**HERE IS PART 2 OF MY ARTICLE ON WWW.MTADDICTION.COM About my Addicted Compulsive Gambling and being in Recovery now 6+yrs.**
By Jacqueline Pabst, Tue, February 05, 2013
Cathy Lyon shares her experiences with gambling addiction and recovery. Click here to buy her book on Amazon: Addicted To Dimes
What were your triggers?
For me, this question is a “mixed bag.” For my own recovery, my triggers always seemed to co-exist with bad habits and behaviors. My triggers allowed me to feel a sense of entitlement. What I mean by this is that when I felt the urge to gamble, I justified my urge by telling myself I deserved to relax, that I deserved a reward, etc. For example, if I got into an argument with my husband, that would trigger negative thoughts and behaviors, which would lead to gambling. By justifying my addiction, I got into a vicious cycle of entitlement, blame, denial and lying, which, of course, led to more gambling.
I remember the days of going to my treatment group in GA (Gamblers Anonymous) — just hearing other people talk about gambling was a trigger for me, and I often went to gamble after meetings. I think a lot of people did that, because a lot of us are in denial about having a problem. I definitely was. I also learned that triggers don’t always happen immediately…I could be triggered by a disappointment, but not recognize it until a couple days later.
Did you have any major relapses after you began your recovery?
I had three major relapses. Two were from active gambling relapses, the third had more to do with my general recovery. I’d been so focused on the emotional and illness side of addiction that I hadn’t been working on my financial health. It can be very overwhelming when you first reach for recovery. This question is hard for me. There is still a twinge of pain for me when I talk about my two major relapses. It was a very dark time in my life, I was using compulsive gambling to escape emotional, physical and sexual abuse that I’d experienced as a child. My feelings first resurfaced after my brother in law passed, right before I turned 30. I went to see a therapist for awhile, and I thought I had resolved my issues. I know now that the reason it took me so long to get a real foothold on recovery was because I wouldn’t accept the fact that gambling was slowly destroying my life. I was in and out of a treatment group and GA from 1999 until my first Major relapse in November of 2002, right before my 40th birthday.
I’d been gambling like crazy! I was fighting with my husband, using the same lies and excuses, telling him it was his fault I gambled, that his work was driving us apart. I was gambling before work, on my lunch hour, after work, anytime I could. I’d tell my husband I was going to a friends house but he knew where I was going. He just let me go, he was tired of fighting. I started to realize that I couldn’t keep up with all my lies. I had to pick up the mail before my husband did so that he wouldn’t see the credit card bills, I was hiding the money I’d taken from our bank accounts. I felt like I was going insane.
What put me over the edge was when my best friend in the whole world passed away from cancer…a week before my birthday. I was supposed to meet my husband and her family after work, but instead I drove to the Indian Casino. I was there most of the day, lost hundreds of dollars, and I barely remember driving home that night because I was so distraught. All I remember is dialing the phone to call my treatment counselor, and the next thing I knew, I woke up in the hospital in a white room with padded walls. There were police and doctors outside talking incomprehensibly, and then I blacked out again. I woke up in a room at the Mental/Addictions crisis center. When I woke up, I looked around and saw that my arms and wrists had cuts on them, one very deep, and that I had a few stitches. I ended up staying in the crisis center for 11 days, with the first 4 on suicide watch. While at my stay, my primary doctor and the crisis center doctor found that I was suffering from severe depression, high anxiety, panic disorder, and symptoms of bipolar disorder. So they started me on 3 medications. I always knew I had high anxiety, but I had no idea about the other disorders. While I was there, I worked hard with my addiction counselor, and I didn’t gamble for six months straight.
However, I started feeling good, I got complacent, and I decided that I could still gamble as long as I “control” it. This led to another 3 and 1/2 years of binge gambling. I was still going to meetings, but I’d lie through my teeth — I maxed out credit cards, got fired from jobs for stealing and pawned anything of value. Then, we had to sell our home in 2005, just before it got foreclosed. I wasn’t working and we moved into a rental home.
I felt like everyone in my life was treating me like I was some sort of “mental freak” just because I had to take meds for my mental/emotional well being. So, I stopped taking my meds and I just kept telling myself that I could be a “normal person.” The other thing that was hard for me to contemplate was that I could get “high” without ingesting any substance, that my gambling was actually an addiction like drugs or alcohol. So, with the perfect storm brewing, I was heading down a very dark path. I gambled away the money we got from the sale of our house in three months. I was constantly chasing the money I lost until I was so far gone mentally that I tried killing myself again by taking all of my meds at once.
I gave up on life, on myself, on everyone who loved me – I just wanted it all to end! Once again, I ended up in the hospital and the crisis center and learned I’d never really wanted to stop gambling in the beginning. I was so broken, in mind, body, soul, and spirit, that I made the choice to believe in a power greater than myself. I decided that God wasn’t done with me, that he would show me my true purpose. I truly believe that I was meant to go down this path, and that my higher power said I was meant to learn from it. And did I EVER!!