Nearly three years ago, I realized I had a problem. My gambling was out of control and I was spending money I didn’t have. For a long time, I didn’t see my gambling as a problem; everyone else gambled – why shouldn’t I?
The gambling that used to occur once in a while (for fun) had changed and I was isolating myself from family and friends. I was constantly stressed-out; looking for money to play any chance I could. Always late and full of excuses, people quickly became frustrated with me. I didn’t care – I simply chose to be alone or with other gamblers. Feelings of guilt and loneliness were overwhelming – I loathed myself.
It wasn’t long before my husband discovered what I had been hiding. He felt helpless while still wanting to keep me out of trouble… he bailed me out of money situations several times. I wondered how I could actually be putting him though this but I was self-centered and just kept going. I felt alone, afraid, depressed and angry. I grew paranoid, thinking everyone was cheating me out of money and winnings.
I “borrowed” money from my kids, my husband and my father. I wrote bad checks and desperately looked for change in old coat pockets. My world was coming undone. The kids never had my full attention, I didn’t cook often, the laughter was gone from our home. I had lost myself.
My husband finally pleaded with me to quit and get help; he was emotionally exhausted and financially depleted from my gambling. How could I be hurting the person I loved and respected? Instead of getting angry, I cried. I felt so scared and broken. I had to change and needed help.
A counselor helped me find the Gamblers Choice Program at Lutheran Social Services in Fargo. There, I met with two very special counselors who understood what I was going through. I learned to work the 12 steps of Gamblers Anonymous. I worked at my own pace and was grateful for the help and education regarding gambling. I took working each step very seriously. It was hard work learning to live for the present day – and each day recommitting to life without gambling.
I started feeling human again; there were new possibilities – there was hope! I was learning a second chance! I started caring about things again; I was excited about this process and took each day one at a time. Eventually I made amends to the people I had hurt, repaid borrowed money and began to rebuild my life. I found the way back to loving myself too. With the support of Gamblers Choice, Gamblers Anonymous, my sponsor and my family, I have been gamble-free for almost three years. I have found a peaceful new life. I am mindful of the effort I still need to put towards my days but I am happy and whole again and it’s worth every bit.
Today I focus on serenity and honestly. I work my twelfth step by helping others in their recovery. I know that I cannot gamble again – not even small bets. But I’m okay with that; I have my marriage and family, I am proud of myself, I greet each day with positivity – there are so many possibilities again! I will be forever thankful.