Today if you will allow me, I will share a portion of my gambling story. I must admit I will redact some things that could be incriminating or that I don’t feel comfortable sharing in an on-line forum. I will start in 1979 my first encounter with GA, I had already been gambling approx. 22 yrs compulsively for 20 yrs, I was 34 yrs old. My father passed away in April of that year, and thankfully the funeral was short and my late mother had the wherewithal to pay, cause I didn’t have two cents to rub together. I had gone through one marriage (high school sweetheart), one child, one car, one boat and numerous other crap and had a huge CC debt that I couldn’t pay. Thank you MOM, my last bailout. My second wife badgered me for days to go to GA, ironically she had been in and out of AA for a few years. We were a dynamic duo, she would be drunk and be an absolute honey until we got home then she would do her best to beat me to death. Many hospital visits, was I a whimp? No, just couldn’t see any reason to beat the crap outta her….Might end up in jail…..and I didn’t want to be away from gambling that long. Sad commentary but true.
Anyway, I entered GA for peace and quiet, and I stayed maybe a year and learned a lot. In those days it was war story after war story, I learned some stuff about gambling a lot of stuff. Not much about abstinence and recovery. It was amazing, kite checks, $500 chocolate bars, 8-10 credit cards on the go, and some things best left unsaid. At any rate my wife was in AA by then also a year clean and her sponsor convinced her to dump me (okay with me). No more accountability. I was then posted to Keflavik Iceland, No GA…..but the military had a slot palace. I hated slots but as a good CG’er it didn’t matter, gambling was gambling. I went to the local AA meeting they were welcoming and I wasn’t accepting. No defeat, no surrender……..call me White knuckle Tony.
That was 1981 and I went back to gambling with a vengeance. At this point in my life, I was a chameleon and a jellyfish. Spineless with zero self esteem, and at the same time able to change colours to fit the situation. My favorite colour was green and if you had any I would do whatever it took to relieve you of it. I lied, I cheated, I cajoled……what ever it took. Of course, you were going to get it back with interest. Interestingly enough I progressed in my career (I wont tell you what my field was, but rest assured I was in a position of responsibility). And the beat went on, I never took a vacation. It was always a gambling junket. I never took a military assignment that wasn’t in the vicinity of a gambling venue. I never took a military Temporary Duty Assignment that would interfere with my gambling.
By 1988, I had stopped gambling 3 or 4 times, only with the intention of “digging out” at which point I would gamble again and again and again. No step 1=No staying stopped. I was back in the States and was living and working 2 miles from the local OTB my real drug of choice, and 3 hours from AC my ego drug of choice. In 1990, I was on the ropes with my job but managed to escape. I admitted my addiction, and without blinking an eye announced to everyone, my friends, my family, my co-worker, my boss, that I would no longer entertain questions about my gambling. If you didn’t like it or me, check the (F) out. I didn’t want you in my life. At that point things began to change.
Then enter a girlfriend, by the way up to this point from 1985-1990 I dated only married women, had my way with them and sent them home to hubby, a real nice guy. My GF had heard my tirade and said I don’t care what you do as long as you don’t rip me off and treat with dignity and respect…..WOW…powerful words. She was posted to Washington State., while I remained on the East Coast, but we stayed in touch. In 1993, she returned and I retired after 30 yrs of Naval service. I had a brilliant idea, I would go into the gambling business, I will leave it to your imagination as to what that was. It entailed of lot of work on Saturdays and Sundays especially. I was very very successful, the amount of money is inconsequential. Why because I was a minnow running amongst the sharks. They didn’t gamble I did, still in the OTB/casino scene…..These people would take my bets for any amount because they knew, that I was a sick compulsive gambler, feeding off of other sick compulsive gamblers. A mere conduit for the money.
I did this 1993-2001, then the roof fell in. Some of the people I was dealing with were arrested, I escaped. But I couldn’t outrun my first bout with cancer. Recovered from major surgery, worked for one more year in my field of choice. Quit and in 2002 move to be with my honey, she was still with me. And I must admit I had tried, in my sick CG way, to maintain our deal. We moved, were married in 2002 (and are still together today) and the beat goes on. I’m still gambling of course, now I’m a poker champ….no not quite. ‘Chump’ would be a better way of describing the situation.
In 2003, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer (#2), I was angry and had many conversations with my “HP”, they always started with “why me?” But life goes on and the gambling continues. I was running up debt, but had a good retirement and would sometimes take under the table jobs. We had a home in Canada, (not in my name) she had bank accounts (not in my name)…..nice guy eh? Now I was blowing 3/4 thousand a month, while continuing to provide my half and only my half of expenses. Nice guy eh!….2010, we returned to Canada it was to be our last move and to this point is. I continued to gamble daily and it was getting to be as much as 18-22 hours day. My wife was gone on a 6 month posting out of the country and I managed to run up a CC (my cc) to $20k ……but it wasn’t overwhelming, no kids, house essentially paid for cars paid for…..neither of us extravagant (how do u like that, gambling 3/4 grand a month with no job). At any rate, I felt us moving apart and got scared….if she tossed me I was left with nothing and I do mean nothing, just my clothes (maybe).
I was 65 years old (for the record my wife is 18 years younger than me.) I was playing four screens of poker on sunday morning 28th Aug 2010 and reading the online newspaper. There is an add from a local university for problem gamblers to participate in a cessation/study program. I called, answered the questions and continued to play poker. The lady asked what I was doing instead of gambling that morning and I laughed and said you must be sh……..me. I’m playing on line as we speak. Monday I got the “fateful” call, I was in….I said what the hell might as well check it out nothing to lose. They didn’t say I had to quit gambling, just had to sign an agreement to be HONEST. Can you imagine? I was introduced to a counselor as part of the program. We met weekly for almost 5 months in that time actually .28th Oct 2010 I had “quit” gambling.
Feb 22nd 2011, the roof fell in, when my counselor told me my time in the gambling study was over. She would be glad to see me, but we would not and could not discuss gambling as it was off limits. She would help me with anything else. Needless to say I turned the room blue, said a lot of nasty things CG’er are capable of when they don’t get their own way. She said her “ADVICE” was GA…..I will spare you the diatribe that ensued. I came home changed clothes and head for the medication parlor (casino). I am thankful and grateful that I never made it …..divine intervention, coincidence whatever. 24th Feb 2011, I made my way to my first GA meeting in over 30yrs. I sat there and listened and for 2 months I actually called every one in the rooms ‘A-holes,’ I mean literally. I (f’d) GA up one side and down the other literally. Nobody judged me, a few of the more senior members asked me to tone it down, but never shut me up (thankful and grateful).
Finally, on the last Sunday in May I’m sitting in a meeting and something came over, call it what you want (epiphany) (awakening) whatever. I hadn’t gambled in 6 months, people were clapping, the same people who I said the worst kind of things to. I choked up (near tears) and made a decision there and then to surrender. I wanted abstinence and more than that I wanted recovery. I wanted a journey to a better way of life. No more excuses or the blame game. Worked the program, got a sponsor, attended numerous meetings per week, used the phone list, came on GamTalk and another site. Did my best to pay it forward.
I’m about to close, but want to share one more thing. Jan 2nd 2012, I was again diagnosed with a 3rd form of Cancer the most deadly to date. Again, “my God my Higher Power where are you, why me?” F….k it, going to gamble, but oddly enough was too physically sick to go. But more importantly, GA people actually sat in the Chemo room or the radiation waiting room with me. I had calls, some at times that I really didn’t want to talk to anyone. The desire to gamble increased and magically the presence of GA increased. I told my oncology team about my disease and they recommended I wait 6 weeks before spending anytime in close quarters with a lot of people. Two weeks after finishing treatment I went to a GA meeting. Why? Because with much help of others I hadn’t gambled although the pull was huge. Because through my abstinence I had learned that I had a choice and how to make the right choice. So you know who I am? A grateful recovering compulsive gambler. I want to wish you all a safe 24 and I’ll keep one for myself. I have a firm grip on the ‘Rope of Hope’ and each day I remember to keep a firm grip on it. One sec, one minute ….ODAAT…Indulge me one more thing, nobody can make me gamble but me. I don’t give anyone permission to interrupt or impinge on my abstinence and recovery. Why would I want to gamble when I know that outcome? That’s the definition of insanity. In my case, I have a million bets left in me. I’m not sure I have the humility or strength or courage for another recovery, hence my vigilance and strong belief that Step One is the only requirement Thank you! YBIR
P.S. To my wife Rachel you have stood by me through the last 23+yrs….and I can not even begin to thank you. . cant tell you enough your are the sunshine of my life.