My story began with escaping in my early teens with drugs, alcohol, and gambling. Backrooms, home games, and pool halls where I could gamble eventually diminished my cravings for drugs and alcohol. Not necessarily because I didn’t want to get drunk or high…I wanted to have money to gamble. I began working at 15 and would spend every dime I made. I began borrowing money or asking for “credit” around that time as well. I couldn’t get the games off my mind and racing thoughts were the norm by age 17. I knew I had a problem by the time I was 19 and had gotten into numerous “unsolvable” financial issues by that time as well. I certainly did not focus on the fact that I was addicted to gambling and would get extremely mad when anyone told me this or even suggested it. “I know what I’m doing”, “this is who I am”, and various other phrases we could put in quotes were all a part of my confrontation lingo. For the sake of the reader I can’t leave out the words “it’s my fu*#@!ing money!”. I know that many of US say THAT. Not surprisingly, for a large portion of the time that was not even close to a true statement! I was so delusional. Lying was something that I thought I was very good at.
Years later, when I finally got into recovery, I discovered that I was the only one who thought this. So many around me knew that I was, “off”, “irrational”, “warped”, and “addicted” to something. They didn’t all know what it was although many did. Sooo… the gambling and chasing money continues until I am 30 years old. By this time I was exhausted and had two marriages and divorces, two US Bankruptcies, one repossession, and a trail of defaulted payments, pawns, and emotional ruin. I cried often and could not feel comfortable in my own skin. I was a fraud. At age 30 I get into recovery on Feb. 5, 2001. I do this because I am broke, tired, and don’t want to lose yet another relationship. At my very first meeting I got a sponsor and he was hardcore and “old school”. He came at me with discipline after discipline and I was just broken enough to listen. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. We spoke every day for 2 1/2 years. We went to meetings together every week. He took me through the 12 steps and listened to me cry for four hours on a park bench as I read to him the details of my life and the pain and misery that I experienced prior to and with gambling in my fourth step. I had a spiritual awakening. Today I am in my 19th year (2020) of being clean and have worked with countless GA members over the years.
I still go to meetings. Oh, and here’s something I never thought would have happened when I quit gambling. I became an ICGC-II (International Certified Gambling Counselor with the National Council on Problem Gambling). I have been working at Williamsville Wellness in Hanover, Va since 2007. Gamblers come from around the world and I get to spend a month with them and help them get on a path that could save their life if they are willing to do the work. It is very rewarding and it keeps me “green” as they say. I recount my experience as they come in with the same hopelessness I carried for so long. I ask them if they “are tired yet?” Life is good today. If you truly want to quit gambling I would say to the reader “understand that there is no quick fix, magic pill, or easy way out”. My personal experience and that of others has been one that required a willingness to stop lying and putting life in “right sized boxes”. Recovery is not always easy, but, it is something that will change your life for the better. And as my sponsor always said, “if nothing changes….NOTHING CHANGES”