“When we do the inner work within ourselves and begin to clean out the “soul” is when our recovery really takes hold.” ~Catherine Townsend-Lyon
“I am a dual-diagnosed person who lives in recovery from gambling addiction and has mental health challenges. It can make obtaining and stay in recovery a wee bit more work, as I discovered.”
My recovery journey first started in 2002 and reset in 2006. Both times I woke up in a hospital as the result of another failed suicide attempt and then went back to an addiction and mental health crisis center for a 14-day stay. In 2002 I was diagnosed with mental health disorders while in the middle of a full-blown gambling addiction. I was suffering from bipolar manic depression, PTSD, and OCD from past childhood trauma and abuse, and today, still manic depression and agoraphobia.
Then again in 2006, another breakdown, but this time the problem wasn’t that I gambled again and relapsed; the problem was not taking my psych medications for a few weeks. I thought I didn’t need them; that I could be “normal” like everyone else around me, but as you read my story, you’ll see that didn’t work out too well.
I had a few severe financial crises happen, and since I had not taken my medication and had depleted all of my savings, I panicked and chose to steal from someone. What a mess? No excuses, just insights. Of course, they pressed charges. I was arrested, went through the courts and was sentenced to many hours of community service, two years of probation and paid restitution that I’m still paying today. My point?
You have to do the work in all areas of your recovery, including your finances. Even though I was not gambling, my financial and legal troubles told me I still needed to work with a gambling addiction specialist. After my problems had occurred, I worked with a recovery expert for a year while I went through the legal mess I created. Why am I sharing this? Our stories and words of our “character defects” can be powerful tools to help others.
After my second suicide attempt and crisis, I learned I did not have a balanced recovery; and seemed had more work to do. I learned that God, my higher power, had bigger plans for me, a purpose for me that involves helping those reaching out for recovery. After I was released from the crisis center in 2006 and started working with a gambling/mental health specialist and got my mental health under control, I began to see the stigma surrounding those of us who live in recovery. Those of us who have a mental illness have a huge hurdle in our path.
I am a dual-diagnosed person who lives in recovery and has mental health challenges. It can make obtaining recovery a wee bit more work, as I discovered. I had picked up nasty habits, behaviors, and diseased thinking within my addiction that needed more correcting. Working with the gambling specialist was eye opening. He helped me break down the cycle of the addiction, and we also worked with tools and skills for dealing with financial problems that may arise while in recovery. I’d been given a relapse prevention workbook, and although I didn’t relapse into gambling, the book has helped me develop a plan for any financial or life event that may arise during my recovery journey. You need a plan before life events come.
Another tool that helped was journaling every day. I have always done this, but my specialist showed me how to relieve stress and learn more from my journaling. My journals were a guide with help in writing my current published book. Writing my story and experiences in memoir form was a very healing process for me.
I shared my gambling addiction and alcohol abuse, my past childhood abuse and sexual trauma and what it is like living with mental illness. I never dreamed I would be a published author, recovery advocate, freelance writer and blogger, but these are just a few of the recovery blessings I have received in my journey thus far.
By publishing my book and sharing it with the world, I hope to shatter stigma around gambling addiction, recovery, and mental health. I want to be a voice for those who are childhood sex abuse survivors. Through my book and my recovery blog, I have chosen not to be anonymous. I want others to know how devastating compulsive gambling addiction is and how quickly one can become addicted when using it for all the wrong reasons. It truly is a real disease and illness. I want others to be informed and educated, and I raise awareness of the effects it has on our communities, family, and our lives. This also goes with mental health and those who suffer from its many forms.
The public needs to understand with the expansion of casinos and state lotteries, it is making gambling more and more accessible today and is now touching our youth. Currently, 1% of our population are problem gamblers. Through my recovery, I have learned many lessons.
The best advice I can give?
When starting recovery learn about this addiction. Work with a specialist or recovery coach to learn the “cycle” and then learn the tools and skills to interrupt it. Work a steady, balanced recovery that encompasses mind, body, spirit and finances. There are many ways to recover including in or outpatient treatment and 12-step meetings. Anything and everything you can find? Do it. Only one option may not be enough for success in long-term recovery. Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way in early recovery before that little “Lightbulb” above my head went off!
Now that I have reached TEN years in recovery from gambling addiction and alcohol abuse, I know it is my job, my duty, to be of recovery service to others. Life today is good! My husband and I learned we can now weather any storm together. I’m proud that my book;
“Addicted to Dimes, Confessions of a Liar and a Cheat” has done so well and has opened doors for me to share what I have learned. I advocate and share as much as I can with others. It is to prove we can recover from this insidious addiction.
And I do this in many ways and many platforms, like “Keys To Recovery Newspaper” which is a free publication, Gambling Blogger at Addictionland” and for “In Recovery Magazine & Column The Author’s Cafe”. As we are now hearing more and more people today with “dual diagnosis” and seems to be more common.
With a high percentage of people relapsing after rehab or treatment, I wanted, and my readers asked me, to share how to attain the first year of recovery. I also share this on my recovery journal in blog form. So my second book I am working on now is about just that. How to make that first year in recovery. All I can urge others to do is never give up. You are worth a better life in recovery. Sharing our experiences and our recovery story with others is just as important as the professional or clinical side of how to recover. Sharing one’s story is a powerful tool for others to listen to and learn.
My last tip is to do something for your recovery each day like I do with writing and sharing my “testimony” anywhere I can to raise awareness and educate the public. It will help keep you in recovery, and you won’t ever become complacent in your journey. So, let me pose this question and open up a “Comments Dialogue” . . .
“What do you do to stay in RECOVERY”???
I wish you all a successful and learning recovery journey!
Author/Columnist, Catherine Townsend-Lyon 🙂 XoXo