By: Catherine Townsend-Lyon
“It’s hard to walk away from a winning streak, even harder to leave the table when you’re on a losing one.” ― Cara Bertoia
I Was Gambling with My Life and Mental Health
My recovery journey started again in 2006. I woke up in a hospital as the result of my second failed suicide attempt and back to an addiction and mental health crisis center for another 14-day stay.
The problem wasn’t that I gambled again or relapsed; the problem was not taking my psych medications for my mental health 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 happened to have a financial crisis happen, and had worked through all our savings, I panicked and chose to steal from someone. My fault, but wasn’t thinking clearly, panicked since being off my meds. What a mess!
Losing the Gamble
Of course, she pressed charges. After I was arrested, I went through the court process, sentenced to many hours of community service, two years of probation and had to pay restitution. My point?
You need to do the work in all areas of your recovery, including your finances. I had not yet done all the work necessary for a balanced recovery. Even though I was not gambling, my financial and legal troubles told me I still had work to do! So, I began working with an addiction specialist on the residual addicted thinking, habits, and negative behaviors we learn within addiction.
After my troubles occurred, I worked with a specialist for a year while I went through the legal mess I created.
I Gambled; You Don’t Have To
Why am I sharing this? Our recovery stories and words are powerful tools to help others.
After this second suicide attempt and crisis, I learned I did not have a well-balanced recovery the hard way. I also learned that God, my higher power, had bigger plans for me, a purpose for me that involves helping those reaching out for recovery from the cunning illness of compulsive gambling addiction.
When I got released from the crisis center in 2006, I got my mental health under control. I began to see the stigma surrounding those who choose to live in recovery and mental health at the same time. Yes, it means I am dually diagnosed. Those of us who suffer from mental illness have a huge hurdle in our path balancing both.
Taking a Risk; Doing the Recovery Work
It can make obtaining recovery a wee bit more work, as I discovered. Working with the 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 was given a fantastic relapse prevention workbook as well. Although I didn’t relapse into gambling, this workbook 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 because they do come and most unexpected most of the time.
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. Those journals were used and became a manuscript for 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, writer and blogger, but these are just a few of the recovery blessings I have received in my journey thus far.
Through my book and sharing it with the world, I hope to shatter the stigma around gambling addiction, recovery, and mental and emotional health. I want to be a voice for those who are child sex abuse survivors, as some of my past was a direct link about why I turned to addiction. Through my book and my recovery blog, Recovery Starts Here, I have chosen not to be anonymous.
I want others to know how devastating compulsive gambling addiction is and how easily one can become addicted. 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 and families’ lives.
With the heavy expansion of Indian casinos and state lotteries, it is making gambling more and more accessible and is now touching our youth and senior populations. Currently, 1% of our population are problem gamblers, so through my recovery journey and writing an in-depth look inside a gambling addict’s life; I have learned a lot about myself, and want to share it to help others.
I am often asked for advice all the time on how to recover. The best advice I can give? When starting treatment and recovery, learn and be educated about this addiction. Have an open mind to recovery and know it is a life long journey.
Work with a specialist or a recovery coach if needed, to learn the cycle and then learn the tools and skills to interrupt it. Work a well-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. I learned this the hard way. Gambling addiction is a silent disease. But it is time to have the conversation about the “ugly side” of it as it isn’t just fun and games for many who do become addicted.
Recovery is Real, Too
Now that I have reached ten and a half 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 that we could weather any storm together. I’m proud that my book has done so well and has opened doors for me to share what I have learned. I share as much as I can with others. I do this in many ways like writing. And my second book is about finished, and my hope is to release in late 2017. It will be a “how-to” for reaching that elusive first year of recovery.
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. I also share my recovery journal in blog form. All I can urge others to do is never give up. You are worth a better life when maintaining recovery. Sharing our experiences and our recovery story with others is just as important as the ‘professional or clinical side’ of this disease. You never know who is listening when sharing your testimony. My last tip is to do something for your recovery each day. Then you won’t ever become complacent or tested to relapse. Just begin to live life again from addiction!
About Catherine Townsend – Lyon
Catherine is a former columnist for In Recovery Magazine’s “The Author’s Cafe,” a recovery and ghostwriter. She runs “Cat Lyon’s Reading & Writing Den” helping authors market their books throughout social media. Catherine advocates and has shared her story on Addictionland.com, Facing Addiction.org and Heroes in Recovery.com.
Catherine was invited to be in media articles by The University of Columbia, Nautil.us, and Time.com. She seeks platforms to raise awareness, inform, and educated others about gambling addiction and recovery. She resides in Arizona and So. Oregon. Catherine’s Social Media: Facebook – Twitter – LinkedIn.
She is the author of “Addicted to Dimes, Confessions of a Liar and a Cheat” published by The Kodel Empire Group and available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, BAM, Walmart books online, and InReocvery.com bookstand.