On the previous blog – Revelation Aftermath I spoke about some of the steps that I personally went through on the road to recovery. One of these steps was me attending several sessions of Gamblers Anonymous. This was something that my family had suggested. I didn’t even know there was such a service near me. I was skeptical at first but decided to give it a shot since it was clear I could use all the help I could get. In the end it proved to be one of the best decisions that I have ever made, but not in a way that you may think. I feel it’s an interesting story and I would just like to share my experience and some of the details on what goes on at some of these meetings.
As I sat in the passenger seat watching the trees zoom past me as we drove towards our local “Rehab Center”, a million thoughts/emotions were racing through my head. I was outside my comfort zone. I was embarrassed. I wanted to leap out of the car and run away. Suddenly, a memory popped into my head about how my parents have told me and to all my brothers and sisters about the dangers of gambling when we were younger. They have always advised us against alcohol, drugs and gambling throughout my teenage years. You know, as a good parent should. I already knew the dangers of alcohol and drugs, as I learn about such addictions in school. However, in my head I always dismissed their lectures on Gambling Addiction growing up. To me it sounded silly. That would never happen to me. I would never be dumb enough to piss away my precious money. Now sitting in that car thinking about that story, I felt ill. I went against their advise and now my father has to take time out of his day to drive me to this “stupid” Rehab Center and I have to sit there and take my “stupid” medicine like a champ. Although, I didn’t feel like a champ. I felt like a chump.
As we pulled into the driveway of the Rehab Center I suddenly felt I did not belong there. I hated the initial vibe I got from the place. However, there was no way back. I just kept thinking to myself “Take on minute at the time and the hour will fly by”. I am not going to lie, I was scared. Scared of what? I don’t know. I suddenly felt like a little boy going to school for the first time and wanting my father to hold my hand as I make my first steps into the unknown. Then I heard “See you in an hour” and the car driving off into the distance. “Right, here I go. I am on my own but I can do this”. Before I made my way to the “Gambler’s Anonymous” room I didn’t know what to expect in terms of the treatment or help I was going to get. I thought I may have to sit down one-on-one with a professional and talk about the addiction. Was there a 12 step program for gambling addiction as there is for alcoholism? What would I say? What questions would I be asked? I was preparing for all kinds of scenarios in my head as I stood outside the room among other gambling addicts waiting for the meeting to start.
7PM sharp we were let in to this old, smelly, dirty room with a handful of chairs along the wall and a table in the middle. We each grabbed a seat and a little “Gamblers Bible” booklet. A man at the top of the room said few generic words. We said some kind of “Gambler Addict” prayer and then silence fell. It all happened so fast that I couldn’t really comprehend when the “healing process” had began. Then one of the guys to the left of the main table started talking and it all soon made sense to me. We were all there to say our piece and or thoughts on our own experience and gambling addiction as a whole. There was only maybe 8-10 of us in the room so we all had 5-8min just to talk about whatever we felt like. The challenge for me was to try and squeeze in as much of my opinion/thoughts on gambling as a whole in that 5-8min. I had to start off by saying:
“Hi, my name is Vadim and I am a Gambling Addict. It has been X days/months/years etc. since my last bet and here are my thoughts”
Even just saying these words made me feel like I didn’t belong there. Yes I had a problem, yes I needed help but that was not the way to do it in my opinion. It was too vague. Too simple. Too relaxed. We all had our say and although the stories I heard were genuine, it didn’t feel like were there to change our attitude towards gambling. We were there simply to “pretend” what we were doing was helping us. (I heard some really wacky stories from people and if you want me to write a blog about such stories then please let me know in the comments below). The reason why these meeting helped me with my gambling addiction is because it made me realise that I would be spending a lot more time in these rooms if I didn’t cure this addiction. I was easily the youngest in the room. I had time on my side. I needed to change or I would end up on a very bad path in life.
Overall, I went to 4-5 of these meetings and each time it was the same thing. We all spend few minutes talking about our views and experience. Each time after the meeting my head would go into overdrive thinking about the stories I heard and what future held for me if I didn’t kick the addiction. I forced myself to change my attitude towards gambling. I started becoming obsessed with curing my addiction. It was constantly on my mind. The fear of that dirty room at the back of that Rehab Centre never left me. Going to those meeting DID help me but not in the way it was aiming to. I didn’t walk away after the meeting more enlightened and informed about gambling. I walked away feeling scared of what might be. I left determined to kick this feeling of embarrassment, regret and shame. After every meeting I left with the smell of that room deep in my nostrils.
It also made me angry leaving such facility. There was very little organisation, very little goal, purpose, determination and will to help people with their gambling addiction. I see myself as a pretty strong-minded person and perhaps this is what helped me get out of the downward spiral I was on. I pulled myself out of the mess I was in. However, this is a scary realisation. We are all different with different thoughts, different ideas, different views and not all of us can snap out of an addiction like I did. It wasn’t easy for me and I had to dig deep and get help from my parents and friends to get out of the mess I was in but I did it. I just feel that for someone who doesn’t have the same support as I did or doesn’t have the same mindset that I have, going to Gamblers Anonymous won’t help them. It sounds like the place to be if you want to kick your addiction but in reality in this country is no money to be assigned to dealing with such hot yet taboo topic. Perhaps in Dublin, Limerick Galway etc. or other capital cities throughout the world there is a good facilities (although I haven’t heard of any) but its clear that not all gamblers live in a city and we need to provide a good, informative service in a warm, inviting place where people can be thought to change their attitude towards gambling, not just to quench the crave of gambling one week at the time. I would love to start something myself to help others but not sure where to begin. Perhaps I better start doing some research.
Thank everyone for reading and be sure to let me know if you wish to be read a blog on some of the stories that I have heard while being stuck in that dark, smelly room. As always, I welcome any feedback, comments, opinion etc. via the comments section below. I appreciate every comment, like and follower and this blog is growing every day because of you readers. Thank you so much.
Thanks again for reading and talk to you all on the next one.