I am a recovering compulsive gambler.  My last bet was in December 2000.

Throughout this time, I have worked in the tourism industry.  A job that I love and excel in.  My last day of work was 23rd March 2020.  If that had been my date of retirement it might have been a cause for celebration, something that I had planned for, with anticipation and joy. I have been faced, however, with the reality that I have not just lost my income but, to some extent, also my purpose and role in life.  My work was not just an occupation, but it was my passion. The popular practice of “mindfulness” teaches us to concentrate on the gap between the words or thoughts.  At the moment, ironically, I am conscious that I have fallen between the gap, between the cracks and I am flailing, lost and confused.

For the first time in ages, I am fearful of my addiction.  My addiction led me to the brink of suicide.  My recovery holds me strong and gives me hope.  Like many recovering compulsive gamblers I am very possessive of my addiction and recovery.  These are almost tangible things.  Now, during this period of COVID, I am becoming aware that my abstinence is a struggle between these two “foes” and I worry that my addiction might triumph.

As a child, I was introduced to the Rudyard Kipling poem “If”, (Actually, my mother hung the poem in each bathroom in the house, so my education was enhanced by sitting on the toilet).  There are two lines in the poem that are pertinent to my beliefs, “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same… you’ll be a Man, my son!”. In my addiction, I was a disaster and in recovery I am a triumph.  Or so I believed. In many ways I have always tried to live up to my parents’ expectations and failed.  I was blessed with an above average intelligence, a stable family life, privilege, and a good education.  All of that opportunity was “wasted”.  Ironically, I was overwhelmed with emotion when I rang my parents to let them know that I was celebrating 1 year off the punt.  Not the milestone that they expected to be celebrating.

I have regularly attended Gamblers Anonymous and used to state, with an ironic smile, that I am very proud of my humility.  I still ponder how humility can come from humiliation.  During my extensive search for serenity, I attended the Hoffman Process many years ago (www.hoffmanprocess.com.au) and I can certainly recommend the program and book, “No One Is to Blame” (Hoffman B. 1988 Recycling Books, Oakland CA).  It resonated within me, that my addictive behaviour, is the final “coping” mechanism to cover up the core shame of who I am. I have been appreciative of the Government’s renewed emphasis on mental health.  I have taken this time to have regular therapy subsidised by a mental health plan.  For a while therapy was the only structure in my weekly calendar.

The 12-Steps have always been a part of my recovery but now, more than ever, I am referring to the simple suggestions of the 12 -Step program.  During this last year, face to face meetings of Gamblers Anonymous have not been available due to Covid, but this has resulted in the development of online meetings.  Although not sanctioned by Gamblers Anonymous International Service Office, I can recommend the website https://gamblersinrecovery.com which lists of all the international Gamblers Anonymous meetings on Zoom.

The COVID pandemic has taken me (albeit kicking and struggling) to realistically face my underlying psychological issues.  No work, no purpose, no passion – no distraction!  This opportunity is a blessing.

NB: These personal views are generously shared for the benefit of others by James one of our GIS Consumer Voice team members