Do you know what a compulsive gambler looks like? Do you know what an alcoholic or drug addict looks like? With some drug addicts, you can tell by their teeth or the marks on their arms. With some alcoholics, you can tell by the rosy red nose and veins that are prominent on their nose and around their cheeks, or with a “beer” belly protruding out from their front. For a compulsive gambler, their are no physical symptoms. There are no physical attributes to show that we are, indeed, addicts.
Drinking, drugging, gambling, shopping, over-eating, sexing. Addictions. Several of these addictions have no physical manifestation to show the world. It doesn’t make the addict less of an addict. It doesn’t make the person less of a person because their addiction is not to a chemical dependency. My addiction can kill me just like an alcoholics’ addiction can. It may take longer, but it can.
I went to an annual conference this weekend in Lexington, KY. It was all about the steps. Every workshop was step work related and how it makes us feel or think. While I was there, I ran into an old friend from Vegas and thought I had died and gone to heaven. It was absolutely the BEST gift I could have been given this weekend.
This friend and I were having a conversation about the “face” of compulsive gambling. We don’t really have one. There are a few of us who are out and open about our addictions and recovery. There are a few of us who can say that our entire network of family, friends and co-workers know that we are recovering. While I don’t go out of my way to talk about my recovery, I do not shy away from it either and if it somehow comes around to it and I feel comfortable with the people/person, I will discuss it.
Compulsive/problem/pathological gambling is out there and the more attention brought to this addiction, the better. If by me talking about my addiction and recovery to one person helps them realize they or someone they know, needs help? I’ve done my duty for the day. Sharing the experience, strength and hope is just one of many things I love about my recovery. I put hope in italics because that’s the key word in this sentence. There is hope. People do not have to fight this addiction alone, but without the hope of getting better and quitting gambling, people will not reach out.
As I went through the weekend at the conference, I realized there are not enough people who even consider compulsive gambling as a real addiction. There are still shameful and guilt-ridden thoughts and actions associated with it. I’m not ashamed. I’m not guilt-ridden anymore. I am a recovery compulsive gambler and I’m proud of that.
When I moved from Vegas to Kentucky, I was in awe (read: shocked) that compulsive gambling was still treated like such a horrific, shameful thing. It’s very common to know many compulsive gamblers and not even know it. It could be your co-worker, it could be your boss. It could even be you. Just know that there is hope. Hope for a better way of life, hope for healing, hope for happiness.
If there was one thing I could say about this weekend, I would repeat what I told a friend earlier when he said it sounded like I had a great weekend….”It was fantastic. I loved it. I love everything about my recovery and those conferences remind me how far I’ve come and how much better I am today.”
Until next time…