Guest Blog by Mitchell Symons: on willpower, gambling and commitment to recovery
“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning - ”Sir Winston Churchill
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OK, so Winnie was talking about Montgomery’s victory at Alamein in World War 2 but he could just as easily have been talking about Gamban.
There will be many people who have downloaded Gamban and thought “I’ve done it: I’ve finally removed gambling from my life!”
If only it were that simple.
Unless you discover – and address – the reason for your addiction, it will always acquire willpower to keep it at bay. And that requires eternal vigilance. Which is why you hear alcoholics who are 20 or 30 years ‘clean’ still refer to themselves as alcoholics rather than as ‘former alcoholics’ as you’d think they would eventually be able to call themselves.
Allow me to ‘fess up a secret. I was gambling way too much on my desktop computer. Poker every evening and slots when the poker tournaments were taking a break. So I installed Gamban and it was brilliant: a real gamechanger (literally).
At the same time, I found myself increasingly disinclined to go into (high street) bookies or casinos: if I was (effectively) banning myself from my favourite form of gambling, why would I want to ruin it all by chucking away the money I was saving on fruit machines with fewer choices and lower payouts? It would be like having hypnosis to stop me eating my favourite chocolate (Lindt’s 70% dark since you ask) and then scoffing bars of Bournville
This virtuous circle…
…continued until July of last year when I had a brain haemorrhage and nearly died.
While recovering, I ‘discovered’ that I could play slots on my iPhone and also on my iPad. So I did.
If I wanted to, I could blame this lapse on the fact that my frontal cortex had filled with blood and thus removed my inhibitions.
It’s true: that’s what happened but was it the cause of my gambling?
Or was it merely the occasion?
If I’m honest, I think it was the latter.
I had been looking for a reason, a pretext, to gamble again and this terrible event provided me with it.
Yes, I was bored (and uninhibited) but there were plenty of positive, life-affirming things I could have done instead of gambling. I was like someone who’d given up smoking who suddenly lost a loved one and therefore had an excuse to start again.
The trick I had found with smoking was to go from being a smoker to becoming a non-smoker (who wouldn’t want to smoke in any circumstances) rather than an ex-smoker who felt as if was depriving himself of his pleasure and so would take advantage of anything that justified returning to it.
It turned out that my return to online gambling wasn’t enough: I started going to the bookie’s too. For six months (until I eventually saw the error of my ways and decided to stop), I would go to the bookie’s pretty well every day and spend thirty or so minutes playing the wretched FOBTs.
I did quite well, funnily enough, winning more than I lost but I found that my FOBT-use cross-fed my online addiction to the point where I was gambling more than was good for my bank balance or for me.
So I’m trying to wean myself off online gambling again.
Gamban is an incredibly useful tool in this process but it’s only as good as I choose to make it.
There are – and there will be until we get the legislation that many of us believe we need to protect us from ourselves and the rapacious gambling industry – always devices to gamble on and new temptations to withstand.
I do my best and I know that constant vigilance is the only sure protection.
But I’m a work in progress, not the final article.
The key thing, I have learned, is not to treat every lapse as though it’s the end and that, if one’s going to give in then one might as well go the whole hog and splurge until all bank accounts and reservoirs of self-respect are drained.