I had my first big win of $500 as a 7-year-old at a church picnic in a small town in Minnesota. I was like a celebrity for a while after that. I chased that feeling for 34 years, becoming very competitive in sports, games, spelling bees and just about everything else.
I figured out I had a gambling problem in 1994 and went to a few meetings, but didn’t take anything away from them at that time. That same year I went through outpatient treatment to help control my gambling. But I did not want to stop; I wanted to get back to the winning streaks I thought I had.
Over the next two years I had periods where I abstained from gambling to prove to myself and others that I had it under control. But I didn’t. In 1997, I stole $250 from my employer to cover gambling losses. By the middle of 1998, I was taking much larger sums, with the last theft being for $25,000. With each theft, I convinced myself it would be the last time I’d do it.
Every time our company had an audit, I would pray and pray that they wouldn’t pick one of the stolen checks I had cashed. I felt really bad about what I did, and the pressure to hide my gambling problem increased. I even worked on plans to have someone kill me, put me in the trunk of a car and abandon the car. I thought it would be better for my parents and others to see me murdered than to learn about my gambling problem and the illegal activities I had committed.
I was eventually caught, and was fired from my job on December 6, 1998 – yet that was not my bottom. I worked out a repayment agreement with my employer, but I reneged on it when I couldn’t make the payments because of my continued gambling. In February of 2000, I was charged with 24 federal felony counts of theft by swindle for the money I stole from my employer, a securities firm and a banking institution. I plead guilty to much lesser charges, served my time and am still making restitution payments.
My last day of gambling was two days before I entered inpatient treatment on September 20, 2000. I white knuckled it and floundered around for a while, staying gambling-free but still trying to “find recovery” on my own. I believed that I was not worthy of God’s or any other higher power’s help or caring.
On November 7, 2001, I was involved in a serious accident that changed my outlook on recovery and life in just a few seconds. My SUV was demolished after rolling over three and a half times. I was pulled from the wreckage by a good Samaritan.
I walked away from the accident with very minor injuries because I heard from within the car that I needed to lay down. There was no one else in the car with me, but I listened to that voice and laid down on the front seat, seat belt still intact. The roof of the car was crushed down to the steering wheel. Had I not laid down, I would have most likely been killed or paralyzed.
I knew then that I did have faith in God. If I didn’t or had hesitated about lying down, I may not have survived. I began to live a different life the next day, one where I am involved in GA, the conference and the fellowship that GA has to offer. I am alive today because of the choices I have made in recovery. Some choices have been made without hesitation while other choices have taken longer – like asking for help during sad times.
I have a few friends from before recovery who tried to help, but I wasn’t ready to accept help. They still stood by me in courtrooms and then a treatment center, having accepted my addiction without necessarily understanding its affect on me. The hundreds of friends I have met through recovery do understand the effects my addiction has on me. I have been willing to accept their help and they in turn are willing to help me.
What a different life I am experiencing – thanks to my higher power, my friends and my choices.