Good evening fellows I am ……. an Addict

On the 27th October it was my 19th GA Birthday - a day I should never forget and somehow the milestone slipped my mind. And a few days later when I eventually did realize that I missed the day I was completely upset and frustrated with myself for forgetting such an important day

I am all for advocating the celebration of a GA birthday it is an obvious reminder of the progress I have made over the period. After all where I once was is not where I am today. Gamblers Anonymous fellowship has given me my life back, recovery from any addiction is an accomplishment, something I am exceptionally proud of. How did I do 19 years clean and sober, the programme teaches me to live my life ONE DAY AT A TIME, one foot in front of the other, learning to LOVE myself, learning to believe in myself that I have got this and I can achieve this. When I set out at recovery the first time, I didn’t pass the test no I failed horribly I was just 18 months into attending meetings when I thought I was invincible I entered the Casino floor thinking it would be ok to satisfy the need. I walked around to watch other people play and soon the bug bit and I relapsed not just a day or a week no I relapsed for 11 months it was a real nightmare. During this period I was most unhappy, I was more destructive, I am rally not sure what I was looking for, but true as hell I was not looking for recovery. During this period I contemplated suicide the thought weighed so heavily on mind thinking of the best way to do this. I knew that if I continued to “act out” that it would result in my death or the end of me. I reached out to my therapist at the time who encouraged me to make contact with Gamblers Anonymous again for the second time and give recovery another try. No other option seemed enticing and viable enough so I walked back into the recovery rooms hoping to sit in the back rows where nobody would notice me. But we sat in a circle so I was in full view.

Through learning about the programme for the second time I learnt to stay clean for just one day, today, I had to learn to LOVE Eleanore. Saying goodbye to my addiction was one of the hardest things I had to do. I had an addictive personality so nothing I did was in small measures everything had to be done in extremes. I wanted to numb the pain so when addiction entered my life I thought it would

numb the pain but it only added misery and sorrow. No! can I correct that it had controlled my life. You see my own father was an alcoholic which had severe consequences while I was growing up. My dad’s money was reserved for his addictions (horse-racing and alcohol). My childhood was miserable to say the least. I didn’t understand why there was always a lack of money, my parents were always at each other’s throat fighting over one or other thing, I often tried to divert the attention from them to me. I become rebellious and difficult. I gave my mom a hard time while she was raising me you see I blamed her for my dad not wanting to come home and stay drunk. I thought if I were in my dad’s shoes I would do the same. And guess what everything I loathed about my dad I became. I become arrogant and verbally abusive. I was emotionally unavailable and absent in relationships. I used my money on addiction and didn’t spare a dime after all I worked for, so it was mine to spend it the way I pleased. Back in the day I used to give my mom R200 toward the groceries. One day she tore it up in my face and threw it back at me. I can see now why she did it clearly the R200 was not enough anymore and instead of having a conversation and making me understand why? I always got the back end and the abuse she received from my dad was handed out to us as kids in return.

I think most of my mom’s marriage to my dad was abusive. We would watch my dad as children physically fight my mom and emotionally traumatizing her. In my naïve mind I blamed my mom for provoking my dad to that extreme. I know better now that his horse racing and alcohol controlled his life, it came first above having a family to support. I cannot help but liken my addiction to alcohol and gambling to an abusive relationship. The hold the abuser has is ultimately so strong that you don’t even know or cannot even see that you are being abused. The abuser makes you believe you are being loved. The abuse comes back stronger when you try to leave. That ultimately, I was too scared to leave my addiction, without my addiction my life would not be worth living, I needed by abuser to be my provider. I wanted to please my abuser throwing money at it. I would often forego paying the rent or buying groceries as long as I had money to feed my habit. Several times I went all in, every cent I earned went into the slot machines. It was almost like I was brain dead – did I really believe that I could win millions or be a happier person, or was my addiction to the slots just a very bad habit. Little did I know that I was an addict …

My alcoholic behavior started when I was at high school. I thought it was fun to get drunk and behave like clown and being out of control. When I started working I did the same thing. To enjoy myself I had to drink and get drunk, the two things went together for me. I wanted to be happy and the misconception for me was to be drunk. I simply didn’t know how to enjoy myself and have fun without drinking. I didn’t even know how to enjoy the drink and sip on it while having a conversation. Drinking had several repercussions for me … at the age of 19 I was raped by two male colleagues. I was even to scared to lay a charge against them. For years after that I made myself believe that it was my fault. Why did I drink with them they were not even what I would be attracted to … I thought that this incident would stop me from drinking. The active addict in me kept going … I did stop and at some point only exchanged the drug of choice from alcohol to gambling …

I met someone who loved Casino gambling and who had money. Initially he did feed my habit, he would often take me to the Casino and give me money to gamble. I could never have guessed that spelt trouble for me. In a previous relationship I also met someone who used to go to Swaziland once a month and we would play slots until early hours of the morning or until the money was up. I developed such a love -hate relationship with the Casino the euphoria of going to the casino made me happy, I felt so excited to be there all my cares and worries and disappointments gone and forgotten from the moment I walked into the Casino and how I hated the place when I lost my money or overspent and drained every last cent I had. I used to suffer severe anxiety when I spent the monies which should have been used for other expenses.

I wanted to sell every item of furniture in my house to fund my habit. My sister asked me how sustainable it was for me to sell my possessions and gamble with the money. The only thought that was in my mind that I would become rich – I know now that the money would never have made me happy but at the time it was all about feeding my addiction and satisfying the habit. The thought had not crossed my mind “what-if” I lost it all. I will be eternally thankful to my kid sister for saving me from this eternal damnation.

Now I am on a new path of recovery with my recent diagnosis of Lung Cancer. I almost feel that the past 19 years has prepared me for this journey I am on now. I continue believing that I will be well …

These are some of the words in inspiration that other fellows has shared with me. I hold it close to my heart everyday …

1. Thy Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven

2. God chooses His strongest Soldiers for battle

3. God will never give us a burden heavier than what we can bear

4. I am privileged that God chose me

5. Thank you for raising me up to more than I can be

I am so eternally thankful for making the call to Gamblers Anonymous the second time

To the senior members who helped my initially stick to the programme

I am encouraged to give service and be of service to the fellowship service in one of the vital pillars in our five pillars

I remain faithful and committed to the fellowship

I am grateful for the wonderful friendships made in the fellowship

I advocate and encourage the 12 step recovery program that helped me heal my brokenness and helped me rebuild relationships and helped me rekindle my relationship with a loving Higher Power

I know that I cannot walk this journey on my own – I need Gods guidance I need the fellows in these rooms

I sincerely hope you managed to get a message for yourself through my share

May God bless you on your journey we call recovery
Hi, I am a compulsive gambler …….

I am now twelve years and 1 month gambling free !

The GA family has enabled me to turn my life around 360 degrees. I now have the strength, faith and courage to face life and its challenges head-on without the need for a crutch. It has also changed my relationship with my family and all for the better. I had to show them that they could trust me again, one of the hardest things to do. Words don’t suffice it’s your actions that speak volumes. I am one of the individuals that landed in prison due to my gambling compulsion.

It didn’t happen overnight, it was a gradual descent into hell. I was totally oblivious to the direction I was taking. It started with small bets and wins and progressively grew, with the amounts I spent and the losses I incurred. We must always remember that Casinos etc are businesses and businesses don’t like to run at a loss, so the loss ALWAYS ends up being with the gambler. The saddest part is that when family and friends notice the change in you and your behavior and try to help, they face a losing battle. Gamblers are always right ! We are driven by compulsion ! If anyone tries to help we feel they don’t understand us ! We lie, we cheat, we steal, we connive and eventually we will hit rock bottom.

I kept a journal while in prison and would like to share my opening lines with you …. “My life as I had always known it ended officially in April of 2013, exactly one month and four days before my 50th birthday, with the following words uttered by the Judge – “I hereby sentence you to ten years imprisonment ….””

What I didn’t realise then, is that it was the beginning of a new chapter in my life. I spent five years and three months behind bars. I learnt so much; normal people, with normal backgrounds make mistakes and for those we have to pay. I decided to take this time to better myself. I had done wrong, major wrong – to my loved ones, to friends, to those who had tried to help me. I couldn’t waste this time feeling sorry for myself, instead I decided that this time would be for bettering myself, starting to make amends and get back in touch with the spiritual side of life. You cannot get better unless you take responsibility for the wrong you’ve done, you must want to stop this downward spiral and make a conscious effort to want to be a better person. It's not always easy, in fact some times you want to give up but that is what the GA family is for. You can reach out and there is always someone willing and happy to hold your hand through your toughest times. Never give up ! It’s a “one day at a time” journey but the peace that you will eventually find is priceless!

It has taken me years to get back on my feet – the right way – by working for what I need. I now own a car and a home and both my family and I are proud of what I have achieved and conquered over the years. I am truly a better person ! HANG IN THERE, YOU CAN DO IT TOO …..