I have been gambling over 20 years now. Looking back, I think I escalated into a compulsive gambler very quickly, after my third trip to the casinos. In the beginning, I would only bring a little money, $100 tops. An amount I could afford to use. An amount that I would have no problem spending for a night of dinner and movies. But at the casino, I hated losing it. No matter what. I couldn’t chalk up the loss to the cost of entertainment. I always wanted it back. If I go to the movies or dinner and spent the money, I can consider it an expense and know I’m not getting it back. But with gambling, I always chased my losses. I don’t think it was a matter of pride or that I thought I was smarter than the house, but more so because I spent all that time and energy at the casino, dealt with the emotional lows of bad beats, “worked” so hard to get the cards for a winning hand, sacrificed food and sleep, that at the end of my “shift”, I should have something to show for it. I know it’s illogical thinking, but it was one of the main reasons I kept going back to the casinos. It gave me a purpose…I was there to make some money. If I put in the time, I would get paid. Of course, as we all know, that would not be the case. When I was winning, I would play small. I could walk away with money. But when I lose, that’s when I completely lose all rationality. I would chase…and chase…and chase. There were two options: chase it back or lose it all. I would take cash out from my two checking accounts (they have daily limits) and then if that was not successful, I used cash advance from credit cards. I would often hit my daily limits from all sources. When I’m not in the casino, I can’t imagine paying bank fees for using an ATM that is not from my financial institution. Yet, I have no problem paying 10% for cash advances. I would make large bets, $500, $1,000 per hand (when my usual bet is closer to $50), hoping for a hot streak. By then, I was usually exhausted and pretty numb and just really wanted to get my money back or lose and go home. On a few occasions, I would be successful chasing it back. More often, I would lose it all. Then I would go home, transfer money out of my dwindling savings to cover the cash advances and tell myself, “no more.” Of course, the cycle would repeat itself. Since I am a binge gambler, I have days, weeks (and less often, months) of “normal” living. None of my friends or family know the extent of my gambling addiction. They know I sometimes go to the casinos, but assume I’m the same as them, playing for fun…relaxation…entertainment. I would always minimize my losses, saying I lost $500 when it was $5000. I usually go by myself so that I could stay 30 hours a stretch without friends knowing. I live by myself and my son is grown, so it’s easy to keep this sickness a secret. But it is so lonely to be in this struggle on my own. In the past 20 years, I have probably lost over $120,000. In the past 3 years, I have lost over $60,000. In the past year, I have lost $35,000. I am escalating and I think my next binge will lead to financial ruins that I cannot recover from. I have tried self-exclusion (which meant I just find a casino farther away and end up staying longer and losing more because I couldn’t just come back the next day), pep talks (my sick mind was not always dependable), remembering and focusing on the dread, regret and despair I felt each time I lost to deter me from gambling (hey, maybe this time I would win and walk away with money), focusing on the pros of quitting and reaching my goals (but I’m already so far away from my goal). I have come to the realization that it is impossible to beat this addiction on my own. I have started going to GA meetings, but have not really connected with someone I feel can support me all the way through to the end of my recovery journey. But for now, it’s helpful and hopeful to hear success stories at the meetings, hear other gamblers’ struggles and know that I am not alone. When at home, I search the internet for other people’s stories and have recently chatted on this site. I’m hoping that every time I talk abut the way gambling has negatively impacted my life, I purge some of the poison from this sickness and take another baby step towards becoming healthy. It’s still early in my road to recovery, but I hope that I am successful and can one day, stop being so scared of myself. Thank you for letting me tell my story.