The most difficult article I ever wrote concerned my gambling addiction. It took me days to recover from my writing hangover. I spent hours crying and rocking myself in the fetal position after I hit publish. The fear of being judged was overwhelming, but more so, was the terrifying reality people would finally know who I truly was. An addict.
I was triggered today, as I have been almost every single day for the last two years I have been in recovery.
Having a gambling addiction doesn’t carry the same stigma as other addictions. If a person is addicted to drugs or alcohol, society recognizes a chemical dependence, a disease. Addiction to gambling is perceived differently. Society can’t physically hold a gambling addiction in their hands; it isn’t solid, presenting no chemical dependency. Although I can tell you with an unabashed certainty; my addiction was/is as real as a heroine junkie sucking on a lollipop, waiting for their next beloved vein-splitting-hit to reach their blood stream.
The taste of a win, for me, brought blood flowing to parts of my body I had never felt, better than sex, was gambling. Oh, the sound of a hundred dollars syncing to my wallet or three thousand was like a summer afternoon. Calm and beautiful. The loss of a paycheck in twenty minutes, similar to the bottom of a meth addict’s skin, itchy and undesirable. Just one more taste of that impressive victory, I begged for it.
One more tingle, it was my love, and I chased it without breath, pleading for it to be the soul in which made me be who I needed to be.
Please know, I don’t believe my addiction to gambling is equal to drug addicts or alcoholics, NO addiction is comparable to another. As a society, we need to understand all addictions are different, let’s make that change. Every addict chases the dragon for various reasons. Whether it be a gambling addiction, drugs, alcohol, sex, what have you? Each addict is covering up some sort of pain, depression, mental illness or maybe, just plain sadness. Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean my gambling addiction wasn’t/isn’t real, and it certainly doesn’t mean it isn’t chemical.
One of the biggest misconceptions concerning the addiction to gambling is, it’s a self-control issue. I need EVERYONE to know it is not. It’s as much a disease as alcoholism is. A chemical euphoria in the brain from the limbic system. The part of the brain that contains the brain’s reward circuit, and is what links together the brain structures which control and regulate our ability to feel pleasure. No different from the moment cocaine drips down the back of your throat, and you believe you can rule the world. My roller coaster of joy was gambling, the need to feel high; the euphoric sensation winning money gave me. Chemical.
The reality, most of our society gambles every single fucking day. Mind my french, but I have a vested interest in this topic, and I am angry. I can’t tell you how often I have heard words seep from judgemental mouths regarding my addiction, an addiction that is perceived less than any other. Still, every day I fight with all of my heart to be a recovering gambling addict.
I hear ignorance like: “Why didn’t you just stop, have you no self-control?” or “You’re a thief, you stole money, I don’t believe in your addiction. You became someone I don’t know.”
Yes, yes I did. But so did the heroin addict we all feel sorry for. I am/was the same girl depleted, weak and scared. She was sold drugs on the street to make her life better, and daily, I am sold the promise of a better life if I win money. If only I buy this ticket, I can fix all my money problems; I can be rich. Welcome to scratch-and-wins, or our government fed lottery. Pushed no different from that asshole drug dealer standing on a street corner. Only, my addiction, it’s sold by the government to line their pockets with my so-called-weakness, the promise of a better life. And it’s legal. The legality of gambling is my pusher.
I fed my addiction no different from any other user. I was a selfish asshole chasing the taste of exaltation. The yummy brain-tingling moment every addict bites at with fervor. And just as the drug addict takes, I took whatever I needed to feed my bloodthirsty habit. I lied, cheated and became someone I didn’t even know. I stole.
Daily I am challenged, as every addict is, but also on a day-to-day basis I am challenged with the belief gambling isn’t a real addiction. My dragon is as needy and hard to control as any others. My addicted brain needs highs, and there is nothing more fearful for an addict than monotony. The idea of a plain vanilla life isn’t what any user strives for. Remember, we are feeding our limbic system, and Gawd it feels good when we do. Addicts love to be high; it is what we do, it’s how we ignore.
How we survive.
I was triggered today, as I am almost every day. I stood in line at my local 7-11, and the clerk asked me if I wanted to be rich. She put a twenty-dollar scratch and win at my fingertips. Her words played games with my addicted head, “Only twenty dollars and you are guaranteed to win a better life.”
Guaranteed? I thought. No, I have secured nothing in this life, except that I am an addict. I am addicted to gambling; I will always be addicted to gambling. The word junkie is hard to hear; I am a gaming junkie. I will not play cards with my friends, or kids, because my addiction is as real and as life altering as any other addicts. I almost lost my entire life once before, and I hold deep hope in my heart, I have the strength never to do that again. My addiction isn’t what owns me, no, I own it. I know now more than ever before, I am a survivor, warrior, fighter, and believer in me.
As a gambling addict in recovery, recovering not from my addiction but the pain that caused my addiction, please know, I am just a girl, trying to figure it out, one day at a time.