Today out of nowhere a thought came into my head about going gambling. It doesn’t often happen and I rarely entertain the thoughts when they come up, I may ponder what brought it on and it is usually a visual reminder or someone else talking about gambling. It seems like there is an identifiable trigger it isn’t out of the blue like this mornings thought was.
What is an Urge
An urge is a strong desire or impulse, a longing. We want something and we want it now. If we feel any sense of stress or emotional overload, it is easy to entertain the benefits of going back to something that gave us pleasure. It isn’t likely that you think about the problems associated with that behavior because you are looking for the gain. Most of us want immediate gratification, we live in a world that promotes it. If we go out to eat and have to wait more than 15 minutes for our food we get annoyed or worse. Stores have created self-help cash out lines so we don’t have to wait for cashiers, we call ahead our food orders, our coffee orders, all so we don’t have to wait in lines and can have what we want as quickly as possible. So when we get an impulse, an urge, or a craving we often just give into it without giving it much thought because we want to feel better now.
So if I dissect my urge this morning I believe it was stress related. Financial stress to be specific. So my brain immediately went to the possibility that I could win. (Not likely, rationally I know that) but most compulsive gamblers live in the fantasy world where I will win). This is where the big D word presents itself.
What about Denial
Denial is the refusal to admit the truth or the reality about something. It is the ability to rationalize behavior that an objective person can see is problematic and keeps people stuck in addiction.They either really don’t see it or really don’t want to see it. One of my favorite denial statements is “this will be the last time”, and even this morning I fleetingly entertained the idea that “I could go just this one time”. Really? I know that one more time is not possible, one more time will become 100 more times. What is the AA saying, One is too many and a thousand is not enough!
I felt like I went into a momentary state of denial this morning when I actually pondered the idea of going. It took me maybe 45 seconds to catch myself and say “Wait a minute what am I thinking?” The biggest reason I ever experienced financial stress has everything to do with thinking that gambling was an answer to my financial situation. And then I came back to the present moment. I started to admit the truth, the reality, what was I pretending not to remember about my days playing video poker.
Part of the answer is admitting the truth to yourself for sure. It is okay to remember that at one point the problem was the solution. That was well before all the lies started, all the pretending that I still had some control, before the impulse to go was all I needed to forget about everything else in my life and say screw it. So yes, you need to be able to let the denial go and look at the reality of the situation, the whole truth. If you have done some work and have some abstinence this is possible. There were many times in the past though when I knew I shouldn’t go and I went anyway. So sometimes the truth isn’t always enough.
Remember there are tools, stop and breathe, tap (use EFT) on it, use PSTEC, the Healing Codes, visualize yourself walking away, play the tape through, look inside, what is it you really need now.
Today what saved me was remembering why I stopped, I have a vision for my life now. I have goals and plans and I know that if I give into the urges, the thoughts, that my vision will never become a reality. My vision is stronger than my desire to escape my life, my emotions, my stress, my fear.
When you give up your substance or behavior it leaves a huge void in your life. You’ve lost a best friend, a coping strategy, an escape. The losses need to be grieved. The void needs to be filled. In the beginning, the strategies are about healing, getting grounded, learning to forgive yourself, there is a lot of work to be done. There may be a lot of other areas of your life that need to be addressed as well, remember to have patience with yourself and ask others to have some patience with you as well. As you move into your new life start to develop the vision sooner rather than later even if you don’t believe it will happen. The goal is that the life you want for yourself is something bigger than your addiction ever was. If you don’t have a vision to pull you forward, when the going gets tough it will take all your will power to keep from slipping back into the old behaviors.