I hope you are well and staying strong.
Having read a recovery diary thread on here (from @pokerkidwantstoquit), I felt inspired to start my own in the interest of tracking my journey towards becoming gamble free.
I've been addicted to poker for about 5 years now. I started playing online poker and after about a year went from a break-even player to a winning player. I ended up slowly moving up the stakes until I was playing some of the largest daily tournaments online. It was my obsession - my utter passion, I loved (and still do in many ways) the game and it has such a strong grip on me. Watching hands, analysing the game with friends, qualifying for big tournaments, playing different variants of the game, etc. In my view, it's THE best game in the world - it totally and completely mimics life and has helped me with my thinking and thought processes.
It's given me some amazing experiences. It's allowed me to travel the world. Make amazing friends. Win money I would never have dreamed of. It's been incredible at times. But this is an old story. That was then. Now things have taken a turn, and it could unravel all of that.
What started as a passion became an obsession and over the last year or two, I've lost sight of the reasons I started playing in the first place. The signs that I could potentially spiral were there from the beginning, they were just too inconvenient to face. I never had a bankroll that I effectively managed - I would blow my roll frequently and deposit until I was in the hole. I would get unbelievably tilted when I'd lose a hand; I'd be screaming at my computer, break things around the house and punt off in anger. I'd go on sprees of playing way above my stakes and quickly going broke. I remember winning big tournaments and going on tears where I'd punt off everything within a day or two after having won. I'd stay up late, not eat, not communicate with my girlfriend, with friends.
Beyond that, poker was a way for me to totally detach and escape from the world. A world that I felt intimidated by and that I didn't want to be a part of. I used it as a shield to hide away and to avoid having to think about my problems: anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, self-worth, a lack of confidence and lack of purpose. But life still ticks along regardless of whether you want to be present or not. And the longer you put your problems at bay, the harder they will be to fix. I've been learning that the hard way over recent months...
Over the last year and a half, poker has been ruining my life. From being a game I'd play strategically and optimally, I have totally lost self-control. No matter how much I deposit and run up - that money will be gone. I have no respect for the money I deposit, it doesn't even feel real. Time and time again I have deposited and lost, deposited and lost, deposited and lost. My mind has done an excellent job at convincing me that it's just a phase and that I'd past it and that I'll be fine and that it wasn't a big deal, etc. etc. but it's become a full-blown addiction that is ruining my health, happiness, wealth, relationships and wellbeing.
At the start of the year I decided to quit. Not because I truly wanted to, but because I felt I had to. My girlfriend gave me an ultimatum, it was starting to affect my work and deep down I wasn't enjoying it. But I played by the rules and set myself the goal of not playing for a while just to see how it would go. So I set the goal of not playing for 3 months (90 days) - and I managed to keep it up (114 days). I ran every other day at night in the freezing cold for 3 months, preparing for a half marathon. I faced some of my biggest fears (public speaking being one of them), I signed up to an acting class, I see a therapist weekly, etc. - I really did some positive things.
But secretly (even to myself), I was gambling in another way: leverage trading. I was using a site to leverage trade crypto and frequently getting liquidated, losing hundreds and thousands doing that. Replacing one addiction with another: recklessly gambling. I picked up playing poker again after the 100 days and stopped doing all the positive things I'd started doing and preceded to punt off a ridiculous amount of money in the space of a week-long binge where I wasn't eating, sleeping, I was drinking heavily, acting completely recklessly.
Anyway, the relapse is over and I want to get back to being free from playing and doing any form of gambling.
I have faith in myself and a really strong desire to change. I'm in an extremely fortunate position where I still have savings due to the amount I've won over the years - but that could fast change if I continue along like this. Focusing on not trading either is very important for me, so this diary will include that too: any forms of gambling.
So this is now day 2 in my journey. I intend to write in here regularly to provide updates - ideally when I am feeling tempted. I'll also be sharing the things I'm doing in my life to help me. Whether it be attending GA (which I'm thinking of going to my first session of next week), exercising, taking care of my mental health, etc. I want this to be an inspirational thread that really proves that this can be done. My first real milestone will be in topping my previous 'no play' journey of 114 days. From there I want to hit 6 months and a year, and I'll reflect back on what I've learned, what worked and what didn't work and how I'm doing. I hope that in a year's time I'll be in a much better place mentally, physically and spiritually. Let's do this!
Day 3 and my first day back to work after a stint off.
I took a couple of weeks off due to my mental health not being in a good place. To be honest going back was difficult, and I struggled with keeping positive for most of the day. But work knew I wasn't in the best place so were nice and supportive.
But I got up in the morning, I meditated, made breakfast, went into work listening to a podcast and reading, kept my head down at work and got a lot done, had some conversations with people about how I was and was open and honest with them. So a successful day - and most importantly, one without poker.
I've been feeling down about being back at work and my colleagues have noticed. I'm being told consistently that I'm valued and appreciated and that people care about me, but it's difficult to accept that when I don't accept myself.
I haven't been putting myself first - I've been neglecting myself. For years. If I truly loved myself, I would listen to myself, talk things through, look to understand what's going on and why it's happening. I've realised through therapy that I have the tenancy to lie to myself and to tell myself stories that aren't true. These stories (self-defeating, negative) then form my reality and I find it difficult to see the world in any other way.
But here's the thing: I know I have something in me that a lot of people don't access. Deep down I know I have the ability to see things for how they really are. I understand just how short life is, and how I have the ability to conjure thoughts and ideas that help others, that make things better and that move things forward. I've been neglecting this for so long because I let my mind takeover.
But that needs to come out again. I realised yesterday that I think so negatively about everything, and that whenever I have been positive I've had incredible things happen to me. Somewhere along the line I forgot about this. When I think positively I realise all the great things I have in my life: a loving family, a beautiful girlfriend, a good job, health. I am so so lucky in so many ways. Just to even be here writing this is a gift. I need to keep this in my mind and use it to pull myself out of this rut and gaining traction.
I failed. I failed miserably.
I got the urge yesterday and ignored everything. I told my girlfriend I felt tempted and she said well done for telling me, but I went ahead and deposited anyway. I deposited. I lost it. I deposited again. I lost it. I deposited again. I won. I won. I won. I won.
And then within minutes it was gone. I was playing high stakes PLO. I never play PLO. I didn't care. I do now.
I feel sick. Beyond sick. I am sick. I have a serious problem - I'm an addict.
I don't want my life to turn into this. I love my girlfriend and want to start a life with her, I love where I live, I have happy supporting colleagues, a great family, I still have savings in the bank (just). This is the point where it has to end. It has to.
I know this is happening to me for a reason. I'm unhappy, when I have everything in my life that could and should make me happy. It's an unhappiness that comes from some deep ugly hidden part of me. One that wants me to fail, and keep me down. Part of me that is greedy, part of me that doesn't think I'm worthy, part of me that wants more and more, part of me that is selfish and narcissistic and egotistical. There's part of me that's crying out to be heard, but I'm ignoring it. It's too painful to look at.
But deep down, the truth is: I am worthy of living a good life. I f*****g am worth it. Everyone is. This addiction could be the making of me; I'm just so far at the bottom of it all it's going to be difficult to burrow my way out. But I dug myself in here, and I can see light.
This is day 1 again. I vow to channel my energy into everything that is positive for me. This is the first step towards REAL self-care. Towards mending. I know what I need to do.
Thankyou for visiting my diary. Dandelion is a wonderful plant which is often overlooked and taken for granted.
You come across as someone with great potential so it is just a case of using your attributes in a more worthwhile and constructive manner.
You have accepted the fact that gambling does not benefit you in any way. Quite the opposite in fact because it brings you great sadness. You know this and you are an intelligent man so I am pleased you are prepared, willing and able to do something about it.
I wish you every happiness.
Thanks for the messages guys (@bdog and @stalwart-stephen), I really appreciate your support
The pain of my failure is still fresh, but only when I think about it. I'm trying to put it to the back of my mind and let time heal. A day at a time. I know that being positive is something that will help give me the confidence to believe I can change so that's what I'm aiming to do. This was a setback but this is happening to me for a reason, and that reason is to take back control of my life and start to take the action I need.
I've been feeling pretty good over the last few days despite the setback. It's bank holiday weekend and I went out on Saturday. Saw a mate, had a few drinks, a great meal and went to a gig. It reminded me of the freedom money gives and the importance of cherishing it. I also watched a documentary on Youtube about homelessness. To be honest it really scared me. These are people in the throws of addiction that have succumbed to it in one way or another and lost it all. It's a terrifying reminder of what can happen if I let this fully take hold of me. That's something I don't even want to consider.
I go back to work tomorrow and I'm not looking forward to it to be honest, but I know what I need to do. I'm going to go back with my head up and just focus on getting the job done. Things are getting better, they will be better.
Your story struck a chord with me. I played online poker and enjoyed it at the time. I used to win for a few years until it all went wrong. Have you closed all your poker accounts - they all have the option to suspend for 12 months, and ideally sign up to gamstop.
Also, have you stopped leverage trading and closed any of those accounts too ? Unfortunately, with gambling issues, you need to stop every form of gambling, and block any holes so you have no option to gamble if you're tempted.
Hope all's going well - good luck with giving up.
Thank you so much for your response -- I really appreciate it. Yes I have blocked all sites I can with the software, and I've found some that I have had to self exclude from. I have blocked all to my knowledge so I hope this will be the last of it.
As for leverage trading I honestly hadn't thought of this as gambling. It's really strange that I hadn't but it obviously is -- it's me putting up money based on a direction I think the asset will go in, and if it goes in the other direction I lose it all.
I hadn't stopped leverage trading. I lost some money last night -- that's why I came to write in here actually. I need to block myself from this software and commit to not doing this either as I now know it's a form of gambling.
I used to play poker every day, I just had a window open in the background pretty much all day whatever I was doing. I self-excluded in December, and at the time I couldn't imagine life without poker, but it never really crosses my mind any more. I'm so pleased to be away from it. But recently, I've started "investing" in bitcoin, in markets, shares, commmodities etc. Like you, I've realised that it is just a form of gambling, replacing poker. I'm going to self exclude from that too. Good luck with your journey to being gamble-free, and returning to things that you really enjoy, and are more healthy ways of spending time.
The statement you made about homelessness made a mark on me. Imagine when you have kids and you hae gambled all the way until that time. Now imagine you get skint every payday, and accumulating debt. How will your kids grow up? Not very good at all. This though scares me the most of every other scenario. Thats why we need to STOP now so we can have a healthy future with all the gains a gamble free life has to offer. Its hard typing this now, because Im at a dark place right now, but thr optimism has to f*****g come noe! I feel similar traits as you have. That you are often negative but that you deep down see things as you are. I am too. But addiction is not based on your will. Its all about clouded judgement and illusions. We feel like gambling gives a prop. There are seriously 0 advantages in gambling. Still we do it!! Now think off all the disadvantages in gambling. There are numerous.