I awake and reach over for my pill case that holds medication for each day of the week. Medication to be taken in the morning and evening in conjunction with activities that today I hope in earnest will continue to save my life. Recovery is about asking for help and accepting hope is possible.
I share openly and publicly so that those in the shadows, in the darkness, may feel less alone.
I share for those who didn’t make it … whose secrets went to their graves with them.
I share also to help create awareness of the consequences, risks and stigmas associated with a gambling addiction.
Do you have a family member who you feel may have a gambling problem? Do you know what to say? Do you know what to do?
Perhaps this letter may help.
In addition to medication, I continue to be in treatment with doctors, counsellors and other health-care providers in my quest to get better. I also attend Gambler Anonymous meetings and seek online support at Gamtalk.Org.
I would encourage people to explore and discover what resources work for you as a person who is ill with a gambling addiction, or someone who is close to them.
Also on this day I am recovering from my most recent surgery. A surgery on my right ear, that like my left had to be operated on this year in order to save my life as it also was ravaged by decades of chronic infection in the middle ear. Neglect as a result of not looking after myself in a healthy way physically due to my pathological gambling addiction being my only priority for decades. My left ear is currently unable to hear anything.
Reaching for the a.m. area of the pill case, I flip the lid for Tuesday. In it contains an antidepressant, a drug to deal with hypothyroidism, along with a multivitamin. I also access a painkiller to ease the pain caused by my surgery this past Friday. The pain eased by the painkiller is nowhere near the amount of pain I experienced as an addicted pathological gambler.
There wasn’t a pill strong enough to ease the suffering and pain being addicted to gambling brings … other than perhaps a suicide pill … and I would have gladly taken one at one time in my chaotic life if it was available. Prior to any pill dispersal this morning, I turned off my sleep apnea machine. I have p.m. pills I take nightly to aid me in sleeping.
The illnesses in conjunction with pathological gambling were diagnosed in the fall of 2009, following my suicide attempts after decades of gambling and depression. The only things I didn’t lose in my life was my life, an extremely special lady and my mom/dad. Along the way while pathological gambling, I lost all of the traditional material things that often reveal part of who we are. Material things like getting a home and cars repossessed, furnishings, appliances, tools, while declaring bankruptcy also. All sacrificed to pursue the unrelenting pathological need to gamble. An adult life of insanity since I was 29, lived in secret to avoid detection. A shadow warrior flying under the radar.
I am now 52, and want to shed light.
When my home was repossessed, I lost my dog … my golden retriever … due to not having a place to keep her any longer ... a part of me died again.
Traditional life choices such as having a family, being close to family were forfeited in my case due to not wanting anyone to know of my truth … my illness … my chaos. I couldn’t let anyone close to me as it might result in them knowing who I really was. Worse still having to be a part of who I was and suffer side-effects of my illness also directly. I didn’t like who I was, so how could I expect anyone else to.
My immediate family, girlfriend and employer only came to know of my illness of pathological gambling following my suicide attempts in which I ended up in the hospital in the fall of 2009.
As I leave the bedroom, I look over to see my girlfriend of four years, whose support has been unwavering and inspiring.
We all need lighthouses (using a metaphor) in our lives when addressing life’s rocky shores — she has been mine.
A recent addition to our family is a golden retriever puppy that is three months old. My girlfriend adopted the puppy to help me in the event I am deaf completely following the most recent surgery. She also knew I lost my previous dog due to my illness.
I look on a table top and see a card and gift of a plant from mom/dad sharing with me and my girlfriend that they hope we enjoy our new place we had to move into due to having a dog, and our apartment not accepting puppies.
Hope is possible if a commitment is made to accept support and responsibility for our illness. Pathological gambling has many side-effects that all have to be addressed honestly and without compromise.
It feels good.
Thanks for letting me share how hope is possible “One day at a time.”
Chris T. Parlow
New Westminster, B.C.
Former Brandon resident
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition November 14, 2012