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I’ve had a moment of clarity which I need to write about before I move onto the next phase of my life.
Very recently I found myself trawling through websites and forums on any latest news regarding all things gambling and realised that I was still getting myself more and more immersed in this subject. It’s only now I stopped to realise that I’m roughly one month away from the end of my 365 days. I’ve got myself so hung up on my passion for change that I didn’t realise it was starting to affect me negatively again. My thinking, wherever I am or whatever I’m doing, is starting to be taken over by the subject. And it has started to affect me so much that I need to act now one way or the other.
Most recently I spent some time out in Spain and instead of working out my next move workwise, and maybe even a different career, I was planning the next development of my site and who I wanted to meet next on the campaign front. I’ve just realised that was completely wrong.
I also have the renewal fees due for my site in June and to be honest I just can’t afford it at the moment. One thing I will say in my defence is people sometimes forget you are funding this out of your own pocket, and my pockets aren’t very deep!
So here are my conclusions.
The ‘Gambling World’ a year on
Addicted to Recovery?
My addiction will live with me forever and I’ve learnt so much this last 365 days that I feel more equipped than ever to continue to manage it successfully. But being so vocal about the need for change was never my intention and getting completely immersed in the subject wasn’t either. In fact I have the GRASP forum to thank for making me realise that recovery comes first, not getting carried away with ego trips that only serve to divert the attention of my addiction away and dare I say it, get addicted to recovery.
I am holding my hands up and acknowledging that I got so swept away with this site etc that I then thought I could contribute to making a difference. I read some of my diary back for the first time in ages last week and I was slightly taken aback by how carried away I was getting.
Who the hell am I to think that I could change things or I could help people. There are people who are expertly qualified in treatment of this addiction, not me.
There are numerous campaigns, charities and not for profit organisations dedicating their time to the subject, some of whom I’ve met, and I take my hat off to all of them. They are far more knowledgeable about the subject, not me.
Not only do they passionately want to see things change but moreover they are committing nearly all of their time to the subject. I just couldn’t do that and I’ve just realised it.
Last week is a perfect example. On Tuesday I’d arranged to meet up in London with Matt from the Campaign For Fairer Gambling and James Petherick who is the guy who posts YouTube videos in Diary of a Compulsive Gambler. It was a pleasure to meet them both and generally a really good day. We spoke of many far ranging issues/ideas about all things gambling and it was another interesting eye opener.
During this week James also released further episodes, parts 154 and 155 I think, and this prompted an interesting debate on the GRASP forum. These episodes focused on, and showed, a lengthy gambling episode resulting in a huge win. I got myself far too involved in this and have since deleted my posts. Watching the latest uploads I viewed of James also left me itching to go out and gamble again. You can probably guess what the forum debate was about and I’m just not getting involved in it further.
My point is I found myself questioning why am I even getting so involved in the first place? I’m tired of it and it’s starting to affect my mood again. I can’t keep putting myself through so many gambling related activities. It scared the shit out of me watching James’ videos and it wasn’t until a friend said to me ‘Why are you watching it then?’ that it hit me. It was like the moment I’d described previously on here where one guy said at a CNWL meeting ‘It’s time to admit defeat and move on’.
Both really simplistically constructed sentences of a few words that have maximum impact.
With great respect to James I do not need to be putting myself through watching lengthy gambling episodes.
I got swept away with my utopia thinking the majority (lobbyists, campaigners, gambling addicts etc) could perhaps work together in collaborating in driving forward some real change. Particularly when it comes to FOBT’s and advertising. There are however so many different opinions on some very complex aspects of the debate that the reality is that it’s miles away. Having listened to and studied some of these different organisations, or individuals, some of the ill feeling runs quite deep and it’s deflecting attention away from the heart of the matter. I would also observe that the motives of a minority are sometimes questionable to say the least.
Don’t get me wrong, that’s not to say that it can’t be overcome. Absolutely it can be overcome, but it needs patience and dedication for the cause. Something I thought I had an everlasting supply of whilst getting carried away with my recovery. I still believe I do but to what cost?
The cost of potentially slipping up after being tempted one time too many by viewing something gambling related?
Look, these are just a few observations and like I said previously, what do I know? I do think it needs some to concede a little ground on their strong opinions for the greater good. Maybe some mutual ground to provide the basis for moving forward? One thing I DO know is I have huge admiration for those that will undoubtedly continue to fight for the cause.
I came out and went public to beat my addiction and the irony of it all is I was becoming addicted to my recovery.
My Request for people to come forward and Anonymity
My one word opinion first, then an expansion.
– Looking back, if I was pushed for a yes or a no only, should I have remained anonymous and not gone public with my addiction?
– Looking back, if I was pushed for a yes or no only, would I recommend people waive anonymity and come forward?
The first one’s quite simple. I set out to beat my addiction with a website that publicly declared all my finances and diarised as much as I could so that it could be regularly verified by those close to me.
To that end the site has been a life saver. So the answer to the first question is simple. There is no doubt whatsoever that if I hadn’t started this site I wouldn’t be in such a good place today.
The second question is not so straightforward and I urge anyone thinking of speaking out to seriously consider the implications of doing so. Again I have the GRASP forum to thank for helping me better understand how important anonymity is to people. So, strip some of the negatives I’m about to list below, and this site has definitely helped me become a better individual and address my addiction in ways I never thought possible.
There’s a huge amount to consider here, not least peoples’ perception of you. My skin still crawls at that, I really didn’t like that side of it I have to admit. But at the time I really wanted the subject to get some serious airplay. A year in this ‘gambling world’ is a long time and early 2013 I think it was far less accepted as the issue people now have more of an understanding of, FOBT’s in particular. It was because of the lack of people coming forward that it helped the industry defend itself with the nonchalant stance of ‘There really isn’t a huge issue here’. It is also down to the lack of numbers coming forward that you do not actually grasp how a big a problem this actually is.
Take yourself back to the first page of the site when I was desperately looking for something to pin my last hopes on and this was my vehicle I was to use to beat my addiction. I have come such a long way in terms of managing my addiction and I understand my weaknesses far better now than when I set out. Everything – from the CNWL treatment early 2013 to the tips that people have included in their stories only the other week. All of this has contributed to me being able to hold my head a little higher, look myself in the mirror without the distain and lack of self-esteem I did a year previously.
I was wrong to ask for people to come forward with their story for my site. I will defend myself to a degree but ultimately I acknowledge that.
The case for my defence – I thought I could use the fact that I do have a small audience to help others who suffer from the same addiction as me. They could surmise their story in their own words, and include one tip that helped them overcome their addiction. Hopefully then anyone who, may come across my site can take something away that could help them. I also made a point of asking people once and never forcing the issue in any way.
Fast forward to the thread on the GRASP forum I allude to above and I just found it difficult to accept someone’s criticism of James Petherick as he at least he had the courage to speak publicly about his addiction. Of course everyone has a right to an opinion but hang on, there’s a hell of a lot more than meets the eye about speaking out. Huge amounts more. Not least you are putting yourself at risk in your own recovery if you start to attract more attention.
A post by DaftDave on the forum summed it up perfectly:
“Say something good and I’d get puffed up by my own ego, say something bad and I’d be in bits!”
I’m guilty on both counts. And crikey, you have to be made of stern stuff sometimes as you know damned well everyone likes a good gossip. The hardest one for me to overcome has always been relating to my boys. What the parents must be thinking when you pick them up from school or football practice.
I’d beat myself up on several occasions thinking my boys may have viewed me negatively and how this whole episode of my life depicts me.
It was then put to me, again on the forum, that someone may have sensed a degree of frustration that far fewer people had actually come forward than I had expected. This was never my intention but I was getting a little carried away with a defence of James that my judgement was a little clouded. And in any case, why the hell am I getting so bloody involved!? It was quite rightly pointed out that just because James has come forward that doesn’t make him exempt from criticism which, in this specific case, many thought was justified..
So my conclusion, for what it’s worth, is to advise anyone to think very carefully about coming forward and speaking with the media. There is a post on the GRASP forum from Eugene that captures how important it is to tread carefully:
I feel personally, that the key to making any public contribution, is to have some good clean time under your belt first and have done something to gain a real insight into your addiction. This could be fairly quick, but is more likely to take a good while. I think it neutralizes the possible ego problem to an extent. I do think though that a great deal depends on how you approach the media. For sure though, they have their agenda and if you answer different questions or push a different angle they drop your contribution sharpish.
Wise words Eugene.
I am not saying don’t come forward, just be conscious of all the things (good and bad) that may come with it.
Fast forward a few months when my site has over 15,000 visitors and sure I cannot deny that ego does then play a part. I started to really want to help influence change in vital areas, but it takes a hell of a lot of time and dedication. At first I was prepared for that but hang on, I only stopped gambling last year!! I was becoming slightly impatient and I thank the members of the GRASP forum for helping me to realise that before it was too late.
I called this site beating my addiction and I think in hindsight that wasn’t a bad name for it. Truth be told I don’t think you ever beat the addiction, what you do is learn how to manage it to the best of your ability.
You are not having an operation to take a tumour out and hope that it leaves you never to return. God, if it was only so simple.
It never leaves you. Only this weekend the FA Cup Final ended 2-2 after 90 minutes and regular readers will know that’s my favourite score to back because the odds are around 14/1, making a nice tidy profit. This time last year I’d have been gutted if I hadn’t backed that. I can’t lie, it still irks me a little but I just shrug it off knowing full well that there are hundreds of examples where I would have been completely wrong.
You still battle everyday with it because temptation is everywhere; the endless stream of advertising on all forms of media confronts you on a regular basis. That is why I started to get so involved because it’s just unnecessary and there are so many examples where the most vulnerable are maliciously targeted by it. I remember one case where one bookmaker had an advert on a children’s TV channel at 9am in the morning! Thankfully the Advertising Standards Authority upheld this complaint but still they only got the equivalent of a smack on the wrist.
So you do learn how best to deal with your addiction and that’s why I wrote those Ten Tips because that’s what helped get me through. The urges, the cravings. The fucking love for it. I still love it, always will. But I have learnt to cope with that. I’m so much better equipped than last year and now as I write I can feel the ‘tone’ of this blog lifting because I’m in such a better place. The things I’ve learnt on this little journey of mine will live with me forever.
This exact time last year was the weekend I wrote about on the Introduction page of my site, when I had Rock the Moor tickets and I couldn’t go as I had blown the insurance money. It suddenly hit me ‘Wow, that was a very nearly a year ago’!
A year ago I was in a very dark place but my future now is bright. It’s wonderful in fact. Sure I had a small relapse, one that I’m very deliberately not writing about because there’s too much talk of relapsing at this present moment. It was some time ago now and I managed it. In a perverse way I’m glad it happened as it’s taught me never to be complacent again. And ultimately it’s lead me to the decision I’m now writing about in that I just don’t want my life to be consumed by all things gambling. I don’t want it to define who I am.
Take Twitter for example. My name on there isn’t Roger Radler, its 365 Stop Gambling. My boy asked me if I was on Twitter the other day and I had to steer him away from the subject. So that name is going to change, I assume you can change it? I’ve not really embraced the whole social media thing and I rarely tweet but I’ve grown to actually quite like it in an odd way. Anyway, that’s on my long list of things to do…change the name so I can show I’m on there to my son.
I now regularly attend GA meetings every Tuesday and that just keeps me aware of my weaknesses and I will continue with it. It’s a really good group and I’m proud to be a part of it. Like I’ve said previously, find something that works for you and that’s a small piece of the overall jigsaw that keeps me on the straight and narrow.
As the tone of this piece lifts lets chuck a few random sound bites in here:
- Gerrie Nel – Anyone recognise that name? He’s the prosecutor in the Oscar Pistorius trial, affectionately known as the Rottweiler! What a legend. One of my quotes of the year has to be when Oscar was once again a quivering wreck. Instead of giving him time to compose himself Gerrie Nel went for the kill and delivered, in his fantastic accent, a completely unsympathetic..
“Why are you crying now? You shot your girlfriend, when are you going to take responsibility for that?”
- Also a quick shout out to Michael Jackson. Another topic which invites so many different opinions and interesting debate. The fact is he’s just released a ‘new’ album and we had a bit of a, slightly inebriated group hug the other day when listening to it. Respect for what he had achieved in the early part of his career before the shit hit the proverbial fan!
- Parachute Jump – I tweeted the other day about organising a charity parachute jump which, in light of me winding the site down, I may put off a little while. My focus is now to get some sort of career back on track but I will come back to it. I’d love to do a docufilm of the day, interviewing jumpers before and after, have a bit of a pisstake and putting a soundtrack to it. Then beers in the evening. What a fantastic day that would be.
In Conclusion and Lessons I’ve Learned
There are many, many people I have to thank for where I am now but I will do so privately by email on my birthday next month. But here’s a quick summary and my general musings of the last year:
- Be aware of the fact that you could get ‘addicted to recovery’. Being aware of it helps you to manage it. I got carried away with it as I’ve written above but I’m very lucky that I took the advice of some very wise people. People who have been there, done it and got the T-shirt. They made me realise it just in the nick of time.
- Make an informed decision about whether you want to go public. Again, I’ve written about it above. It has it’s positives but brings with it a lot of attention. Make sure you’re mentally strong enough to deal with it and, like Eugene said, get some time under your belt before committing to it. Your recovery is the most important factor here.
- Do what’s right for you. The recovery journey is personal. What works for some doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you. Take little bits of all the advice and help you get, be it from professionals or fellow gambling addicts, and start to apply it in your everyday life. Be honest with yourself and those close to you, that’s the most important first step.
- For those further in their recovery, don’t play God. There is danger of people becoming messiah like figures and it’s not healthy for them nor the ongoing debate.
- Respect everyone has a right to an opinion regardless of whether you agree with it or not. There is no right or wrong on your journey of recovery, as I said earlier it’s what works for you that’s important.
- And lastly, let’s remember to try and inject a bit of humour around the subject where appropriate. It’s extremely difficult for what is quite a morose topic I grant you but crikey, do not let it consume you. I was guilty of that at times and it can wear you down. Life is good and can be great again if you allow it. Whether you’re at the start of your journey or 5 years in it’s easy to forget that.
Right, I’m off. If I could put a song to how I feel right now it would have to be The Eels and Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues.
“God damned right, it’s a beautiful day”!
Be lucky and god bless.
This week I haven’t gambled
Ok, quite simply I consider this the most important blog update since the site started 4 months ago.
But let me address the BBC documentary first.
BBC’s Inside Out
Firstly it’s fair to say the BBC Inside Out programme aired last Monday, and due to be aired in the London region tonight (Monday 7th), set me back in the early part of last week.
This was my first media experience and I was shattered by their portrayal of me and how I came across. To use a boxing analogy I was floored to the canvas …but not knocked out. Even my closest friends couldn’t get a word out of me until Thursday last week. Anyone who has read my website knows I have never been one for ‘woe is me’ otherwise I wouldn’t have written so candidly about my story.
I spent a whole day filming and naively thought they might focus on how we were helping people and what we can do to rid the High Street of the wretched FOBT machines. Yet they seemed to focus on my addiction to the machines and what a twat I was!
All understandable but nonetheless it caught me a little unprepared. I’ve learnt that it’s easier to write about my experiences than having a camera and crew filming me which left me unusually nervous and unable to articulate myself as well as I’d like.
I’d like to say a massive thank you to Phil, Eugene and Grant of GRASP for their emails and messages of support and helping me recognise that it’s normal to be nervous and their first experiences were similarly tricky, that we have to view any media attention as a positive and ultimately to let it go.
I also acknowledge that the BBC did put together a piece that highlighted the FOBT issue and got the public talking about it again. Ultimately it’s not their fault I came across like that and we thank them for their time and willingness to get the subject matter some air time.
For the record …I will be more selective as to the pieces I’m asked to do in future and this site is the ONLY place you will find my unedited view/opinions on anything gambling related moving forward.
A presence in front of the camera isn’t, and never has been, important to me.
Roger and Camera = Shite!
As I was told….let it go and learn from it. In fact it’s made more determined to see this through….which leads me nicely to THE most significant change to where I want this site to go in the coming weeks.
I share this with you now as it’s written down and I then have to see it through …and I will.
Since my site went live on June 11th I have learned more about the lack of regulation, about organisations and campaigns, made some good contacts and have quietly (ahem) sat back trying to think outside the box as to the best way we can influence change. One of these ideas will remain private until as and when I may be able to pull it off. But this part I can share now and make an appeal for peoples help to assist me.
I’m not the most patient of people anyway (probably a big contributor to my addiction!) and I get increasingly frustrated at the speed, or lack thereof, which the government fail to take any significant action.
At the last GRASP meeting I stated that whilst we continue to strive to influence change in the excellent way GRASP and other organisations/campaigns do, maybe…and it is a maybe…it would be more ‘powerful’ and louder a voice if we could try to encourage more people to come forward to tell of their, in many cases, horrific story.
If we could get a groundswell of people having the courage to come out and say…yes, this is a massive issue and here’s how it affected me and my mental well-being, my innocent family and loved ones and how often the hardest part isn’t necessarily overcoming the addiction (which is f*****g hard!) but actually rebuilding your life, handling the huge debt, regaining peoples trust and respect, regaining some self-esteem….need I go on!?
I’ve given myself a deadline of end October, or hopefully sooner, to fund (help!) and develop a part of my site to exactly that. Peoples real life experiences and a platform on which they can relate how the addiction has affected them and their lives. I have a ‘bank’ of people who msg me through my site to ask and naturally I feel there are many on here who I pray would be willing to share…’Your Story’.
In an ideal world hopefully people would have the courage to be named but of course it could be done anonymously too. It has to be kept to a maximum 500 words and over time I’d like to think that more and more people would come forward. We could then take this to the powers that be and categorically prove that the Association of British Bookmakers is talking out of its arse stating there isn’t a problem.
Each story would be unedited…your words not mine. And absolutely write about the horrific side…we have to ….but also write one tip at the end of your piece that helped you personally overcome your demons and got/is getting you through the addiction. The one tip is important as it’s unique to you and I’ve learnt that each recovery journey is different. What works for some doesn’t work for others but if we get them all out there people can take what they choose from it.
Of course I will help in any way I can in terms of the writing of the piece and I fully appreciate many may be reluctant to come forward and I totally respect that viewpoint. All I ask is that you don’t make an immediate decision. Take some time to reflect on the benefits to you and others and the prospect that we can all potentially make the people that matter sit up and take heed of the scale of the problem.
365’s Ten Commandments for Gambling Addicts
In addition I will be adding a page on my site that specifically helps gambling addicts. I have learnt so much from my CNWL treatment and maybe I have something to offer in terms of my own experiences, not to mention people I’ve met and who have contacted me through my site.
I will be writing this in partnership with Phil Mawer, the author of the best-selling book ‘Overcoming Gambling’.
Phil has been my self-appointed mentor since Day 1 of the site going live. His advice and guidance throughout this last 4 months has been instrumental in me making it this far into my recovery. His unique approach is an easy read and isn’t cluttered with complicated scientific or physiological theories about what is going on in your mind and body whilst gambling.
Visit www.gamblersaloud.com to learn more.
Between us we will write a powerful, concise pocket-size guide as to the Top 10 Tips that has helped us to overcome our demons in the hope that addicts may take at least one thing away with them which they can work easily into their everyday routine.
My personal blog
Someone emailed me, and my inner circle of friends have also mentioned, that it is frustrating that I haven’t kept up my blog and regular updates.
So I recognise that and I apologise if people feel let down by that.
All I can say is that from this day forward I will keep it up to date and can only hope people understand that it’s not easy to bare your soul and detail how you rebuild your life etc. In fact to be honest, that’s been far harder than the gambling addiction this last few months.
I will start writing from tonight onwards and my next weekly blog update, with weekly cash count etc, will be next Monday 14th October.
That I promise.
Last Tuesday I had my last one-to-one session with my psychologist at CNWL London. As I’ve written countless times before it’s easily the best treatment I’ve had this far and I recommend it highly.
I will now aim to attend a monthly group session with CNWL in London (money permitting) and am fully aware that not attending my regular sessions could set me back. That said I think I’ll be so busy, and skint, this month that again it minimises my opportunities to gamble.
I also will tackle a subject that is for you to make your own judgement on….
On Saturday 5th October I spent £4 on two lines for the National Lottery.
Now, when I attended Gamblers Anonymous meetings a few years ago (and will attend some in October) they were adamant that this is gambling. I can’t say I disagree, technically whatever argument I put forward, it is paying money with the prospect of winning money. Fact.
However, CNWL have a much more empathetic attitude towards it. They tend to focus on the core triggers and problem areas of gambling for each individual. So in my case FOBT’s and online gambling are the main vehicles I used to gamble and fritter away thousands of pounds. I have never over indulged with weekly Lottery tickets or indeed scratchcards. Typically I used to spend only on the Saturday weekly draw a consistent amount of £3 per week. Compare that to the totalizer you see on My Debts page and you might get the point?
But….I accept, with great reluctance, that I cannot write ‘This Week I haven’t gambled’.
Don’t ever say I’m not honest on this site.