I started to gamble a lot in 1995. It seemed every time I had a little money I would go to the casino. My Mother and I would go on trips to Las Vegas and to California to gamble. For her it was just for fun. Not for me though. She would give me a little money to play and share some of her winnings with me, but I always took money with me. I always bet the max on the machines. The only way to win I told myself. I had some big wins over the years that I gambled. It never seemed enough for me. I’d lost a lot more than those wins, and most of that money went right back to the casino over time. I realized in 1995 that I had a problem with gambling. I started to look for help. I went to GA meetings every day for 75 days straight, but honestly I didn’t find it that helpful I didn’t gamble for 75 days, that was good, but we didn’t really get to talk about our issues. One issue I had with GA, was that what I was told there seemed to be contradictory. “I’m an ‘Addict’, I can’t help myself… but take responsibility.” It also didn’t make sense to me that I would always be an addict. If I stopped gambling then I wouldn’t be one. By 2004 I was still gambling. I had gone to AADAC to meetings there. I had befriended the lady in the Alberta Gaming booth at the casino who was very encouraging to me. She and I talked a lot. She was very helpful. In December that year, my Mother passed away. She left me some money, and I purchased her condo from the estate. I promised myself No More Gambling! But I had a lot more money than I did before, plus I made some more when I sold the condo. I purchased another one, the bank gave me a $200,000 line of credit, and I started to gamble more than I ever had before. By 2009 I had to sell my condo. I took a huge loss selling it, but I had no choice. The only money I had left were the funds that came to me twice a year, June and December, enough for my rent and bills, enough for groceries and other living expenses, with a little bit left over. But I was still gambling. I moved into a nice apartment, but in September of that year I couldn’t pay the rent. I had no money left from what I received in June. I asked my Brother if he could help me. He said no. The lady from Alberta Gaming told me about Aventa, a residential treatment facility for women. I called them and was told I needed to pay $2600. I had no money. I had to leave my apartment. I had nowhere to go. I had two cats to think about. I called a friend I’d grown up with, and she agreed to pay the $2600 for me if I promised to pay it back in December. The lady from Alberta Gaming put me in touch with a lady she knew who agreed to look after my cats if I paid her in December. She also agreed to store what items I didn’t sell when I left my apartment. Aventa turned out to be located about 4 blocks from where I was living. I lugged two heavy suitcases with me as I walked there. I was there until the middle of November. The trouble with Aventa was two weeks into their program the lady who was there to help the four of us who were there for gambling quit. 99.9% of the women who were there were there because they did drugs or alcohol. That seemed to be the focus of their program. I could relate to some of what I was being told, but I was disappointed that there wasn’t enough focus on gambling. My Brother visited me in October, the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Then I asked him if he would loan me the money for a damage deposit and first months rent so I would have an apartment to go to when I left Aventa. He agreed to. I moved into my new apartment. In December my money came and I paid everyone back, paid the lady who took care of my cats. In January, 2010 I started going to the casino again. I didn’t have the money I used to have. I prepaid my rent six months at a time that year, but I didn’t prepay my bills. I ended up owing money by June and then by December for electricity, cable, and my one and only credit card. I’m a writer. I’m trying to write several novels. I tried very hard to write them and gamble. I would take my work with me to the casino. Sometimes I would just sit in their restaurant, eat something and write. Sometimes I would write a little then gamble. In November 2010 I went to the casino. I had no money to gamble that day so I talked to people I knew there, staff and customers, and I did some writing. I was there about an hour and a half. As I was leaving the security guy stopped me. He asked for my ID. I gave it to him. He wrote down my information in his notebook then told me I had been there for over an hour and I didn’t eat, drink or gamble so I had to go! I told him I was on my way out when he stopped me. He then told me I was barred from going there for one month. I started to cry. I wasn’t allowed to talk to the manager. I was told if I didn’t leave right now they would call the police and I would be charged with trespassing. This was the casino I had been going to since 1995! I’d given them all my money! I felt so hurt and betrayed. I realized they were treating me like I was one of the homeless people that often went there. I started to go to another casino I’d been at a few times over the years. Again I tried to write when I went there to gamble. I met a man at the casino who taught me how to make bets on the horses. We became friends and went to the casino to place our bets. Sometimes I would leave him and go back to the machines for a while. I had to ask him a couple of times if he could help me with my rent. He did. He wanted to go to the casino a lot, but I didn’t want to go that much. Sometimes when he called me I said I didn’t want to go with him. Sometimes I would go there without him. That was 2011. It was the same for 2012 until November. He started to gamble his rent money, making foolish bets, then asked me if I would help him. I told him no. He started to insult me so I told him I couldn’t be his friend anymore. My money came in December. I went to the casino twice, then I asked myself what I was doing. This was not what I wanted to do anymore. New Years Eve I went to the casino. I took $20 for my taxi. I also took $20 in case I wanted to eat a little something. And I took $12 to make two $6 bets on the horses. One bet for the Old Year and one bet for the New Year, then I was going to be done with gambling. I lost the first bet so I waited until later to make the second bet. My horse came in first and I pocketed $81.50. I stayed to hear the first set the band was playing and went home at 11:30 P.M. Today as I’m writing this it’s March 20th, 2013. I have only been down to the casino once since New Years Eve, on March 2nd, a Saturday. I know some people who go there every weekend to dance and I really wanted to join them. I love dancing and I don’t want to go by myself to a night club. I took $30 with me for my taxi and something to eat, but I wasn’t worried that I would gamble. I didn’t go there to do that. I just don’t want to gamble anymore. I know that I won’t. I have learned that you can stop gambling if you really want to. You just have to want to bad enough. I moved to a larger apartment last month so I have to pay more rent now. I love it so much I don’t ever want to have to leave it because I can’t pay the rent. I’m still unpacking but I’m starting to write every day. Writing is all I ever wanted to do with my life, but I always let things get in my way. I don’t want that to happen anymore. I want to finish at least one of the novels I’m writing by the end of this year. I can’t write every day and gamble. You can’t serve two masters. I adopted the motto, ‘Elige Magistrum’, (choose a master). My work would suffer too much again if I went back to gambling. I don’t miss going to the casino. When I think about the years I spent going there I wonder how I managed to go all those years. I’m generally a very positive person. The casino is the most negative place I know of. There are a lot of very unhappy people there. No one is winning anything. No one ever does. Even if you do win, you lose. I just can’t get lost in that world again. I don’t worry about myself getting drawn back into that world. It’s a strange, new feeling to me, feeling happy about the direction my life is going now. I don’t feel that sense of urgency I used to feel when I wanted to run away to the casino. It’s gone. If I start feeling down, or I feel a little restless I run to my work. I write until those feelings subside, then I feel proud of how productive I was. The life I’m living now is the life I have wanted to live for a very long time. Being lost at the casino was not a life at all. It was just an existence. I know it’s only been 79 days since New Years Eve but I just know I will never go back to gambling. I ran into a lady I knew from my gambling days at the casino the other day. She asked me why she hadn’t seen me at the casino. I told her I don’t gamble anymore, but you might see me there on a Friday or Saturday night to hear the band. I told her I was very busy writing. She smiled and said she wished she was very busy so that she didn’t have to go to the casino anymore. I told her you can always find somewhere else to go, something else to keep you busy. You don’t have to go to the casino. I knew she wasn’t there yet. I think we all have to find our own way. ‘Help’ is helpful. You can take what you need and forget the rest. It won’t help you at all if you’re not helping yourself. If you want to stop gambling, you can do it, as long as that is what you really want. I want the life I have now, just because it is a life. It’s such a relief to me that the burden of that gambling ‘lifestyle’ has been lifted off my shoulders.