What IS Recovery?

Jun 28, 2011 by

I read a fair amount about “addiction” and “recovery”. Typically when people talk about their recovery they have a tendency to give a “clean” or “sober” date. In recovery rooms they identify themselves with their special date.

I have always had a problem with that. It makes me cringe.

Recovery, to me, is NOT about a date.

It IS about a state of mind. It’s about the way you feel in your life. It’s about who you are today and which direction your life is heading.

When I was at the height of my compulsive gambling 4 years ago I answered yes to all 20 of the “do you have a gambling problem” questions. I even answered yes to the thoughts of suicide. I hated myself and my life. There was no doubt in my mind that I had a serious gambling problem because gambling had absolutely consumed me.

I no longer consider myself a compulsive gambler. Yes, I used to gamble compulsively. I have done a ton of work on my mindset since then and yes, I am a different person now. Today, when I go to Las Vegas, I like to gamble. Yep, you heard me. I am not abstinent. I don’t believe in letting gambling control my life anymore and I refuse to let it. It is a choice for me. I choose to focus on a place of power, not weakness.

In my life, reality has been my recovery.

What does reality look like?

I only play when I go on vacation. We have two cities dedicated to gambling about 30 minutes away from where I live. My husband took me up there one time almost a year ago just to show me what it looked like and I haven’t been back since. I didn’t even play when I was there. I hear the advertisements on the radio and see them on billboards. And I’m ok. I don’t twitch or anything. The thing I wonder most about is whether or not any of them have a good crab buffet.

I don’t chase my losses anymore. Now I get annoyed when I lose, and I want my money back, but I know that the chances are good that it won’t be coming back. Of course, as I said in my book (Numb No More), the worst thing that can happen to a gambler is that they win. I used to “know” that I could win it back. The trouble was that when I won I would up my bet…and figure that I was on a hot streak…or that I would just play a few more minutes…or just one more time (famous last words).

I can cash out and leave a machine now. I actually get up to go to the bathroom. I will take a break to go eat or even go for a walk. I will spend money to have a nice dinner and see a nice show. Spending gambling money on something so “frivolous”¬†was unheard of before! I don’t usually order a tea anymore either. That used to be a fabulous excuse to stay and play longer and I have chosen to break that habit.

I usually like to write about my experiences. It helps keep me grounded and, again, in touch with reality. I like to watch people around me play, and I will take notes while I’m playing that I will form into more cohesive thoughts later. I notice the frenzied walk into and out of the casino by the women who have somewhere else to be. I watch the players feed $20 after $20 into the machines hoping for the big hit. I remember where I was and am grateful that I have the ability to see what is going on around me. I laugh at myself as I play .25 at a time and remember that only betting one at a time used to be such a stupid waste of time for me.

I leave the casino with money in my checking account, space on my credit card and a clear conscience.

Is it possible to gamble normally? The jury is still out on that one. I am aware that I could potentially have a problem on my hands again. When I’m done with a session I choose to discuss my play with my husband. He worries about me. Gambling was always my escape in the past. When I keep in touch with reality it makes it different for me. That mystical aspect has been removed. Typically when I play my husband sits with me. I’m quite proud to say that I can actually carry on a conversation as I play. I want to show him how the different games are going. I want to talk to him about it. I want to be engaged in my surroundings.

I understand that some folks reading this will have a difficult time understanding, and certainly won’t agree that I’m in recovery. My belief is that recovery is a personal choice. All of the things I talk about on this blog are ways that I have used to be where I am today. The tips and techniques I talk about have absolutely helped me regain control of my life and have helped me feel again. Compulsive gambling was my way of not feeling the pain…of numbing out to life in general. These days it’s nice to take a break from reality, but I have my feet planted firmly in the real world most of the time.

In fact, it’s rare that those of you reading this blog are abstinent. You are probably looking for some words of encouragement to soothe the pain. When I tell you that I probably understand what you’re going through, I mean it. They are not empty words. The thought of quitting¬†for good absolutely sent me into a tailspin. You have enough on your plate. You don’t need something else to beat yourself up over. Be kind to yourself. Know that there is hope and that help is available to you.

P.S. How’s that for Day 1 of the 21 Day Muchness? As always, please share your thoughts – good and bad! And feel free to share this post with those you care about.

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