Monday, September 20, 2010

To Feed that Gambling Beast

. . . to feed that "gambling beast" . . .

As 2007 draws to an end I find myself reflecting on my year, and all the many things I have to be grateful for. My recovery- One Day at a Time, is number one on that list. Without it, I would have nothing to be grateful for. I would still be living in the desperation and unbelievable insanity, of my active gambling addiction. Prior to March 25th of this year, I struggled with compulsive gambling to the point of having to go into inpatient treatment 7 times, in a 2 1/2 year period. In my addiction I became a person I would never have thought I could become. The progression of this disease is astounding! With each relapse I sunk lower and farther into despair and desperation. I lied to the people I love, and I stole from those who trusted me. I engaged in criminal activity, all in my attempt to feed that "gambling beast" inside me. I over dosed on prescribed medication for my depression, sold my plasma for money and spent many nights sleeping in my car, feeling that I was worthless, a piece of shit. I would acquire 30, 60, and a few times 90 days of abstinence, yet I would find myself going back out for more misery. It was a never ending vicious cycle, which was killing me physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

I cannot describe the pain and desperation my family felt, especially my wonderful husband Dave. In many ways they went to hell and back with me, fearing that I would die in this disease. I could have and on many occasions I wanted to die to end the pain I was causing them. In my numbed out gambling mode, I felt nothing, but my family could see my complete destruction, and yet they felt helpless to stop me. Only I could stop myself. Only I could make that decision to end the insanity. With the help of God, and my gambling counselor Donleen, G.A, A.A {I have 29 years of sobriety, believe it or not} my family, especially my husband, my friends and my many trips to treatment, along with an amazing counselor there, I have been in recovery for over 9 months now.

I am committed to my recovery from gambling in a way I never was before. I start my mornings out, using many of the recovery tools which I have in my tool box. I had the tools before, yet I was willing to use only a few. Part of my struggle was that I was not willing to go to any lengths to maintain my abstinence from gambling. Today I am willing, and as a result, my life is better in so many ways. One of the recovery tools I use every morning is to write 5 things which I am grateful for, before I journal. This regular practice helps to keep me in "an attitude of gratitude", which has helped my depression, of which I have suffered from since childhood, immensely.

Every year of my adult life, I have found myself in a depression during the holidays, yet this year I wasn’t! Thank you God! I recently became a grandmother for the second time, and I am truly here for my grand children. I am here for my family and friends. Most importantly I am here for myself. I truly have much to be grateful for as I reflect back on this past year. I pray for every woman who is out there struggling with compulsive gambling that you may find what I have found. Be kind to yourselves. Learn to love yourselves. Most importantly, believe that you are worth it. You DO deserve to live a life gamble-free One Day at a Time and you can do it.

God Bless and I wish you all Peace, Health, and Recovery in 2008!

Love Bonnie, Oregon

Sunday, June 20, 2010

For many years I and my Father had a strained and uncomfortable relationship. I didn’t want it to be so, yet it seemed that we could hardly be in the same room and not feel the tension that was often thick, in the air. As a child growing up, I was quiet and sensitive and quite shy. My Father was often loud and critical. He was verbally abusive at times, which caused me to both fear him and want to please him. Mostly I just tried to stay out of his way and not say or do anything to upset him. I often felt growing up that my 2 sisters were criticized less than I and that I was "flawed" in some way. Those feelings stayed with me for many years and only in the past few years have I come to terms with those deep and painful emotions. I have done a lot of therapy in my life, often centering on my self-esteem and inability to get over my childhood hurts. I would often feel that I had forgiven my Father and moved on, yet it was only on the surface. I still felt uncomfortable around my Father and often felt stifled; unable to be myself. Still seeking his Love and approval I found myself hyper sensitive to his words and my need to be accepted by him. I started my journey to true forgiveness toward my Father several years back, at around age 52. At that time I was seeing a gambling counselor for my destructive and devastating gambling addiction. I had been seeing Donleen for almost a year and was struggling with several relapses that brought me to my knees. She felt I needed to be in treatment and so I went to treatment. 7 times in 2 1/2 years I went to gambling treatment! To say I was a mess, is an understatement. That is a whole other story, which I am telling in a book I am writing. For now, I want to get back to my Father and forgiveness. In treatment I wrote volumes about my past and present. My deepest desire was to get well and to stop the self destructive relapses which were not only destroying my life, but deeply affecting the lives of those who loved me; my husband particularly. One assignment was to write a letter to someone who had hurt you and tell them exactly how you felt. No holding back, as this letter would not be sent. We were to reach down, deep into the painful situations and speak out the words that we were unable to say at those times. I started that letter to my father and I wrote, and wrote, until I felt I had gotten out years of pent up feelings, while shedding tears for that shy, fearful child of my past.

A strange and wonderful thing happened after the years of pent up emotion came out. I began to look at the situation as the adult I had become, instead of that vulnerable child that once was. I began to look upon my Father with compassion. I was finally able to see him as the human being who tried to be a good Father, in the only way he knew how. His upbringing was harsh and often difficult for him. Being the only child of a strict, hard to please mother he himself must have often felt inadequate. He was raised without a Father and so even more sought the love and acceptance of his Mother. She herself was raised by a strict and abusive Father, whom her brothers had nothing to do with as they got older. The cycle of abuse had been set into motion many years back and my own Father was a product of it.

As I was able to truly forgive my Father, my relationship with him began to change in ways I never dreamed possible. We speak often by phone and never end a conversation without saying “I love you”. Often we say it more than once in conversation! I visit him regularly and often stay for several hours, enjoying his company and laughing often at his crazy sense of humor! I believe him now when he says he loves me every bit as much as my sisters. I have gotten to know my Father and he has come to know me and I am so grateful for that. I prayed for many years to have the kind of relationship with my Father that I now have.

In ending this very long blog post, I want to say to anyone who has a poor relationship with their Father and feels that it will never be any different, that it can change. It is never too late to reconcile years of distance and painful pasts. It may not happen over night. It took me over 50 years and over 80 years for my Father to come to a place of love and mutual respect. One thing I can say for sure; it was worth all the work and emotional pain to come to this place in time.

Happy Fathers Day Dad. I Love You and I am so grateful to have you as my Father!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Addiction as a Coping Mechanism

Though Humbling to admit, I have to say that I have used various Addictions all through my Life as a Coping Mechanism when Life became too stressful. I have been through the gamut of one addiction or another starting from very early childhood and still I struggle with a few unhealthy addictions.
It isn't difficult to identify my very first addiction by looking at photos of me as a baby. 3 chins I had and arms as chubby as sausages! I delighted in eating, so my mother used to tell me and besides back in the mid 50's chubby babies were looked upon as being healthy and happy!
Fast forward to age 3. The photos of me at that age show a serious and often sad little girl sitting with her hands folded in her lap. I was a shy and fearful child who being unable to understand or verbalize my feelings, used food for comfort. Having a mother who loved to cook and bake didnt help any! I can still remember walking home from school and smelling the aroma of chocolate chip cookies or fresh baked pie wafting out of the open windows of the kitchen nook. My mouth would be watering before I even got inside the house and I couldnt wait to start eating whatever delicious treat my mother had just baked. Sitting with my cookies I felt a sense of calm and happiness. Any sad or fearful feelings went away, for the moment.
When my father came home from work we never knew what kind of mood he would be in. If he had a good day usually his mood was good as well. Yet, if he had a bad day he could be mean and loud and often critical. My father was a moody person and often belittled or used name calling when his mood was bad. I feared him during those times and would actually hide from him on occasion. My Mother often kept quiet during the abuse as I believe she feared him as well.
I love my father and have been able to forgive and have compassion toward him in recent years and today we actually have a great relationship. That being said, my childhood was greatly affected by his unpredictible behavior and cruelty. Food was always a source of comfort, especially sweets and I often used it as a way to cope with my deep feelings of fear and powerlessness. My addiction to food as a coping Mechanism was the first of many addictions to come that I used when life became too painful for me.