Please, please, please. This can’t be. Pleeeeeease, just let me just make some money back up. I have to stop… I can’t stop! Not like this. I have to keep going. This can’t be happening. Oh gosh, I feel sick.
It’s done. I have nothing left. What did I do? I can’t believe this just happened. Did I really just do this?? I have to go. I need to get out of here. I can’t breathe.
My hands are trembling. I look for the exit.
There, I have to get there.
It takes everything in me to step away from the slot machine. I hate it with all my might. My feet feel heavy. My knees are weak. I drag and will them to support me. The slot machines around me look like little life sucking demons now. I walk around them avoiding touching them. I turn my eyes away so I don’t even look at the screens. Somehow, I make it out the front doors of the casino.
The warm musty air outside hits my face… it’s drenched in cold sweat. I look around. My vision is blurry, but I can see the casino’s neon lights blinking everywhere. People flood in and out of the casino. I smell cigarette smoke. I hear people laughing and the swooshing of cars as they drive by the valet area. I feel faint and nauseous. The world around me is so surreal. Is this a dream?
By the time I make it to my vehicle, my heart is racing out of my body and I’m hyperventilating. I still have to drive home. This can’t be real. This can’t be real. This can’t be real.
I don’t know how I make it home. What just happened still hasn’t sunk in. I’m in shock. I rush in my home’s front door. For what? I don’t know. I can’t escape my reality. I am running away from my reality. I can’t hold it in anymore. This maddening sickening feeling does not go away. I head to the bathroom. I throw up.
It’s 11:30 PM. I should go to bed.
That was the last time I gambled. Of course, I didn’t sleep that night. Read my thoughts that night. I laid in bed thinking about what had just happened. I was disgusted with my self and my actions. I felt physically, emotionally, and mentally sick. I had just gambled away thousands of hard-earned and hard-saved money. Not just my money, my husband’s… my family’s. It wasn’t my intention when I walked in the casino that night. I had this crazy delusion that I would go in there with a couple twenty-dollar bills and win back all money I had previously lost while gambling.
All of this doesn’t sound like my life at all. It sounds like a something I would read online, a magazine, or hear on some talk show on TV. I never imagined I would be a compulsive gambler/gambling addict. I would have laughed if you had said I would be incapable of controlling or stopping myself if I was anywhere near a gambling establishment. Who would have thought the urge to gamble would be so strong, that it would turn me into someone unrecognizable even to myself? I had always been great at managing my finances. I was known to be pretty thrifty, even a little frugal. So how could this have happened?
I think back to the first couple of times I went into a gameroom. My friend begged me to accompany her. At that time, I wasn’t interested in bets, slot machines, wins, nor jackpots, but she insisted so much I just gave in. I now wish I had stuck to my guns and said “NO” no matter what she said and how many times she assured me it would be ok. It was “just for fun” and “to pass the time” she said.
Come to think of it. She was right. For most people, gambling is just an entertainment. Statistics how that the vast majority of people who gamble don’t get addicted. Read Addiction to learn more. For those people, it is merely and expensive recreational activity. For others, like me, it was the perfect storm because right around the same time, I went through one of the roughest times in my life. It was a life changing event. Something so big it felt like an asteroid had smashed into me and changed the trajectory of my existence.
This was years ago before I had my two precious sons. My siblings, mother, and close relatives were what I considered my most precious treasure. They were my favorite people in the world. There was nothing I wouldn’t do for any of them. In my mind, we had an unbreakable bond. I wholeheartedly believed in the sayings, “family is all we’ve got,” ” family will always be there,” “family is forever,” etc. So when there was an event that resulted in me becoming distanced from my family, I died.
I felt alone, rejected, blamed, and depressed. I cried every free moment of the day and night until I feel asleep. If I woke up in the middle of the night, I’d cry myself to sleep again. This continued day after day. I just couldn’t believe it. Family is supposed to be your “no place like home.” It’s supposed to give you unconditional love and support even when everything else turns its back on you. I had nothing.
My husband reassured me and made it clear he supported me. He also traveled for work and could be gone for 3-6 months at a time. I didn’t have many friends to go to for support -my family members were my friends. I couldn’t understand a life without my family. The family I loved and adored with all my might abandoned me. I was completely torn inside.
Those two events were a really bad combination for me. I didn’t realize it then, but I was about to enter a dangerous zone.
One day, as I was driving home, I passed by that same little small town casino my friend took me to. I remembered it was full of people and that everyone seemed to be having so much fun. I had spent months crying, but on that particular day, I just didn’t want to feel sad and rejected anymore. I didn’t want to cry myself to sleep thinking I was alone in the world. I wanted to do feel alive again. I made a u-turn back to that game room and made my way in. My senses where instantly flooded by the bright-flashy-happy-colors and exciting beeps and jingles. There was a world of difference between what was going on in there and what was going on at home.
Everything about that place shouted “HAPPY” and “FUN”.
I sat down in front of a slot machine. Instantly, my mind was captivated by all the buttons, neon lights, and graphics on the screen. I stuck a $5 bill in. Here goes nothing, I thought. I pressed the spin button. The machine came alive. As the reels spun, they created rainbows of colors. Whistles and rings filled the air. I stared in awe. Time stopped. I was hypnotized. Tin, tin, tin, tin. The reels stop. I snapped my attention back to the screen. I examine it for indications of a win – a dollar and few cents. Smile. Not bad.
Spin…repeat…spin…repeat…spin…repeat. I became fully immersed in the game, and lost track of time. I didn’t feel miserable. I was too distracted by everything going on in front and around me to feel pain. The sadness, despair, and loneliness I felt went into oblivion. I was having fun again. I quickly made friends with many of the regulars.
That night, I stepped into a time warp… an escape from reality. A safe place where when I was in it, I didn’t feel like a constant big loser. There was a possibility of me being a winner after every spin. A big winner on a good bonus round.
Week after week I sought the company of slot machines. Game rooms became my go-to destination on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. I created personal connections with random strangers, and electronic machines that filled the void that the loss of my family had left. Their interactive screens and the “spin” buttons required my constant touch. I guess they replaced the physical interactions that I was missing from my loved ones. I subconsciously enjoyed that everything that was happening outside of that building left my being; which, was then filled with action packed bonus rounds.
It didn’t take long before I was gambling almost on a daily basis. I was spending more money and time than I intended. My wagering began to creep up and with it my losses.
The months and years passed, and my family and I were still at odds. I continued to seek refuge in nearby game rooms and casinos. What at first was a fun and entertaining pass time soon became my coping mechanism for everything.
Fast forward 5 years. —————-
My two children were born. My spouse and I reunited. My relationship with my family improved- we were on speaking terms. I was in a better place family-wise, but the spark that ignited my gambling addiction, continued to consume me. As my life had its ups and down, I found excuses to go gambling. It seemed the most natural thing for me to do. If there was a gambling establishment near by, I had to go. Every time I did, I buried myself deeper and deeper in debt. I promised myself I wouldn’t return. It stopped being fun, but I couldn’t stop. I realized I had become addicted.
I started hating gambling. I hated myself for gambling and being careless by risking my family’s well being on a bet. But I had invested too much of myself and too much money to just give it up. The money that had been destined to buy a house or send my kids to college was literally thrown down a drain – by me. I couldn’t let it go. The only way for me to deal with that fact was to convince myself that it wasn’t over. As long as I didn’t stop gambling, there was a chance for me to make the money back up and correct my mistakes.
I couldn’t let me new family (husband and children) down. I was on a mission to hit a big enough jackpot, and then shut the door on gambling forever.
So I continued gambling time after time, sometimes going on binges. I began lying to my husband about my gambling and hiding my loses. I no longer controlled my gambling, it controlled me. I tried to quit several times. I even attended a recovery program, but the guilt I carried weighed so much it pulled me back into the casinos. Many times I walked out of them a zombie, in disbelief of my actions, enraged that I hadn’t stopped myself, and feeling sicker and sicker.
August 10th, 2016 was the last day I gambled. The last day, following a gambling binge that left me so sick I couldn’t see straight. For days, when I looked at my children their faces would blur and fade-in to an image of a row of slot machines. I realized I was sick. Sicker than I thought. For years I’ve been living in a diseased state of mind. I had to stop before I completely destroyed myself and my family. I have two beautiful children who deserve the best mom and a husband who works long hard days to support his family. What I’ve done isn’t fair to them.
I have to make things right, make amends, to those around me Starting by accepting that any gambling and any gambling establishment is bad for me. It will always control me and beat me.
I want to make it clear that I don’t blame my family or gambling establishments for my addiction. I take full responsibility for my actions. That being said, I believe the emotional state of mind I was in, due to the events in my life, left me vulnerable. I welcomed the gamerooms’ and casinos’ distractions and atmosphere. I was desperately seeking to fill my empty heart with anything that would make me feel whole again. I mistakenly opened the door to gambling and crossed the line into addiction. In retrospect, I should have stayed away from any and all gambling places because they are not healthy places for me.
Now, I am here speaking to you… sharing my story. I don’t expect you to understand, especially, if you’ve never suffered with addiction. I do ask you to keep an open mind to learn about a problem that affects approximately 1 in 7 people in the United States.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I invite to follow and share Journey of a Gambling Addict Mom Making Amends.
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