Will call her “Jenny.”
Jenny is a thirty-eight-year-old who shared her gambling addiction story with my friend Charles Watson who is a content writer for addiction/recovery and health-related issues. Jenny let us share some of her feelings and struggles with addicted gambling as part of an interview with Charles. To keep her bit anonymous, I’m using the first name only. Here is what he learned from his talk with Jenny. As we know those of us maintaining recovery, sharing our stories can be a powerful tool to help others and share hope…
“My Gambling Addiction Story”
I never wanted to admit that I was addicted to gambling until I went home late one evening and found my 10-year-old son quietly sitting outside our apartment. Next to them was a bag full of toys and some school stuff.
The moment I saw him, I knew what was going on. Still, I waited until my son blurted it out, “uncle told us to leave, mom.” Yes, we were being evicted. I know I was five months behind our rent and that we only managed to stay longer since the landlord pitied my son. Then again, this fact didn’t stop me from falling deeper and deeper into my gambling habit.
On my way to work, I’d pass by the casino, try my luck at one of the machines there, as if it’s a part of my daily morning routine. For me, that was how I should jumpstart my day. After work, I’d pass by the casino again, and no matter how full or empty the casino parking lot would look like, I always had a reason to go inside. If the parking lot was full, I’d talk myself right inside thinking that the machines will be paying out now. If the parking lot was empty, then I’d think that the slots will pay out again this time. That’s how bad it has gotten! My thinking was even addicted and going entirely in the wrong direction.
I came from a struggling family. I had eight other siblings, my mother worked as a preschool teacher while my father prided himself in being a professional drunk. We could barely make ends meet because my father would always steal my mother’s money for alcohol. My siblings and I ended up working odd jobs to support ourselves. Cash was hard to find for us back then.
Luckily, I got a scholarship for college and with blood, sweat, and tears I was able to graduate. Since I was at the top of my class, I attracted a firm and was hired as a PR and Advertising Consultant in one of the biggest PR firms in the city right after graduation. Even though I was new, my firm was confident to let me handle large accounts.
Having drive and determination and a “DON’T- take-No-for-an-answer” attitude, I was promoted after a year. I was just 24 at the time I landed the account that turned my career around. I was doing really great and for the first time ever, I felt like I could do anything, and finally, money was now effortless to find making life much easier. I was at the peak of my career when I met Josh, the father of my child.
I knew him to be a well-mannered gentleman who came from a good family. He presented himself as somebody who is successful in his career and is financially stable. I felt secure having Josh in my life. This is the same reason that prompted me to move in with him, even before we were married. In 2007, I gave birth to our first child. Since I feel like I needed to spend more time with our newborn, I decided to quit my job.
I gathered all my savings and invested it in a business Josh was planning to start. In short, I gave Josh all my money. A week after I gave him the money, he talked to me again, now asking me to give him more. He said he needed more investors for his business. So, I borrowed money from friends and from the people I worked with in the past. I gave him a total of $50,000…
“After getting all the money from me, Josh just disappeared.”
How my gambling problem started
I was furious. I couldn’t accept the fact that Josh left me and for a younger woman. I cried buckets and buckets of tears day after day. I overdosed on sleeping pills and alcohol in attempts to escape from my problems. I also met a few friends who invited me to the casino to ‘supposedly’ unwind and rest from my worries and stress. When I told my new-found friends that I don’t have money for the casino, they told me to pawn anything valuable I have. So, heeding their advice, I pawned the diamond ring Josh gave me as a gift for our anniversary. Off we went to the casino!
When I saw the colorful lights and festive atmosphere of the casino, I was ecstatic. After a very long time, I finally broke away from my misery. That day, the casino became my savior, my refuge, and my escape. I tried playing with the slot machine and voila! For my fourth try, I won big! Whew! I felt like my life was slowly getting back on the right track that night. That night ended with me bagging another big win before we left! I was hooked!
The next day, I spoke to my old boss and asked him to take me back. I felt if I went back I would win big again. Then, I got my old job back, but it was very different this time. My motivation to work was to have money to spend at the casino. My thinking sure changed after those couple big wins. Every time I received my paycheck, I would immediately go to the casino and into the arms of my slot machines. I would always think about the fun, dream world, and seemingly happy casino atmosphere. It was something that I could not get over. And just how fast I got hooked!
Acknowledging The problem and Doing Something About It
I never acknowledged it as a problem until I saw my son crying because he was starving. We had nothing in the fridge. No water, no electricity, as well. I realized I was no longer buying groceries and I was not paying our bills. All I was thinking was the casino! After spending another night at the casino, I went home to an eviction notice. We had nowhere to live. I only had five dollars in my wallet. How would we survive? I decided to stay with my mom and dad. I shared my gambling problem with my mother, and she asked me to speak to her friend who is a counselor.
We made my first appointment and after, I was happy to find a counselor who was empathetic and supportive of my decision to break away from my gambling habit. I still see her every week. Even though I’m still struggling, I can say that I’m doing the right thing and on the right track. It’s ironic how we only decide to do something about a problem once everything else in our lives is a mess. My experience was genuinely becoming unmanageable.
I’m still thinking about the casino and the rush and high I get every time I go there. But then again, when I look at my son, I know there is more to life than my need to temporarily escape from my problems and issues. I have work to do in learning the proper tools and skills to keep me from gambling as I now know I have a problem with it.
In closing, I’m trying to stay on the right track — for myself and give a better life to my son.
Charles L. Watson is a freelance writer. Although he holds no medical or psychological degree, his content writing specialties include both addiction, recovery, and health-related topics. You can read more of his content for Sunshine Behavior Health. He would like to thank “Jenny” for her time and honesty with regards to her story above. While the story itself is heartbreaking, let us remember that gambling itself is an addiction and recovery from this disease is possible. Charles can be reached on Twitter.