When I arrived at Gamanon, many moons ago, I didn’t even really know what it was. I had decidedthat I needed to find someone or some people who could explain to me why my husband gambled, why he couldn’t stop even though we had 3 young children that I knew he loved (even if I wasn’t sure he still loved me), and what this illness was?

I did understand that it was an illness, but that didn’t mean I was coping with it any better than before I understood. I was a bit less angry but just as perplexed, despairing, sad, beaten down and hopeless as I had been when I thought he was just selfish and (quite frankly) mad….I arrived in a room in Falkirk with 2 elderly ladies (or so I thought, probably about the same age as I am now, but I didn’t realise time would catch up with me as well as everyone else) and a couple of younger women. They seemed quite happy, it was strange. I couldn’t understand how people could be sane and fairly happy if they had a Compulsive Gambler in their lives. I didn’t want to speak, I wanted to listen but still no-one revealed the secret of how to stop someone gambling. I realised I’d have to come back the following week to find out the answer to that one. And I did, and I still didn’t get the answer, so I thought I’d have to come back again. Twenty or so years later and I am still going. And I still don’t have the answer, but I do understand when people come in looking for it and I hope I am able to support them to gradually realise that, as there is no answer, they need to find a different way to live.

My years with my Compulsive Gambler were similar to most people’s experiences. Up and down like a roller coaster, until it gets to so few ups and so many downs. While we were together my husband came in and out of GA. The one thing this taught me was how, when he wasn’t gambling, things were so much better. I realised how much he must have been gambling, because finances were so much healthier and in the few gambling free periods life was better all round (although I never quite got to being relaxed about it). Sadly, while we were together he never committed enough to GA to make it to a recovery of any length and finally it was too much for me and we separated. This was not an easy decision, or an easy time, but all during this I attended Gamanon, possibly more consistently than I had previously. I missed fewer meetings and got constant support from my friends in the room. Everyone has their own issues, but everyone is prepared to listen to someone else’s problems. This generosity of spirit is key (certainly in my own group), because no matter how bad a week each of us has had, we still make time to listen and support others in the group if they’ve had a bad week.

My divorce could have been acrimonious, we could have used the children to build a barrier, we could have been bitter and we could have stopped communicating. But the reminder within Gamanon, that this was an illness, not a matter of lack of affection and love for the family, and that the Gambler has become powerless in the matter of gambling, was the thing that stopped me becoming bitter. I did feel resentment, I did dislike my husband, I did lose respect for him, I did feel all the things that you would imagine someone could feel in that situation. However, I moved through those feelings and Gamanon helped me manage this: I received reminders that ‘This too shall pass’; prompts that we only need to deal with ‘One day at a Time’; mentions of ‘Don’t dwell on yesterday and don’t worry about tomorrow’; all these were constants in my life and by being constant became part of my thinking.

It’s not always easy, and sometimes it’s almost impossible. I often find myself within my current life (because, strangely enough, compulsive gambling is not the only thing that we sometimes have to worry about) heading toward catastrophising, worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet, going off on that slippery road to meltdown. I have to make a conscious effort to pull myself back from the brink and remember what my friends in Gamanon would say and this calms me down. Even if only temporarily, it calms me down, and when I start spiralling again, I just remind myself again and, with conscious effort, it works.

Gamanon helps me with the bad and the good. It helps me remember to be grateful when things are going well, and to understand how many reasons I have to be grateful, and to remember that I can cope when they aren’t. And top of my gratitude list is Gamanon and Perth, Tuesday.

MM (Perth, Tuesday) November 2022

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