“My Name Is Catherine And I’m A Recovering Gambling Addict”~March Is National Problem Gambling Awareness Month!


Welcome Recovery Friends, Seekers, and New Friends,

Many ask me about how I have reached seven years in recovery from addicted compulsive gambling?
This is some of what I had to do to “Recover”…
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When I entered treatment for gambling and alcohol for the first time in 2000, I was considered as having “duel addictions” and was able to recover from the drinking pretty easily as I found it was the “gambling addiction” that was my true “Demon.”
Yes, it did take me a few tries with a few relapses, and as I began a stable recovery I had some pretty heavy “consequences” to take accountability and ownership for first. My recovery date is Jan 29th 2007. That was a day I was “sentenced in court” by a Judge in Civil Court for crimes I committed all for the love of my gambling addiction. I’ll never forget that day, and the 28th was the last time I gambled or placed a bet! This date will always remind me to “Never Again Get Complacent” in recovery!

See, I don’t come from a family history of gamblers, and “Gamblers Anonymous” teaches us that many recover without knowing “WHY” they got addicted in the first place. There is some truth to that as I’m not sure when I crossed that line into uncontrolled addicted gambling, but I do know why. I started using my addiction to, “hide, escape, numb out, and to not FEEL some “old past hurt, pains and traumatic” events that happened to me as a little girl.
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Past feelings of sex abuse, parental physical and verbal abuse, that I never knew how to process when I got to adulthood. My parents taught us kids that we “DON’T TALK” about these things, nor DARE SHARE them with anyone outside our home. It was just the way they were raised, and how things were back in the day. So of course I stuffed all that garbage deep down in some dark space of my soul. But, in my 30’s it came back, and I had NO IDEA what to do with them. So, I gambled. And I gambled until the slow progression of this disease had spread throughout my mind, body, and spirit. A once funny, beautiful, vibrant woman turned into a person I began to HATE & became UGLY!
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group with winning player getting his chips Stock Photo - 10673494
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So when you finally reach out for help, the very FIRST step is to truly admit to yourself and to another that you are “Powerless” over your gambling. That really is the biggest battle you face. Once you can admit that to yourself, open your heart and mind to the fact YOU don’t control your gambling, that GAMBLING is controlling YOU, then you can start a “Happy, Healthy, and Balanced” recovery. Now that seems easy, but it’s not. Many and myself think that once we admit we are addicted or problem gamblers, that will be able to recover quickly. OH BOY are you gong to be in for a rude awakening. However, I took it to heart from “Gamblers Anonymous” to make 30 meetings in 30 days, and that’s what I did to get going!
I also entered an out-patient gambling treatment program that offered free help paid for by our State (Oregon) lottery. Isn’t that ironic? I began a group treatment meeting every Wen night, and one-on-one therapy with a councilor twice a week. And I can tell you it was hard, and yes I did have some Binges and Relapses that almost cost me my life. No one is perfect, and I’m STILL a “Work in Progress” even with 7 years of recovery.
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But after my crimes, arrest, and court hearings, I had to stop my treatment program because the victim I stole from was also in the same group, and I had a “No Contact Order” so I was the one to have to quit. I had to find other ways to help stay in recovery. I did however get refered to a man who was a addictions specialist and Crisis worker, and it was because I tried to commit SUICIDE 2 times while all this madness was happening to me. My court sentence was 30 days jail, many, many hours of community service, 18 months probation, and a lot of restitution to pay. I got through it with the help of my new councilor. I continued going to Gamblers Anonymous, just in a different city, and my therapy. The best thing I learned from therapy was breaking down the “Cycle” of addiction and how to use the skills I learned to stop and interrupt the cycle. See winning is just as bad as loosing when your gambling as BOTH will keep you in the addiction. Loosing keeps you out chasing your loss’s, and winning makes you think you will WIN every time you gamble which keeps you in the cycle as well.
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Here are a few things I do to stay in recovery…..
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1.) A Phone List: It’s a list of trusted people to call if you get triggered or have urges to gamble. You call someone before you relapse. Almost all times they can talk you through them and STOP you from gambling. This was really helpful when I had to travel alone too. I had friends who I’d stay with and I had to be there at a certain time or they start calling me, like on long driving trips from So. Oregon to So. Calif.
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2.) Phone check in’s with your “recovery sponsor” every other day in the first 3 months of your recovery. Most people relapse within the first 90 days out of treatment. Make MEETINGS! Fill your empty time with healthy hobbies, and start journaling! It’s a life saver. You have to start FEELING as gamblers learn to “escape, hide or numb out” when they gambled.
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3.) When you first start recovery, you really need to make 30 meetings in 30 days. This will help you be with others who know what you’re going through. Many people don’t understand the addicted compulsive gamblers DO GO through a “DETOX & Grieving” process just like drug or alcohol users do. This is ONE of the biggest “Myths” of addicted gambling. Others don’t think we do.
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4.) FIND and MAKE a list of good Support websites to aid your recovery. I know how many people struggle with Mental illness and disorders who have had addictions, hell, a couple of my disorders I suffer were direct effects of over using the chemical and nerves in my brain, besides having Bipolar with manic depression. Having a wide range of sites for help and support is wise. The very TOP one should be “Gamblers Anonymous”  http://www.gamblersanonymous.org  they have on-line meetings, people you can talk to, and much information about addicted gambling.
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5.) Another good website and good folks I have partnered up with for March is: http://www.ncpgambling.org  as
MARCH is “Problem Gambling Awareness Month.” I have pledged to blog about “Compulsive Addicted Gambling” only on my recovery blog the whole month!
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While your here, please check out my “Recovery Resources Pages” as I try to add and keep updated with all the helpful websites and blog I come across. Another really good Supportive site where other addicted gamblers go in recovery or not is “Safe Harbor Compulsive Gambling Hub” http://www.sfcghub.com
Here you’ll find a Gamblers Posting Board, 24/7 Live chat to be with like-minded and supportive people, and a great Recovery Resources Room that has MANY websites to have for FREE treatment, therapy, recovery books of fiction and non-fiction, and more!

These are just a few things one should try to do when starting their recovery journey. There is “NO SHAME” in admitting you may need help to stop gambling. Was it hard work for me? YES,….but when I started to “Believe in a Power Greater Than Myself” is when I truly began to make it 7 years in recovery. I always tell those who I sponsor that are new to recovery, that Recovery & Addiction only have ONE THING IN COMMEN,…….They are BOTH SELFISH!
We were so selfish within our addiction, destroying our selves and hurting those around us. And we have to BE selfish and put ourselves FIRST in recovery in order to have a “Successful Recovery.”

I truly hope if you or someone YOU care for maybe a problem gambler, that you will share this with them! I’ll be here all month long sharing all about this disease, illness, and REAL ADDICTION….
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GOD BLESS Everyone,
Author Catherine Townsend-Lyon

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3 thoughts on ““My Name Is Catherine And I’m A Recovering Gambling Addict”~March Is National Problem Gambling Awareness Month!

  1. Catherine, thank you so much for sharing your story. I am from Milpitas California and I’m volunteering for a small grass roots political action committee, doing our best to keep a local Card room from expanding into our town. Do you know anyone who might be from the Bay Area and would be willing to publicly share their story of addiction? We want to put a face on gambling to the community.

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  2. Pingback: I Was A Drug Addict And Lost My Kids - Parenting And Mental Health

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