Hi anyone reading, I'm Sarah.
I have never been good at sticking to journals but I've never really written one with a particular intention, so I'm giving this a go. I am going to do my best to update weekly, no matter how things are- whether I'm blocked or not, tempted or not...etc. Whether I'll succeed or end up writing just this one post remains to be seen! Above all else, I will be totally honest (otherwise, what's the point?)
I'm in a period of many changes in my life at the moment and I think it will be positive to keep some perspective-whether by reading this back or by updating it...
My relationship with gambling has turned problematic over recent years, I believe largely out of my long term struggle with my anxiety. It's not that I'm looking to blame something that I can't control. In fact, my anxiety is something of which I also attempt take ownership and attempt to keep under control. I used to enjoy the occasional sports bet, which was harmless fun. It was only really when I discovered the world of online slots and instant win games that it became an issue. Now I think it always will be a problem relationship. The only way to truly beat the habit is to not do it at all, despite what I have told myself previously ("I can get it back to just being a hobby and enjoy it harmlessly and in moderation if I just...x...y...z").
I noticed problematic patterns starting up a few years ago (mostly retrospectively); small wins not being exciting enough, topping up more than I planned (I never did that at the beginning), chasing losses and gradually a feeling of fear and lack of control over my impulses. A couple of substantial (never major) wins, unbeknownst to me, only added fuel to the 'belief' fire- as they do for most. Losses that grew in size made me feel unwell and kept me up all night. That made me sure it wasn't worth it...but then it happened again. You know the story...
I think perhaps the most dangerous thing for me was the 'switch off' that gambling provided from life's worries (and still does provide) . When in 'the zone' I don't think about anything else. I'm too busy drinking in mini dopamine hits to panic or ruminate about my problems. I enjoy the euphoria of short lived 'winning' streaks. I revel in the 'smugness' of being ahead, even by a tiny amount...before it inevitably all comes crashing down later. A real issue is that a great source of my anxiety is money- regardless of how I'm doing financially at the time. I didn't have a hugely secure financial upbringing and something I (strangely enough as it may sound, as I apparently can give it away so easily) associate with comfort. I generally am careful with it believe it or not (in day to day life), so I live for feeling that little bit 'ahead' if I have a gambling win. I feel safer. That is, I used to. Now, in the moment after a win, the excitement overrides the contentment in that bit of extra cash. The instant feeling is that I can enjoy my 'switch off' time more because I'm playing with the house's money...until I'm not anymore. That hits before any sensible thoughts about what I could do with the winnings or why it might be a good idea to stop for a while. Next thing of course, I'm back far into my own funds or have reached my limit. Then I chastise myself for being so foolish and feel...horrendous. For the next week or so, every purchase in every day life is contextualised in money I 'could have not used (or given back)' I feel less secure about money than I did before I gambled because I should have (would have, could have) taken that win to the bank...and now I'm down my own hard earned money. Sometimes I do manage to withdraw some winnings...but 80% of the time put it back until it's gone within a few days.
Fast forward and I have had two counsellors help me- to varying levels of success. The thing that worked best was using blocking tools. I blocked myself for a year and a half (one year then extended it for another 6 months) and it worked...until the block expired. So, why didn't I renew it? If I'm totally honest with myself, I missed it here and there despite the contrasting relief of being unable to do it. I enjoy gambling...until afterwards. As I have said, I like the 'switch off', even though I know full well it's not good for me. I'm not condoning that I didn't just extend the block. Of course, it is exactly what I should have done. It's simply my honest explanation: I still have a gambling problem and I felt like a gamble.
So, to get up to speed, I had my second slip today after that 18 months of being blocked from all sites and doing well. I guess regardless of doing well, it wasn't enough to expel my urges entirely, like I had hoped. It wasn't a huge amount of money these last two times, but it was more than I intended to spend and I felt horrible afterwards. I noticed myself feeling frustrated today that I got so close to breaking even and didn't withdraw...and then I reminded myself that this ALWAYS happens. Why am I expecting something else to happen?
...So I am blocked again. For 2 months...Why not longer? I am asking myself that as I type and struggling for the answer, but it feels too hard. It is actually genuinely concerning that I can't bring myself to just block for another year, because truthfully, there is no downside to doing that except missing gambling, is there? I feel uneasy that despite feeling more aware than most days that I felt better overall when blocked, it isn't enough to make me fully put the brakes on. My loss today was enough to spark me starting this journal, but why only a 2 month block? I suppose this means that I am not in as strong a place as I was a year ago when I did manage to block myself for longer. But it's a start. It's something for now. It's something that I can work on and be secure in the meantime.
I need to think more about that last part. My aim will be to increase the duration of the block I set today and I will check in next week about my thought processes on that.
Until next time...
Hi, welcome. Reading your post the main thing is you need to be brave and put a block on for the maximum 5 years. Anything less just means you are counting the days until you can gamble again. Only you can make this decision but if you really want to stop you need to do it and accept that what is done is done. It will be hard but we all start at day 1, it's what happens after that counts.
I enjoyed reading your very open and honest diary.
I'm not going to preach to you about what you should and shouldn't do because you are very self aware about your situation. The fact that you have highlighted your concern regarding exclusion lengths means that you are caught between wanting to avoid further losses/destruction and feeling that you can't totally end the relationship with gambling long-term because you have been used to using it to escape during difficult times.
I've had the same scenario many times during my struggles. I continued to have relapses to varying degrees whilst doors were left open. It was only when I had developed enough healthy emotional coping skills and self belief that I no longer needed it in my life that I was eventually able to end this toxic relationship.
Addiction recovery is one of those things that requires 100% commitment because anything short of that will ultimately lead you back on the road to hell.
I'm so grateful for your responses everyone. I really wasn't expecting anyone to read-thank you for taking the time!
Definite consensus on the needing to block everything for a substantial period then-haha. I absolutely agree and I know that's the way. It's feeling more doable today. I'm going to extend the block. There's no good reason not to.
I do want to work on why I feel that resistance to it as I feel like last time I did the block for 18 months it worked because I couldn't whether I was tempted or not. I never really dealt with the urges though...I need to do that, while safe from a slip.
Anyone got any tips for fighting the urges in that 'just really fancy a game' moment (regardless of whether you are able or not at the time)? I can't quite connect with that feeling of how not worth it it is when I feel like having a go or how miserable it made me last time. It's not the only thing I can think about or anything like that. It passes. But it feels like I want to do it enough to not really care about last time- or I become convinced I can stick to my initial deposit amount (even though there's no evidence of that of course) and that I'll be ok with losing the amount but then that's not the case when it happens. I'm not talking so much about a distraction like going for a walk or similar (although I appreciate that breaking the thought cycle is good). I will get these urges a few times over the space of a few days until it fizzles. Is there a grounding thought process that gets you through or similar?
Again, thank you for your words of advice and support.
It's one of the great questions about how to stay stopped as many addicts can stop in the short-term.
From my experience I've had to learn how my addiction creaps up on me and convinces me that a bad idea is a good idea.
The part of my life I had to change the most was learning to recognise how I feel (in terms of emotions and feelings such as angry, scared, sad, lonely, disappointed, hungry etc) and then be able to deal with them in an positive way.
I spent most of my life not recognising and accepting emotions and feelings because I wasn't taught the skills through my early developmental years. If you have to escape through an addiction it's because of overwhelm. In the early stages of recovery desire can be caused by withdrawal but this dissipates after a month.
Habitual behaviour was another focus point i had to work on. I was so well practised in the cycle of feeling uncomfortable emotionally and running to gambling because I'd never been taught to sit with feelings and emotions. It was as if they were monsters 👹 that needed to be avoided. My therapist taught me that they are just like waves at the beach, sometimes big sometimes small, sometimes high sometimes low but they don't last forever and calm waters come eventually.
Whilst I was implementing change I was advised to start doing a daily journal and attaching feeling and emotions to my daily events. It was only as I got better at recognising my emotions/feelings, accepting them by feeling them and letting them go that my desire for any gambling left me.
In the early days I had to use all the blocks available until I had built up my defences but now I no longer have blocks or money restrictions.
Thank you for coming to the forum and for sharing your story.
I am sorry hear how you have been affected by the roller-coaster of ups and downs in your gambling and how this has impacted on your life.
It sounds like at times you have made decisions that allowed you to gain control or even stop gambling, but it seems that you have experienced a lapse recently and that must be frustrating for you. It is important though to hold on to the fact that you have had periods of being gamble free before, which is such an accomplishment which can be achieved again.
If you haven’t already spoken with our Advisers, I would encourage you to do so as we want to discuss with you the options open to you and ensure that you have everything that you need to help you reach your goals and aid your recovery. You can use the netline or call the helpline on 0808 8020 133, we are here 24/7.
Back again for an update.
I want to give huge thanks for the substantial time taken by others to send kind and considered replies.
So, I'm afraid I had an extremely anxious night earlier this week and found a site on which I was able to deposit money...and you know the rest.
I'm feeling very down about it as previously being blocked from things put an end to me even going looking! I can say for absolute sure that I won't be using this 'new' site again as it appears impossible to withdraw from which is making me very cross indeed. I am very pleased that I managed to stop myself before I lost the lot. It took me a LONG time to find their withdrawal page because they have hidden it away and when I did, I was informed that they needed to run a 48 hour security check. This made my heart sink as I wanted to take my money and block block block. Having waited the 48 hours, I get an error message saying that I need to supply about 6 forms of ID before they will let me withdraw. I am furious about this as it seems highly unsafe and unnecessary? Does anyone know if this is even legal? They had no problems taking my money (of course). Any advice would be much appreciated if anyone has had the same experience as it is the first time I have seen anything like it. I feel like I'm being held to ransom for my personal information (picture of passport/driving license, proof of address, proof of paypal personal info, proof of paypal screenshot of cards, proof of paypal photo of cards). Is there anywhere I can report them to? I will add this in another part of the forum also.
I can only hope that once this further avenue is blocked I will succeed as in my head now, all of the safe sites are blocked and I don't want to go through this again. I might look into some additional blocking software on my devices also, just in case.
This really isn't the update I hoped or expected to be writing. It wasn't enough money to do any damage to my finances but I have been beating myself up regardless due to the stupidity and frivolity. I can feel inside that I'm in a bad place at the moment but I can't 100% put my finger on why. Perhaps I need to look into some counselling again, or similar.
Hopefully a sunnier update next week.
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