the program at some point and many eventually to manage to remain abstinent for long periods. The lucky few, even manage to garner some actual recovery in the process. It is the hope for the latter that keeps many of us coming back.

But, what I realized tonight that I maybe had not in the past was that I LEARN from everyone who comes in the door. I learn from them whether or not they return. For instance, this member used to speak about the unbearable pain he would feel after once again gambling until his last dollar (and more) was gone. How he would beg people around the table for money just to keep playing. How he sometimes literally did not have enough gas to get home after a binge. How his once promising music career was in serious jeopardy. How he became so angry at himself and everyone around him while he gambled. How scared he felt the next day as he scrambled to find just another dollar to start the process all over again. As he spoke, I felt that same range of emotions. That's what the GA program is all about for me. Listening to the struggling problem gambler. He reminds me what is in store for me if I ever cross that line again.

But, even now that I have not seen him in the rooms for several months, his impact on me remains. While watching the ballgame tonight a commercial for a local casino played. As I watched all the actors laughing and having a good time I remembered a line that the now absent member used to recite. The line is etched into my memory. He lamented often how the hardest part of a gambling binge for him was the drive home afterwards. Beaten, worn out, cold and sick, he called it the "drive of shame".

Oh how I remember my "drives of shame". I use that line in my therapies often now. Everyone who hears it can relate.

So, even in absence the power of the fellowship remains. Maybe I ll try (again) to call and see how the absent member is doing. I wish him well and thank him for what he gave to me.

Until tomorrow...

John

Casinos To Provide Financial Statements? Maybe.

An article in today's Post-Gazette entitled "Move Afoot To Amend State's Slot Machine Law" outlines a proposed amendment to the state's existing a laws regulating casinos. The amendment, proposed by state representative Paul Clymer (R-Bucks) would require casinos in the state to provide gamblers with monthly statements outlining how much, and how quickly they spend money gambling. Presumably the statements would also show gamblers the winnings also, but that is not specified in this article. The statements would be generated by the information gathered using reward or "players club" cards. These same cards track a patron's playing habits in order to provide proper rewards for staying at the casino longer.

In a Capitol news conference yesterday, Clymer said the monthly statements could raise the "red flag that a family member is in danger and needs counseling." The measure, he said, is about "preserving families." Clymer has been involved in limiting gambling expansion in the past.

Another well-known anti-gambling activist, recovering compulsive gambler Bill Kearney who authored the fictional novel "COMPED" has thrown his support behind the amendment.

There is opposition, including from Governor Ed Rendell. Opponents worry that allowing the law to be amended will open up a flood gate of other amendments, causing chaos.

Personally, I think it is an interesting thought. I am not convinced that it will stop a true compulsive gambler from continuing to gamble. But it very well may have some effect on those that are not even aware they are beginning to show problems. Also, as representative Clymer said, there could be some mitigation to family members and others affected by the problem gambler. The trouble is though, how do you ensure the information gets to those affected? I was expert at hiding any signs of my financial troubles when I was actively gambling.

I propose that before this becomes blanket policy or law, that maybe a test-period, WITH follow up (government often forgets this part!) would be the right thing to do initially.

Comments?

John

More Evidence of Younger Gamblers

According to a report by the Annenberg Public Policy Center entitled "National Annenberg Risk survey of Youth" (click on link for complete report in .PDF format) there is more evidence that youth is getting into gambling earlier in life and may eventually have more tendency to become pathological gamblers.

The report focuses on an annual increase in betting on cards for youths in high school and post-secondary school. In 2003 only 6.2% of respondents in the survey admitted betting on cards at least once a week. In 2004 the percentage almost doubled to 11.4%. Other figures were also cited in the report.

"The rise in weekly card playing among young persons is worrisome."said Dan Romer, Director of the Adolescent Risk Communication Institute. "These latest results suggest that the fad among teens is real and raise concerns that more young people will experience gambling problems as they age.

Thanks to www.responsiblegambling.org for providing this information.

Canadian Coroner Says Difficult to Calculate Gambling Related Suicide

A Chief Coroner in the Canadian province of Ontario said in a recent forum sponsored by Responsiblegambling.org says calculating the percentage of the annual 1100+ suicides in the province are related to compulsive gambling according to an article today in the St. Catherines Standard (No website available).

Dr. Barry McLellan said that only 15 suicides could be fairly conclusively linked to gambling problems. He also says that the numbers are still very unreliable because often times there is no way of knowing whether gambling was a factor in the death. Also, many times multiple factors combine to cause a person to commit suicide. Even so, the numbers to seem to be on the increase. Only 9 suicides were connected with problem gambling in 2003, and 4 back in 1998 according to the article.

Dr. McLellan says the police and coroners are getting better and connecting suicides to gambling and the numbers may become more reliable in the future.

For my view? Even one is too many. But at least education is promoting awareness in the Province.

John

Recovery Saying of the Day...

"You have to change you're playthings, playmates, and playgrounds to change you're future."

Page 17 of the Gamblers Anonymous combo book says "Dont test or tempt yourself. Don't associate with acquaintances who gamble, dont go in or near gambling establishments." Today's saying of the day reminds me that to avoid the temptation I need to surround myself with recovery. For me that means meetings, meetings, meetings. On top of that I try to provide service back to GA in order to help the newcomer. My life is now much more full than in the past, and even my activities outside of GA itself tend to be with people in recovery with me.

SDSU Newspaper Devotes Today's Issue to Problem Gambling

I got a phone call yesterday from the Sports Editor of the San Diego State University (SDSU) newspaper "The Daily Aztec" asking some questions about compulsive gambling and sports betting. I was never a sports bettor, but tried to point him in a couple of directions.

During the conversation he informed me that the newspaper was devoted most of today's (4/21/2005) to the discussion the issue of gambling on campus. They have an article on the poker craze, sports betting, an editorial on addiction in our society and the role "reality TV" shows play (or rather should they play a role at all?), an opinion piece regarding the legalized gambling minimum age requirements, and even an article on how collecting baseball cards can become addictive.

Not all of the articles touch on problem gambling or compulsive gambling, but most do. The articles are well written and to the point. They present a reasonably fair and balanced viewpoint as seen through the eyes of the college student audience they represent. It is always hard to truly paint a picture of the destruction that can be caused by the compulsive gambler at this age. But, given the recent statistics we have been sharing here of late regarding the greater propensity to become a compulsive gambler or problem gambler the earlier one begins gambling, the more awareness the better in my view.

Links to specific articles are listed below:

Casinos Entice College Gamers

Poker Career a Gamble

Addicts Don't Exist In Reality

Sports Is Not Just For Watching

cardboard Crack - A Gateway for Younger Gamblers?

There are more, but these are a good sampling.

Take a look.

I ll be back later.

John

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Day 885 - Lunch Date

I have had this sales job now at the same company almost since the day I placed my last bet ( Remember, electronic components....If you need em, I ll find em!). My office is located in an industrial complex amongst many. Nothing too interesting about it. One convenient thing for someone like me who never leaves the office for lunch is that there is a small deli literally in the suite next door to me. Makes it nice when I forget my diet food from home (I have lost 65 lbs in the last year).

Anyway, as I look out my window every day I watch all the regulars come in and out of the deli. People are such creatures of habit! I could set my watch by some of the people; arriving each day at EXACTLY the same time. One of these regulars I noticed almost the first day I started. He is my former brother-in-law from my first marriage. When I first noticed him it had been over 10 years since I had seen him last. I mean I had not even seen my first wife in almost 5 years at the time. So, for the last 2+ years I have been watching "J" eat lunch just about every day and never even went outside to say hello to him. It would have been easy enough? We got along just fine when I was married, and even the break up from "K" was not very ugly. So why didn't I?

Well, I think it stemmed from my worry that it would get back to "K" that he had seen me. My last dealings with her were at the very end of my gambling and I was just a wreck then. Every word out of my mouth was a lie, or an attempt to get money from people. I mean she and I only spoke or saw each other once a year or so after I met "A" but yet, I had no problem begging her for money that would never be repaid. Also, in all honesty I felt like I didn't WANT to know how she was in some ways. If she was unhappy that might hurt me, and if she was happy that might hurt me in yet other ways. SO, I never called her and I never went out to meet "J" at lunch.

Today though I saw "J" and his wife was with him. I'm not sure what came over me exactly, but I just went up, RE-introduced myself (after all it had been 12 years or more) and exchanged pleasantries. I asked them how "K" was doing and they told me she was pregnant with her first child and she was doing extremely well. I asked them to let her know I was doing "well" also, and that the troubles I was having when we last spoke were no longer such an issue. I did not elaborate any more than that. "K" would know what I was talking about and I hoped she would appreciate hearing the news. The entire conversation last no more than 60 seconds.

Afterwards, the true impact of the conversation hit me in many ways. First, "K" was my first true love. We had tried to have a child together but it was not meant to be. I was actually a little jealous that another man would be given that honor. I was also glad to have taken the opportunity to reach out to someone again in this way. Even now, several hours later my mind is still racing with the memories of that time in my life with her, BEFORE I EVER PLACED MY FIRST BET. No, it didn't work out at the time. I am glad she is happy in life though. Truly I am. I think I will get to a meeting in a bit.

I must always remember that I can't keep wishing for a better past...

John

Legalized Gambling - Liberals vs. Conservatives

A fellow blogger has an interesting post he is opening up for discussion at:

http://www.blueoregon.com/2005/04/the_liberal_pos.html

Basically his post points out the fact that people in poorer zip codes in his state spend FAR more on gambling than the more wealthy areas. This is both in actual numbers and percentages. He points out the delimna that is faced from a political perspective. Liberals typically dislike the Conservative Republican encroachment into how Americans choose to legally spend their money. (Im not saying I AGREE with this but...) But he has difficulty reconciling the fact that the people least able to afford the activity seem to be engaging in it. From a "tax" perspective, since proceeds from VLT's in the state are supposed to benefit schools it is almost regressive. Feel free to pop over to his blog and participate in the discussion!

John

Recovery Saying of the Day...

Oldie but a goodie here

"Insanity can be defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result"

I tried and tried the same things many times on my own to stop gambling. But somehow I always managed to find a way "around" my own barriers. Until I finally made the admission that I needed help to accomplish my goal of abstinence it never happened!

Just getting started on an absolutely BEAUTIFUL day here in San Diego. Be back later.

John

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Day 884 - Remembering to Let Go of Ego...

I used to go into meetings and tell my tale of horrendous woe, about how I lost my family, friends, jobs, home, posessions and much more due to my inability to stop gambling. I told myself it was important to remember the utter destruction I caused in order to ensure I gave myself every chance to remain bet free. I also remember people coming up to meet at breaks and blowing all this smoke up my you know what telling me how they cried when they heard my story etc.... They said it was important for the newcomer to hear so they could understand how bad things could get. Who was I to argue? I always tried to be a big shot in my life before coming to Gamblers Anonymous, and now I could be a big shot in recovery with permission! Great!

Also, as I have been to hundreds of meetings since that first day, I have managed to memorize some of the pages of the combo book we read at every meeting. Again, when I would recite the steps of recovery from memory, or even much of the rest of the literature, people would comment to me how cool that was. SO, once more...I could be the coolest...!

Until recently that is. Two members have helped me through this character defect. Larry D. (since passed away recently) with his 15 years of abstinence heard me tell my tale of woe in detail at a meeting. He sat there quietly afterward even though this was a comment meeting. When his turn to speak arrived, he recounted about all the times people had "threatened" him if he did not stop gambling. His wife threatened to leave, his boss threatened to fire him, his family vowed to never speak to him again, he was told he would end up dead or in prison if he continued on the path he was on. He finished his therapy by saying NONE of those things mattered at the time. Each time he was threatened he gambled anyway. The only way he finally stopped gambling was to realize that HE did not wish to live the life he was living anymore. As he spoke, it suddenly hit home for me. If a person is sick even my terrible stories will not matter. If they want to gamble they will. I am no better or different than anyone else in the rooms. We each must live our own demons. And, if the person IS ready to surrender and stop gambling, there will be plenty of time in the fellowship for them to hear my entire story. It was a good lesson for me to learn.

As for the "combo book"? Another member who is also a member of another 12-step program took me aside after a meeting once after he had seen me reciting from memory. In all the humility I could ever dream to have he told me that he too used to recite the book at meetings. His sponsor took him aside and explained that a good definition of humility is to "be ABLE to do something others may not be able to do, but then DONT!". He continued to ask me what my true reasons might be for wanting to be "unique". Again, as I though about it I could not help realize it was all EGO. What difference does it make to ME whether I read from the book or not?

I read from the book now at every meeting.

Thoughts in my head today.

John

Recovery Saying of the Day...

"You have to be clean in order to live clean"

In the first days of my recovery I had to accept this difficult truth. It was so easy many times to convince myself in order to have a life I HAD to win back enough of my losses to ease some of the pressure. So I kept gambling. I finally learned it was just the opposite. By giving myself enough time in GA I was able to finally learn to be thankful for the things I do have, rather than wishing for the things I don't.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Day 883 - Didn't Place a Bet Today!

As I close out another day, I thank my higher power that I didn't place a bet today! Results were good so I think I will wake up tomorrow and try to do it again!

Good recovery day for me today. I have spent the last few hours multi-tasking. I am watching my beloved (but struggling) San Diego Padres finally break out of it! (As I type this they are up 6-1!). At the same time I am taking some of my own advice and have been exploring the 12 step radio site, visiting the various artist web sites, listening to the interviews with them discussing how music and recovery go so well together, and learning about the 2nd annual
"Freedom Festival" to be held this July in Long Beach, CA, and listening to some great music in the background. Finally, I am also searching the internet for more recovery! You see, I have learned that the more I surround myself with recovery, the better chance for success I have.

Speaking of which...want some serious access to recovery information?!! Check out dryblog.blogspot.com . Now, THIS is a blog! Colorful, informative, with hundreds and hundreds of recovery related links. It is geared to the alcoholic, but with so much information available in a single place, and so much of it that can be applied to our addiction also it is definitely worth a visit.

Take a moment tonight and remember recovery offers a beginning, not an end...

John

Need Some Serenity? Try 12 Step Radio!

Now, here is a great thing! I came across this site while doing some research for this site and just thought it was sooo coool I had to link to it right away and mention it in a post.

12StepRadio.com is an internet radio station that streams "recovery oriented" music 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. What is "recovery oriented" music? Well, the website at www.12stepradio.com describes acceptable music for their "playlist" as "a mixture of rock, folk and folk rock, country and country rock, Americana, etc. The main idea is that the message has something to do with what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now."

Most of the music appears to be written by artists in recovery, but the site will also play commercial music if appropriate to the recovery theme. I listened to a little bit of it so far and I like it! There is a little bit of something for everyone here I think. If you REALLY like something, you may be able to purchase a CD from the artist. You can also PROVIDE a song for the playlist, subject to their rigorous screening process.

But, there is more than just the music available on this site! As an adjunct to the music supplied they offer many online interviews with the artists discussing the music and how their recovery as inspired them. They even sponsor music festivals and other events where anyone appreciate of recovery is welcome!

On top of all the music, the site provides an easy to use "clean time" calculator that lets you quickly determine how long it has been since you last placed a bet, even down to the second! Online forums, chatrooms, and links to recovery related resources are all available at 12-step radio.

My favorite little item they have (Other than the music of course) is the link to "meeting quotes". This is a listing of all the quaint, cute, and sometimes harsh things we hear at our meetings that leave an especially memorable impression. Although I like (and use) a lot of these sayings, my personal favorite from the list is this one"

"I'd rather live sober in GA wondering if I'm really an compulsive gambler, than die at a table trying to prove I'm not." (Adapted slightly from the AA version).

Check this site out! I think you ll like it.

John

Recovery Saying of the Day...

Short and sweet today:

C - Choosing

H - Honesty

A - Allows

N - New

G - Growth

E - Everyday

I ll be back in a bit with some other stuff....

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Even the Choice of Pope is Not Exempt

Well, in both my gambling careers and in meetings since entering recovery I have heard about some interesting and strange things to bet on, but now there are actually lines for which Cardinal is going to get elected Pope. Is nothing sacred?

Probably it for the night...unless something really strikes me. I hope all had a good weekend. I ll be back tomorrow morning.

John

An Interesting View of Gambling Affects

This editorial is from the San Francisco Chronicle and was posted at the SFGate.com website. (Click here to read entire editorial). It is written by House Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA).

It offers some insight into how much gambling has expanded in the last 30 years. It also offers the following interesting statistics. Some are provided by the National Council on Problem Gambling and others are from the National Gambling Impact Study Commission established by Congress in 1996. The final report itself is somewhat outdated as it was provided in June of 1999, but never the less, the information as formatted in this editorial is compelling. Some of the salient figures offered include:

#1 - 800 casinos operate in 28 states

#2 - The lottery is played in 37 states, plus the District of Columbia, and all but two states -- Hawaii and Utah -- have legalized some form of gambling.

#3 - Americans lose on average more than $191 million every day of the year from gambling.

#4 - 15.4 million Americans suffer from problem or pathological gambling.

#5 - More than 70 percent of kids between ages 10 and 17 have gambled -- on bingo, lotto tickets or poker with friends -- in the past year.

#6 - Direct gambling costs...borne by the government are about $5 billion per year.


All very sobering numbers. The editorial goes on to point out how small businesses and society in general is harmed by the proliferation of gambling. Congressman Wolf's position is that gambling in general is a bad thing and should be curtailed, or even eliminated as a legalized activity. I am not so sure I agree with him on this point. Even with the personal problems I have suffered as a result of my compulsive gambling, I have read economic studies that swing both ways regarding economic impacts caused by gambling. For every report that Congressman Wolf is citing, there seems to be another touting the economic BENEFITS offered to communities by gambling in the form of employment, government revenues, etc.... In all honestly I have not seen enough hard evidence to convince either way on the strictly economic impacts of legalized gambling.

There are a couple of points in this editorial where I wholeheartedly agree with Congressman Wolf. He points out that often times the scourge of corruption can come into play when the powerful lobbyists of the gambling industry start making contact with primarily LOCAL government officials. Whereas the our national and even statewide elected officials are more familiar with this type of intense lobbying, local city council members, county supervisors are not. This can lead to some very real political problems.

Finally, Congressman Wolf also points to the fact that 80% of all Native American tribes do not benefit from the wealth provided to the gambling tribes. I have no evidence to dispute this figure. But, I think on this aspect of the issue, California is setting a good example. All compacts with the State from gaming tribes include language whereas a certain percentage of funds is deposited into a "Indian Gaming Revenue Sharing Trust Fund" and monies are distributed to non-gaming tribes throughout the state. I don't see why the other states, or the federal government can not follow this example.

As I ve said before, I am not ant-gambling. But, when I read the statistics cited in this editorial once again, I am even more convinced that more needs to be done to address the negative impacts caused by problem gambling.

John

Day 882 - Communicating with family again

Good morning,

Today I was offered another reminder of how much better my life is without gambling. I am the oldest of six boys spread out all over the country. This morning I had the pleasure of picking up one of my brothers at the San Diego Airport. I will have to admit it was really a breeze. They have this "cell phone waiting area" in place now where you can park and wait free of charge until your passenger calls you! I ended up waiting about 90 seconds. Great!

This particular brother just sold his house in Murrieta, CA and bought one in Casa Grande, AZ. He, like many others here have realized the difference in cost of living between southern California, and just about anywhere else. His new house is twice as big as the old one and only cost 2/3 as much. Amazing.

He is employed as a private paramedic for an extremely wealthy (in the top 200 in the world) gentleman. Someday I ll talk about his job, and how he stumbled upon it, but for now just say it is quite a deal! He makes really good money for not very hard work. But, one of the negatives is that he must travel with this guy on literally a moment's notice. Most of the time in the winter he works out of the Rancho Santa Fe, CA and then in the summer they head to New Rochelle, NY . Of course there are many trips around the world in the middle. Problem is, my brother never really knows what day he will be leaving.

Anyway, what does this have to do with my recovery? Well, the selling and buying of the new house is occurring this week, but he doesn't leave for New York until sometime in May. Since he obviously cannot drive every day he will be staying in my spare bedroom for a couple of weeks and then only driving to Arizona on his weekends. What is so amazing to me is that I even have the chance to offer the room, or the pick up service to him. It is just another example of how much my life has improved since placing that last bet. 883 days ago, when I was about to enter the shelter, I sure couldn't have conceived of ever having a 4 bedroom house again with a spare bedroom to offer a brother. 883 days ago this brother wasn't even speaking to me! Nor, were any of the other brothers. Why would they? All that ever came out of my mouth back then were lies, and excuses why I needed more money from them.

Today, this brother and I are talking about going into business together once his job with this guy finishes (he is a 84 years old and this job won't last forever). Amazing, not only are we close enough again to speak with each other again, he is willing to trust me with MONEY issues again.

Yes, the quality of my problems have improved a lot in 883 days. Sometimes it takes a day like today to remind me of that.

John

Recovery Saying of The Day...

One of the first things we in Gamblers Anonymous reccomend is to get a sponsor to help you with your program. What is a sponsor?

S - Sharing

P - Person

O - Offering

N - Newcomer

S - Suggestions

O - On

R - Recovery

That about sums it up!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Twenty Bucks a Year? For What?

Well, as happens in almost anything in society today, someone is trying to make a buck off of others by offering what is readily available for free.

In this particular case I am talking about paid "fellowship" services for lack of a better term. Just do a google search on the term "compulsive gambling" or "compulsive gambler" and take a look at the ads on the right side of the page. Now, granted there are some legitimate treatment centers and organizations listed here, and I have absolutely no problem with them. As a matter of fact I am on the fence as to whether I should place some affiliate ads on this site as a way to defray some of the time and cost. I'm not sure yet. But, if they are legit, I am all for anything that helps someone stop gambling.

As far as it goes that is.... When I see someone trying to offer a "manual to stop gambling" and "fellowship and support online 24 hours a day" all for the low price of $19.95 a year plus $19.95 for the manual, and those are just the couple of things I NOTICED for sale. I wouldn't be surprised if there is other things for sale through the site also.

You see, I get upset because similar (better?) support and information is available all over the Internet FOR FREE !! I will provide some examples of what I mean.

The "manual"? Well, just to be truthful in advertising so to speak, I have not read it. It may be very good actually. But since the rest of the site in question (by the way I don't want to even mention what it is here because it just generates more traffic to his site) is offering items directly from the Yellow Combo Book? Or our Red or Blue books? Yes we do charge a small fee for those books at our meetings, but only $5.00 each to cover printing costs. As for other literature on the subject there are literally hundreds of sites on the web offering all sorts of information on this topic. Almost every state in the nation now has a Council on Problem Gambling established of some sort. Most are aligned with the National Council on Problem Gambling. Finally, Hazelden is a recognized leader in educational and published materials for all sorts of addictions. I have posted a link to their site on the right also.

So, as you can see there is plenty of stuff out there to read that can assist people in dealing with an inability to stop gambling.

As for the "online fellowship via chatrooms". Again, there are lots of those out there also. Yahoo , AOL and MSN all offer numerous chat rooms and posting boards on the subject of compulsive gambling. Also, one of the very best and most active posting boards I've seen and participated in is the Compulsive Gamblers Hub. This site boast over 1000 members and more than 200 posts a day from the person who has stopped gambling for 25 years to the person who placed their last bet today. The group has it's regulars who are always waiting with open arms. Some of them attend GA regularly, and some don't. But, again why pay $19.95 a year for something that is readily available for free?

I ll drop this topic now by saying that I am as much a believer in the open market as the next guy. As a matter of fact, I cannot rule out some monetary compensation for activities I participate in at some future date. But, I would hope I will be offering something of true value that may not be easily found elsewhere.

Finally, even with all the avenues available online, my experiences so far have seemed to point to a greater success from people who attend face to face (F2F) or "live" meetings. Some people combine the fellowship of GA with counseling or in-patient treatment. If that is what it takes for a particular person, so be it. There are many great treatment centers and counselors becoming compulsive gambling certified. Most state Compulsive Gambling Councils offer this certification.

Maybe I m wrong though. Maybe these sites are helping masses that I am not aware of. I just saw these ads and started thinking about how I felt about them. Just my opinion. What's yours?

John

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