Compulsive Gambling

My name is Mindy and I am a compulsive gambler. Gambling came very close to ruining my life. Fortunately, through the help of Gambler’s Anonymous and a very supportive family and supportive friends, I am on the right track…finally.

I didn’t just wake up one day and decide I was a compulsive gambler. At one time, many, many years ago, I gambled for fun and recreation, just like a lot of people. I lived in Las Vegas for awhile in 1990. Gambling, for me, back then, was no big deal…I could take it or leave it. I moved back to Michigan and went in the hospital for other issues – I also have Borderline Personality Disorder with major depression. After the casino 75 miles from home opened up, I started going there periodically. It was fun – I would take a roll of quarters and have fun for awhile, then drive home.

Over time, I’m not really sure exactly when, I started making more and more of those trips. Most times I would convince myself it was just for the drive and a little relaxation. I won a decent amount several times, and figured, ‘wow, this is fun…I can spend a little money and make a lot!’. Thus, a compulsive gambler was born.

My parents were raising my kids, so I didn’t have anyone to answer to. I could do what I wanted, when I wanted to do it. In around 2000, I was making regular trips to the casino, usually spending whatever was in my bank account. If I wasn’t done when the money ran out, I would just write a check and figure I would win enough to cover it. Usually, that didn’t happen. I remember many nights driving home from the casino, wanting to die. Other nights I would call my mom hysterical….I had nothing to live on for the rest of the week and bills would continue to go unpaid. She would usually send me money and 9 times out of 10, I would be right back up to the casino with it, forgetting about the bills or lack of food. I don’t know how many times I would call my parents, lying to them about having car problems or whatever…just to get money to gamble.

In 2002 my Dad passed away and me and my brothers and sister discovered that my Mom had dementia. In 2003 we went to court and I got custody of my kids back. I figured I could control my gambling…I had a decent job that paid well and I had my kids back…no more need to gamble. That was so not true…the beast had me!

I started sneaking up to the casino, missing work or going in with no sleep, leaving my kids at home (they were both teenagers by this time….my oldest was 17, the younger one 15) and lying…a lot. We were almost evicted from our apartment because I had gambled the rent money away. My oldest turned 18 and off to the casino we went. That was when she realized that Mom had a problem. I was way beyond gambling to have fun…I was now on a mission every time I went gambling. We started having a lot of family problems because of my gambling…my daughter was very angry about my gambling.

Time went on and my son turned 18 – off to the casino we went. He loved it! Now I had a casino buddy! I was so happy! It didn’t take long before he started getting irritated with me, because I wanted to stay until we were broke, no matter how much either of us had won. But…he still went with me.

In 2006 we moved to Florida. As soon as we got the truck unpacked into storage, we immediately headed for Hollywood – the Hard Rock Cafe. We stayed there 2 days gambling. Eventually I found other casinos, closer to where we lived. My son didn’t like them because we couldn’t win like we did in Michigan, so he stopped wanting to go with me. I, again, found any excuse to go…and lied if I had to. My daughter joined us in Florida later that year and things went down-hill quickly. One thing led to another and I made the call I dreaded making…to the Gambler’s Anonymous helpline. I found out where meetings were relatively close to us and had every intention on going. I never did.

The gambling in Florida continued, as did the sneaking and lying. I couldn’t stop. In 2008, we decided to move back to Michigan. Shortly after moving back, my son and I were back up at the casino. This was when things REALLY got out of control. I was spending every dime I had at the casino. Food and other bills didn’t matter. Nothing mattered but being in action. I wasn’t happy unless I was sitting in front of a slot machine. My kids tried to talk to me, it didn’t matter. I just wanted to gamble.

I manage the apartments I live in, so I didn’t have to worry about rent. Towards the end, if people paid their rent in cash, I was up at the casino with that. I was SURE I would win enough to cover it. Sometimes I did…and put it right back in the machines, walking out with nothing. It wasn’t about coming out with money anymore, it was about how long I could sit in front of that slot machine. In September of 2009 I was so depressed and wanted to die…because of my gambling. My kids checked me into a crisis center and they gave me information about Gambler’s Anonymous. My first 2 meetings were over Labor Day weekend that year and nobody showed up. I was so desperate that I showed up for my third meeting and people were there! I need to mention here that I was also on a medication that I believe increases compulsive behavior (other recovering gamblers that I’ve talked to have been on it and had the same issues with trying to quit as I was having at that time), which didn’t help. I wanted to quit so bad, but after 30 days, I’d go back out and gamble everything I had. My best friend rescued me many times…making sure I had food, cigarettes, taking me places because I had no gas in my car, but she never gave me money. Finally, December 31, 2009, my check came and I was off…I don’t remember any of it. I was in a blackout. Following the trail from my debit card and the fact that I had put 650 miles on my car, I had been to 2 casinos and lost almost 24 hours. I called my best friend when I ‘came to’ on the way home and we decided together that I needed to be hospitalized. I went into the hospital and admitted myself into the psychiatric ward. They took me off the medication I was on and put me on another and worked with me regarding my addiction. I was there one week. In the process of all this, I was honest to the owner of the apartments and told him that I had stolen from him, and how much. He was disappointed and angry, but thank God he’s a compassionate person and realized that I have an addiction. He agreed to me paying him back some each month. Slowly but surely, my kids have come around. They had gotten so tired of my gambling and the lies and deceit that they had distanced themselves from me completely.

I made it through the month of January going to GA meetings and found a website where they have meetings and a chat room – Safe Harbor ( www.sfcghub.com ). I lived on that web site for quite awhile, sometimes sitting in the chat room just waiting for another gambling addict to show up. I was so scared that I was going to start gambling again. I think part of me thought that I would never be able to completely stop. In the process of all this, I learned that I had to change my behavior. I didn’t realize while I was in the middle of active addiction, how much I was lying, and how out of control I was. The financial aspects of the addiction are obvious, but I didn’t realize until I got clean, just how far down I had gone. The emotional toll that this addiction took was far worse than the financial. I had to pull myself up, with the help of other GA members and my friends and family, and go on – emotionally. I didn’t want to just exist anymore, I wanted to live.

Eventually, as time has passed, it has gotten easier. I have a good relationship with the owner of the complex again, as well as with my kids. In time, trust has been built back up. It’s only been 7 months, but I have to say that each day not gambling is better than the last. I can laugh again. I enjoy life. I go to GA meetings 3 times a week, talk to other GA members, my friends, on the phone, and have begun to live my life in recovery. It’s not been an easy road – I’ve had to find other things to fill my time – but it’s so worth it!