Published in Mental Health - 3 mins to read

There was a very long 2p2 thread I read back in the day (which I don’t feel especially motivated to try and uncover) that was written by a man who was a gambling addict, and knew it. Over months worth of regular posts, he described his life as he lost his entire net worth (over a million dollars) playing video poker, and then went another $500k into debt to fuel his addiction. Whenever he came into some money, he would initially tell himself he wouldn’t spend it at the casino, but would slowly find excuses that would lead him to being back in front of the video poker machine - if he played conservatively he could get comps for free, he could afford to gamble with this money because he had some more becoming available for necessities from some other source shortly, he’d finally figured out a way to overcome the house edge etc.

At the start of the thread, people implored him to seek help. They begged and pleaded for him to stop, to go to therapy, to try to get him to see his addiction for what it truly was, as they watched him ruin his life right before their eyes. He was oblivious to it all, and was totally anonymous except for disclosing what state he was in (there is no prize for correctly guessing that it was Florida), and eventually, everyone else reading and participating in the thread had to accept that they couldn’t change this man’s fate, and instead sat back and watched what unfolded, told to us in a totally raw, unfiltered way.

When he was at his lowest point, at the point where he seemed fundamentally broken as a human being, the addict described the way he experienced the world - and it wasn’t necessarily the way you might think it would be. He seemed remarkably present - he talked about the colour of the sky, the feeling of the sun on his skin, the sound of the birds in his ears. On some level he must’ve known the way he was living was unsustainable, but rather than seek a different future, instead he’d simply given up on it instead. His past was too painful to think about, knowing how much financial stability he’d lit on fire. All he had left was the present, his mental state had deteriorated so much that he simply couldn’t even consider to look backwards or forwards. It was weirdly enviable.

I think I have experienced something vaguely similar a couple of times in my life, the most notable example of which was the period of time immediately after I’d decided to drop out of university. Everything I had worked for since the start of secondary school seemed to have just evaporated, every expectation and assumption about how my life had disappeared, and nothing came forth to fill that void. I couldn’t worry about my future anymore, because as far as I was concerned, I didn’t have one. And so the only thing I did was just exist, and there were parts of that feeling that I really loved. Suddenly I didn’t seem like the centre of my world anymore, I felt so much more aware of what was going on around me now that I wasn’t so wrapped up in all the bullshit of education and career and white-picket-fenced-whatever. I swear the air tasted different.

This week I’ve been trying to tap back into that feeling, ideally without putting my whole life in the trash compactor in the process. It’s difficult though, with the pressures of the “real” world still bearing down. A big part of me yearns for a simple life, but that feels very far away from where I am right now.