This time four years ago, you could find me hiding in my bathroom, clicking the buttons on my laptop, looking for one more hit. My gambling addiction was raging a war inside me, and I was losing. Not only was I losing a lifetime of savings, but also my rationality. Nothing completed me more than the highs and lows. The euphoria gambling granted me was unprecedented. Gambling had become my only love.
My world was the addiction; I rarely wanted to leave the house, and when I did, the pull to be back on my laptop, chasing the loss from a previous day, was stronger than friends, or family. The promise of financial freedom and the high of a win, merely one spin away.
The darkest of my days came after I realized I could not pull myself from the dredges of addiction by myself. When the crisis of dependency had finally taken its toll, on me, my bank account, and every lie I had spun. A tangled web of theft, deceit, and depression, such that every corner I turned seemed darker and more desolate than the last. I had no choice but to lay it all on the table, to finally look myself in the face. To admit I had a problem.
I hardly remember my first year of abstinence; actually, that is not entirely accurate. I recollect feelings of shame and a deadened sense of gloom, a cloud of hurt following me wherever I turned. It is not easy watching the light in people’s eyes fade when they realize what you have done. Who you truly have been. No one genuinely knows an addict, not in the throes of addiction. It is a battle a user faces on their own. We would not lie, cheat and steal our way to exaltation otherwise.
One thousand three hundred and thirty-four days, that is how many days I have taken one day at a time. The amount of twenty-four hour intervals since the last time I gambled.
However that is not to say; I have not sat staring at an online gambling site since, and I most certainly have had days that begged for highs as euphoric as the days I gambled.
Recovery left me in a state of boredom, and learning how to live with that boredom is why recovery is such a challenge for most addicts. I never pretend to understand another’s addiction or rehabilitation, as each user feels everything differently. However, you will find, most of us are trying to either cover the pain from our past or reach the taste of pure pleasure once again. Sometimes both, simultaneously.
In my first few weeks in recovery, I was arrested and charged with theft. I had stolen a significant amount of money from my place of work, as to hide my addiction from my family. Over the past three years, I have not once wanted anything more than to take full ownership of what I did. My intent was to plead guilty and face the consequences of my actions. Those first few weeks were nothing short of purgatory; I was fingerprinted, charged and stood in shock as the police took my mug shot.
In the months to come, I had a few court appearances, but nothing substantial was decided, so I waited. The looming prospect of court and jail time, never leaving my thoughts. It was two years of waiting, two years wondering if a cop would show up at my door, or if I would receive a registered letter stating my court date. The hardest part was the wait. The constant worry, of things, left undone. Not knowing if I should get a job because the next day I could be in court or jail. I felt I could not move, decide or be whom I was truly meant to be, not while I awaited my punishment. Making the recovery process more difficult with all that was left unsaid.
Nothing could have prepared me for the day I received a registered letter in the mail, stating, I would not be charged, but would be taken to small claims court instead. At first, I did not understand the letter; I read at least three times before speaking to my family about it. Maybe it was a trick, I thought. Alternatively, perhaps I had been charged, and this was retribution.
It was not a trick, two days later I received another registered letter stating I could set up a payment plan with the employer from which I had stolen. Moreover, for the first time since the beginning of my recovery, I felt high. A sense of relief shot through my entire body and the back of my brain did everything in its power to keep that high traveling through my veins. It is curious how addiction works. The day I learned I was not going to be charged, not go to jail, is the same day my brain felt a need to gamble again for the first time in years. It made me sick to my stomach. I hated myself for wanting to gamble, I hated my lack of control and despised myself for ever having the thought.
I have been to court over five times, but it was not the court I so dreaded in the early days of my recovery. I have come to a court-ordered agreement on payment terms and realize how incredibly lucky I am my previous employer dealt with this situation with compassion and understanding. I am thankful every single day.
However, I still fight the urge to gamble. The days I am met with challenges are the ones that cause my addicted brain to want to run and hide, sink my teeth into the high. That is the thing about addiction, it is a monster, it rears its ugly head no matter how lucky you are. No matter how far down the road you have traveled, it will nip at your heels, forever reminding you it has once been a part of you.
My darkest days of addiction may have passed, actually this I honestly don’t know. Although, I do appreciate, for the rest of my life I will face challenges in which will cause me to want to gamble again. There will be losses and gains. However, I will have to stand steady and fight. I will take each day, one day at a time. Even as the dawn breaks on day one thousand three hundred and thirty-five.