Writer Cathy Lyon shares her experiences with gambling addiction and recovery. Click here to buy her book on Amazon: Addicted to Dimes
What was your lowest point?
After both stays in the recovery crisis center in November of 2002 and April of 2006, some of what I had NOT learned was how to actually “break down” the “cycle” of compulsive gambling, piece by piece, and understand – and how to use all of the recovery tools and skills to do that.
At the same time, after my release in 2006, the GA group I was attending was having some trouble within our group. People would gossip about others. We also didn’t have many members who had good, solid or long “clean” time. Trusted servants were not “utilizing” all of the by-laws and guidelines from GA. There was no one willing to give up themselves to become sponsors to new members, and no Financial Pressure Relief group meetings were being held. I offered many times to help, and I did, but I couldn’t do it all on my own! The reason it’s so important, especially for new members, is that we come to GA so in debt and financially broken that we have NO idea where to start on taking our financial inventory.
I had always felt I never really got any financial relief most of my recovery, or trying in vain to stay in recovery, so much so that it lead to my third major event – and lowest point in my life! From April to the beginning of August in 2006, I’d really gotten a good foothold on a clean recovery, but life challenges and financial events turned all of that into a tailspin! Long story short, I had been cleaning homes to make a little money. I was cleaning a friend’s home while she was on vacation, and I’d gone home one day for lunch, and my power was turned off! I checked the mail and had a shut-off notice from my gas and phone companies as well. That just put me in panic mode.
Instead of working things out with my husband and figuring something out, my old habits and behaviors of my addiction took over. I got into that “have to fix this quick” mindset. That’s why, when you’re in recovery, you also need to work on your old way of thinking and learn to solve life’s challenges in a healthy way. I hadn’t gotten that far in my new recovery. Even though I was not “in gambling action,” I’d still used the old habits to try to deal with this financial crisis. I never had that “financial relief” like the GA combo-book had said we would when we stopped gambling. So I did the unthinkable and stole from my friend!
When she got back, I could have told her, but I could not bring myself to do it. Just when I got my nerve up to do it, it was too late; she had already called the police. They showed up at my home, asked me about what had happened, arrested me, and off to jail I went. She wanted to press charges against me to learn a lesson. Needless to say, I did – the hard way. I had a few court dates to go to with a public defender. I was just going to plead guilty; I had to be accountable for the poor choices I had made.
This was not only the lowest point in my life, I was so humiliated; people seeing me handcuffed and put into a police car. And if that was not enough, I live in a small town, so of course there was my name in the local newspaper with what I’d done! There went my reputation. Not because I was gambling, but worse (and dumb) because I stole from somebody to try to solve my financial problems.
So please learn from me: Make sure you work on all areas of your recovery! I had to learn the hard way. I will say this: Even though I’d not gambled when all of this happened, I still consider the last day that I gambled as Jan. 29, 2007 – my last/sentencing court date. It is my constant reminder of the lowest point in my life.
Who helped you the most in your recovery?
An “angel” came to my rescue when I was going through the legal process of my theft conviction. His name is Boyd Sherbourne, PsyD. At the time, he was an Addictions PsyD from the crisis center I was admitted to. Since the friend I’d stole from was also in my treatment program, they were going to kick me out of the program.
I’d never met Boyd, but a little problem came up with my husband and my treatment councilor, and Boyd overheard them heatedly talking and asked my husband if he could talk with him in his office. He helped and talked with my husband for a while (while I was still in jail waiting to be processed and released). Boyd told him what had happened and also explained to my husband most likely why I did what I’d done due to financial stress, even though I was not gambling.
Then a few days went by, and Boyd called me on his own even though he didn’t know me. It was a God intervention moment. He asked if I was willing to meet with him, so I did. He wanted to help me with support and teach me how to not only breakdown the “cycle” but also learn better ways of handling life challenges in recovery. He taught me how to change the unhealthy, lingering habits and behaviors of addiction. I thank God every day for Boyd taking me on, and he did it a whole year! I can never repay him for helping me get my life back and save my marriage. He helped me stay on a healthy, clean, balanced recovery.
What advice do you have for other compulsive gamblers?
We are truly blessed that we live in a world with wonderful technology, and it has turned the recovery process around! For those of you who gamble but are not sure whether you have a problem, you can take the “20 Questions” quiz on the Gamblers Anonymous website. If you answer those questions honestly, you’ll know if you’re a problem gambler.
The Internet has provided “safe and secure” websites for recovery help. There are places with live chat rooms 24 hours a day, on-line meetings, free treatment and therapy. A support group is vitial to a balanced recovery plan. I attend Gamblers Anonymous meetings, of course, but Safe Harbor compulsive gambling hub is another great support community! They offer online meetings, 24/7 live chat rooms and a fantastic “Resource Recovery Room,” which includes the “top compulsive gambling recovery sites.” There you will find the top 100 recovery sites on the web, which is how I found this great site, MyAddiction.com.
I believe that in order to have a well-balanced recovery, you also need to have a “spiritual” well-being. We reach out for help with such broken spirits, souls and hearts. Not everyone has faith per say. But I do believe in a power greater than myself has helped me return to sanity from the insane, cunning addiction of compulsive gambling.
My own quote, which I say all the time, is, “Addiction and recovery have only one thing in common: They are both selfish!” We are very selfish when we are in the depths of our gambling addiction. And you have to be selfish and put yourself first in your recovery in order to be successful! Just remember: No one person on this Earth is perfect.
What are your favorite activities now that you don’t gamble?
I enjoy so many things now that I have not placed a bet in six years. It’s like I shared before, having a well-balanced recovery is important. There are activities that I feel are vital to my recovery which keep me from getting too complacent. I enjoy writing, and I love to read all kinds of books. Now that I’m a published author, I have met so many great writers and authors (even a few famous ones!) who have really helped me develop as a writer – along with some good book clubs.
I love to cook, and I love gardening (growing flowers mostly). I also enjoy volunteer work; it really helped me fill a lot of the free time I had. I’ve been unable to work outside the home for the past few years due to some health issues and the medications I take for my bipolar II, panic and agoraphobia disorders. My husband and I enjoy the first Friday art walk each month in our community, which helps me to get out. In the Summer, we like to river raft and hike on my good days.
I have my blog in which I’m able to “visit” with new friends I’ve made in recovery. I use the Gamblers Anonymous blue and red books daily. I write in my journal daily. I attend online 12-step meetings. I read and post daily on Safe Harbor and still go to some GA meetings as well. I’ve also started writing my second book.