Mums and Dads

I did not take Larkin’s advice. I have two children. I will have lunch with them today. I have a wonderful relationship with them. Yet, I know that I have been part of systems that will affect them forever. What has been been cool to watch is that they are making their own way in life while breaking some of the patterns they were burdened with.

I am not a fan of made up holidays. I do not need a “fathers day” for myself or to remember my father as f’ed up as we both were (are in my case). I also feel for those fathers, sons, and daughters who struggle with this day because no one wants to make commercials of their dysfunctional relationship with their father. My heart goes out to you who are fatherless or wish you were. My heart goes out to those fathers who are childless (or it seems to be) because of dysfunctional relationships.

I learned a lot from my father both positive and negative. I imagine my children can say the same. I know that my parents are not responsible for the patterns of my life. They, like me, were just part of many systems. I accept that without judgment.

I accept that my addictive cycles and recovery are part of new and old systems. They are not my parent’s fault.

in peace and love

‘This be the verse’

This Be The Verse

BY PHILIP LARKIN

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.   

    They may not mean to, but they do.   

They fill you with the faults they had

    And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn

    By fools in old-style hats and coats,   

Who half the time were soppy-stern

    And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.

    It deepens like a coastal shelf.

Get out as early as you can,    

And don’t have any kids yourself

THE 2% SOLUTION

I am in awe of Nightbirde. After my last post my friend Renee commented on the post and sent me a link to the clip. I have admitted to being judgmental in previous posts. I can be a pretend elitist who would not ever watch AGT. While I will still not watch the show I have a newfound respect for the way they treated Nightbirde, beautiful voice non-withstanding.

As I heard Nightbirde mention that she has a 2% survival rate with an equanimity beyond my comprehension/ability I am reminded of the differences and similarities in the recovery from cancer and addiction (comfort-seeking behaviors from trauma and dysfunction in another view). One similarity is a numbers game. I have dear friends who have way outlived their cancer diagnoses. I have had friends die at or around their diagnosis date. I know that the numbers measuring abstinence/sobriety “success” sometimes seem daunting to find healthy outcomes for those who find their, and their loved one’s, lives negatively affected by the addiction cycle.

One reason I am not going to give numbers at this point is that Nightbirde reminds us that we are all individuals. Maybe without as beautiful of a voice or equanimity, maybe you do.

in peace and love

GRATITUDE

I do not have cancer. I am grateful not to have cancer. I also know that while I do not have cancer many others do. Many are my dear friends.

While I waited three weeks from the PSA test result that triggered the MRI I took yesterday my mind went in many different directions. Never did my mind go to making a bet. There were some thoughts of drugs when my mind leaped to pain management. Because I host a few zoom meetings solo I had been talking about the possibility of the meetings ending if…

So now that I know I do not have late stage prostate cancer (my mind did go there at times) I accept that I do not have a due date for my death. So what do I do with that data? My plan is to start digging deeper in my own healthy being which includes being parts of other’s lives as they navigate their life. In the recovery world that includes “carrying the message”. I will use this blog and newer versions of recovery meetings to be part of the process.

in peace and love

DO YOU HAVE LUMPY GRAVY? IF SO, DO NOT GO TO A CASINO: THEY ARE NOT YOU FRIEND

I have over a 40% chance of not having Prostate Cancer. Yes, that means I have over a 50% chance of having Prostate Cancer. I will go with the 40% chance. You might be wondering why I would write this piece before I know for sure one way or the other. I had someone in recovery once accuse me (my interpretation) of being obsessed with my prostate. The main reason is that I wanted to share the poem in the previous post. I want to thank Carver, Loren and my dear friend Chet for the poem. Carver for writing the poem, Loren for sharing the poem in the context of his cancer experience, and Chet for introducing me to the work of Carver and Gravy.

I have not made a bet or used drugs in a little while. My path to abstinence has not been a straight line. I admire those who quit and found a calm, peaceful life without a relapse. I have relapsed both in and out of recovery. I have been able to experience the taste of gravy (if you can accept vegan gravy as a thing) and also have experienced lumpy gravy.

I have mentioned many times the benefits to my recovery I have received by being in a cancer support group. I, or anyone in the group, do not wish to have cancer. On the other hand, why not me? I have a high PSA score and by a sibling having prostate cancer I am in the over 50% category. I am also an aging male.

I am grateful to have people in different areas of support groups. I am grateful to be in stable recovery where instead of either accepting the lumps in the gravy or working on the lumps I develop an urge to make a bet or do some drugs. And to add to that, if I do get an urge I do not have to go to the proverbial/metaphoric casino. I have you and others around the world to communicate with.

in peace and love

GRAVY

  This is from a blog by Loren Webster
Carver’s “Gravy” I’ll have to admit that purely for personal reasons, Carver’s “Gravy” is probably my favorite poem. Those few who were reading “In a Dark Time” in December of 2001 will remember that I was diagnosed with throat cancer and told I would be dead in less than six months unless I got immediate treatment, and none of the treatment options seemed particularly good. GRAVY No other word will do. For that’s what it was. 

Gravy 

Gravy, these past ten years.

Alive, sober, working, loving, and being loved by a good woman.

Eleven years ago he was told he had six months to live at the rate he was going. And he was going nowhere but down. So he changed his ways somehow.

He quit drinking!

And the rest?

After that it was all gravy, every minute of it, up to and including when he was told about, well, some things that were breaking down and building up inside his head.

“ Don’t weep for me,” he said to his friends. “I’m a lucky man. I’ve had ten years longer than I or anyone expected. Pure Gravy. And don’t forget it.” By Raymond Carver

 I survived throat surgery, learned how to eat again and seem to have totally recovered from the cancer even though the odds seemed stacked against me. Since then, I’ve felt exactly like this. I sometimes think these have actually been the best years of my life, though that’s hard to say because I seldom think much beyond the moment. Though I’m not planning on dying in the near future, I seldom plan beyond that time. By Loren

Late Fragment by Raymond Carver 

And did you get what
You wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth

THE SPORTS OF KINGS AND WHATEVER THE REST OF US ARE CALLED NOWADAYS

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2021/may/15/medina-spirit-scandal-horse-abuse-bob-baffert

The above article speaks in a strong voice how animals are abused for money and fame. And, to be fair, we horse bettors are just as much to blame. I have not been to a race track in about 40 years and bet on a horse race in over 20. I have no plans to change either of those numbers by making a bet. I also know that for my recovery/quality of life that I do not plan on following the the industry except when a story such as the above reminds me of the damage I did to others-family, friends, horses.

I have been sitting on my hands waiting for a story to tell. Warren Buffet/Robinhood, Bill Gates/Jeffrey Epstein, politics aglore (not a real word for you scrabble players but it sounds royal) and aglare, sports betting, any betting…

I think the article above triggered personal thoughts about how I have developed different views on how others serve me. When I was gambling or following sports I did not care about the suffering of “players” whether they be fighting in a ring, falling off horses or were horses themselves, be developing Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) brain damage from many sporting events. I now do not watch football at any level, fighting in any form of sporting event (a less than truthful answer from someone who watches Korean crime shows that certainly depict violence from martial arts), or an auto race that might have multiple crashes in any given race. I only watch baseball (one teams games only) that has a projectile being slung at others at 80-100 mph. Yes, I am a hypocrite and I am judgmental.

in peace and love

Hello Canada Part 2

https://lastdoor.org/blog/category/talk-recovery-radio/

Last Door is a treatment center in Canada. They have a weekly radio hour where they discuss topics related to recovery. They have an impressive list of past interviewees. Giuseppe and Darren are well versed in the treatment world as professionals and recovery people. I recommend giving their library of interviews a listen.

I was interviewed by them today. I will leave it for you to decide if I reached the level of impressive. What I did have was a welcome space to talk about gambling, cross-addiction, and recovery. I am grateful for the opportunity to speak with them and to their audience.

I posted a list of resources for Canadians in a post previous to this one. In this time of Zoom connections I have had the opportunity to meet Canadians in recovery at meetings both in Canada and in the U.S. Gambling Disorder knows no boundaries.

I

Hello Canada

Problem Gambling Helplines in Canada

Confidential and open 24 hours a day.

Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission Helpline
1-866-332-2322

British Columbia ­ Problem Gambling Information and Referral Service
1-888-795-6111

Manitoba Gambling Helpline
1-800-463-1554

New Brunswick Problem Gamblers Hotline
1-800-461-1234

Newfoundland and Labrador Helpline
1-888-899-4357

Nova Scotia Toll-Free Gambling Helpline
1-888-347-8888

Nunavut Kamatsiaqtut Helpline

1-800-265-3333

Ontario Problem Gambling Helpline
1-888-230-3505

Prince Edward Island Gambling Addiction Treatment Program
1-888-299-8399

Québec – Gambling Help and Referral
(514) 527-0140 Montreal and surrounding area
1-800-461-0140 and 1-866-767-5389 throughout province

Saskatchewan Problem Gambling Helpline
1-800-306-6789

Source: Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

DEFINITELY NOT A BLOG PIECE

The following is an article I submitted to a substance use disorder (SUD) secular website. They chose not to print because the focus was not specific to SUD. As I have struggled recently to write a blog piece I am going to take the opportunity to print the article as I think it might add some background to why I write this blog and might be of interest from an educational perspective.

THE HIDDEN DISEASE, UNTIL…
Gambling Disorder (GD) has many similarities with Substance Use Disorders (SUD) Since 2013 GD has been categorized with SUD in the, Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel (DSM-V) as the only behavioral disorder in the grouping. The change was based on the body of research on GD as opposed to other behavioral disorders. GD had been recognized in the previous DSM under a different name as an Impulse Control Disorder. I am in recovery from both SUD and GD. My disorder of choice was gambling with a history of on an off gambling for over 40 of my 69 years on this earth. I used drugs for about 14 years with long-term abstinence from drugs. I write that history as I will juxtapose some of my story into the following.
Some similarities GD has with SUD include: tolerance, withdrawal, preoccupation, repeated attempts to control/cut back/stop use, negative consequences to family and societal systems (work, school, community, legal…), lying, isolation.
Why the “Hidden Disease” moniker? I have asked Police Officers if they ever stopped anyone under the influence of gambling. I get a few chuckles now and then which leads to my next question whether there is a statute on the books against driving under the influence of gambling. Of course there is not. I then share my personal experience of driving home in a snow storm after losing all my money in a state of shock. Along with shock I was at time experiencing suicidal ideation. I have many anecdotal stories from friends, clients, mutual aid members to add to the concern of people driving under the influence of gambling.
Why would I ask that of law enforcement if not only to get a chuckle? My hope is that in the context of a comprehensive introduction to the disorder I will add a level of awareness which would allow for a conversation to happen. The conversation might happen during a traffic stop. The conversation might happen during a domestic violence call. If law enforcement is aware of the disorder they can target their conversation and give out resources. Maybe intervene in a suicide situation.
Gambling Disorder is said to have the highest suicide rate among the disorders it is grouped in with. 20% suicide attempted or completed suicides and a 50% rate of suicidal ideation. It is an out loud secret among some gamblers that one way to
save your family some shame and to get your family insurance money is to have a one car accident. A sad example of driving under the influence.
Some of the differences between GD and SUD are stark. I’ve heard of, and think of, an 80/20 balance of similarities and differences. I think as individuals with cross-addictions, clinicians, sponsors, family members, employers…it is important to understand the 20% difference.
I started gambling at the age of 13. I went from a bright enough kid to being in the bottom quarter of my class. I quit school activities during my freshman year of high school. I am fairly certain if I was drinking and/or drugging I would have caught notice of some adult. I did not. When ESPN decided that poker was a sport a whole new cohort of gamblers was created. Professionals left their areas of expertise to play poker, to become a “professional”. Parents were thrilled their children were playing poker in the basement and not doing drugs/drinking. When their children started showing signs of addictive behavior they went out and got drug/alcohol testing devices. Their children would smile, say good idea, and take a test that they knew would not show their gambling even when the signs their parents were observing were part of an addictive cycle.
You cannot see it, smell it, test for it, it is hidden until it isn’t; at least in the normal observational ways we find our loved ones and friends being affected by the SUD. In adults it sometimes has the feel of infidelity. For those reasons, without knowledge of the disorder and ways to converse, GD can stay hidden longer than SUD.
Some of the other differences are: no threshold, magical thinking, it is possible to win at the end of the night, there are few regulations on losses with the possibility to lose generational money in any given outing, and no direct attributable medical events. An example of thresholds are the limits the body/brain has on the amount of drugs and/or alcohol that can be ingested in some form, such as, blood poisoning, psychotic breaks, directly attributable medical events. I have yet to meet someone going to buy drugs or liquor while wearing their lucky tattered t-shirt under a suit because they believe their drug of choice will be of better quality. Gamblers are a superstitious lot who will wear that t-shirt on every Tuesday of baseball season or bring a troll doll to place on a slot machine. They tend to believe in systems that are at best cognitive distortions and at worst their one last chance.
I will never diminish the devastation that drugs/alcohol wreaks on individuals, families, society including the financial costs. I have walked with, from in close and from afar, too many people on their journey to dying from drugs/alcohol. I say that as I am going to write about the devastation GD can have without some of the safeguards/regulations that SUD has and do not want to, I repeat, diminish the previously mentioned devastation.
You do not need to have a SUD or a GD to create life changing events in any given moment with drugs, alcohol, gambling. The above mentioned physical thresholds for SUD along with Dram Shop Laws and law enforcement patrolling the roads give some protections to individuals and society. There are no such regulations in the U.S. for gamblers. A gambler might commit many lies, lies of omission, crimes to place a bet. People are allowed to place a bet without any assessment of suitability or protection for families and friends. I have many ideas on point-of-sale protections for individual and families. Some include having an application process to gamble, financial and knowledge based suitability, and my favorite-spousal approval for any marital property put at risk. I want to make it as difficult as possible for someone to lose generational money in any given time period. And let’s remember for some that generational money is only a fantasy that they have been sold by manipulative marketing. What many people are losing is their rent money, their paychecks, their co-pays for their own or their children’s needed medication.
What to do if a GD, or some pre-clinical form of GD, exposes itself. My first exposure to treatment was a psychiatrist. I did not find recovery or stop gambling. That is not a judgment of the psychiatrist. I was still in a space between pre-contemplation (I do not have a problem you do) and contemplation (I might have a problem and maybe I will do something about it). When I found myself in a devastation stage I found Gamblers Anonymous (GA). Gamblers Anonymous was the third 12-step group formed. In Illinois 1-800-Gambler and Gamblers Anonymous are two first steps that can be taken. The 800 number will refer to treatment providers.
GA was founded by a member of AA who also had problems with his gambling. The second member was an atheist. Even though he left soon after the group started the steps were adapted mainly by removing God from some of the steps. God is not mentioned in Recovery Steps 3, 5, and 6 or in Unity Step (AA Tradition) 2. The other noticeable changes were to Recovery Steps 2 and 12. In Step 2 “sanity” was changed to “a normal of thinking and living”. In Step 12 “had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps” was changed to “made an effort to practice these principles in all our affairs”. There is not an extensive institutional written history in GA as in AA. I have not been able to learn the history and thought process of the changes.
As opposed to the many secular opportunities for recovery from SUD until recently I had not known of specific opportunities for secular gambling recovery. I have friends that have had success in Smart Recovery. Along with some friends we have started a Secular Humanist Recovery Meeting for gamblers. We use the Alternative 12-Steps as our step guide. We incorporate the wisdom of humanity as we explore our recovery through a lens of secular humanism.
Brian Meister MS CADC ICPG-1 Smart Recovery Certificate, Due to my gambling, first as part of my addictive cycle where education was not important and then because of a career as a gambler (I was a broker in the options arena for three decades), I did not focus on my education. I received a BS at age 48, a MS at 60, and three different certificates at 65, 67, and 69. I spend much of my time in recovery groups (some that I started). I have a very small client base. I have worked in the field as a Gambling Counselor, a speaker on gambling related issues, and as a facilitator of trainings. I did most of that work at Nicasa Behavioral Health Services in Lake County Il. I plan on a journey of self-examination, service, fellowship, and family for whatever time I have left…