The Recovering Gamblers Podcast: LIVE

Episode 20

June 28, 2021



First Segment - SMART Recovery Handbook - Chapter 3 - Part 1


Why are you reading this Handbook?


Something caused you to pick up this book and at least entertain the idea of changing your life. Are you riding an emotional wave from some crisis in your life? What happens when the crisis subsides and life returns to 'normal?' Will you still want to change?


It's easy to make a list of annual New Year's resolutions and worthy goals - lose weight, save money, become a better parent, stop this or start that. 


  1. Think of the last time you made such a list. How long did it take before your life found its way back to where it was before?


So, how do we stay motivated to make the change we sincerely want? One of the biggest challenges most people face in recovery is maintaining their motivation. "Wishing" is not a reliable strategy. Some of us talk about the changes we want to make as if just talking about them will get us there.


Motivation is key to your recovery; it's what drives you to meet your goals. Without it, you're not likely to change very much. You may not realise it but you're already motivated to change. It took motivation to buy this book or to attend your first meeting, even if someone forced you. You could have said no, but you didn't. This section will help you build on those first seeds of motivation and help you stay motivated during the change process.


  1. How do you stay motivated to make the change you sincerely want?


You may have heard that SMART is a self-empowerment programme. It may sound a bit like pop psychology. It isn't. This concept is important as you prepare for the work ahead. You have power over the choices you make, how you behave, and the goals you set for your future.


TOOL: Hierarchy of Values


We all have values that motivate us, whether we've identified them or not. Chances are that you haven't recenti thought about your values. The Hierarchy of Values (HOV) tool will help reintroduce what is most important to you. 


  1. Start by writing down as many of your values as you can think of. There are no right or wrong answers as these are very personal. When you have written as many as you can, group them into main categories, ultimately narrowing your list to five. List them in order of importance in this table. If you are struggling to figure out exactly what your values or priorities are, simply consider what you spend your money on. Often this will accurately reflect, in order, what we priorities in our life and value the most.


My Hierarchy of Values worksheet.


What I value most




Your list may look something like this:


What I value most


  1. My relationship with my partner


  1. My children


  1. My physical health


  1. My financial well-being


Look over your list again. Do you notice anything missing? It's rare that a person lists their addictive behaviour as a value even though it's likely to be the single most important priority in their life. An addictive behaviour can become the priority in your life, even though it damages everything else that you think is important.


Now, think about how your addictive behaviour impacts each of your values. Every time you engage in your addictive behaviour, you choose it over your values. You gamble with what you treasure and hold dear; you compromise your value system. Take an honest look at your list and insert your addictive behaviour where you are in fact putting your addictive behaviour. For many people, when they are honest about this, they realise it is number one, their top priority.


What I value most - in the way I live my life


  1. Engaging with my addictive behaviour 


  1. My relationship with my partner


  1. My children


  1. My physical health


  1. My financial well-being


A successful recovery requires sobriety to be a valued priority in your life. Everything else that you value depends on this so it makes sense to put this as your number one priority - look after your recovery and you have made a good start to protect all the other things you value most


What I value most - in the way I will live my life in future


  1. Abstaining from my addictive behaviour


  1. My relationship with my partner


  1. My children


  1. My physical health


  1. My financial well-being


When people do this exercise, they often come away with an "ah ha" moment. At one SMART meeting, a woman who was new to recovery did this exercise with the help of the facilitator. When he asked her why alcohol wasn't on her list, she burst into tears. She hasn't had a drink since!


It can be helpful to carry around your completed Hierarchy of Values. Pull it out of your pocket and review it if you are not thinking clearly and have thoughts of using. You can remind yourself you were thinking better when you wrote it and considered what you want for the long-term.


You may now have a clearer picture of how your addictive behaviour affects what you value most. These next two exercises will help you look deeper into what you want for yourself and help you identify specific and important goals you want to achieve to bring more meaning to your life.


EXERCISE: The Three Questions


Your goal is to stop using or acting out. Your desire to change is your motivation to stop your addictive behaviour. It is sometimes hard to see a difference between what you are doing and what you could do differently to achieve your goals. This exercise can help you bring these two perspectives into focus so you can clearly see any discrepancy between them.


Ask yourself these questions:


  1. What do I want for my future?


  1. What am I currently doing to achieve that?


  1. How do I feel about what I'm currently doing?


An example of answers to these questions: 


  1. What do I want for my future? To be a good partner, parent, employee.


  1. What am I currently doing to achieve that? Nothing, because I'm drunk and stoned all the time.


  1. How do I feel about what I'm currently doing? Guilty, ashamed, depressed, frustrated, stressed, trapped.


Now, answer the follow on questions:


  1. What could I do differently to achieve the future I want?


  1. How would changing what I do or getting what I want make me feel?


Once you see the discrepancy between your feelings about what you're currently doing and your feelings about changing your behaviour, you can use that difference as further motivation to stop using. As you start to feel better about being abstinent, you feel more empowered to achieve your goal in #1: Be a good partner, parent, and employee.


On the next page is a worksheet for you to complete on the Three Questions.


  1. What do I want for my future?


  1. What am I doing now?


  1. How do I feel about what I’m doing now?


  1. What could I do differently to help me get what I want?


  1. How would changing what I do or getting what I want make me feel? 

Second Segment - Topic of the Week


HOW - Honesty, open mindedness and willingness.


A phrase you will hear a lot in recovery circles.


  1. How honest are you these days compared to how you were when you were gambling?  What areas could you improve?


Are you open minded to try new things to do with your recovery or do you think you are doing absolutely everything you can to give yourself the best chance in stopping gambling?


What are you willing to do to stop gambling and what are you willing to do to further your recovery?  Is it purely about attending meetings?  What else do you do? What DON'T you do (that may be a trigger to you relapsing) and would you be willing to do ANYTHING to stop gambling? 

Third Segment - Quote of the Week 


“Tibetan lamas warn of winding up in the god realm—blissed out for incalculable aeons—until good karma becomes exhausted and we wind up back at square one. Square one sucks. I was addicted to silence for a long time in Zen, and it was one of the factors that led to my eventual relapse. As an addict, I need to be free of Attachments—especially Attachments to states of mind.” The 12-Step Buddhist by Darren Littlejohn

Is too much of a good thing a bad thing? Extreme sobriety and intense peacefulness might be something we call a Century Twenty-One hybrid awakening. The acid test is: “So how is that working for you so far?” In The 12-Step Buddhist, Littlejohn gives a candid account of his experience seeking balance while pushing himself throughout decades of recovery, Therapy and Buddhism. As we see from the excerpt above, more isn’t always better.

Every misadventure in our journey is another “no matter how far down the road we go, we will see how our experience can benefit others” arrow in our quiver. Addiction was an innocent wrong turn in our lives of seeking. We truly thought we found the answer to everything in our drug of choice. In sobriety we replace the void with Meetings, people, gadgets, exercise, books, conferences, brownies, frappuccinos and romantic intrigue—new post-addiction stuff to fill our spiritual voids. Longing and loathing, control and approval—these are the lifelong barometers of our spiritual health. We want to be cured. We want to be better, so we think that a new state of mind will free us forever. In truth, it is still a one-day-at-a-time journey that involves making slight adjustments and doing our best.

  1. When I am rigid and demanding with myself, am I not judgmental or hard on others? Can I remember that wearing life like a loose garment is better for me than thinking in absolutes? Do I value balance or do I always want more of the good stuff?

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