By Michael Stein
Angie has had lots of experience with addiction: Her father, former spouse and daughter have all dealt with some form of addictive behavior. So she wasn’t too surprised last year when she finally faced the truth: she had a gambling problem.
“I started to wonder about myself two years ago,” Angie explained. “I was playing lots of bingo and not paying attention to relationships. I was existing in blah land.”
Angie was married for 20 years, divorced, and now has been single for 20 years. She became a licensed foster care provider for her four grandchildren and continued to work as a parochial school teacher.
“I never took a break,” she said. “I opened my heart to my grandchildren and asked God if this was meant to be then let it be.”
Relationships she thought would work didn’t. Angie started opening up about her personal issues to her twin sister—but then she passed away last August. Others close to her, including her grandchildren, were noticing that things weren’t quite right.
“I was hitting the casinos,” Angie explained. “I was winning sometimes, but then losing several hundred dollars in one night. After a night at the casino my mind was just shot. I couldn’t focus and I realized it was from playing so much for so long.”
It was time to seek help. Angie found Lutheran Social Services Gamblers Choice started attending group sessions last December.
Filling the empty spaces
“In looking back I realized there was an empty space in me,” she said. “I was looking for some kind of fulfillment or an escape from responsibilities. I needed something outside of the routine—something to make me feel better about myself.”
Whether it was video games or slot machines, Angie said there was a trance-like feeling when playing. “You don’t even observe or notice the people around you.”
She gave up video games by simply getting rid of her computer. But bingo was just four minutes away and a convenience Angie couldn’t avoid.
“They have up to five bingo sessions a day,” she said. “And I was going three or four times a day.”
When she sought help, Angie knew she was emotionally ready for treatment and she’s made solid progress since starting the program.
“With the program you know you’re not alone. I really appreciate the professionalism of the counselors. I’m finding other things to do like going out for coffee with friends and spending more time with my family.”
Angie emphasizes her spirituality in finding strength. “I read a lot of faith-based material and try to apply it to make my life better.”
Angie added that gamblers make up their world with fantasy, but “I want to make it real, get to the point where I can have strong healthy relationships and find comfort and serenity.”