Dreaming

Gracee

Well, I really love my Gracee, but this typing with one hand is for the birds. I am going to have to disappoint her to get anything important accomplished. Just letting the world know that I am still alive and kicking.  I am going to try to balance her on my chest to use both hands. Hopefully the soothing purrs continue. I really needed her comfort this afternoon. Work was difficult yesterday, but I made it through and learned a lot in the process. It just took me all day to learn how to do it.  I am glad that Gracee is comfortable because she is going to be going to the vet in the coming weeks. Finally, a real check-up. I have to get her ready for our big move in another few weeks. The excitement is getting to me, but I have not been able to get very much packed and ready.

I really do not know if I want to dig into my patterns of addictive behavior at the moment. Suffice it to say, I have learned my lesson and none too soon. I messed up being so selfish and wasn’t taking very good care of myself either. Long nights without sleep whether you are winning at a casino or not, are not fun. I have been lethargic enough. Staying up all night just made it worse. I am glad that life is really behind me. Will I ever go to a casino resort? Maybe? Right now the though makes me sick. There have got to be other hotels without casinos, just as there are other ways to have fun and celebrate life.

I will be spending my time dreaming about my new home and new start.

Breakthrough?

I need a breakthrough. I have been afraid to write for so long that it hurts to even try. I am and have been a mess. At least a mess for so long that I could not even remember without checking when my last post was written. I really want to try again. It is almost like I am forgetting who I am. Or what I can do. Again? Again. I have been so embarrassed of my work to date that I have not only not written anything, but I have been afraid of anyone finding out I have an MFA in creative writing. I am ashamed of myself. Ashamed of my work. Ashamed of myself period. I still have hope some of the time that things can change, but I feel like my past is simply there to taunt me. Taunt me and embarrass my family.

I just cannot seem to focus on anything important except getting and staying at work. Like right now for instance. I am so afraid of the silence that I refuse to turn off the TV. And because I have the television running in the background, I keep getting distracted by movies that I have seen over a hundred times. What is wrong with me? I for sure do not know. At least not at the moment. I wanted to write something profound, but I seem to only be writing nonsense. Maybe I’ll come back in a few days or next weekend. I really am sorry everyone.

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.

Acknowledgement First

Since the writing of my last post, I have gone to the casino several times. So many times that I do not remember. Four or five. I lost another $15. So by day four I had lost $35 total. That is not to say that I was not ahead for a while though. I had a lot of fun, but the regret for staying too long and not being ahead when I left has eaten my lunch. Literally. I got physically sick when the adrenaline rush was gone. All my back pain was intensified. I tried to talk to my roommate, but we could not talk at length because she had to leave for work. She is really helping me in a lot of ways. I feel like I disrespect her when I lose money instead of bless her. I sought my own more than I sought to be a blessing.

But things did not stop there. On the night that my paycheck hit my card I asked for a loan. Got it went to the casino with the intention to stop when that loan was gone and give the money back when the money actually hit the card. Problem with that is that the money did not last very long and never multiplied. Once the check was in the account I withdrew my rent, the loan, and a little more. Hoping to save on withdrawal fees, right? I paid her back. Paid my rent. And tried not to spend anymore. For all of 30 minutes. I think my pouting was just too much and I dipped into the extra cash. A person with a gambling problem should never have access to extra cash. By the end of the night I had lost $100. I went over 24 hours without sleep and have been sick ever since.

Today’s society focuses on number one. Saying things like, “If you do not look out for yourself first, no one else will.” I wanted to enjoy something in my life. I just knew that if I did not “treat” myself to this “fun” then no one would. Talk about stinkin’ thinkin’. I pushed out every thought of how my actions would or could affect anyone else. My roommate and I had been planning a trip to St. Louis forever, but I had not saved up one cent for the trip. I was banking on her paying first and my paying her back. That was such an example of selfishness. I ruined the possibility of going on that trip with my addiction to whatever it was that gambling was giving me. I was just seeking my own. Very much against the Word of God taught in 1 Corinthians 13.

My problem seems to have a measure of distrust behind it all. I was not trusting in God’s provision or God’s ability to bring me more joy than winning brings. Trust. Trust. Trust. I am not trusting God when I am filled with anxiety all the time. I am so glad that even though I have taken into account the wrongs suffered by the hands of others, God does not do that with us. I was rejoicing in unrighteousness really. I was trying to glorify the casino behavior to fit my own desires. I did not mean to hurt my roommate or anyone else along the way. I could have done a lot of things differently. But I have a Father God that forgave me before I did it. Yes, I asked for forgiveness for the gambling and spoke to my roommate about how sorry I was for the way I treated her during this time. I feel that it may be necessary to continue to seek deeper reconciliation with everyone including God as I come to a better level of understanding of what I have been doing.

Looking at the Truth of It

In my last blog post I said that I was not wanting my readers think that I am trying to call everyone that goes to a casino or buys a lottery ticket a sinner. I do believe that I am still a sinner in need of a Savior. I did say that it was a sin for me. I said that I could not go because I have problems with self-control. The problem that I am having today is that I went. I have had several conversations with myself ever since. I only spent $20. That was good. I could only afford that much. It did not seem difficult to stop or only spend a limited amount and not hurt the budget. So I can use self-control, if I want to. It just seems like a form of entertainment that does not require any effort. A little planning, but no effort really. Maybe I should just be looking at things from the standpoint of stewardship.

It was exciting to watch the amount I could win go up and down. The bells and whistles were fun to hear as well. The real quandary is that I cannot stop thinking about what everyone else thinks about my going. What is my life showing? What kind of witness am I giving? I had fun—plain and simple. Is that wrong? I was not confused about whether I was sinning at the time, but a group of my friends believe that it is a sin. I do not want to confuse someone else about their actions by their seeing mine. I do not want to be a selfish person and all of this gambling and introspection seems to be putting all the focus on me and what other people think of me. ???

I really hate it when I am at a point where I feel any measure of confusion or any feeling like it. To be confused is to have a lack of understanding. That does not sound like a sin in itself. It just means that I need to take the time to ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and maybe spend a little more time in the Word.

***

On another note, my study of 1 Corinthians 13 is continuing to the section that covers love does not brag; does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, does not take into account a wrong suffered; and does not rejoice in unrighteousness. These phrases cover a lot of ground. It may me a few posts to cover everything I think I should. Oh, there I go again. Always worrying about what other people think. The only opinion that counts is that of my Heavenly Father, the Holy Spirit, and my Big Brother Jesus. I guess the best way to start would be with some sort of a basic foundation. Maybe putting the phrases in context with the chapter??

1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

I do not think that I have a problem with bragging except to say that I need to learn not to boast when I have done something good. Take for example going out of your way to give a special gift expecting nothing in return, but telling everyone about it. That is bragging. You may not tell everyone, but just telling one person is still pride. Matthew 6:1 says it best: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” The way you say something can pack quite a punch. Being clever or superior in your speech can be just as arrogant and therefore appear big-headed as well. Put that way, I cannot believe that I would have done something like that. But I have. Now that I know I am responsible. James 4:17 says, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” I am so glad that I have a Savior that forgives me.

Does not act unbecomingly. Do I? If you are human, you are going to act unbecomingly once in a while whether you are doing it on purpose or by accident. I am always worrying that I may do something incorrectly, but that is not what this Word is talking about. Because of my fear I almost never say something indelicately. Fear of hurting someone’s feelings and fear of hurting God’s reputation. That probably sounds silly, but when you worry too much, you can worry about just about anything. God does not worry about His reputation. He is the Great I AM. That is enough. Acting inappropriately means to act in a way that is not proper for the circumstances you are in. This could be anything from not spitting in someone’s face to not stealing supplies from your employer.

While I am on this subject, I am thinking about how much I wanted to go back to the casino yesterday. The thought is not unbecoming, but waking my roommate up to take me would have been. The question in my mind is that is it unbecoming to go to the casino any more than it is unbecoming for a Christian to go to a bar? I am pretty sure the answer is yes unless you are Jesus. He could be around sinners and not sin. Is it unbecoming to get a tattoo even if you want it to signify your relationship with Christ? Doing something that causes another to stumble can be just about anything. I think it has to do with the intent of the heart. I have not gone to the casino with the intent of sinning or hurting anyone. I do end up hurting myself. A lot of the time.

I guess I do not want to give up the only thing I do that is fun. It does not hurt me physically like just about everything else. I can sit and do not have to think. Of course that is part of the problem with me. I get excited when I win and think that I will win again, so I risk the money I have won for money that I might win. And more often than not I lose what I thought was a blessing because of it. I think there is a relationship between gambling and acting unbecoming on some level—for me at least. I think I am getting off the subject of behaving unbecomingly with all the talk of the casino. The King James Version says it this way: “does not behave rudely.” That goes more along the lines of the spitting in someone’s face that I was talking about earlier.

Am I to go deeper? Maybe not this time. It has been a difficult day and I have only a few hours to prepare for my interview tomorrow. Time to go I think.

 

Blessed to be a Blessing

I did not spend enough time writing today. I did complete a lot of much needed housecleaning to prepare for a week of overtime. It is amazing how much can be accomplished in a little bit of time. Even though I needed to keep my space in order, I was also able to help a friend organize and decorate her war room. Do you know what a war room is? When you go to Google a description of the movie “War Room” comes up. It explains it best. A war room is a place you go to do battle “on your knees” in prayer.

Matthew 6:5-6 says:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.

So, essentially, a war room is a room specifically designated for spiritual enrichment and prayer. We not only read our Bible’s in it, but lift up the needs of those on our prayer list. Many people make it an electronics free zone, but if your Bible is on your phone or laptop it is okay. We love to tape scriptures and prayer strategies in front of our eyes. Making our own bulletin boards and treasure/prayer maps.

The New American Standard Bible reads Zechariah 8:13 as saying:

It will come about that just as you were a curse among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so I will save you that you may become a blessing. Do not fear; let your hands be strong.

The Lord wants me blessed so that I might be a blessing. This is a great place to start. Blessed and strong in the Lord. Not afraid to step forward and be counted as a believer in Jesus Christ. When you find yourself searching for something and you feel lost, just ask the Holy Spirit for help. God only wants good things for us. He doesn’t want us feeling lost. He is not the author of confusion either. I know that the Holy Spirit has the answer. I also know that if I lack wisdom in any situation that I can ask the Lord and He will give me what I need to know to make it through the situation. This time it came from an excerpt from a Joel Olsteen sermon.

Admitting is the First Step

4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 [b]bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery in any addiction. You would be right to say that arrogance is not an addiction, but it is one of my glaring character defects. I may not always work the 12 steps in order, sorry. My sponsor will just be happy I am working on any. I am admitting that I have been arrogant. Though I do not believe it was intentional in the past, I must take responsibility for it now. I have always taken pride in the fact that I take the high road in an argument. Always trying to be the better man. Turning the other cheek and all that. But honesty calls me to look back and realize I was the one that gathered ammunition for future quarrels–in the hopes that I might one day win an argument. It was not right for me to refuse to submit to the authority of say a pastor when he suggested I let a situation alone at the same time. Believing that I was the one doing the right thing leads me to standing puffed up without even trying. That is when I imagine that others started to see the arrogance before I did.

Love is not easily angered and is not provoked?? Are they the same thing? I have been studying that at more length this week and, to tell you the truth, I want to just say that the head injury and overdoses have screwed up my brain too much to understand it all. But, the truth is, I have a problem with anger. I hold it in until I am ready to implode. I never explode on anyone. Even people that so-called deserve or need to hear it. I think this is one place that arrogance seeds were planted.

Arrogance and pride come in many forms. Every day we make choices to put our thoughts and needs above someone else’s we are walking in them. I have had an air of superiority. I wish I could go back and apologize or make it up to family, friend, and stranger. I do know that living out 1 Corinthians 13 will allow me to make the amends to all of them. I will have the opportunity to make amends to those closest to me, in person. I am glad of that. My pride in my own ability to always do the right thing has to die on the Cross today.

Love and Focus

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Felt like going through some thoughts of 1Corinthians 13:4-7. Because I am using the Message Bible things will look a little different than other translations might. I will probably skip a few parts of some verses, right now, to just stick to how these verses apply to the journey to addiction to gambling recovery. “Love never gives up.” I try to live by these words: never give up and never surrender. I am not sure that this verse is talking about the same thing as I am when I think about not giving up all the time, but I am not going to give up my decision to stop going to the casino. I want to spend my time learning how to care more for others than for self. When I gamble my wish is to win more money than others win. I start by thinking how desperately I need it, but get jealous when the people next to me win when I am losing. “Love does not envy.” “Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.” These verses cover that action and the thoughts that proceed them. My life should not always be about “me first.”

I want to be the person that “doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,” but “takes pleasure in the flowering of truth.” I think I already know how to put up with anything, but I do not think that is what Paul was talking about when he wrote 1 Corinthians 13: 7 and said that love “is not easily angered.” I have been a doormat. That is not the same thing. Maybe that is where some of the emotions come from that make me seek out the excitement of going to the casino. But that is not me “looking for the best” in God. He is a good God and I believe His Word when it says so. I am going to “trust God always!” I want to “never look back.” I will “keep going to the end.”

Maybe looking at these scriptures in this way is selfish. But that was not my intent. I am just trying to find my way to use the Word of God to help me become free from addiction to anything, but Jesus. That is the way I handled things when I did not drink like an alcoholic or take prescriptions like an addict or gamble in a casino. I was addicted to Jesus. I viewed everything through the eyes of a daughter of God. It was when I got to a point in my young adult life where I did not know how to cope with peer pressure and loneliness that I let my immaturity lead me to drink like a fish. I hid it well. I was not trying to live a dishonest or hypocritical life. I just did not know how to handle life. In many ways I am still learning how to be a mature adult.

Things are getting a little more intense than I thought they would. When that happens I start to shut down to avoid the anxiety attack. I know that I need to dig deep to get better. I am scared. Who would not be? No matter the reason or the means. Losing my money or becoming dependent on others. Going to meetings or studying the Bible. I am trying to get back to the rhythm I had going when I started writing “I’m Here.” Maybe I am not supposed to rewrite it or even repeat its popularity. The point is to be honest that I am a mess and only God can fix this mess. If I never publish a word, the important thing has to be recovery and a closer relationship with God.

I may be wrong to put a focus on my not going to the casino on 1 Corinthians 8 and the mandate to not do something that will cause others to stumble. But it is important to me to not hurt others. If the only way I can help others is to not do something that will lead them on a path away from God, then I will work on just that. I know that I should find other ways to serve others. I will be able to do them better if I am not stressing about my lack of finances or feeling sick from my loss of sleep.

I will not be basing everything on whether my actions will cause others to become addicted. The disease of addiction may be caused by being the adult-child of an alcoholic or the desire to just feel good in your own skin. Jesus can fill in all these areas. That is where my focus is going to be. Jesus. I may not be able to write every post about addiction or recovery, but I do know that I can write from my life experience and what I am studying about in the Word of God.

 

The Search for a Sound Mind

It feels good to know that I have not allowed disobedience and carelessness to make me ineffective in my purpose as a Christian by not going gambling. Gambling is a sin for me. It is a tough pill to swallow, but for me it is true. I completely understand that fact. I do not want others to feel condemned because of my choice of words. I do wish that my decision might free someone else from their addiction. Restraining myself when faced with the decision to obey the prompting of the Holy Spirit is only part of my responsibility to be free of addiction. Whether it is addiction to alcohol or to going to the casino. The Word says that I do not have a spirit of fear or timidity, but of love, power, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7.) I can enjoy a sound mind when I refuse the invitation to go gambling.

I am still afraid for the world to see what I am reflecting in the rest of my life. Does that make any sense to anyone else. Time has gotten away from me again. I will try to come back on my lunch break or something.

Condemnation

I was looking for something about selfishness and gambling and had a few problems. The way that I act is not supposed to define my identity in Christ, but how do you recognize the sin and not wallow in condemnation? The disease of addiction has many selfish characteristics. I look back on the havoc I keep creating shatters any hope for mercy or grace. The hope that I had earlier today is shaking. All I feel is scolded. Not by God, but by life. I feel like I am always doing something that someone else does not like. I know in my heart that I am not doing it on purpose. No wonder I try to drown the feelings with something. Now is just not a good time to go into all of this stuff, but at least you know some of what has been going on in my head when I am not busy working.

Condemnation is the expression of very strong disapproval. To walk around constantly feeling it is contradictory for a christian. Romans says that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” I know that I am a recovering addict (drugs, alcohol, gambling, overeating.) I take responsibility for that. I admit my powerlessness. That I have not managed my life like a forgiven child of God. I have been constantly trying. I feel like I have been trying all my life, but always failing. I guess as long as I start the conversation about my sinful nature, I am starting in the right place. I hate the sins that I have committed.

I also know that Christ offers His forgiveness. I am going to show how thankful I am to be set free from those sins. This will not be about what I can do, but what I will have the ability to do through His deliverance.

Between dealing with these emotions and computer problems I am going to have to go, sorry to disappoint today.