Happy Holidays Recovery Friends and Visitors,
So another holiday season is upon us and those of us in recovery can have a tough time around the holidays. I have in the past with self-sabotaging my Christmas seasons.
How do you ask?
Let me share a “war story of Christmas past.” We can learn and grow in recovery when we safely look at the “Then & Now of Christmas’s Past” as an addicted or problem gambler.”
Many of us in recovery advocate and share to others who still suffer from this cunning addiction and the importance of sharing our experiences, strength, and hope with others when we do tell some of our “war stories.” It gives insights of just how insidious this addiction is. It is one the areas I don’t feel is proper about 12-Step programs. They tell us not to share war stories as it could maybe a trigger for someone.
But, if we don’t learn from these mistakes or choices, how do look back and find growth in our recovery? Yes, you can see your growth by working and re-doing the 12-steps. But, you may need more than that to recover fully. I know I did.
I recall one Christmas that has to be my worst within my gambling addiction and will never forget because I was gambling out of desperation. It is why I make sure all holidays now are safe with a relapse prevention action plan in place the last 11+years that I’ve maintained recovery. I try to make the holidays happy and full of JOY. But back in 2005, that was a different story.
See, the home we had lived and worked very hard for had to be sold through a short sale or we would have lost everything we put into it. But even then, it felt like we lost it all as we are still paying on a balance that was not covered by the sale. It also caused me to make a few bad choices, residual addicted “thinking, I had committed a crime and that big catastrophy I wrote about in my memoir, and I was reeling. I stopped taking my bipolar meds, then took them all at once! I was so angry with myself, feeling so much shame, guilt, low self-worth, and again suicidal because I knew it was because of my gambling is how we got into this mess in the first place! Of course, no excuse’s, just insights.
We were so financially broke. The guilt and shame would hit me each year hard. I knew then it was my fault. I remember being in JCPenney walking around aimlessly wishing I could buy this or that for the family for Christmas. Luckily all our family lived in other states than Oregon at that time as are now living in Arizona. So I had to do the same lame thing I had done for many past Christmas’s, just send a card.
It was difficult already after we both had job losses, the very beginning of the economy and markets were getting ready to go South. W finding good paying jobs, and then with my mental health all wacked out, I could not work, and now with even more guilt I became suicidal, took all my meds at one time and off to the hospital and then I ended up back in an addiction/mental health crisis center again from another breakdown right after the holidays. It was all too much!
When I got released from the crisis center, I knew I had a lot more recovery work and inner work to do which included my financial inventory … I had been doing well in my recovery and gamble free at the time, but something was nagging at me. See, you need to know that no matter the addiction, it’s always waiting for us. Even within recovery, if you are not changing the “old thinking” and the old habits and behaviors with good ones, you can still be an addict in the “mind.”
Like the holidays for instance and the point of this post, we can have a lot of temptations around us at this time of year. There are holiday parties for both personal and work-related that can be stressful. We may have had fall outs due to the holidays, (thanks to our addictions and why we have step 9… “to make amends where ever possible”) with friends and family.
Many different reasons that can become a trigger or bring on urges. The stress of the season, lack of money for presents, a slew of things swirling around in our heads! This addicted “cycle” if not broken or interrupted will keep you either in the addiction or just on edge waiting. That is what I needed the second time around after coming out of the crisis. I chose to work with a gambling addiction and behavioral specialist for a year.
And this guy would not “cut me loose” until I could tell him how the “cycle” of addiction happens and tell him the skills and tools to stop it which took me that whole year. Once I learned that and applied those skills and tools, I began the road to long-term recovery. So, my point is, everyone needs a relapse prevention plan. A program that will help you avoid these pitfalls.
I had been given a workbook that I now have listed on my recovery resource pages for all to come and use for their recovery from gambling addiction Relapse Prevention Guide as it shows step by step what is needed to make a plan to prevent relapse for any occasion like the holiday season, life events like a loss from death, a job loss and much more.
Look, these life events and the holidays will come. So you need to be prepared before they happen, not after they happen. Be prepared and use those tools taught and learned in treatment, or a 12-step program, maybe in therapy or however you choose to reach out and start your recovery journey. Be educated about your addition and learn “the cycle” of addiction. If you need help to make a “Plan,” stop by my recovery blogs Recovery Relapse Prevention Guide page to show you how.
When you do, I guarantee you will have many, many more ‘Happy Holiday Seasons’ to come.
“Because You Are Worth It In Recovery!”