I define my road to recovery in a plural sense. I am 55 years old and have 60 years of recovery, 30 years off cigarettes, 18 years without a drug or drink and 12 years without a bet. Each of the recoveries followed a different path, and had different motivation. I was a three pack a day smoker. While in Law School I decided it was time to stop smoking and I went to a 5 week course called Smoke Enders, pure behavior modification. Change your brand, change the way you hold the cigarette, hot baths nightly to drain nicotine from system, increasing waiting periods every week after eating. On February 23, 1979 I smoked my last cigarette.
I had a problem with marijuana and cocaine for quite a long time. I first smoked pot the summer of 1969 at a small party called Woodstock and if I missed 20 days over the next 22 years that was a lot. I developed a cocaine habit in Law School that truly got out of control. In February 1991 I was arrested driving in Marlboro, New Jersey and was caught with two joints. I decided that as a lawyer I could get away with it once but not twice. I found an Intense Outpatient Program called the Alliance at ST. Barnabas, a combination of education, individual therapy, group therapy, 12 step work and creative therapy. I attended for a year and have not had a drink or drug since February 23, 1979.
Gambling was my last vice to address. Horses, sporting events, poker, table games, you name it I would bet on it. I decided to leave the law and to enter the addiction counseling field. I heard a lecture on January 3, 1997 on compulsive gambling and heard myself described to a tee. How could I help others until I helped myself? I called Ed Looney who had done the lecture, he invited me to dinner and took me to a GA meeting. I have not made a bet since January 12, 1991. In all three addictions I have never suffered a relapse. So I guess I address my recoveries in terms of years.
I really believe my road to recovery in all my addictions stemmed from an understanding of one basic fact: I cannot smoke, drug or gamble normally. I find that abstinence is a much more manageable goal than controlled use. I have elected not to give myself the option of smoking , drugging or gambling.
Twelve step meetings played a major role in two of my recoveries. I received a referral to Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers where I helped address my drug problem. This was an environment where I was with people facing similar pressures and I could relate well to them. We could share our drugging and drinking stories and our strategies to stop within the confines of a common threshold, the legal practice. Gamblers Anonymous has been my major source of my ability to not gamble. I have attended the program religiously for 12 plus years, attending anywhere from 1 to 3 meetings a week. When I travel I go to GA meetings in strange cities where I immediately feel at home.
For a number of years I followed the “people, places and things” suggestion of the twelve step programs. I stopped attending concerts for a while, I stopped watching sporting events on television. Over time this is no longer necessary, I feel entrenched in my recovery and do not feel the need to avoid all temptation, I have learned to deal with it. I now attend 3-4 concerts a week. For 8 years I stayed out of Atlantic County, now I go there for concerts or presentations. I take a cruise vacation every year, I have learned how to avoid the casino therein.
I presently am a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Certified Compulsive Gambling Counselor. I work as the Managerial Assistant at the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, Inc. This has been great protective force for me, step 12 talks of carrying the message to others still suffering. I do 3-5 presentations a month on gambling to college students, counselors in training, social workers, peers and counselors. I presently serve on the Board of The Recovery Center at Eva’s Village, Essex Prevention Resources, The American Compulsive Gambling Counselor Certification Board and the National Council on Problem Gambling. The last two years I have been chairman of the National Problem Gambling Awareness Week Campaign. This involvement really helps my recovery. I am privy to addiction issues and can advocate for change as appropriate. It reaffirms my commitment to my own abstinence, as I realize that my continued abstinence is a prerequisite for continuing in my professional endeavors.
Recovery is a never ending journey. I maintain vigilance at all times, knowing the cunning and baffling nature of addiction. I believe boredom is the enemy so I am extremely active. I commit myself wholeheartedly to causes I believe in. I am married to a woman who understands my addiction and can help me put it in perspective.