Step One

Step One: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

My primary reason for this post is to explain what Step One means to me. The first thing that comes to mind is the act of not only admitting powerlessness, but surrender. To truly surrender to God, I think I should lay a foundation of what surrender means. To cease resistance to God’s will and submit to His authority is what I want to put my focus on. Some say you only surrender to an opponent or enemy, but I prefer to declare that I am yielding to the power of God willingly and not just because I may be under duress of some kind at the moment. God is always on my side. He does not approve of my sin, but He always loves me.

As I begin my recovery process I had to admit that I had a problem with gambling. But the problem is not only gambling. I have an addictive personality when it comes to a lot of things. I believe that I have already shared in previous posts that I have had several years of clean time from the abuse of alcohol and prescription medications, so I probably do not need to explain that all again—at least not at length. I have confessed or admitted, though with reluctance—as my behavior in recent the recent week has shown—that I am powerless over more than mood altering substances. I have repeatedly proven that I cannot manage or control my use of those substances, food, or my behavior at a casino. When I try to take control of anything I seem to make a mess of it. At least those things lately have looked like a mess to me.

In my search for relief from pain—whether physical or emotional—I have tried a lot of things that I said that I would never use. Medication came first as a pre-teen/adolescent, I had to have surgery at a vulnerable time. I was insecure about many parts of myself, as any teenager would be, but I was also not equipped to handle the physical, mental, and sexual abuse I had to live under. I found the medicine dulled that pain. When I no longer had that medication I felt even worse about everything. Within months I was abusing diet pills. And within a year tried to commit suicide for the first time. My immature brain didn’t know that aspirin and wine in small doses would not do the trick. No one even noticed and I did not feel any better.

Man, I did not know that was going to hurt so much. I do not mean then; which it did. I mean right now. Talk about raw. Maybe it is not the past that is bothering me as much as the present crud I have put myself under and it is just magnifying it all.

I must press on to the meat of Step One. How my life has been affected by my gambling and addictive behavior. For the majority of my life, I believed that gambling was wrong. I do not know why things changed when they did. Maybe I was just at a point in my life where I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. Possibly I was vulnerable to suggestion that I had been wrong in my previous understanding. Or maybe I simply found it to give me happiness that I had not felt in a long time. It became a reward for working hard.

Things started out innocent enough. Going to play bingo and following it with a bingo slot game. It was when it no longer felt like enough to play bingo that things began to get out of control. I did not have money. At least not to waste. I was a student for two years. An unemployed student for that entire time. But when I realized I could take what little I had and multiply it at the casino I was off and running. The problem is that you lose more often than not. I kept going back anyway. There were so many times that I only had $5 or $10 and be worrying about whether I could buy shampoo or makeup and would go to the casino and lose it. I was just blessed that most, if not all of my needs were already met.

Once I started working I was too tired to go for a little while, but that break did not last long. I started out trying to be responsible with my money. Paying my rent. Tithing. Buying cat food. Doing all of these things without depending on someone else was a great feeling. But something was missing. I began to chase something that I only seemed to find by going to the casino. (Explaining what I was chasing will have to come later.) My focus right now is, again, how the gambling has affected my life.

I spent way too many nights playing games. Time I can never get back. This was time I could have made arrangements to spend with my family. Instead they have felt like I was distancing myself. I am sorry is not going to cover it. Missing my grandson knowing who I am because I was always too drained to make time to see him. Drained because I went straight from work to the casino and only getting home until late the next morning.

My work suffered because of those nights as well. I could not remember what I was doing half the time. I do have problems sleeping even when I am not spending all my free time at a casino. People were always having to repeat themselves because I was so tired I could not concentrate.

Between only drinking Cokes for six hours straight and the adrenaline dumping into my system, my stomach seemed to be eating itself from the inside out. Of course causing immediate need for a bathroom when I was supposed to wait for break times for those things. Nauseating is it not?

Most of my consequences came financially. I, because of reasons totally unrelated to my gambling, have to depend on public transportation—that requires money. Money that I started losing all of. I would find myself the day after payday without the money necessary to use the trolley or get a taxi. I had pretty much stopped going everywhere except work. The constant worry about how to get to and from work was horrible. If it were not for my roommate and a few extremely nice co-workers, I would have probably lost my job by now. I live three miles from my place of employment. And have never been able to walk that far.

I could go a few weeks and a few times it was even a month free from the casino, but I always let myself be talked into going again. When I say talked into I really do not mean anyone else really had any say in the matter. I talked myself into it. I wanted fun and another means to get the things that I wanted. It was about lying to myself and convincing myself and others that it would be different this next time. But it never happened that way. I am honest when I say that I did not bet a lot of money. No thousands of dollars or losing my house. I bet more than I could afford— always. And that is too much.

That is why I am powerless over gambling. I may not seem like much, but spending this last year on a roller-coaster of emotions and dependency has probably lost me more than money. No one can draw closer to God when they cannot face themselves. I did not trust God to provide for me. That pain and shame is reason enough to change. I cannot manage that change on my own.