In recent years I have successfully changed my habits in the following areas: smoking, alcohol, recreational drug use, career and relationships. Just so you don’t think I am being a smart arse I have also smoked when drunk, fallen off the wagon, smoked pot, eaten weed candy and failed to hold a 15-year marriage together. But despite those setbacks I am very proud of my ability to take difficult routes when easier ones remain open to me. If you are a follower of this blog then you will know that I have struggled with my gambling addiction in the past few months and it is time that I did something about it. I am not quite sure whether I am going to quit gambling or introduce a method of controlling it, all I know is I am about to embark on another significant change in my life. I thought it would be interesting for you to follow my journey each step of the way.
Once again I have turned to literature to help me through my time of need. I have purchased a book called Change Your Gambling, Change Your Life by Howard Shaffer and I want to share with you the results of a self-assessment questionnaire that I had to complete.
1. On this 10-point scale, where one represents the calmest or most relaxed you’ve ever felt and 10 represents the most nervous or tense you have felt, circle the number that represents how you feel right now.
I chose the number seven.
2. Are you being honest with yourself about having a problem with gambling?
Yes I am being honest with myself. I have a problem with gambling.
3. How have you been feeling during the past month? If these feelings are relatively recent, why do you think you are having them now?
I have been very worried about my gambling urges in the past month. During my last week in Las Vegas Liza and I had a little wager with our work colleagues. It was only a little bit of fun, but to me it was gambling. We each had to pick some poker players we felt would last the longest in the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event. The bet was $60 and the winner received over a grand. I wasn’t particularly interested in the event itself, but I was interested in my girlfriend, Liza’s, behaviour. I couldn’t help but think that she felt a buzz, whereas in my previous relationship gambling was frowned upon. I think I started to think of a life where I could gamble again with Liza managing my money. Also during that last week I asked Liza if she wanted to play some table games in the casino but she declined. I have no idea why I asked that question given I have not played a table game for 12-months.
When I got back to the UK I woke up with an overwhelming urge to put £100 on Tiger Woods to win The Open at 10/1. When I resisted the urge, I could not stop watching the coverage. I was desperate for Tiger Woods to lose.
Liza and I have decided to move in together. At the moment we both live with our parents so our costs are low. It will be the first time I have lived with someone since my divorce. Without the security of the railway pay cheque behind me I have started to really worry that I won’t be able to support her. In addition to worrying about supporting her, I am also worried that a lack of a good solid financial backbone will restrict our ability to have fun and she may leave me to find a better life.
When I have been playing poker recently I have been very miserable; almost angry. I feel like I am wasting my life by just sitting in a chair folding hands. I also know I am not good enough to win in the game but am too ashamed to admit it to myself and others. All of my friends play poker and if I quit I will not see them very often, if at all. I also soak up a lot of what I write about through my involvement in poker and don’t want this to dry up. All of these things have contributed to my poor state of mind and attitude when I sit down to play.
4. What has influenced you to decide to make a change in your life and get your gambling and other issues under control?
My relationship with gambling is one of the reasons that my wife divorced me. It was even cited on the divorce paper itself as one of the primary reasons. I loved my ex wife so very much and I feel intense shame that I allowed this behaviour to ruin our relationship. Gambling also took me away from my son. I would spend more time gambling than playing with him. This is something else that I am very ashamed of.
I am now in love with the most amazing women called Liza. Through my experience I can feel that my gambling is going to be a problem for her in the same way that it was for my ex-wife. I am not going to let this happen again. I want to build a future with Liza and feel that the best way to do this is to confront my gambling addiction head on.
5. What happened to make you want to change now?
During a recent eight week working trip to Las Vegas I had saved up some money to use to play poker with. Two of my friends were visiting and I decided to play for six days and nights. I went through my bankroll management plan with Liza and at the end of the six days recorded a profit.
When I returned to the UK I wanted to play in my local Tuesday night home game but had not budgeted for it. I decided to break my own budgeting rules and withdrew £400 to play poker with that night. When I explained my decision to Liza I could sense that she was worried about my behaviour. I found myself lying to her and digging deep for justifications as to why I was going to play. I went out and lost the lot. Two nights later I withdrew another £400 and went out to play again. This time I won £900 and so recorded a small profit over the two sessions. Yesterday I took that £900 to the poker game once more. I was down to my last £60 when I borrowed another £200 from a friend. I have a rule that I will go home after losing £400 and here I was, in the game for over a thousand.
With just fifteen minutes of the session remaining, one of the players in my game, someone I have played with for the past two years did something very unethical in a hand where I was a sure favourite to win my money back. The night ended with a £450 loss but the incident with the man cut me deep. How could this person, whom I had played with for the past two years, basically cheat me out of money and not bat an eyelid? I realised immediately that an environment that bred men like this was not one that I wanted to be a part of. I also do not want to be associated with scumbags like that; scumbags like me.
6. Is this your first effort at gaining control of your gambling?
No it isn’t. Five years ago I stopped drinking alcohol and at the same time I stopped all forms of gambling with the exception of poker. In those past five years I have gambled once. I was drunk (I had fallen off the wagon) and I lost $3,000 playing roulette. I have placed one bet on the Grand National with my son and ex wife and then a few weeks ago I had that bet at the WSOP. But otherwise I have been very successful at controlling all forms of gambling except poker.
7. What do you think has held you back from making changes in your life?
I must confess that I just love gambling and because I love it so much I am scared of letting it go. It’s like trying to end a relationship with a loved one.
8. What influences your current gambling behaviour?
I chase a lot when I am behind. I have no patience and want everything now. I am scared that my income will run dry and this influences me to try to earn more through gambling.
9. What do you usually do about these influences?
Succumb to them.
10. What do you want the end result of using this book to be?
With smoking, drinking and drugs I took a zero tolerance approach. I could not control them and so I had to quit permanently. I am interested to see if gambling can be controlled or whether it has to be eliminated like the other three? So I want that answer solved at the end of the book. I also want to be honest with Liza about my gambling addiction.
I found completing this assessment very insightful. If you also have a gambling addiction, or believe that you have lost control, then I suggest you also complete this assessment as it will be a great help to you.