Gary had a seven-year dual gambling and amphetamine (ice) addiction. He was a divorced 42-year-old carpenter with three estranged children when he initially came into counselling. He first accessed our service through his participation in the group work sessions we provide in a local drug and alcohol rehab centre. Gary hadn’t worked for nearly eighteen months because of his erratic, addictive behaviour and because of the time he needed to spend in residential rehab. His ability to communicate was somewhat hindered by his hyperarousal and sensitivity to emotional upheaval, this often led to verbal conflicts with those around him and sometimes even physical abuse.
Despite these setbacks, Gary was eager for change in his life and after leaving rehab he participated wholeheartedly in therapeutic counselling at Gambling Solutions. Key to his motivation was the love for his young children. He would easily break into tears whenever he discussed his goal to have them back in his life again. He spoke of how a loving father figure was such an absence in his own abusive childhood and that he prayed that reconnecting with his kids would be as healing for them as it would be for him.
Just as healing emotional pain from past abandonment and abuse can often be key to addiction recovery, so is enhancing the loving relationships of the present day. As well as reflecting on his behaviour towards his family and learning more effective ways of communication, Gary’s counselling involved many deeply emotional sessions, helping him to process and let go of the rage, hurt and shame he had endured for most of his life. With a gradual easing of his internal chaos, Gary’s improved emotional states began to generalise into all areas of his life and his old patterns of aggression slowly subsided. He learned through counselling, the value and skills of clear assertive communication over raw aggression and violence.
Like most recovery stories though, Gary’s was not straight forward. In fact, over the two and a half years that he came to counselling, he had six occasions where he relapsed, either into one or both of his addictions. Each relapse however was considered, not as a failure, but as feedback. Gary was encouraged to see each “bust” as an opportunity to learn more about urge management and relapse prevention. In this way, Gary was able to apply the lessons he learnt towards not just abstinence from gambling, but from amphetamine use as well.
Gary has been living drug and gambling free now for just over twelve months. He calls us every couple of months or so for counselling to, as he says, “keep an eye on myself.” Gary is back to working in his trade, he meditates twice a day and practices yoga of an evening. He is however still easily brought to tears when speaking of his children, but these days they are tears of joy. He says, “without addiction and all that shame I can actually now look into my children’s eyes. They smile at me and I just fill-up with love. I love looking in their eye’s!”