My first experience of Gamblers Anonymous and GamAnon was in June 2004 when my partner and I had been together for nearly 2 years. I took him to that first meeting, just like many others have taken a loved one to a meeting, desperately looking for help for a problem that they know they cannot deal with alone.
What brought us to that meeting was that he had finally admitted to me the extent of his gambling problem. Before this, I knew he liked to play fruit machines but I saw this as part of the ‘one of the lads’ lifestyle he had when we first met. Our finances were separate at the time so the financial impact of his gambling was not obvious to me. From the early stages of our relationship, I had suspected that he spent a lot compared to what he earned but I was not too concerned about what the money was being spent on. I believed this was something he could control and that it would change when our relationship became serious and he moved in with me after 12 months together. There were also things that happened that seemed strange, like the odd lost wallet incident (something that will probably be all too familiar to many reading this), but at the time I never suspected the truth.
In the end it was the emotional impact of his gambling that made me realise there was something very wrong. Making arrangements and promises and not keeping them. Going ‘AWOL’ and turning up drunk with stories that did not seem to ring true. Then one day, when I expected him to be at home when I returned and he wasn’t, I decided to go off myself. ‘See how he likes it’ I thought. I drove around for a while until I realised it was not going to help either of us and that I needed to confront things so I returned home. As I drove through our village, the thought occurred to me to stop at one of his usual haunts, the local pub, guessing I would find him there. But I wanted to be wrong and was too embarrassed to face him if I was right so I just carried on home. I still did not know that gambling was the root of his behaviour at the time. I had started to wonder if he was seeing someone else; whether another woman was the reason for how he was behaving. I decided whatever was wrong, I could not go on any longer with things as they were and decided to confront him when he came home. Finally, much later, when he returned, drunk again, with a story of a lost wallet yet again, I handed him a letter I had written while I was waiting for his return.
In it I described all my emotions; anger, frustration, hurt, fear, sadness, shame, and my concerns that there was something he was not telling me. I wrote that I loved him and really wanted us to have a long and happy future together but that there was something standing in the way of this.
This sobered him up pretty quickly! I think he might have been expecting a shouting match so to be faced with a letter from someone telling him they loved him just knocked him sideways. He broke down and told me how much gambling had taken over his life and that he wanted to find help. We went out together and found the wallet he had thrown into a waste bin and the bank card he had tossed into some bushes; his attempts to cover up his gambling by disposing of the evidence of an empty wallet and a bank card that had been used to withdraw all the money in his account. The fact that there was nothing left in the wallet except 2 photographs, one of me and one of his daughter, made me feel like he was throwing away the people that he loved and that loved him and that broke my heart. However, I believed that he had realised what he stood to lose if he did not try to change, and that he was willing to find help to do this and that is how we ended up at GA.
His recovery since then has had its ups and downs but GA and GamAnon has been a constant in our lives and without it we would not have got married and had a daughter together. I am very proud of his achievement in not having placed a bet since 2008 but I believe it is wholly because of our meetings. Since first being ‘brought to’ that first meeting, my husband gradually started to work very hard at his own recovery, attending meetings all over the North East and North West. In fact I have sometimes worried that he was in danger of becoming a compulsive meeting- attender! His attendance at his original meeting group has not been so regular because of work commitments but he attends meetings elsewhere and he still keeps in touch with many other GA members by phone, and we are both so very grateful for the friendship and unity he has experienced from GA members everywhere.
Until I first attended a GamAnon meeting, I was unsure of how best to help my husband. Since then I have been on my own journey of recovery from the gambling problem, starting from the point of establishing a new local GamAnon group.
GamAnon has helped me to work through and resolve the anger and resentment resulting from hurtful experiences due to compulsive gambling and all that comes with it, as well as provided solutions to the practical financial issues. Jointly seeking help through the GA and GamAnon programmes has helped the recovery process for both my husband and myself. I am very grateful to everyone I have met in GamAnon rooms over the years who have helped me to do this, and I look forward to all the future meetings which will allow our recoveries to continue.