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It was November 2005.
I was so excited.
I won a $20,000 jackpot playing online video poker.
Not only could I pay off the gambling debt I’d been accumulating slowly over the last month or two but I could pay off previous debts as well.
I could put this nightmare behind me.
And then almost in the same moment I realized there was no way I was going to keep that money.
I was a gambling addict.
I wasn’t going to stop just because I won a big amount.
Stopping would mean that I wasn’t gambling anymore.
If I wasn’t gambling anymore I would have to deal with life, and the whole reason I gambled in the first place was because I couldn’t deal with life.
I had Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) but at the time I had no idea.
Everything was so hard for me.
A regular work day.
Being in a relationship with anyone.
Maybe a good day for you is a day where you wake up and your energy and focus are at 100%. And you have a busy work day and then socialize with friends and by the time your day is over you’re down to 15 or 20%. It was a busy day for you but it was a good one. Maybe a bad day means you start at 50% and end the day at 0%.
Imagine starting your day at 0%.
That is what having unmedicated ADD was like for me.
I started at 0% and the only place to go was into negative energy.
Everything was difficult because I had no focus and no energy to concentrate.
To get basic things done I had to reach inside for whatever energy I could find. I would try to consume energy drinks and energy shots but they aren’t meant for people with ADD.
It took longer for me to do things.
Reading a book was almost impossible and still hard today.
But I got things done because that’s what I was supposed to do.
“Normal” people go to work every day.
“Normal” people like to spend time with others.
“Normal” people can read books and some even do it for fun.
So I tried to be “normal”. I tried so hard.
And on the surface I succeeded.
But on the inside I was in so much pain.
Living a normal productive life caused me so much mental pain and I didn’t know why.
I didn’t know how to cope with this pain so I turned to gambling.
When I was gambling I didn’t have to deal with the pain.
I could get through the day as long as I knew that gambling was there waiting for me.
I didn’t gamble to win money.
I gambled to survive.
Eventually, like any addiction, it became unsustainable.
I gambled money that wasn’t mine and now others knew about my pain.
They tried to help me.
I wanted them to help me.
But I didn’t know it was ADD.
I didn’t know why I was addicted to gambling.
It took over 10 years of addiction counselling, and every kind of therapy that we could think of before I stumbled across a random ADD test and realized: this is me.
I got medication and everything changed for the better.
I started to be able to do normal things and I didn’t feel the mental pain anymore.
It took a while to let go of the addiction entirely but eventually it was gone.
But back in 2005 when I won that $20,000 jackpot, there was no way I was stopping.
Someone could have given me $100,000 and I would have kept gambling with that.
I gambled until I had no more available credit and no more cash in my bank account.
Rent was due on Monday and I didn’t have it. I had to borrow it from a friend.—
Money doesn’t solve gambling problems.
Money enables gambling problems.
To solve gambling problems you have to spend the time to figure out why you’re gambling in the first place.
It took a lot of years of my life but I figured it out.
If you are having gambling problems, spending problems, or going through any kind of addiction, and you want to stop, I believe you have to dig deeper and find out what is causing your addiction.
For me, addiction was not the problem. The addiction was the way I coped with my problem. The problem was something called Attention Deficit Disorder.
ADD is real and I will always have it. The medication fixes the part of my brain that can’t focus so now I can do most basic things and they aren’t painful.
But it doesn’t fix everything.
I will always be a little bit different but I’m ok with that.
Some days are exhausting but at least now I get to start at 100% and stop before I get to 0%.