Like many other gambling addicts, I was literally on the brink of suicide before I was ready for change.
If I wasn’t gambling, I was drinking. My addiction had taken total control of my life. One night after being in the bar, I came home to find that I just couldn’t live this way any longer. I called a friend, told her I didn’t want to live any more, and said I was going to take my own life. She told me to hold on, and within five minutes she arrived at my house. She took me to a friend’s house and let me cry all night.
The next day, I made a call to my old counselor from an outpatient treatment group. She asked me a single question: “Have you had enough?” I had. She told me that I had to call Vanguard. They wouldn’t take me unless I went for a Rule 25 alcohol assessment and agreed to inpatient CD treatment as well. I went in on September 18, 2002, and have not gambled or drank since.
Of course it was a long road that took me to that fateful day. I suppose it started way back when I was about 12 and my mother took me to play Bingo in Chicago. I won $300, but my mom had to say that she won. She kept the money and gave me $20. I had that rush…. and so it began.
Both of my parents were gamblers and alcoholics, and I learned it all at an early age. My mother owned a restaurant at one time and then later a bar. They would often have card games going for money with their friends and be drinking. My four siblings and I are all addicts.
My husband at the time, myself and my children eventually moved to Duluth. I played Bingo in a casino in an old-type setting that also included pulltabs. They had a bingo machine and I loved it. I would spend hours playing. I later moved back to Chicago and found the Bingo halls there.
At first I went to play Bingo once a month. It was my night out away from my kids and my husband. I never won any money. Then I went every two weeks … then every week and then twice a week. At first, I’d bring $10 a day to spend on gambling. Then it became $20. Then $40. My addiction was accelerating. By the time I stopped gambling, I wouldn’t walk into the casino bingo hall with less than $200. I did that three to four times a week.
I realized that I had a problem. I went to GA, but I didn’t like it. Instead, my gambling problem worsened and I remember lying to a credit union to get money I couldn’t pay back. I borrowed money from friends and was unable to pay bills. I did this over and over.
When I wasn’t gambling I was drinking. I went to outpatient treatment off and on for both my addictions for several years, but that never worked for me. I did stay clean and sober for five months, but relapsed on $12.
I won a $2,500 jackpot, the first big money I’d ever won, and then things got worse. I spent every penny I had as well as other peoples’ money. One time my mother had given me money that was to be used to paint a bedroom. She was dying, and I used it for gambling. I convinced someone who was just about a total stranger to me to lend me the money so I could get the bedroom painted. I needed to show it to my mother before she died. After hours on the phone begging and pleading for the money, she lent it to me to cover my lie. Another time, my nephew earned some money from a catering job and took it and made up stories about how I hadn’t gotten it yet. I took the money and gambled, and then had to make another deal with someone else, who used it to blackmail me later. This endless search for money eventually led to the day I was ready to end my life.
It’s been more than 10 years now since I’ve been in a better place. I’ve been a keynote speaker at the Minnesota GA conference. I am the trustee of my area and represent some of the finest people I know. I talk about gambling issues and how they affect our area. This is something I could never have dreamed of. I started my own business in 2007 and it is thriving. I got remarried and have a wonderful relationship with my children.
I can’t believe how different my life is now. It is so much better. I don’t ever want to go back to the way things were. I don’t have to, as long as I choose not to gamble, one day at a time.