PURE OCD, GAMBLING ADDICTION & ME

 

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Written by Pete Latham

November 6, 2019

Pure OCD, Gambling Addiction & Me

If you like reading stories from the beginning then I highly recommend reading Gambling Addiction & Me for the gist of where intrusive thoughts and OCD all started for me. You can then follow it up with The Year That Changed Everything if you want to know where things really started to go wrong! However, if you read absolutely nothing else on this site, then I would urge you to read my article explaining exactly what Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is  before you read the following. You probably won’t really understand the condition until you do. 

With that said, the only other thing I should point out is that the following blog explains how Pure OCD affected me and how it led to gambling addiction. It contains graphic detail of intrusive thoughts that you may find disturbing. If however, you have skipped straight to this part then you should know that the following description of Pure OCD obsessions is part of a condition. I cannot make myself any more clear than to say that this condition presents you with your worst fears and ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT indicate a desire to carry out a certain act…In fact, the opposite is true as I’ll explain.

It takes an average of 12 years before a sufferer of Pure OCD seeks help. For me it took 35 years to tell a single soul, and this is why…

The Power of Suggestion

As ridiculous as it might sound, my OCD started with a conversation that took place in the playground of my junior school when I was 10 years old. I remember everything about the situation, which in itself is very revealing of the condition. Why should I remember an uneventful childhood conversation? I remember exactly where in the playground I was, what I was wearing, the weather on the day, and exactly why I had the conversation. 

The conversation took place between a friend and I, and we had been playing with a football. The ball got kicked into an area that was out of bounds, and a discussion then took place between us as to whether we dared to retrieve the ball. It was risky business…The dinner lady who was on playground duty was a tyrant, and I think it was law that every school had to have one of those! However, despite the clear risk to life and limb, we took the chance and went to fetch the ball.

As we retrieved the ball, my friend commented that he knew it would be alright as I never got into trouble at school. He was reassured that because he was with me, he would be safe from the wrath of the dinner lady. He reasoned this simply because he was in my company, and I never got shouted at. I remember briefly reflecting on this and was pleased that I was one of the good kids. However, he then said something to me in all childhood innocence that unleashed my first ever OCD cycle. For whatever reason he arrived at the following logic and promptly shared it with me. He said,
“Kids that are good grow up to be bad. Bad kids grow up to be good.”

And with that single quote, all hell broke loose inside my head as my perception of ‘bad’ at the time was based entirely on my violent drunk of a father. There was no way I wanted to grow up bad like him. And so, the cycle of Pure OCD was born.

OCD Obsessions & Compulsion Loops

The obsession in this instance was basically what my friend had said. Good kids grow up to be bad. The compulsion followed moments later as I began questioning myself and my current behaviour. When I did this, I was basically comparing myself to my friend’s statement and because I considered myself to be good, I arrived at the inevitable conclusion that I would therefore grow up to be bad. For me, that was a devastating revelation, and it was one that filled me with dread. This is where the first obsession started and I would hear my friend’s voice in my head repeatedly telling me that ‘good kids grow up to be bad.’

This would be followed by my own voice inside my head looping, “You’re good now. You’ll turn out bad. Will I? Yes, because you’re good now. I won’t be bad, I won’t be bad. You will because you’re thinking about it and therefore you want to be bad. But I won’t. Will I?”  It became a compulsion that I would cycle through countless times in a day, and it closed the loop in what would be the beginning of a 35 year nightmare as the terror grew inside my head.

OCD Progresses

The thing with OCD is that left untreated, it will only get worse. Unfortunately for me I suffered a number of disadvantages at the time that would prevent me from seeking help. Firstly, the beginning of my OCD story took place in 1983, and secondly I was only 10 years old. I wasn’t old enough to reason that something was wrong, and even if I had been, I doubt anyone would’ve listened. I don’t even know if OCD was actually recognised in this way back then. So my whole OCD experience turned out to be exacerbated by really poor timing. This was a real shame, as things were about to get a whole lot worse.

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The obsession as to whether I would turn out bad would plague me throughout my OCD journey forming the basis of everything else that would follow. However, the natural progression from that involved me obsessing over what growing up to be bad might actually look like. By the time I was around 12 years old, I developed 2 further obsessions that would answer that very question. They would serve only to worsen the terror that I had been feeling.

The first part to this was based entirely on my perception of what was actually bad in my life. As a 12 year old, the closest and worst thing in my life was my alcoholic, wife-beating father. He was the epitome of what a bad person was and he represented my worst fear: Becoming him.

Being Gay

The second unfortunate progression stemmed from the realisation that I might be gay. I’ve spoken about this in Gambling Addiction & Me, but what I didn’t mention was that the added terror was down to OCD. From the collection of obsessions I’ve already mentioned, being gay was a disturbing addition. At around the age of 13-14, when all my friends were openly talking about girls they fancied, I was torturing myself for really liking a lad in my class. The difference though between my friends and I was that I couldn’t talk about it. I had never felt so alone.

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Everything in society had told me that being gay was wrong and this only served to increase the anxiety that I was actually growing up to be bad. Images of the boy I fancied would flash into my head, followed by the instant attachment that being gay was wrong. That was closely followed by the whole internal argument as to whether I was or wasn’t bad. The truth was, that at this point  I’d completely lost myself in whatever logic I’d previously come up with.

Silencing the OCD Loop

I was first introduced to gambling around the age of 12. What I didn’t realise at the time was that playing slots was actually silencing the intrusive thoughts. It would take decades to make that connection. Back when I was 16, I was so engrossed with the internal battle in my head that I was oblivious to the fact gambling was actually making me feel better. However, what I also didn’t realise was that the gambling was becoming a problem in its own right. I had developed a serious addiction that I could not stop.

The gambling only temporarily alleviated the intrusive thoughts, and overall they were getting much worse. I would get flash images of carrying out horrifically violent acts before instantly mentally recoiling with disgust. I would mentally stab or bludgeon strangers, or people I loved.  Images of kicking my dog or shooting her would plague my thoughts. As someone who abhors violence, there wasn’t a single part of me that would want to carry out any such act.

So why did these intrusive thoughts keep appearing in my head? That simply wasn’t me and so the same internal argument raged on. “I don’t want to be bad but I am. Am I?”
I didn’t realise the cycle of gambling was also carrying on in order to silence the intrusive thoughts. When I was playing slots, I was fixed in a trance like state where nothing else mattered. I had developed a coping strategy and didn’t even know it.
The highs and inevitable lows of gambling brought their own stresses (as discussed in The Year That Changed Everything,) and as time went by my inadvertent and still unknown coping mechanism was becoming increasingly insufficient. By the age of 20, I was desperate for both cycles to end and started to seriously contemplate suicide.

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OCD- The Cruel Trickster

Throughout my 20’s until pretty much present day, the obsessions/ intrusive thoughts I had amassed were considerable. They would vary in severity but would always result in the same argument of whether or not I was bad. However,  by this time, the word ‘bad’ had been replaced by the word ‘evil.’ I suppose I’ve never been one for half measures. So the obsession list looked something like this:

  • I’m evil

  • Flash image of stabbing someone

  • I’m gay and therefore evil.

  • Flash image of bludgeoning a loved one or my dog.

  • I’m like my dad

  • Flash image of driving my car into a crowd of people.

  • I’m going to hell.

  • Flash image of a stranger/ someone I knew, naked.

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There was no limit to the sickening images that my OCD brain would serve up so it was hardly surprising when I started to get flash images of me blowing my brains out with a gun. Every time I saw trees, I would mentally picture hanging myself from them. I was starting to obsess about suicide before instantly following it up with the same old argument as to whether or not I was going to do it. I didn’t actually realise that I wasn’t suicidal at all. It was just another cruel trick of the OCD that made me believe I was, with yet more intrusive thoughts.

OCD Help

At the beginning of this blog, I mentioned that it takes years for an OCD sufferer to ask for help. After reading all of this, you’d be forgiven for asking yourself why I didn’t get help sooner. However, as messed up as my life was, I still had a decent job. I was still keeping things together even if it was largely due to gambling…And even if gambling did mean financial ruin. For me, disclosing what had been going on inside my head would mean catastrophic ruin. I would be labelled psychotic and maybe even sectioned. I really would lose everything. Realistically, how easy would you find it to disclose that you couldn’t stop thinking about harming people?

However, in January 2019, I cracked after 35 years of secret terror. I took the biggest risk of my life and I sought help. It was the best decision I’ve ever made and it kind of put the risk of retrieving an out of bounds football into perspective. It was only at this point that I discovered that I wasn’t actually crazy and that OCD could present like this: Pure, and without any outward compulsions such as hand washing or lock checking.

My Pure OCD was based entirely on trauma and anxiety. Therefore so was my gambling addiction. 35 years later, both are now fixed and the nightmare is over. The images have stopped and the cycle is finally broken.

Conclusion

I now know how badly I was affected by gambling addiction, and I finally understand how my mental health played a huge role in it. Quit The Casino exists through that understanding and I am convinced that if more people understood their mental health, they would break their own chain of gambling addiction as I have. When you really think about it, who in their right mind would seek to constantly self-harm keeping themselves in the perpetual termoil that gambling brings if they were functioning normally?

So by understanding how to stop, understanding your mental health, and learning the truth about gambling operators, you too can quit. It’s at that point when you can start to appreciate the all the good things in life again- even if they are small!

If you think you have mental health issues that are causing your gambling addiction, why not visit the community? It’s free, private, and without judgement. It’s good to talk!

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