Make No Mistake, As Addicts We’ve All Been There
Today I’m writing on my 50th week of recovery. I imagine that I’m like many who approach a birthday – there is a considerable amount of time taken to reflect on the prior year(s) – and believe me, I have plenty of time!
As my byline suggests, I’m writing from a Federal Prison Camp. As the word “Camp” implies, the world I inhabit resembles nothing of a County Jail or even a Low Security Prison. There are no fences, no barbed wire, no guards with guns. There is complete freedom of movement, with the exception of the obvious: I can’t leave.
That description doesn’t sound too far off my home on Benedict Canyon Drive for the nine or so years I lived there before I became a resident at Beit T’Shuvah. Simply put, while I was never sentenced by a Judge, I was living in my own prison.
I received so much positive advice from everyone in the community while I lived at Beit T’Shuvah, especially the select few who have done meaningful “time.” The common thread that I gathered: the key to spiritual and mental survival is to get a productive “routine.”
Back to my life from 2003-2008. I certainly had a routine. But it was anything but “productive.” My time was spent trying to navigate the financial markets daily. It didn’t matter if I was at the office or home – CNBL and/or Bloomberg TV was blaring in the background 24/7, with the only exceptions being sporting events that I’d watch religiously – hoops, football (pro and college), baseball and golf. It got so bad that every Sunday afternoon at 3pm Pacific time I had to be in front of a computer or tuned in to Bloomberg TV to catch the weekly opening of the stock futures. This was, in hindsight, pure comedy, as the opening of that market had little bearing on how stocks would open the following morning. But I was gripped to it, and as it turns out, trapped by the whole exercise – whether I was at my trading desk in the office, or my computers at home, I couldn’t escape the fact that the financial markets had imprisoned me. So much so that when conditions became unbearable, I had to misrepresent my results to maintain my self-anointed image of a successful hedge fund manager.
Those that know me are aware that my “prison” extended beyond my professional life into my activities as a pathological gambler. I’m not gonna get into the whole post-mortem as to what caused this behavior. Like most of you who will read this, I’m an action junkie. But that doesn’t do justice to explain how the disease affected me – I’ll just say that little else mattered.
It’s interesting to think that as I write this, this was precisely the time of the year when I went on some of my biggest gambling runs. I often play back the tape to determine why this was, and the best answer I can come up with is the sports calendar acted as a major catalyst. Think about it: In a 2-week period, we have the Final 4, Baseball Opening Day, the Masters, and the start of the NBA playoffs. Perhaps this was a way for me to vicariously satisfy my impulses. I’m not sure. What I can say is that the intensity and duration of my gambling knew no bounds. Worse yet, nothing, I mean nothing else mattered. I can vividly recall 2008 Final Four Weekend. We started playing cards at noon on Saturday. Played while watching the games until Sunday noon. Regrouped a bit. Work the next day until the close. Went right back to the game. Played through the epic final game between Memphis and Kansas, through the following morning. I was so deluded that I missed Mario Chalmers’ game tying 3 point shot because I was worried if my pocket kings would hold up (they did).
This is precisely what incarceration is all about. It has very little to do with being confined to a physical space we inhabit. It has everything to do with an attitude. The way I see it attitude is not a product of circumstance, it’s a choice. It’s what we determine. The problem is for me – I let the circumstances defeat me, those embedded in the misconceptions of a self-image I thought I had to maintain. An appearance, a lifestyle I thought was expected of me. This completely errant self view meant one thing, and one thing only: I was never free.
It’s a paradox, to say the least, that I have more freedom today, while incarcerated, than I have had in memory. I can live a decelerated existence and be completely content. My life is not about an adrenaline addicted, me-first existence. I am cleansing from the obsessions that were destroying me. I can watch that Final Four, wishing the kid from Butler could have sunk the game-winning shot, without worrying if I was “stuck” on the card table. I can watch the Masters in complete freedom of mind, marveling at Mickelson’s 6-iron from the pine straw at 13 on Sunday, while Tiger was busy 3 putting from 4 feet on 14.
Let me submit, however, that I’m a major work in progress. Recovery isn’t linear, and I don’t want to sugar-coat what I’m going through. One of my biggest challenges by far: I question this whole process I’ve gone through. To be sure, I’m not referring to what I did – I’ve accepted responsibility and completely understand the dislocation I have caused to a select group of family, friends and clients.
What I have trouble with are resentments. I resent myself for not taking a more active role in my legal process. I should have known that when in my first meeting with the US Attorney, she said, “You made a great, great choice in legal counsel,” that I was toast. I can’t let this go, as it is clear major mistakes in my case were made.
I’m struggling big time in that I have resentments for some of the very people I am working to repay and repent to. This is a very difficult thing. I know that true freedom can only occur if I let go and continue to do my t’shuvah.