Growing up in Lebanon in the sixties, the “norm” for kids was to play marbles to win and keep the winnings. If you lost, you’d buy from someone who still had marbles; and if you won, you’d sell to the loser. I got my first gambling “high” around age seven. I had won 25 cents. When the cake merchant came around, I bought a piece for 15 cents and was still up 10 cents. I felt so happy. I loved gambling. I developed dreams of getting my own house and future wife from gambling with marbles.
At age sixteen, I decided that life as most people lived it was boring and a waste of existence. I wanted to live the “high life” so that when I died I would be remembered around the world. I dropped out of school to become rich and famous. I got an agent who was going to find me work in show business. When I wasn’t acting or auditioning, I played cards in under-ground gaming houses. I gambled with my money, my family’s money and credit cards. I worked with famous “stars” and that kept me feeling special and unique. I loved the “high life”. It didn’t matter that I was losing my money to gambling. I had convinced myself that this was the life for me.
As long as my bets and time gambling averaged a certain amount, Atlantic City casinos provided me with complimentary airfare, limo service, meals and luxury accommodation. They gave me a line of credit, concert tickets and more. I felt so special because I thought that I was living the dream life.
When I began owing the casinos a lot of money, I returned to the under-ground gaming houses in Toronto. I played rumino in the day and poker at night. Friends and family began to complain and, in turn, I resented and stayed away from everyone who hated gambling.
When money became scarce, I turned to loan sharks. They’d lend me money at 10% interest per week. Wow, I could continue to gamble and all I had to pay was a $100 on a $1000. I thought that I could win the money in one round of poker — no problem! So I continued to borrow, paid back the interest at least and my credit grew.
One day, a poker game started at 8:00 pm and went into the next day. Around 4:00 pm, I was extremely tired and I was up $400. I wanted to quit, but for some reason I couldn’t leave. As long as I had money, I had to continue playing. The idea that I might have a serious gambling problem came to me for the first time.
By that time, my family and friends had no respect for me; my health had deteriorated because of all the smoking and stress and my credit card debt and bank loans were out of control. I also owed loan sharks $84,000 and my life was in danger because I wasn’t keeping up with my payments.
One night all the loan sharks caught up with me at one of the gaming houses. I explained that I was trying really hard to win so that I could pay them back. They told me they knew I didn’t have the money; but because they thought I was a nice guy and I had been a customer for so many years, they let me go with a strong warning to get out and stop gambling and that if they ever found me gambling anywhere in the world, I’d come to an unhappy ending.
With no profession, my show business career a bust, distraught and completely lost I turned to drugs. I just wanted to die but instead ended up in a treatment center.
I was told at the treatment center that I had a gambling addiction and that I should go to Gamblers Anonymous. I refused and continued placing bets on hockey games with other guys in the treatment center. I always ended up losing. I met a girl and I couldn’t even afford to buy her (or me) a coffee. I was always broke after I got paid. I couldn’t take it anymore!
I finally decided to attend my first GA meeting. I was early, so I started reading their yellow combo book. When I finished page 11, I wept profusely. After reading the 20 questions, there was no doubt that I AM A COMPULSIVE GAMBLER, and I wasn’t the only one. I surrendered the desire for fame and the “high life”. I discovered a deep serenity when I surrendered and humbly put my faith in God. After all, it’s His world. He created it and I was just going to stop trying to run it. I began to experience joy and happiness at a deep level. I got new “true” friends in and out of GA. I continue to go to meetings, continue to listen to others and the daily meditations, continue to follow the steps, and continue to ENJOY LIFE.