by Sasha C. Russell, Communications Specialist, Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling
On Saturday, May 31, 2014, several members of the Council attended the Annual GA Mini-Conference in Brockton, MA. The day-long event was filled with gratitude, support, and insight. Attending the event is always a great reminder of why the Council works tirelessly to build treatment capacity and support systems for people experiencing problems with gambling, their loved ones, and the professionals that serve them.
For me, the most enjoyable part of the day was hearing people’s stories. Though there are similarities in the stories of each individual, everyone has a different life experience and perspective. However, it’s the similarities that bring people together and let people know that they are not alone in their struggles. I have experienced the problems that gambling can bring, and it was nice to see and hear from others who were spouses or family members of people experiencing problems with gambling. It’s proof that recovery is not a journey made only for the person who is experiencing these struggles, but for all of the lives that are impacted by the disorder – as they say, “it takes a village.”
Communications Director, Margot Cahoon, was touched and inspired by the workshop which focused on GA’s Step 6. This step reads, “We’re entirely ready to have these defects of character removed.” The facilitator of the workshop explained a stressful situation that he encountered, and identified how it triggered his character flaws. He gave examples of how one situation could cause different flaws, from pride and self-righteousness to anger, to surface.
He then explained the coping strategies that he used to deal with those feelings and to manage his reactions. Many of those strategies involved removing himself from the direct path of the temptation. Others involved telling people what he was dealing with so that he would have to be accountable to people, and so that he would have a support network should he feel pressured to gamble.
Margot explained, “The presentation was eye-opening for me. It made me realize that, in fact, everyone has character defects. Many of us don’t call them that. Many of us don’t even think about it. Many of us are not as deeply in tuned with our emotions, and as honest about our flaws as the presenter is.”
Intervention and Treatment Support Manager, Alicia Barron, takes many Helpline calls that come to the Council on a weekly basis. Her experience with these calls is what drew her to the workshop about pressure relief, something callers often express interest in. Alicia expressed, “The presenters were very informative and explained exactly how the Pressure Relief Meetings were handled, and supplied the materials and worksheets that are used. I was impressed with how thorough the process was, as well as how supportive they tried to make it by bringing in the person’s sponsor and their spouses.”
Alicia also noted that she was “struck by the importance they placed on paying back any debts, in a way that ensured that the person getting the meeting had enough to live on, but also focused on a repayment plan.” Hearing the stories of personal experiences with the pressure relief process and getting on financial track proved to be beneficial to Alicia, making it now possible to provide some guidance to callers.
Margot describes a sentiment that rang through in all the workshops, “What is so different about people in 12-step programs, who really work the programs, is the fact that they are vulnerable. They aren’t afraid to admit that they have screwed up and that they want better for themselves and those with whom they share their lives. They are strong and brave.”
Program Specialist, Jodie Nealley, summed up her experience with a quote from Michael Beckwith, Founder, Agape International Spiritual Center in Culver City, California, “Gratitude places you in the energy field of plentitude. Perceiving life in a consciousness of gratitude is literally stepping into another dimension of living. Suddenly the seeming ordinariness of your days takes on a divine sparkle.”
Jodie said, “To me that is what the GA Mini-Conference was filled with – a palpable feeling of gratitude for being together in recovery at that moment, at that time. I felt at home and renewed by that ‘divine sparkle.’”
As Margot concurred, “It was a wonderful reminder of the struggles that we all face in life, and the fact that they can be overcome with dignity and gratitude.”
We would all like to give a special thank you to all of the other people in recovery who we met. You are our teachers. You are our friends.