I’ll never forget the day I was arrested for stealing from my employer. I sat in the police car outside my house as police went through my house with a search warrant. I sat there thinking I had ruined my life, my reputation and my 30-year marriage.
When I got out on bail after spending four days in jail, I figured the only option I had was to commit suicide. I had every intention of going home, grabbing a pistol and taking off.
When I got home, my wife and two sons greeted me from the top of the stairs. They all grabbed me, hugged me and assured me we’d all get through this. That was the point when I realized I had other options.
I came clean to my family about everything I had done. The stress and pressure immediately lifted.
Like so many people with a gambling addiction, I had gotten pretty good at telling lies and being in denial. I persuaded an uncle whom I was very close to and very much admired to lend me $8,000 for a fictitious business adventure so that I could pay the casino and be whole again. But I quickly convinced myself to gamble the money, positive that I could win all my money back to pay back both my uncle and the casino. It did not take me long to lose all that of that money and more from the casino. Now in debt to my uncle for $8,000 and the casino for $14,000, I convinced myself that I could get my uncle to invest an additional $8,000. I figured I’d pay that to the casino and start to manage things, as I had no other place to go. He gave me the additional $8,000, but my addiction again took over and I gambled the money away without hesitation. Now $30,000 in debt ($16,000 to my uncle and $14,000 to the casino, I had no idea what to do, so I stole from my employer.
Another example of my denial was when one of my own sons was receiving counseling at Hazelden for a gambling problem. My wife and I would attend meetings in support of him. But at the same time I was going there for him, I was struggling with my own addiction, though I convinced myself I didn’t have one. That shows how powerless over this addiction I really was.
Last Christmas (2017), I went to church to make everyone happy. I remember listening to the priest’s sermon and thinking he was just talking directly to me. Looking back, I realize that I was looking for help at that time, but didn’t really know where to turn or how to get it. There were so many times when I was at the casino and saw signs in the bathroom telling people, “If you need help, call this number,” but that wasn’t enough. I needed a reason.
That reason came when I was arrested last February for stealing from my employer. It brought me to my knees and made me realize I had a problem. I think I needed to hit rock bottom or I wouldn’t have had the strength or wherewithal to stick it out.
The day after I got out of jail, I searched online for help and found a counselor at Fairview. I was then referred to Vanguard, where I spent the month of March in residential treatment.
During my time at Vanguard, and since then, I have learned a lot about myself and my addiction. I haven’t told a lie in ten months and my relationship with my wife is very transparent. Our marriage has never been better.
I know that if I don’t stick with my program, I’ll lose everything. My family has been amazingly supportive, but I know I can’t ask them to go through this again.
David’s Wife’s Story
I knew that my husband enjoyed going to the casino, but I had no idea it was a huge problem until the day he was arrested. I remember looking at the search warrant showing what was seized. It all quickly became a blur. When I learned what happened, I felt like my life was ruined.
Since that day, however, I’ve learned a lot more about gambling addiction through programs such as those offered by Fairview, Vanguard, Gamblers Anonymous and Gam-Anon. The knowledge I’ve gained about the brain and what happens with addiction has allowed me to understand how this unimaginable thing could happen.
I can’t say enough about the support that’s available to those of us “affected others” of problem gamblers. Vanguard went over financial matters, such as looking at income and bills, something that’s been a real eye opener. I’ve also learned the things I need to do to take care of myself, and how to make sure that my assets are safe in the event David relapses.
I’ve become the family accountant, always having to match David’s receipts with his expenses. It’s not something I like to do, but I realize that money handling is what I need to do to help him, just the way someone has to do certain things for people with other diseases.
The programs have allowed me to share my experience with others dealing with the same thing. I can open up to them about my feelings and they truly understand. I feel it’s so important that people know that these resources are out there, and not to be afraid to access them.
It’s been a journey, one to take one moment at a time. There has been much good that’s come from this, including a marriage that’s more honest and open than ever. I’ve met wonderful people and grown as an individual to understand what I can control and what I can’t. For all that’s happened—and with all that still lies ahead—I’m choosing to see all of this through the positive lens of “this has been a gift.” I know that it could be much worse.