One of the key tasks in treatment is to discover the causes of addiction. After almost three months of treatment in the hospital, after many therapeutic talks and workshops, I presented my debate topic in front of the whole department entitled “What did I replace with my acting?”. I will share the original with you.
What did I replace with my gambling?
The more books I read, the more I debated and thought about it, the more it became clear to me that I was replacing many things.
It’s impossible to point out just one thing and I don’t even know what the main thing is. All I know is that during the treatment I discovered a lot of things about myself that I wasn’t even aware of.
I will start with the most obvious pattern that we addicts have. The father is a dull figure, and the mother is the main one who controls everything and comforts the child. Parents can very often be strict in their child’s upbringing once and very dull next time. I remember that sometimes it was not clear to me what my parents wanted from me. In general, the father was very temperamental, but when he calmed down, he took everything back. That made me very angry. But my mother was and still is more strict and the main one at the house. She took all the responsibility on herself and made decisions instead of everyone at the house, including me. The father was absent for most of the childhood, so the mother automatically took on both roles in the family. I, on the other hand, never really had a male role model.
I have always been insecure and unsure of me at key moments. I was never sure if something was good enough. A feeling of low self-esteem can arise in a child because parents demand too much. I always had to be the most diligent, to set an example for everyone. Successful everywhere, especially at school. And so I was. I always had nice manners, I was responsible for the fact that we children, who hung out, behaved well. If something went wrong, I always took responsibility because I was the oldest. I was also bothered that parents compared me with my peers and only with the best ones. Good was not acceptable, the question was always, why couldn´t you be even better? Well, I know my parents just wanted to motivate and encourage me. The problem was that I never knew how to stand up for myself. This is where my feelings of uselessness and inferiority, which I carried into adulthood, come from.
Thinking about this, reminded me of a quote that says:
“Only those who do not value themselves will allow their lives to be destroyed by addiction.”
During the treatment, I also found out that I am not able to express certain emotions. I am a man of a cheerful nature, always smiling, which is good in principle. But I don’t know how to express sadness, even less anger. I don’t know how to get angry. I don’t know how to protect myself and stay true to myself.
As a kid, I learned not to get angry, that it isn´t appropriate, because anger is destructive. I unknowingly learned to suppress anger. When I read somewhere that repressed anger can manifest as a stomach ulcer, elevated stomach acid and as gnashing of teeth, I was stunned. All of this is constantly happening to me and made me think. When this is happening, I was supposed to relive the feelings from my childhood, that my own space has been taken away and that things did not belong to me. I miss my father’s role here, which is very important as I am supposed to get a sense of security and feeling of belonging from him. He should be a place where I can go back if I experience disappointment.
Now I remember the moments when my addiction first expressed. I was a student in Ljubljana and I was repeating my first year of study. Now I know that at that time I fell into severe depression and addiction to playing sports betting. That’s when my world collapsed. I completely shut myself in and struggled with myself, with repressed sadness, anxiety, guilt and a sense of emptiness. When my family and I later debated about these times, they wondered why I didn’t share anything with them and hid everything. It seemed normal to them that I probably knew that I am always welcome at home and that there are no such problems that I could not share with them. However, this was not the case. I was extremely afraid to say anything at home and afraid to admit my problems. But I don’t know why.
At the same time, I remembered the words:
“It is easier to raise strong children, than to repair broken adults”.
I also have trouble taking responsibility. A lot of the time I do everything for others but I neglect my own needs. I don’t know how to set functional boundaries for other people. I did not learn to take responsibility for myself, for my actions, and I did not dare to finally grow up and become independent. The problem was that I didn’t somehow spontaneously learn to accept responsibility, step by step. So I still live at home with my parents. Although I know that I have greatly complicated my life with high debts, it still remains a priority to become independent as soon as possible and move to my own, and take responsibility for myself. A lot of the problems are related to the fact that I had to make a number of compromises because of the addiction. I lost personal dignity and self-respect because of fake relationships. I took on a fake ego, that wasn’t real me. I feel like this because I want to and I know I can do more. After you stop with sports betting, the resulting behavioral patterns will not change on their own. So I’m working on getting back in touch with myself. Adults solve problems, and we gamblers run away from them in a daze. It was easier for me to escape than to face the truth. So we fall into a vicious circle, the bigger the problems, the bigger the debts, the more we want to escape. In stressful situations, I withdrew and isolated myself instead of seeking emotional support from my partner or friends. I have completely failed in this area. Now I am learning anew how to talk about problems. The irony of gambling is that the more you are in debt, the greater the desire and need to play because in it you see the only possible way out of the situation. Another thing I’ve replaced with playing is emotional arousal, an excessive need for love and approval. I usually wanted to cater to everyone. In a person who surrenders to addiction, this need is over-expressed and, of course, unmet. This, too, can originate from childhood in someone who had domineering and uncompromising parents. In my case, this was my Mom. So I remained completely dependent on her, on her decisions. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t resist her. I have an eight years younger sister, who is the complete opposite of me, a real fighter for her rights. Even as a child, she knew how to stand up for herself and assert her opinion. So we all have a choice. If I kept resisting, my parents would also adjust to my demands, but they didn’t have to. I remember being told many times that it was much easier with me as a child than with my sister, I was too obedient.
I also find myself in the fact that a person who is insecure and at the same time full of hidden needs for love and affection, finds it difficult to express emotions, as he is afraid that emotions won´t meet the desired response. So as a result, I would lose that little bit of confidence. Everyone, especially an insecure person, experiences the rejection of their emotions as their own devaluation. Suppressed emotions in childhood can cause addiction in adulthood.
But I will end with the thought that most often came to me during my treatment.
“No one else can feel what we feel in ourselves, so no one else is responsible for how we feel.”
I am determined to fight, I am fighting and I will fight so that the addiction will not defeat me, but only transform me.
So I identified my causes of addiction at the time. The more time passes, the more my view of my problems changes. It’s a little bit different every time. It’s a little easier for me every time.