This may be the recounting of my first Gamblers Anonymous meeting but this was not the first time I had tried to go. The first time was around 18 months prior. I wasn’t going because I felt like a gambling addict that needed to, or indeed wanted to, but because it was a condition my husband had given me to us remaining a couple.
The first attempt to attend a meeting I felt manic and was petrified. I went to the Gamblers Anonymous building where the meeting was held, put my face to the window and saw nothing but men, men that I felt were clearly nothing like me or any other female gambler.
I started to well up, walked to my car and explained over the phone to my husband why I could not go and face my gambling addiction.
Needless to say I should have gathered the courage to have walked through the doors, I managed a while off gambling but inevitably the addiction took hold. It’s true what other compulsive gambling addicts tell you, it’s always worse the next time.
Anyway, the second time I attempted to attend Gamblers Anonymous, I was in a different place (head that is, it’s still the same building!). I have, I feel, hit rock bottom. I have spoken with my husband and friends and feel so much clearer and know and recognise there is a gambling addiction, which I suppose is significant progress of a kind.
So, I hovered outside the room and again, like the first time, catch a glimpse of the men inside, however, it felt different and I am different. I know it is go in and face this, or, give up on my life before the gambling addiction, or, more accurately, the possibility of creating a life as a compulsive gambler in recovery. So I walked in, a photo of my husband and child in my bag which I had looked at in the car, and it is true what they say ‘its never as bad as you think’. I wasn’t the only woman which was a surprise as I had done some reading beforehand and knew the likelihood of another woman being there was slim, a pleasant surprise, I’m not sure she could have known how happy I was to see her. I sat down and was greeted by the room, first someone made sure I was in the right place, perhaps he was confused by my presence there, and then I was asked to complete a questionnaire. This isn’t particularly discussed but it helps the group determine whether you should be there or not.
The meeting opened with established members giving their therapy. In the meeting I attend this is voluntary and those who feel they need to give therapy are invited to do so. We were told that new members (two on my night) would be invited to speak in the second half of the meeting should they wish to do so. I listened intently to the other members whilst they give their therapy. This was almost too hard to listen to! I was trying to absorb everything they were saying but there was too much emotion. The therapies took me by surprise, to be honest I was expecting doom and gloom and gambling to be the main focus. Of course some therapies may refer to addiction and may even focus on gambling at times, what I found the most interesting was members discussing promotions/conflicts at work/relationship updates and holiday run downs.
What it has taken me months of meetings to realise is that these recounts of everyday life are a lifeline to members. They are a reminder of what you are working towards and what you potentially could have in life should you stay in recovery.
So I walked in, a photo of my husband and child in my bag which I had looked at in the car.
When it came to new members to speak, I volunteered to go first, I was of course nervous but I knew this was my time to speak. I probably held back somewhat, not in the confession of my addiction but in the emotion I showed. Part of this was because I did not want the men in the group to look at me like an ’emotional woman’, silly now when I look back, especially given the emotional breakdowns I have witnessed in the room. However, regardless of how far I let myself go during that therapy, the feeling I felt during and after was unbelievable! Almost euphoric.
If any female gambler is reading this and is not attending a meeting as they feel it will be male-orientated, I can’t guarantee you will have the same experience as me, however, what I can say is those meetings are for everyone and to be honest, in my experience, the male members of the group are so interested to hear from a female gambler that they are very welcoming and encouraging….at least once they have gotten over the surprise of a woman walking in the room!
Oh and you have to chip in for biscuits.