It’s the 3rd October 2017 and finally I have said it: ‘My name is Gillsy1002 and I’m a compulsive gambler,’ and ‘My name is Gillsy1002 and I’m an alcoholic.’
Finally, after years of struggle, fear, boredom, anxiety, depression, and self-harm I had said it. I had said it out loud and most importantly I had admitted it to myself. It was a huge relief.
I am an addict and I am totally powerless over gambling and alcohol; my life was totally unmanageable. In the most part I thought I had hidden my struggles well. I hadn’t but hey ho everyone else knows the addict is an addict before the addict does, right?
Even when they do see it, and definitely in my case, I was too scared to admit it to anyone else. Imagine backing yourself into a corner where you have no choice but to try to give up your emotional crutches. Absolutely terrifying!
Today is the 2nd March 2020, and I haven’t gambled and am still sober. My last bet was on 29th October 2017 and my last pint was supped one day later.
Entering the Gamblers Anonymous (GA) and the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) rooms gave me a glimmer of hope. I met men and women of all ages and backgrounds who were smiling, sharing their experience, strength and hope and giving each other advice on how to live a more serene life. Importantly to me, these people were no longer in the depths of their addiction but were taking part in what looked like an exciting recovery journey. Helping each other through the tough times and enjoying the good times together.
I turned up to my first meeting in a deeply depressed state, could not bare to be me any longer. I had two options death or recovery. Thank God I chose to give recovery a chance.
If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be writing this now. I wouldn’t have developed into the person that I am today. A person that I am comfortable being. A person that I like, love in fact and that’s incredibly important. I now have an identity that I am proud of.
I am proud to be a compulsive gambler in recovery, and I am just as proud to be an alcoholic in recovery. If I wasn’t what identity would I have. Possibly no identity at all if I had taken the other option.
If I had somehow managed to struggle through my rock bottom without GA and AA and I was still in active addiction I would still be trudging through life, destroying myself and hurting those around me. I would be scared, disgusted with who I am, and I wouldn’t be living an honest life. Not an identity to be proud of.
In recovery, I have had opportunities that I never thought possible. From writing this, to doing interviews, writing for mental health awareness websites, and appearing on radio shows – to share my experience, strength, and hope.
Listening to and reading other recovering addicts experiences is what gave me the courage to participate fully in recovery. Recovery takes effort but seeing those who were reaping the benefits was enough for me to give it a go.
I hope someone who reads this will decide to embark on a journey of recovery. Attend an AA, GA or other meeting depending on your vice (or vices). Meet people who have been where you are now and ask them for advice. Let them help you, then help yourself and then help others.
Listen to podcasts such as BBC Hooked or The After Gambling Podcast which are full of interesting discussion about addiction.
Remember this, I think this is really important. Addiction isn’t something to be ashamed of. Addiction is a mental illness so go and get some help. Don’t suffer alone and give yourself a chance to recover and be the person you dream of being.
Dreams can become reality. I know.
Chris Gilham is one of the presenters of All Bets Are Off Podcast. He tweets @gillsy1002_
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