Hi, my name is Sloan and I’m a compulsive gambler.
The first time I visited a casino was in September 2011 and I was instantly hooked. It did something to my mind that altered how I felt and it felt really good. I’ve always been a bit of a loner and I’ve struggled with being insecure, having no confidence and I have a lot of childhood traumas that I never addressed. Gambling numbed those feelings. At first it was fun but with time, it became destructive. Unable to pay bills, taking out payday loans, lying to family members to get money, etc. I did it. I needed to gamble and I didn’t care what it took to get there. The loss of 2 vehicles and rolling a 3rd on the way during a tri-state blizzard to the casino didn’t stop me because I continued on and got there each time. Unable to pay bills because I couldn’t use “gambling” money to pay bills. I love my family with all of my being but I took them for granted and missed family events, left them early, etc. so I can get to the casino.
May 2013 was the first time I reached out for help and arrived at Gamblers Choice, an outpatient treatment program in Fargo, ND. I knew my life was in a downward spiral and thought I hit my rock bottom but boy was I wrong. Looking back, I think I wanted help so I can gamble responsibly in a controlled way but that’s not a thing for me. Gamblers Choice has a rigorous 12 step program that requires brutal honesty and the want to make a character change from within to get help. I’d do a couple steps and when it got tough, I’d peace out. I thought I knew it all and could handle this all on my own. (I probably did this 10 times throughout my time with GC). That was a lie. January 2015, I went away for a month to Project Turnabout in Granite Falls, MN. – an inpatient rehabilitation that specializes in compulsive gambling. While there, that was the safest I’ve ever felt in my life and I look back fondly on it. However, when I was released I received the hundreds of dollars that I had checked into the treatment center with me and drove to the casino that was conveniently located 3 miles away. 10 days after my discharge, one of my employees unexpectedly died practically in front of my eyes and I didn’t know how to cope. Gambling binges got longer and required more money so I continued to lie, steal and manipulate others to feed the addiction. Taking bank bags from work and selling possession was a daily occurrence. This cycle continued for about 5 years. Earlier in this essay, I wrote that I thought I hit my rock bottom in 2013 and but apparently it wasn’t. But the thing is, you don’t need to test your luck, because each time you dig deeper, you are getting closer to death. I often wonder how am I still alive. For the longest time, I did want to die. I was emotionally and spiritually bankrupt and was just a breathing corpse functioning to make/get money to gamble.
During the Summer of 2021 I really wanted to make a change. I didn’t want to lose my job, I didn’t want to lose my apartment or be homeless with 3 cats.. I’m also in my first relationship in nearly 16 years and couldn’t be happier and don’t want to ruin it. I want to live finally and not be a slave to the addiction or let my memories from the past control me. Since August 2021, I’ve really gotten help by attending Gamblers Choice twice a week, weekly therapy appointments, and attending Gamblers Anonymous at least once a week. I’ve been open to suggestions and doing things differently since my way doesn’t work. I’ve made amends to many people that I’ve hurt while gambling and have planted the seed in hope to repair relationships so we all can heal. It should be noted that it is not only the gambler that suffers from the horrible addiction since many people are hurt, lied to, stolen from along the way. One of the great things that I’ve been able to do that “normal” people do – paying my rent on time. In the 35 months I’ve been in my current apartment, I’ve paid my rent on time only 3 times. I also been focusing on my health and no longer put off things because that makes things worse. I used to do my 12 step assignments in the parking lot before a meeting and leave my literature in my car. Now, my 12 step book and GA blue book are some of my most important possessions and I bring the blue book with me to work.
I have so many people I need to thank because I didn’t do this alone. My advisors in GC who are literal Saints, current and past alumni members in the program, GA members, my family and close friends that haven’t given up on me. I must thank my incredible boss for being so understanding and allowing me to take care of myself. But I also must thank myself because I finally see that despite a bad day here and there, that I’m worthy to have a good life. I deserve to be happy and loved. And I deserve to love myself. I used to say I only want to live until I’m 40 but that is no longer true. I want to live a long fulfilling life and have a lot of time to make up for.
I am thankful for being a compulsive gambler and for all of my struggles. I am thankful for all of the people I’ve met along the way and wouldn’t change a thing. It is cliche but things in life do happen for a reason. If I didn’t gamble that doesn’t guarantee that I’d be alive still or with less problems. The message of GA is “One Day At A Time”. I can’t say I’ll never gamble again because that is a lot of pressure to put on myself. And I’d lie if I said I never want to, because I do. But today, I am choosing not to.