Problem Gambling Awareness Month: Finding “Awareness”

evive blog post 1

When I first started gambling, I understood conceptually that there was such a thing as “gambling addiction.” 


But I didn’t really know what it meant. 


I equated gambling harm with financial harm. 


I thought an “addict” was someone who had lost every penny they had, and was now bankrupt, destitute, and hopeless.  


I reasoned that as long as I wasn’t going into debt, I didn’t have a problem.  


I set a monthly budget, made sure my living expenses were taken care of, and figured the rest of the money I earned was just “fun money.” When my salary increased, my “fun money” increased, and so did my gambling activities. I quickly went from gambling hundreds of dollars each month, to gambling thousands of dollars. When I lost, as long as I wasn’t in debt, I justified my behavior.


Simultaneously my struggles with gambling intensified and other areas of my life started to suffer. I had a hard time sleeping. I struggled to focus at work. I felt that my brain was running on overdrive, constantly ‘analyzing’ all the potential outcomes of bets I had placed. I became irritable and short-tempered. I stopped enjoying things that had always been sources of joy for me like playing the drums, getting outdoors, and spending time with my friends and family. I drank more, and sought out other high-risk activities. My self-esteem tanked and self-loathing skyrocketed.


The truth is…my life was falling apart. 


Through it all, the overwhelming feeling I had was not one of failure, or disaster, or even acute consciousness of what was happening. It was actually the absence of feeling – it was numbness. 


I was a bystander watching what was happening to me from outside my body. While I was physically present in my life, I was increasingly mentally detached.  


I lacked awareness.  


This month is Problem Gambling Awareness Month, a nationwide grassroots campaign that seeks to increase public awareness of problem gambling and promote prevention, treatment, and recovery services. Reflecting on this theme, I came to the realization that my journey to become self-aware was the foundation of my own recovery. For years, I desperately struggled with being aware of how gambling was showing up in my life.


Because my nightmare scenario wasn’t losing all my money. Sure, I did worry about losing all my money. I worried about going into debt. I worried I would relapse.


But my real nightmare scenario was living the rest of my life numb to everything around me. Being robbed of once-in-a-lifetime moments. Watching my wife walk down the aisle at our wedding and not understanding the gravity of the moment. Holding my newborn daughter for the first time and not being present. That was my nightmare.  


In retrospect, I know gambling was the root cause of my misery. In the four years I have been in gambling recovery, how I feel, how I operate in the world, and how I show up for people I care about is almost indescribable. I am a different person.


Because more than anything, I feel. I’m aware and present in my life. I’m here.


So in honor of Problem Gambling Awareness Month, I encourage anyone reading this to become more aware of how gambling is showing up in their own life. Ask yourself the impact that it’s having on your goals, values, and relationships. If you don’t like what you see or feel like a bystander in your own life, let Evive help you become more aware and empowered to live a life in the moment, free from the harmful effects of gambling.




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