Betting on the next $100
I am 34 years old, and I have been a compulsive gambler for 10 years.
I come from a family of gamblers; some of them have gambling problems, too. I first tried gambling when I was 8, when I played with my family.
When I got older, I spent a lot of time at the gambling machines, time when I should have been at home with my three young children. I gambled at bars, pubs and restaurants in Dayton, McMinnville and Newberg. Other gamblers were always there, too.
I missed school functions, such as parent/teacher meetings, conferences and my kids’ games. Because of my gambling, I didn’t go to family gatherings like birthday parties and backyard barbecues, so my children missed getting together with relatives, too. When relatives from out of state visited, I wasn’t around to meet them.
All these are things I can’t go back and do over, all because of my gambling. When I think about it, I feel sad.
I tried to keep my gambling secret, but my kids knew the truth. I lied to everyone else, and said I was busy. I made up stories about “helping people.” In reality, I was gambling at a machine as much as four hours a day.
To keep gambling, I had to steal from my family. I probably wasted about $30,000 a year on it. The most I ever took at one time was $3,000. When I was accused of the theft, I denied it, of course. I don’t think they ever found out it was me who stole the money that time.
I cared more about gambling than anything else. It was my first priority. It makes me sick thinking about it now, especially since I could have saved all that money to send my children to college.
My gambling was intimately tied with my drug addiction, and my drug of choice was meth. (I had a year clean from meth on May 16.) Interestingly, meth and gambling are both stimulants. When I gambled and won, it made me feel high. I would gamble until the bar closed at 2:30 a.m., and then I would use meth. I told myself that late at night was the best time to win.
Sometimes, I even waited at the front door of a bar to open in the morning.
In 2011, I was participating in group counseling, but I even gambled until right before I went to group meetings. I had lied on the intake assessment when it asked about gambling; therefore, my counselor wasn’t aware of this problem. When a certified gambling counselor came and spoke to us, I wanted nothing to do with that woman. I told myself I didn’t have a problem. All I could think about was getting out of that group and hitting the gambling machine.
A year later, I went to my first alcohol-and-drug residential treatment program, but I still didn’t talk about gambling. Treatment lasted three months. Then I returned to Yamhill County.
When I entered aftercare, I hadn’t thought about my gambling. It never even crossed my mind. My new alcohol and drug counselor noticed I hadn’t filled out the gambling assessment. She told me it was part of the full assessment and needed to be done. She wanted me to get all the help I could while I was in treatment. I agreed to a gambling assessment and to meet one-on-one with the gambling counselor. My score for problem gambling was high.
In November, I enrolled in gambling treatment, but I wasn’t happy about it. I was mad. It was just one more thing to do, and I was busy. I knew it was serious, but I didn’t want to deal with it. In treatment, I have learned a lot about compulsive gambling, and I am doing my best to deal with it.
I’ve become aware of thinking errors, such as the Gambler’s Fallacy: “If I just put more money in, one more $20 or one more $100, then I’ll have to win.” Now I realize I’m almost certain to lose it. But if I don’t gamble, I can go home with money in my pocket.
I meet with a counselor, Carolyn Simeone, at the county chemical dependency and gambling program every week, and I have not gambled for 11 months. I’m becoming a responsible parent, and my life is totally different. Also, I realize that to gamble puts me at risk for relapse on alcohol and drugs. It really scares me to think of losing all I’ve gained over the past 11 months of abstinence and recovery.
In my active addiction, I wasn’t capable of really thinking. Being affected by the drug and the compulsive behavior was a nightmare. Now I like to think, even though it is difficult. I especially like thinking about getting my GED.
I have a gambling problem. In 2013, I intend to complete treatment and do whatever it takes to keep from gambling again.
The guest writer, a local compulsive gambler, is recovering. She is not identified by name or photo. This essay is one woman’s experience of gambling addiction, written with the hope that others may find the help they need. For more information, call Yamhill County’s gambling program at 503-434-7527.