Thursday, October 11, 2007

This Is Me

"The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are." - Joseph Campbell

Life has been very busy for everybody and today I use it as an excuse for not writing in my blog. Please accept my apologies.

This past two years I have been on a journey to a destination not yet known to me. My life, my personality, my wishes, my desires, my needs and my judgements have all changed during this period of time. While I continue to make mistakes, I am becoming more adept at catching myself in the process as opposed to the aftermath of saying, doing or not saying or doing something to hurt another human being. My true desire for my life today is an inner peace that will allow me to be "who I am" instead of "who I should be".

After almost a half century of abuse, my belief today is I owe it to myself to be kind to "me". I have abused my own body, mind and soul for far to long, and in doing so I have abused others as well. Because of my own anger, jealousy, self-hatred, revenge and lies, the only thing I could give to other people was more of the same. It is said that no matter what way you squeeze an orange, you will only get orange juice. In the same way, no matter what way you treat an angry person, the eventual response is going to be anger.

Looking back, I can see today that I really never gave "me" a fighting chance and for that I assume full responsibility. Today is my day, this is my hour, this moment is my moment to allow "me" to be the person I was put here to be. No fireworks, no trumpets blaring, just acknowledging that it is ok to be "me". Maybe now I will have something more valuable to give away.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Light Up Your Life

"It doesn't matter how long we may have been stuck in a sense of our limitations. If we go into a darkened room and turn on the light, it doesn't matter if the room has been dark for a day, a week, or ten thousand years - we turn on the light and it is illuminated. Once we control our capacity for love and happiness, the light has been turned on." - Sharon Salzberg

Addictions limit us in so many ways. They stunt our growth as human beings and they halt all progress in our lives. The further my recovery advances, the clearer it is becoming that gambling, drugs, booze and smokes are not the only addictions we have to deal with. For most of us we are addicted to the majority of our daily rituals. Ever notice all those people lining up at Tim's every morning, being late for work doesn't matter, they have to get their fix.

Our spouses, our children, our friends, our fellow workers, everyone has an addiction to something. Okay, so for them they are just innocent habits, try getting them to quit these innocent habits. My addiction has kept me in the dark for at least the past ten years, however my innocent habits have kept me in the dark for the past thirty years. The funny thing is that most of my innocent habits annoy the heck out of other people, yet no one said a word about them. It has been my journey to change my life as it has been for the past fifty years that has gotten my attention. While dealing with each of my character defects, I began noticing how people reacted to me both with and without the defect. The expression on their face or their mannerisms in general told the entire story.

Most of us have lived in the dark for a week, a month or for many years. We harbour resentments, we hold grudges, we envy others, we are hypocritical, we manipulate, we lie, we love without seeing the beauty and we see the beauty without loving it. Our lives are spent on a ferris wheel, going around and around, but never stopping and getting off.

If for just one day, we could turn our entire lives over to love, unconditional love. If for just one day, we could look at each other and not see the past. If for just one day, we could turn on the lights, see our own beauty and see the beauty in others. Every person, young and old, rich and poor, big and small, has their own inner beauty, all we need to do is help them turn on the light.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Is The Fragrance On Your Hand?

"The fragrance always remains on the hand that gives the rose." - Mahatma Gandhi

How come people are talking, but nobody is listening? How come we are surrounded by self-help books, motivational stories and quotes, a daily quota of inspiring e-mails and still nobody is listening? Someone sends us a beautiful poem with a magical lesson, we are so inspired we immediately pass it on to as many people as possible, and within minutes we are cursing and swearing about something that ticked us off. Why aren't we listening?

We are so wrapped up in ourselves, in what we believe to be right and wrong, in our own moral opinions, in our viewpoint on life, that the outside world cannot penetrate our ignorance. We read but don't grasp, we see but don't believe, we care but we don't want to be bothered, we are busy people doing nothing. We allow other people to dictate who we are and we call it stress. We are afraid to love unconditionally in case our love is not returned. We want others to see as we do, hear as we do, talk as we do, and if they don't, we will criticize them, only behind their back of course.

This past week I attended the cemetery mass in my home town and the presiding priest said something that I just cannot get out of my mind. He said "let us now pray for those who have no one left to pray for them". Think about that for a moment, or even a day or two. Each one of us will eventually be one of those people who has "no one left to pray for them". Are you listening? Are your hearing? Read it again, out loud this time, now think about all the stupid things you say and do everyday. Think about all the stupid things you worry about. Think about how you allow other people's actions to dictate your actions. Think about your stress, what causes you stress, and think about why you allow this to happen.

Life is so simple, we complicate it because we believe it shouldn't be this simple. All we need to do is wake up every morning, say thank you for the privilege of another day, do the things that are necessary to sustain our life, and the rest of the day can be spent passing out roses. A smile to a passer-by, a kind word to a stranger, a hug for a friend, a kiss for your child and an "I Love You" for your spouse. Remind yourself to speak of the positive, instead of the negative, look for the good, not the bad, see the stars instead of the clouds, and remember that the sun shines every day. Begin living your life in this way and before long the "fragrance of the rose" will be always on your hands.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Changing Is Always Difficult

"Why do we always press harder on the buttons of the remote control even when we know the batteries are dead." - Unknown

Sound familiar? We press harder because we are either to lazy or to stagnant in what we are doing to find the energy to get off our backside and replace the batteries. Believe it or not, many of us lead our own lives in a very similar manner. It is so much easier to believe that the way we are today is just fine. It is so much easier to believe that it is the other person who has the problem. It is so much easier to look at the other person and carefully define their faults, instead of looking deeper into our own lives and highlighting our individual faults.

As addicts, the only true way to find abstinence and the only true way to maintain your abstinence is to make the necessary, but difficult changes in your life. Lasting change, complete change, is never just cosmetic. It has to alter your entire life. You need to be able to look at yourself and see a totally changed person from the person you knew as the addict. Physically, you need to change what people see. Whatever your trademarks are, you need to lose them. Why would you want to maintain the image or reflection of an addict? Why would you want to constantly keep retelling the stories of your failures in life, when it is so refreshing to tell of the successes in your life.

Emotionally, you need to find your own balance, a place where you are comfortable within your own skin. Emotional balance, for an addict, is the most difficult to achieve. Our emotions always seem to be on a roller coaster, changing sometimes by the minute, thus making it very difficult for the people who are closest to us. For me personally, it is my greatest challenge. Finding an inner peace, that permits me to re-connect with society, usually gets me running in the wrong direction. It has to be extremely difficult for the people in my life to deal with my many emotions, especially when my own imbalance is so affected by these same emotions.

Spiritually, is where we can find the majority of our answers. Most recovering addicts have some type of relationship with their own Higher Power, as they believe it to be. For me, my faith has saved my life. My belief that God will never burden us with something we cannot handle, as well as my belief that anything I cannot handle can be given to my Higher Power, has carried me to where I am today. The "First Step" is admitting that we are powerless over our addiction and that our lives have become unmanageable, and the "Second Step" is coming to believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to a normal way of thinking and living.

Physical, emotional and spiritual change, difficult - yes, possible - yes, rewarding - definitely. Saying you want to change just won't get it done. Admitting that you have a problem and that you need to make some changes just won't get it done. Believing that quitting alone will solve your problems just won't get it done. All you are really doing is pressing harder on the buttons hoping the channel will change. Change will come, rewarding change will come, when you make the commitment to get off your backside and get a new set of batteries.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Your Life

"We generate our own environment. We get exactly what we deserve. How can we resent a life we've created ourselves? Who's to blame, who's to credit but us? Who can change it, anytime we wish, but us?" - Richard Bach

My life has changed dramatically in the past two years. The gambling environment that controlled my life for nearly ten years is now a memory, a painful memory. The environment that I choose to reside in today is more healthier, more challenging, more rewarding, more loving, has more faith, more hope, more trust and more opportunity. Just as I take full responsibility for generating the gambling environment, I also take credit for the new environment that I enjoy today.

Where ever you are at this moment in time, your choices and your decisions placed you there. If you are not happy in your life today, a new set of choices and a new set of decisions can change a portion of your life or your entire life, whichever you choose. Blaming others for your current situation does nothing but solidify your belief that someone else is responsible for your life. You cannot claim to be an adult, free to make your own set of choices, without accepting responsibility for those choices and the consequences they bring into your life, positive or negative. Your life is a product made up of your ingredients, your input, your direction.

If this makes you feel a little hopeless or if you feel the mountain is to big to climb, remember this - "no matter how dark the night, there is always the dawn, no matter how strong the storm, there will always be the calm". By placing a little faith in yourself and a great deal of trust in your Higher Power, nothing is impossible. This world is full of examples of people who made adjustments in their decision making ability and took a chance that a positive decision would produce a positive result.

Two years ago, this month, I made the decision to stop gambling for one day. At the time I wasn't capable of doing anything else. The only thing I could promise myself and the people I loved was for that day I wouldn't gamble. Each new day, I would make that same commitment, always to myself. Before long, days turned into weeks and weeks into months. This new gamble free environment permitted me to make other positive choices, because now my mind was free to think about the good things in my life. No longer was I bound by the chains of a VLT machine. One decision, for just one day, a very short twenty-four hours, has altered my life far more then I could have ever hoped for, surely you could try it for one day.

Recently my wife gave me a book that has the following quote, read it, trust it, believe in yourself and the power of the human spirit.

"No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond
the course of what others have had to face. All you
need to remember is that God will never let you
down; he'll never let you be pushed past your limit;
he'll always be there to help you come through it."

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Finding Hope

"Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come into being. Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves." - Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

At what point do you say enough is enough? When do you begin believing that your way is just not the right way? Where is the tipping point in your recovery? How will you know when you reach it? There are no easy answers to any of these questions. As addicts it is much easier for us to advocate for the negative than to accentuate the positive. We find it difficult to believe we are loved, as a matter of fact, it is much easier to believe the opposite and carry on with our life in the safe confines of our addiction.

The thing that we always need to remember as addicts, as well as the people who love and support us, is there is always hope. Where there is love there is hope. Where there is courage there is hope. Where there is a true belief in the goodness of all people, there is hope. The easiest thing in the world for any person to do, is to quit trying, quit believing, quit hoping. My addiction to gambling was spread over a ten year period, there were many, many mornings and many, many nights that I truly wanted to quit gambling, but I didn't. During that time I suffered through depression, confusion, anger, fear, embarrassment and guilt, but through it all I managed to hold on to "hope"

Today, as I approach the two year anniversary of my abstinence, I still live with that hope. No matter where you are at in your life today, whether you are mired in your addiction or struggling with your recovery, keep hope alive in your life. Finding hope can be as simple as watching the miracle of a bird in flight, seeing the freedom as it soars through the air, and believing in the miracle of a new way of life for you and your family.

Even today, as I struggle with all of my human frailties, I believe in myself and in those around me. The pain and suffering caused in our world today by a multitude of addictions is intimidating, however when we pool our resources of hope, love and our belief in one another, no addiction, regardless of its' strength, can win. We all win when we help each other, we all win when we believe in each other, we all win when we unite, addict and non-addict, in finding hope in our future.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


"Life is the sum of all your choices." - Albert Camus

As I look back at my life, it is almost impossible to believe the choices I have made in my life. While some of my choices have been very good and the result has been outstanding, a great number of my choices has caused both myself and others a great deal of pain. The biggest change during my recovery, however has been my wording, early in my recovery I was looking for someone to blame my weaknesses on, today I am aware that my weaknesses were really very bad choices. When things go wrong for most people, the first thing they look for is a reason or excuse or something or someone to blame their troubles on. In reality all they need to do is look at the choices they made prior to the arrival of the trouble in their lives.

Today, something happened while I was working, that really caused me to reflect about my gambling and the tremendous turmoil it caused in my life and the lives of those around me. I picked up a gentleman at a club and he told me the address where he wanted to go. He seemed a little agitated and spoke only about the weather. When we got to his home, he asked me to wait for him. He hurried inside leaving the front door to his home completely open and returned in less than thirty seconds and asked me to bring him back to the club. As we drove he fumbled with a number of twenty dollar bills, counting and re-counting, almost like he expected there to be more. Once we arrived back at the club, he paid me and hurried inside.

As I sat in the parking lot my mind drifted back to my gambling days. Everything I witnessed in this man today, I remembered myself doing many, many times before. He had obviously gambled all of his money and instead of quitting and going home, he had to get more money, he had the belief that this machine was going to pay. He had no regard for his own self or anyone else in his life. It was between him and the machine and he was certain he was going to win. What he didn't realize was that the real winner was the addiction itself, the addict was in control and the addict was calling the shots.

Now take a moment and examine the ten minutes in this man's life that I just related to you. Look at the number of choices he made in a very brief period of time, and think about what his life would be like had he made a different choice at any given time. His first choice was to get more money, to achieve this he needed transportation, so his second choice was to call a cab. When he arrived home, he could have stayed there, but no, his third choice was to take more money and his fourth choice was to return to the club and his fifth choice was to feed the machine more money. In less than ten minutes he made five choices, if either one of those choices had been different, I guarantee you his life would have improved as well.

From the moment we open our eyes in the morning we begin making choices, some habitual, others because we believe we have no other options, and still others because we believe it is the proper choice to make. Life is the sum of all of our choices, both good and bad. My belief today is that we all need to take a moment and reflect on the choices we are going to make. Think about their impact, not only on yourself but on others as well. There is one bit of advice I can give you - as sure as you take control of the choices in your life, you take control of your life.

The choice is yours.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Understanding An Addict - Part III

"Love isn't finding a perfect person. It's seeing an imperfect person perfectly." - Sam Keen

My final thoughts surrounding this subject relate to the "what if" something happens during a person's recovery to send them back to their respective addiction. Who do they turn to? Who does their loved ones turn to? Can their love be strong enough to forgive again? Can the addict muster the courage to start all over again?

As an addict, one of my biggest fears is this happening to me. Once you begin climbing this mountain of recovery, knowing that you will never see the top, but always aware that you could see the bottom again, you quiver at the very thought of this happening to you. Without a doubt, I am confident that in the sub-conscious minds of our loved ones, those very thoughts make for an occasional uneasy night's sleep.

My belief is that we need to understand that we are all imperfect. We all can use a little adjustment in our lives from time to time. Every person needs love, needs to be held, needs the knowledge of someone who cares, truly cares about them and their well-being. For me, personally, love is a very important word. Love is symbolic of the guidance I have received from my Higher Power, it is symbolic of the forgiveness I have been afforded by the special people in my life, it is symbolic of the hope I have in my future, it is symbolic of the freedom I feel in my soul.

The answers to the questions I posed are not easy. Looking forward, one may say what they would do, but until that dreadful day arrives, none of us, not the addict or the victim can truly say how they will react. My hope for the addict would be that they once again turn to their loved ones and find the courage to start over again. My hope for the loved ones is that they turn to the addict and find the love to forgive again. Failing all of this my hope would be that we all turn to the person who has forgiven everything in our past and will continue to forgive everything in our future.

Maybe after all is said there is not a disconnect between an addict and a non-addict. In reality our lives are entwined and our goals are identical. We have the same objectives, we have the same fears, we have access to the same answers, we are climbing the same mountain, we are in love with each other, we believe in the same Power, we have felt the same pain, we have cried together, laughed together, hoped together, dreamed together, how can we not succeed?

All we need to do is "see the imperfect person perfectly".

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Understanding An Addict - Part II

"Charity sees the need, not the cause." - German Proverb

When an addict is not under the spell of their addiction, they are like a child learning to walk, they are usually afraid of taking that first step. This is why it is much easier for an addict to be eaten up by guilt, self-pity, hopelessness and worthlessness. Most addicts have spent years lying to their loved ones, cheating them out of valuable time, stealing their love and replacing it with emptiness. The only place an addict believes they can go to rid themselves of this guilt, is back to their addiction. It can take years for an addict to see the value of self-help groups like GA or AA.

When an addict finally makes a real commitment to seeking help, they need the charity of the group and of those they love to help them succeed. Many addicts are very anxious to find the cause behind their addiction. Why did this happen to me? Many may die without knowing. For me, I have been clean now for nearly two years, I don't care about the why anymore. My focus now is on the quality of my life today, not on the pain of yesterday.
The most important thing an addict can do once they find that road to recovery, is to forgive themselves.

Why is it so easy for people to put down an addict. "He's only a drunk, he was never any good." "He's a dope head, all he does is use people." "She is not fit to be a mother, all she does is spend her time on those machines." That drunk, dope head and gambler, are all human beings. Like every other human being they are not perfect. They made mistakes. They hurt people, the biggest hurt however, was to themselves. Have you ever made a mistake? Have you ever hurt somebody? Have you ever had feelings of guilt, self-pity, hopelessness and worthlessness? I believe you have, maybe not to the same degree as an addict, but you have a sense of how it feels to be alone and helpless.

My purpose here is not to justify the characteristics of an addict. As a gambler, I was a liar, a thief, a manipulator, a user and a person most people would sooner have nothing to do with. But, I was also a son, a husband, a father, a friend and someone who needed help.

When you speak about an addict again, speak with love, not disappointment, speak of hope, not failure, speak with charity, not disgust, and always remember, it could be your son or daughter, your husband or wife, your friend. Offer love and it will be returned, in time.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Understanding An Addict - Part I

"Never look down on anybody, unless you are helping him up." - Jesse Jackson

One of the first things that became very apparent to me when I became serious about my recovery was the disconnect between an addict and a non-addict. A person who is not a compulsive gambler, who is not an alcoholic, who is not a drug addict, has a very difficult time understanding how a person can say they love you and then treat them in such an unloving way.

Addictions are all about self and selfishness. While under the control of an addiction, an addict operates in a manner that is totally self-serving. They will say anything, do anything and go the full distance to feed their habit. In the moments where there is some type of reality, guilt takes control of their thoughts, and guilt can only send you in one direction, back to your addiction. The thing is, when you are in front of a machine, or when you are drunk, or when you are wasted on drugs, you are removed from reality. You don't have to think about the people you are hurting or the damage you are doing to yourself, all that matters is feeding the addiction.

This doesn't mean that you don't have feelings, it doesn't mean that you don't love the special people in your life. All it means is that at the present time the addiction is winning, the addiction is stronger than your will to stop. The truth is that most addicts have a greater ability to love and care about other people than non-addicts because they know what hurt is and what pain is and the damage it can cause. They understand loneliness, fear, guilt, hatred and all the other crippling feelings that go with an addiction. They can look into another person's eyes and see the pain. Why? Because they have seen it so often before.

An addict is a living, breathing human being. An addict is someone's husband or wife, son or daughter, sister or brother, they need help, non-judgemental help. The thing we need to understand is that they may turn down a helping hand a thousand times before they accept it. They may abuse a loved one's trust a thousand times before they truly accept them. But the wonderful thing is, we can help them, we can rescue them, we can love them.

I thank God everyday for the people in my life who helped me, who rescued me, who loved me enough to try one more time.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Fresh Starts

"Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending." - Maria Robinson

Every morning you awake you are presented with a unique opportunity. An opportunity that is personal, that can be designed by you, manufactured by you, marketed by you, and you can hold the trademark on it as well. That opportunity is a "Fresh Start". A new day dawning is a new opportunity dawning in your life. Yesterday is gone and with it all the past successes and failures of your life to date. The choice today is yours. Do you cling to the past or do you grasp that chance at starting anew.

When I was gambling every minute of every day, when I was spending all my time trying to get money to gamble with, when I was spending my time fabricating and lying about my life, I couldn't see the opportunity in each new day. But that doesn't mean the opportunity wasn't there, because it was and all I needed to do was awake just one of those mornings and grasp that chance at starting anew. Thank God I took that chance, not once, but many, many times, until finally I realized there had to be a better way.

If you or someone you love is under the control of an addiction today, they will awake tomorrow to that same opportunity. Like me, they may not take the opportunity immediately, or they may have to make numerous attempts before they find a degree of success. The great thing is though, that every new day they will be given this opportunity, all you can do is say a prayer that today will be the "Fresh Start" that everyone is looking for.

Love, hope, patience and prayer can help you hold the fort while you wait for you or someone you love "to start today and make a new ending".

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Teach Me To Love

"Love withers under constraints; its very essence is liberty; it is compatible neither with obedience, jealousy, nor fear; it is there most pure, perfect, and unlimited where it votaries live in confidence, equality and unreserve." - Percy Bysshe Shelley

If there is one thing that I firmly believe that I have in common with other compulsive gamblers, it is our inability to love unconditionally. This is very strange indeed, due to the fact that we are one group of people who receive a tremendous amount of love unconditionally. Without stepping to far out of bounds, by speaking for other people, let me relate what I believe about myself.

It is not that I don't love others, it is that I love others with certain strings attached to that love. My love comes to others with a series of qualifiers. My own selfishness, insecurity and fear, has kept me from knowing and experiencing the true meaning of love my entire life. Whether it was conditioned in me as a child, or maybe it is just a piece of my character, this inability to love unconditionally, has cheated not only those close to me, but I have been cheated as well. What is more tragic, is the fact that if I fail to change, just as in my gambling days, my losses will continue to grow.

So where do I go from here? Can you teach a person how to love? Well, I had a chat with my old friend today, and I asked that same question. My old friend has tremendous wisdom, and a wealth of experience when it comes to love. So the answer was an obvious "yes you can teach someone how to love". So together we made a pact, my old friend would provide the teaching and I would provide the willingness to learn. The only condition that was attached by my teacher, was to have "patience".

Just maybe another character flaw will lose the battle to "love".

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Too Hot To Touch

"Feed your faith and your fears will starve to death." - Author Unknown

The victims of addictions are most often the people that the addict needs the most. Their relationship is so important to an addict's recovery, that the majority of the time we forget about the victim's recovery or even if they need one. Then comes the trust factor. After very short periods of abstinence, most addicts can't understand why their spouse, partner, parent or friend doesn't trust them. Failing to come to terms with this type of confusion, usually leads to a further erosion of the relationship.

The deeper you go into your recovery and the longer your abstinence becomes, can go a long way in returning a degree of trust into your relationships. But can that victims full, unconditional trust be returned? I don't believe it can. You see, your living your life "One Day At A Time", trying your best to put space between you and your particular vice. You continue to tell people that a slip can happen and you need their support if it does happen. Your victim is trying to return their life to some type of normality, but they are very cognizant of just how fragile their life and their relationship with you really is. The longer your abstinence continues, the more comfortable the victim becomes, but they never let down their guard, their fears are real, even if they say something different.

You see, sub-consciously, their fears never go away. They don't want to be afraid, they just can't help it. In a sense you are "Too Hot To Touch". When you tell them you will never drink again, or never put another dollar in a machine, or never touch another drug, they believe you in the moment, they so want to believe you, but if you put their hand anywhere near the fire, all the bells and whistles of yesterday go off in their heads and you are left wondering what happened. Even if what occurred is just some left over residue from your past, the fear of your past is just too overwhelming. Like a recurring nightmare, your victim can only see the pain returning, they are just not equipped to look at the problem and help you deal with it. You are too hot to touch.

So how do you respond? What does this type of response do to your recovery? What effect does it have on your relationship? Who do you turn to? What can you say? My only thought involves patience and understanding. Think about all they have been through, think about how afraid they must be, think about how confused they must be and give them time. Time for them to see and understand that your recovery is strong, your abstinence is solidly intact and your faith is starving your fears to death.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Changing The Spin

"When you change the way you look at things.....the things you look at change." - Anonymous

When I was at the peak in my gambling addiction, my life seemed to be in a constant spin. My days were spent either gambling or trying to find money to gamble with. When I wasn't spending time at those fine endeavours, my mind was preoccupied with covering my tracks. Telling lie after lie until it got to a point where you couldn't tell the lies from the truth. My life was so empty, so lacking in substance that nothing really mattered. But I didn't quit, I kept my resolve, and each new day I would vow that things would get better. The only problem with that picture was that as long as I was gambling, things would never get better. I needed to change the way I looked at things.

On April 10, 2007, my life once again went into a spin. By April 16, 2007, things had gone completely out of control, as I was faced with the death of a family member. On April 19, 2007, just when I thought things couldn't get any worse, they did. Less than five minutes after returning home from the cemetry, a sheriff knocked on my door and a legal nightmare was born. Within three hours of this happening, the people that I loved the most and needed the most had shut their door on me as well. For the next few weeks my life was totally empty again. If you have been reading my blog, you would of gotten a sense of my frustration. But I didn't quit, I kept my resolve, and each new day I would vow that things would get better. This time my chances were much enhanced, because this time there was no gambling, there was no lying, this time I felt that things would get better.

As the days turned into weeks, the spin continued, I was working hard, but it seemed like I was walking on quicksand. Then, just as if lightening struck, the hard work began to pay off. This past few weeks, armed with a new attitude and a faith both in myself and my Higher Power, we stopped the spinning. Today, with a great relief, the legal problem is behind me and a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Now, I can begin to deal with the sudden loss of a man I truly respected, even though we definitely had our struggles. Now, I can begin to rebuild what remains of my life, hopefully with much patience, hope and understanding.

The message today for everyone reading this entry is, you must believe. You have to garner the courage and the faith to face your fears, whatever they may be. Addictions only destroy lives if you allow them to be destroyed. Both the addicted and their victims need to face their respective fears. The key though, is to face those fears together, supporting each other and admitting when you are truly afraid.

By changing the way you look at things......the things you look at change.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Like Nike, Just Do It

"To cease smoking is the easiest thing I ever did. I ought to know, because I've done it a thousand times." - Mark Twain

Now that things in my life have begun to make sense and I have been able to look at everything in a new perspective, the time has come to get back to what I promised when I started this blog. In the beginning it was my intent to reach out to as many people as possible regarding addictions, most notably gambling and smoking. To date I have written nothing about quitting smoking, even though I have over twenty months smoke free under my belt.

Just like the quote at the top of the page, I must have quit smoking a thousand times. Most smokers do. From where I sit, there in lies the problem. We spend the majority of time thinking about quitting or trying to quit. We increase our anxiety levels, we create excuses, we always leave a door open in case we fail, in reality we are doomed to fail before we even make the commitment to quit. I believe you need to quit first and then deal with the issues as they arise.

First you need to have a real desire to quit smoking. Quitting has to be for you, no one else. Many people may benefit because you quit, but the motivation has to be from you, the smoker. Once you quit, there is really only one obstacle, you. That is why it is best to employ the "kiss" system - "keep it simple, stupid". Drink lots of water, stay focused on your goal, only worry about today, remind yourself of the positives, get plenty of fresh air and begin immediately to enjoy the benefits of being smoke free.

Your clothes don't stink, you don't have to isolate yourself from the crowd anymore so you can have a smoke, you have more disposable income, in very short order you will begin to feel better, and your overall outlook on life will definitely improve. There is not one negative thing that happens when you quit smoking, everything about quitting is positive.

By the way, you will have cravings. After twenty months, there are still times when the urge strikes me, but unlike before, I use the urge as a positive, by reminding myself about the good in my life since I quit smoking. Nothing good in life is easy, if it was every person would do it. I live my life today with hope, optimism, love, joy, peace and patience. I am able to do this because I have accepted responsibility for my problems, made and kept my commitment to change, I try and maintain an understanding for another person's opinion, I accept life for both the highs and the lows, while always staying in touch with my Higher Power.

Like any other addiction, smoking is personal, quitting is just as personal. Good Luck!!!!!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

My Garden

"Won't you come into the garden? I would like my roses to see you." - Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Do you remember how often we have sat around the table at Gamblers Anonymous meetings wondering about why me, how did this happen, will life ever be the same again? We find ourselves constantly mired in the past. We need to be saying why not make a change, good things can happen to me and I hope that life will never be the same again. We should want life to be better, tomorrow even better than today.

I spoke with my old friend again today, we didn't spend much time on the past, but we talked a great deal about the present and the future. Every day now life is getting better. I have more energy, more enthusiasm, more desire and a new inner strength. The losses that I have had still hurt, and as my good friend stated, "when you love someone and lose them, it should hurt".

Life is fair, but funny in a way. I have worked so hard to be where I am today. My garden is finally ready for viewing. The roses are blooming, and though they have thorns, their beauty and aroma can dull most anything. My wish for every compulsive gambler, every alcoholic, every drug addict, and every victim, is to stand where I am at today, surrounded by pain, but confident in the fact that the flowers I have planted will continue to bloom.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Watch the Cars, Stupid

"Advice to children crossing the street: damn the lights. Watch the cars. The lights ain't never killed anybody." - Moms Mabley

A good nights sleep. Some physical work. A little good news. A call from an old friend. A new perspective and today is already a very good day. In the not to distant future I will relate to you exactly what transpired today, May 7, 2007; but believe me when I say - who cares "what the hell happened here".

It is a funny thing about life, but we all have people and tools at our disposal and we very seldom integrate them into our daily lives. Then, the call comes, and just like someone tapping you up the side of the head, you get it. You realize, who you are, what you are trying to achieve, what it feels like to look in the mirror and what it means to forgive and be forgiven.

For the past three or four weeks, I have been paying attention to the lights, that was why I couldn't see anything. The cars were knocking me all over the place and I just couldn't understand what was happening. I need to pay attention to the cars and let the drivers pay attention to the lights. Thankfully, my friend enlightened me before it was to late. Thankfully, all of my character changes have remained in place. Thankfully, my abstinence from gambling and smoking are still intact. Thankfully, no matter what transpires in the future, I know that everything will be okay.

Sunday, May 06, 2007


"If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere." - Frank A. Clark

This is one of those occasions where I am writing in my blog because of a need to release some stress. Just by sitting here typing away on my computer, my mind and my body seem to take a deep breath, as if in preparation for another day of "what the hell happened here anyway" thoughts. I have to be honest, in my wildest dreams this nightmare just wasn't there.

In my past few entries I have written about faith, failure, troubles, and living life as you find it, but folks it shouldn't be this difficult. Just one short month ago, it was Good Friday, my life was definitely looking upward. My abstinence was solid and closing in on the 21 month mark. Smoking continued to be allocated to my past, once again with nearly 20 months clear of my addiction. My daily walk was still inspiring, my work around the house was showing some positive signs, I was driving a taxi less than 40 hours a week and was still able to take just about every weekend off. My weight was closing in on my desired goal and my focus on healthy eating was getting even stronger. I got to spend time with my granddaughter just about every morning and from the outside looking in, one would think that our family as a whole, had very little to complain about.

"What the hell happened here?" Obstacles, I have spent my life dealing with obstacles. Folks, I can honestly say that in the past 30 days I have not done one negative thing to alter my life. No gambling, no smoking, no lying, no laziness, no anything, yet life has jumped up and taken a bite out of my ass, that no plastic surgeon could fix. I apologize, but it would be selfish of me to get into the details, but trust me, life is definitely confronting me with obstacles today.

To be honest, this is even aggravating me now. When I would kneel down and pray for strength to change something negative in my life to a positive, it was easy, because the negative, nearly 100% of the time was my own doing. Now though it is not so easy. Today when I kneel down and pray, there are way too many questions and even fewer answers. "What the hell happened here?"

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


"The reason birds can fly and we can't is simply that they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings." - J. M. Barrie

What keeps you going through difficult and challenging times? What motivates you to awake with the optimism that everything will be okay? History or Faith? History, knowing that you done it before, when your outlook on life was bleak. Or Faith, knowing that you have worked very hard to get to where you are today, and while life will always be filled with struggles, your faith in people and in life, will keep you strong.

My life has been one event after another. Just when you believe that nothing else could go wrong, it goes wrong, and you are left hanging on to whatever is left behind. Then you pray that what used to be, can return, and tomorrow your life will be as it was, as though nothing had ever happened. The problem with all of this is that, the problems belong to me, they are my responsibility, but other people are getting hurt. You try to convince yourself that your relationships can withstand this type of pain, but can they? Can you?

Since the beginning of my recovery, my belief has been that this gambling addiction was not going to win. No matter what happened within my daily life, my faith has been strong. My strongest belief has been that if my abstinence remains in place, if my belief in "One Day at a Time" continues to get stronger, than at the end of the day I can lay my head on the pillow believing that tomorrow will be an even better day. The ghosts of days gone by have come back to haunt me this past two weeks, but thank God my faith has kept me strong.

No matter your struggle - believe that you can fly.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Troubles or Failure

"If things go wrong don't go with them." - Roger Babson

Depending which view point you take when looking at events in your life, you can tag them as troubles or you can tag them as failures. In transforming my life from what it was to what it is today, I now see more troubles than failures. This is a very important distinction because it impacts on the approach you take in addressing one or the other. Decisions you make when dealing with these types of events could impact relationships, work, health or any number of emotional responses triggered by life altering experiences.

Troubles, in my mind are events that cause worry and stress. Sickness, death, finances, marital problems and addictions are very troubling events and either one of these in isolation can cause significant concern for an individual. If a person was unfortunate enough to have more than one of these troubles inflict him/her at once, the worry and stress can cause untold pain. Imagine an individual having to deal with the death of a loved one, an addiction, marital problems and financial concerns all at once, where would they turn, or better yet who could they turn to. How do you walk forward with this kind of wind blowing in your face? What type of optimism or motivational story could help you see light in this type of darkness? My suggestion to any person in this type of mess would be to remember your faith, remember to love, remember to be patient and remember how far you have come.

Failures, in my mind are signs of growth. If you are failing it also means you are trying. What is not working today may very well work tomorrow. As William D. Brown said "failure is an event, never a person". The only true failure is to stop trying. Edison said "he had ten thousand ways that don't work", but each one led him to the eventual success that he was searching for. Each person in their daily life is searching for some type of success, optimism and determination will ensure that failing is never an option.

By writing this entry today, maybe a person who may find themselves in this type of circumstance or something similar, will believe enough in their own ability and conviction to continue moving forward. You must always remember that when things go wrong, which they surely will, you can't go with them.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Play It As It Lies

"Golf is like solitaire, when you cheat, you cheat only yourself." - Tony Lema

It definitely can be said that "Life is like solitaire, when you cheat life, you cheat only yourself" because I have no doubt that whenever you attempt to make two wrongs equal a right it never works. There is a saying in golf "play it as it lies", meaning you have to play the ball where it comes to rest. If you move the ball you have to take a penalty stroke. After the events of the past few days it is becoming very apparent to me that we have to live life as we find it as well. When we awake in the morning we have no idea what we will have to deal with before the sun goes down, the only certainty is that whatever happens we have no choice but to accept.

Let me deal with the first issue of cheating yourself. I have spent the past few years tinkering with my character, addressing certain issues from my past and trying to motivate myself to be better and to do more. All along I have been ignoring an issue from my past that eventually would have to be dealt with. I wasn't cheating so much as I was being ignorant to the harm that this issue could do to both myself and my family. A little over a month ago I even tried to address this issue and get it settled once and for all. Well, this past Thursday it came home to roost, and now I am left with no choice but to place it front and center in my life. To say that the timing could not have been worse, would be a definite understatement.

The second issue of dealing with life as it unfolds, also left me numb and alone this past week. I lost a very special person in my life a week ago today. Though we had our battles, I had a tremendous respect for this man. What is good in my life today, I learned from him, and while I should have visited him far more often, there was a definite security in knowing that he was only a phone call away. As I write this entry, there is a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye, but I am consoled in the knowledge that he would want me to face these challenges, with honesty and integrity.

Two weeks ago, my life was wonderful, I was happy, my wife and children were doing fine, my future looked very bright. Today, I sit here feeling very alone, an empty, hurting pain deep in my soul. But in life, as in golf, we have to play the ball as we find it, to do otherwise, would be cheating.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Next Step

"The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours - it is an amazing journey - and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins." - Bob Moawad

Is it coincidence or faith? When a string of events happen that get you thinking about your life in a particular way, were they meant to be this way or are you seeing what you want to see. For months on end now, I have been moving very slowly, but steadily towards a yet undetermined goal. As you can probably guess from reading this blog, there are still many issues in my life that cause me to question what I am doing and where I am going. Whether it is because of my past or because of my fear of failure, there is definitely too much caution in my life today, which brings me to the events of the past few days.

On Sunday evening I found the quote which is at the top of this page. For some strange reason it really stuck with me and on Monday I tried to write a blog entry using this quote, but I found that the context of my writing just didn't fit with what I believe this quote was telling me. Then my sister phoned to tell me my uncle had passed away. While we hadn't been close in the past few years, there was a time when my kids were younger that we would spend a great deal of time camping together. I remember those days very fondly and I remember what a kind and gentle man my uncle was.

On Tuesday the call came that my Dad was at the hospital. Thankfully his illness is not too serious and he should be back home in a few days. As I sat with Dad for a little while last night, my thoughts took me back to those days in the park, with my uncle and his wife, my Dad and Mom, my wife and kids and anyone else who happened by during our stay. They were definitely some of the best times in my life and as I looked at Dad, just maybe they were some of the best times in his life as well. I thought how lonely he must be now, since Mom passed away, and what does the rest of his life hold in store for him as he approaches his 84th birthday.

Then as I lay in bed last night, it struck me, the journey, all along I have been missing the journey. My focus has either been on my past or my future. Instead of living life and accepting everything it involves, I have spent my time trying to design my life, every detail, every emotion, every thought. I realize now that the time has come to accept my life as my own, no apologies or no excuses. What is done is done. Anything that happens in the future belongs to me, no more trying to control people, no more leaning posts, no more blame, inward or outward. My life, my responsibility, some mistakes, some failures, some successes. The amazing journey of choosing the quality of your own life. My life, God's gift, thank you.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Have or Have Not, Are You Counting?

"Do we have what we want and do we want what we have?" - wjg

It is Good Friday, one of those days during the year when a great number of people just stop and reflect on exactly where we are in this wonderful universe. Some people reflect on the religious tones of this special day. Other people sleep late and awake to wonder where do we go from here. Other people, those really busy people, think a great deal about what they want, new toys, new homes, nice holidays and so on. And then there are those who could care less about anything.

When I began my walk this morning I was awe struck by the stillness and serenity of the little street that I live on. It got me thinking about wants and needs, what is it that I want and do I want what I currently have? As those thoughts developed in a still somewhat sleepy mind, I began to realize those things that I currently have in my life and those things that are missing from my life.

What do I have? I woke this morning with my wife by my side, but I know someone who lost his wife at a much to early age. My children are healthy and living in this province, but I know people who are not so lucky. I could see, hear, smell, touch and taste, but I know people who have lost one or more of their senses. I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back and food on my table, but I drive people who are homeless and hungry. I could go for my walk, but I know someone in a wheelchair. I have a beautiful granddaughter, but I know someone who lost their grandchild to a car accident. I have any number of freedoms guaranteed to me because of where I live, but I know that there are people in this world with no freedoms. I awake every morning to a very peaceful setting, but I know there are people who awake to the noise of tanks and gunfire in their neighbourhood. What do I have, just about everything a human being could ask for.

What is missing in my life? Cancer, multiple sclerosis, parkinsons, heart disease, strokes, chronic pain, kidney failure, diabetes, any number of crippling diseases, etc. etc., but I drive people who are living daily with these and many other chronic health problems. Smoking, gambling, drinking and drugs, but I drive people who are suffering from each of these vices. Physical, mental and emotional abuse, but I drive people who cannot free themselves from these issues. On this Good Friday I pray that these things that are missing from my life continue to remain on the missing list.

There are many, many occasions when I wish that I never had started driving a taxi. However, if you would like to have an open window on the real world, drive a taxi for a week or two. People step aboard my taxi every day, living with every conceivable emotion that you can imagine. I get to witness the real world, up close and personal. Everyday people, relating everyday stories, to a taxi driver who is very thankful for everything I have and just as thankful for everything that is missing.

Happy Easter

Monday, April 02, 2007


"I have had more trouble with myself than with any other man I have ever met." - Dwight Lyman Moody

Why blame yourself when it is so easy to blame someone else? Who do you blame? When something happens in your life, due to something you did or didn't do, who or what do you blame it on? Think about this for a few moments. Okay, so you are one of the few people on this planet who actually takes responsibility for your daily activities. Why didn't you do the dishes? Was it because you didn't want to, (which is the truth) or because this person called and then I had to do something else and before I could get that finished .................and on it goes, blaming.

Throughout my gambling days, blaming other people for my own inadequacies was easy. There was a fall guy or gal for everything, nothing was my fault. Even during my short periods of abstinence, someone else was responsible for my failures. Whenever we are challenged about our actions, whenever the truth makes us uncomfortable, we lay blame externally, instead of internally. Why is honesty so difficult? Is it because our society is so accepting? Is it because we never challenge the person laying blame? How can I honestly look in the mirror and state that my actions or inactions today are caused by something that happened thirty years ago? How can I sit here today and fail to accept responsibility for my current status in life?

We do it, we all do it. Every act, every deed, every misdeed, every inaction, every fault, every result, can be, with quick thinking, blamed on the other person, whom ever that may be. I have seen mothers blame babies, wives blame friends, husbands blame work, employers blame money, kids blame other kids and addicts blaming everybody. The bottom line folks is there is only one person to blame. There is only one person responsible for your status in life, right now, today. There is only one person pulling the trigger on the shotgun of your life.

You and only you are in control of your future destination. What you decide to do in the next minute, hour, day, week, month or year, is your choice. If you waste this time, it was your decision. If you use this time to grow as a person, it will be your decision as well. The only thing that you should remember is, the next time you are asked a question, look inward instead of outward for your answer. It is from within, after a long and oft times hurtful battle, that the truest answers will be found. The reason that I have had more trouble with myself than with any other man is because my way was to blame it on the other man.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


"You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment unless you trust enough." - Frank Crane

Is there any other word that carries with it the weight of the word "trust"? The word is loaded and when you use it to describe an individual, it tells the world what you think of that person. Webster's Dictionary states that trust is "reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone", "placing confidence", "dependence", "faith" - wow, all of this from one five letter word. Have you ever had the trust of someone and lost it? Have you ever lost the trust of someone and regained it? Which was easier?

Due to my past, any number of people have lost their trust in me. When I tried to regain that trust, patience was my enemy. What I needed to do was take the time and make the effort to demonstrate to people that I could be trusted again. Instead, I would become impatient and continue to erode any faith that people still had in me. My needs became more important than those of people I was suppose to love and I was unwilling to make even the smallest sacrifice to regain their confidence in me.

Then, after I quit gambling, the trust that I had placed in someone for many years, was put in doubt. Placed in doubt by me, by my negative thinking, and most likely by a subconscious desire for this person to be more like me. Your mind can actually do this. You can create imaginary events to reinforce your own beliefs. The more you create, the more vivid the events become, before you know it, the imaginary is your new reality. As I put in place the character changes that I felt were required, I began to question all of these mind games that I was playing. I placed myself in the other person's shoes, the person who for hundreds of solid, verifiable reasons, had lost their trust in me, and began to wonder how this person was feeling.

Based on my experiences, today I have a much clearer understanding of the word trust and what is required by people on both sides of this mighty word, to trust and to be trusted. For me, I need to trust myself, I need to believe in my ability to trust and be trusted. The trust of other people can then be regained over time, with patience, understanding and a belief in my own behaviour. The trust that I have in other people will continue to mature over time, as I continue to mature.

A gambling addiction takes more than our money. Quitting gambling requires a great deal more as well. In order to solidify our abstinence we must wake up every day with the belief that we can be a better person than we were yesterday. As our time away from the machine continues to grow, so to must our individual characters continue to grow. Trust that person who is closest to you, trust that person who understands you the best, trust that person who believes in "One Day at a Time", trust that person who looks at you in the mirror, trust yourself.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Fear of Failure

"Fear knocked at the door. Love answered and no one was there." - Author Unknown

A few months ago I wrote about fear as it relates to "change" and "taking the next step". My belief was and still is today, that quitting is the easy part, taking the next step and changing the gambler, the person, is the hard part. Now that I have implemented some of the changes to my character, a very difficult task, I am faced with another obstacle, the "fear of failure". What you need to understand is, that as I look at my life today, I am an infant, a newborn, entering areas of my life, that until recently, were foreign territory. Every day, that is given to me now, I attempt to treat it as a gift, and as with any gift, I cherish it. My goal in each new day, is to take a look around the corner, seek the unknown, test my abilities, utilize the gifts that have been given to me, and hopefully by the end of the day, maybe I will learn to walk.

The door that keeps slamming me in the face today however, is fear. Fear of failure, fear of slipping, fear of losing, fear of taking the chance that I won't fail. We all have those little people who sit on our shoulders, one saying yes you can, the other, putting you down, and saying no you can't. The optimist, reminding you of your abilities, reinforcing your confidence with words of encouragement and visions of what can be achieved. The pessimist, wagging his finger, reminding you of your past, snickering at the very thought of success. The result, another day dawns, the gift of life and opportunity is presented, the snickering clouds your vision, and as dusk approaches, the last seconds of another day, slowly tick away. Then, you lay there in your bed, praying for another day, another opportunity, pushing hard against the weight of your sleepy eyes, fearing that your meter is about to expire.

What bewilders me and befuddles my mind is that I should know the difference. But for me, taking that risk, putting myself out there, is very difficult. There was a time in my life that I relished those opportunities, challenge me and I would respond in spades. My ego was on bust. Today is different, today I try to ensure that everything I do is motivated from within. The problem with this however, is there can be too much caution, too much examination. A book that I am currently reading, talks about the myth of failure. It states that failure is an illusion and that no one ever fails at anything. The author, Wayne Dyer, believes that everything you do produces a result. The question is what do you do with the results that you produce. He believes that failure is a judgement, an opinion. He says that it comes from your fears, and it can be eliminated by love for yourself, love for what you do and love for others. Sounds pretty simple, almost infantile, but then again, I am an infant.

So, what do I do? Do I continue receiving those daily gifts, only to let them pass through my hands? Do I take action and move forward with my dreams and see exactly what can be achieved? Maybe the secret to my future is lurking in the dark recesses of my past. Maybe if I adopt the same energy, the same commitment, the same fearless bravado that I possessed when I was gambling, maybe that next step won't be so hard after all. I certainly had no fear of losing, no fear of failure or no fear taking a risk when I was spending every minute of every day gambling. The energy that was required to fuel the destruction of my life as I knew it, was intense, surely today I can muster the energy and the courage to utilize the gifts that I continue to receive. Gifts without conditions, I might add.

It is obvious what needs to be done. Action in place of inaction, risk instead of complacency, gift giving instead of receiving, optimism instead of pessimism, and faith instead of faithless. You may not believe me, but I have been about two years now playing out in my mind what I want to do with my future. I understand there is a need, a huge need, and I believe deep down inside that I can help, but I just can't seem to pull the trigger. Could it be that my own opinion of my preordained failure, is my only stumbling block? Could it be that I am author, publisher and printer of my own inaction? And here I am, another day, an over abundance of gifts, a burning desire, a little snickering from the cheap much time did you say was left on that meter?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Excuses, Faults in Uniform

"Bad men excuse their faults; good men abandon them." - Author Unknown

For most of my life I have had an excuse for everything. I could create an excuse in the blink of an eye. Often I would anticipate the query and create any number of excuses, settling on what I thought would be the most acceptable. Looking back, I don't recall feeling guilty. Many times I believe I used an excuse just because I could. You name the character flaw and I had an excuse for why I had it and why I couldn't change it.

Jonathan Swift said "an excuse is a lie guarded". I find this interesting because when I was gambling, I told lies even when the truth would be accepted. To find out today that most of my excuses were lies as well, really highlights just how confused we become when a vice, such as gambling, takes over our life. If you think about your own life and begin paying attention to how you respond to certain questions, you will see just how often you use an excuse for an answer. Deep down inside you know the real answer to the question, and you don't mean to be dishonest, it is just easier to use an excuse. Sort of protects your integrity, or maybe it causes you to lose your integrity, depending on your vantage point. The reason I say this is because 99% of the time the person you are telling your excuse to, accepts it for exactly what it is, an excuse. It could be your boss, a co-worker, your spouse, your child, your friend or a bill collector, we are all very adept at recognizing an excuse.

Excuses became today's topic because of something that happened at work. I had just dropped off a passenger and was heading for the closest gas station to make a pit stop when the dispatcher said - "now boys and girls don't forget your 649 tickets, 20 million tonight". There was a number of comments from various drivers, however I continued on my journey paying little attention to what was being said. When I was leaving the gas station I noticed the big sign advertising the 20 million as tonight's prize. Then, as I was getting in my car, it happened, the most dangerous thought that a compulsive gambler can have, maybe I should buy a ticket.

In the next two minutes a number of thoughts went through my mind. First I considered if I should buy a ticket. Then I wondered would it result in me buying even more tickets in the future. Then I began to think about what would happen if I won any amount of money. How would I explain the ticket? How would I explain the money? Then, just like a well oiled machine, the excuses started entering my thought process. Each excuse better than the previous one, more believable, more acceptable, more like a lie. Just as quick as all of this started, the work that I have done throughout my recovery kicked in and solid reasons, instead of lame excuses, returned me to reality.

As a compulsive gambler, my reality today has to be about honesty, especially on a personal level. Everyone understands that maybe you can fool the odd person every now and then, but you cannot fool the person in the mirror. If I had purchased a ticket tonight, I would have to turn my back to the mirror tomorrow morning. There is a good side to this story. The Gamblers Anonymous Program works. If you commit yourself to the Program, use the Steps as your daily guide, you can achieve and maintain your abstinence. Each and every day you open your eyes, commit to "One Day at a Time", commit to living the Step Program, commit to accepting the fact you have no control over your vice, and you will achieve the ultimate reward, another twenty-four hours free to live your life in peace.

Monday, March 19, 2007

At The Crossroads

"The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which bridge to burn." - David Russell

My wife and I went to see the Ennis Sisters on Saturday night and one of the songs they performed was from their new CD. The song titled "Crossroads" was written at a time when the three sisters considered going their own separate ways. As I listened to the lyrics I couldn't help but think how many times in my own life I have been at the crossroad, thinking about leaving someone I loved very much as opposed to staying and risking hurting her again. The difficulty for me as a gambler, is the constant memory of my past, held in contrast against what could be a wonderful future.

As a sensible person I realize that in exchange for that first bet, what I would be actually risking is my family, our home, my job, my sanity, and probably my life. I am also very aware of the pure enjoyment I receive from seeing a smile on her face and the look of contentment in her eyes. Life can be so fulfilling and so rewarding, but in a millisecond, there are those thoughts, slithering ever so quietly, like a snake on its' belly, into the dark recesses of your mind. Telling you your going to fail, inspiring you to move backward, retelling the stories of your past, making them so vivid, that for a moment you are there again. She doesn't really love you, you fool, haven't you been hurt enough. None of them loved you. You are an island, and if you don't protect yourself, no one else will.

Your mind, always creating the worse case. If you relent, within an hour, what you gained in eighteen months, can be lost. Then the tears come, then the self-pity, then the why. Before you know it your entire system, mentally, physically and emotionally is in freefall. You don't have the strength to succeed. Remember high school, remember your teens, remember your work history, remember your mistakes, thousands of them. Face it, you're a loser, living in a dream world. Your very own fantasy land. How long do you think it will be before you fail again?

Wait a minute. I can do it. I just need to try harder. Things will be okay. All I need to do is stay positive, one day at a time, follow the steps, come on man, you can do it.

The deeper I get in my recovery, the less frequent are these episodes. The problem I have now is, while the occurences are fewer, the effect is more damaging. There is an unrelenting pressure to succeed, not just in my abstinence, (which by the way is the easy part) but in every facet of my life. The upside of the story, for today, another bridge crossed and another bridge burned.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


"People who do not see their choices do not believe they have choices. They tend to respond automatically, blindly influenced by their circumstances and conditioning. Mindfulness, by helping us notice our impulses before we act, gives us the opportunity to decide whether to act and how to act." - Gil Fronsdal

Please do me a favour, read the quote again. If you don't get it, read it again. In a nutshell it is what addictive people do - we respond automatically to our circumstances and our conditioning. Our recovery teaches us to stop, think before we act, realize the consequences of our actions before we act, and make a well thought out choice of action. Wait for a second, did I say that this is what addictive people do, I believe a large percentage of the population responds automatically and blindly, based on their circumstances and conditioning.

When all this began, I had the problem, I was causing the problems, my actions resulted in upheaval, my life was out of control, and I was a drag on the entire system. My choices at the time were definitely limited and thank God I chose the path I am on today. In the past eighteen months I have worked very, very hard to make what I would consider to be very limited progress. Others may believe, or wish to believe, that I have come full circle, but I am very cognizant of where I am in my recovery. My recovery has reached a very critical juncture. The time has come to look at the deep dark secrets of my past, figure out the why, and hopefully they will not be repeated again.

Can this be so difficult? Why is this so critical? Looking from the outside in, you may believe that all I need to do is continue my abstinence and everything will be okay. Wrong answer, if I don't follow through and complete the transformation of my character, if I don't make the tough decisions about my actions, as sure as there is snow in the Alps, I will repeat those negative actions again. And I also realize that while this may hurt other people, the devastating effect it will have on me, may result in a devastating outcome.

My difficulty today is how do I respond to the actions of others. What I am trying to do is articulate for other people how crucial it is to communicate their thoughts and their feelings. There needs to be a constant dialogue between those in recovery and those people who are closest to them, if the honesty and truth that both sides are seeking is to be achieved. I know, based on my past, the distress that was caused by my previous actions. My new choice of life, the decisions I make and the changes in character that I am trying to implement, are becoming increasingly difficult to make because I am unsure of the impact those choices will have on other people. I thought, as most people would, that the result would have a positive impact, but the feedback that I am receiving based on the actions of others, does not lead me to believe that the impact is very positive.

In my life today, when I am confronted with any type of negativity, a series of well conditioned thoughts begin creeping their way into my life. Because of the work that I have done in building a force within myself to fight this type of thinking, I am able to limit the impact they have on my life for today. The concern that I have, is no matter how much reconditioning I do, my subconscious still contains this old way of thinking. Based on this, will the day come again where my subconscious thoughts win the battle? To ensure that this never happens I need to continue building a safety net. My safety net has to include other people. People who are willing to share and be frank about their thoughts, their needs, their fears, their hopes and their dreams. Then and only then can real progress be made, real fears subdued and real dreams be explored.

To me it sounds very exciting. To me it means that all involved will stop responding blindly, based on conditioning and circumstances. To me it means opening our hearts and our minds to a new way of living. Most importantly, however, it means taking that very critical step on my road to recovery. A road where jay walking is the only form of "Gambling".

Monday, February 26, 2007

Who's Future

"The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react." - George Bernard Shaw

I have spent the majority of my adult life reacting to what I believed were other people's thoughts, feelings and beliefs. Either through fear, immaturity or some other human frailty, I have permitted my perception of other people, to dictate my actions. Notice that it is my perception and what I believed were other people's thoughts, feelings and beliefs that led me to act. What those people were actually thinking, or what their beliefs actually were, had no real significance in my thought process. It was more important for me, to concentrate on what I wanted them to believe, or what I wanted them to feel, than to focus on the reality of any given situation.

In my recovery from gambling I have learned that I am not alone in this process. The majority of people actually behave the way they do because of their concern of what the other person may think of them. In our society there are certain sets of principles and standards that are generally accepted by the population as a whole and anyone who deviates from this or who lives outside the norm, is said to be different. Different in what way? Different for believing in themselves and having the confidence to bring a little fresh air to an otherwise stagnant existence. Different because they do not agree with your preset principles and standards. Different because they want to pave their own highway and not take the road so often travelled.

Gambling has taught me many lessons about life. Gambling has taught me many lessons about myself. Gambling has taught me how weak a person I truly was, but it has also taught me how strong a person I can truly be. Gambling has forced me to step back and look at who's future I want to live. Do I want to continue to live the life that I perceive to be what people want to see in me? Do I want to return eventually to the pathways of my old habits? Do I want to linger in the hillside of self-pity? What do I really want?

My future, designed by me, lived by me, experienced by me, successes and failures, smiles and tears, wins and losses, dreams and disasters, my choices for better or worse. Gambling as taught me what I want and my recovery has taught me how to achieve my goals. Patience, perseverance, faith, action (not reaction), humility, forgiveness, prayer, and a belief in myself. We all need to look in the mirror, we all need to like what we see, we all like to have others like what they see in us, but we must never permit any of this to alter our belief in ourselves. Each one of us, every person, is a person - a conscious, living, breathing human being - with thoughts, feelings and beliefs, each person as they are, not what we design them to be.