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Compulsive Gambling Recovery Story

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No Longer Hiding

I always enjoyed playing poker with my family and friends. After my husband and I were married, we played poker with some other couples. That was fun, and winning was really exciting! But gambling moved beyond fun when I was introduced to a casino and slot machines. Our family was having some difficulties, so my husband and I wanted to get away for a few days.

It was a riverboat casino with winding stairs, big chandeliers, a bar and the whole works. I told my husband that I felt like Scarlett O’Hara!

After losing several rolls of quarters, we decided to play nickel machines. We sat together playing those machines for hours, and we had a ball!

It was so much fun to hit jackpots and have coins falling all over us. We enjoyed the excitement of winning, the lights, the sounds and being together. It was a wonderful weekend!

I couldn’t wait to go back, so I rolled nickels and quarters to get ready. We had been playing progressive slots, so I was all set to win a million dollars on the slots! We didn’t go to the casino too often. In those days, I played bingo a lot during the day, but I realized that I could drive an hour-and-a-half to the casino and have a lot more fun. One day, as soon as my husband left for work, I got dressed and drove to the casino. I made sure to get back before my husband got home from work.

The first few times, I took $50 to $100, but soon, that wasn’t enough. I saved every way I could so I could take $200 or more. I never came home with any money. If I won a jackpot, I stayed until all of it was gone. To get enough money to gamble, I stopped paying our bills. I stole my husband’s Post Office box key so he couldn’t check the mail and see the bills. I took the phone off the hook at night so bill collectors couldn’t call, and I stole the tape out of the telephone answering machine. I hid all the bills and overdue notices in shoeboxes in the closet.

After several months of hiding all this from my husband, we were six months behind on our house note, and we had three or four maxed out credit cards. We owed everybody. I took $200 for the light bill to the casino planning to make enough money to pay off a lot of our debts, but of course, that never happened. One day on the way back from the casino, I hit bottom. I had ruined our lives. I thought, “If I just pull out in front of an 18-wheeler, I’ll die and my husband will have the life insurance money. That’ll fix everything.” I just wanted to die.

  I wrote a note to a friend at church to borrow some money, but she gave it to my pastor. He called me and asked me to see him. He confronted me, and I was so ashamed. I told him what I’d been doing, and he told me to go home and tell my husband. I would rather die, but I decided to tell him. I hated myself for making such a mess of our lives. I wanted my husband—or somebody—to hit me because I deserved to be in pain. My husband asked his brother for advice, and he called the number on the back of a lottery ticket to find some help. We found a Gamblers Anonymous meeting, and he drove me to my first meeting.

It was so hard to stop gambling. For the first few months in the group, I cried because I felt so ashamed. I told them about all the hot checks and hiding bills, and at the end of the meetings, they hugged me and told me how proud they were of me. That was incredible.

Even from the beginning of my recovery, God worked in powerful ways, and he helped me restore our marriage. We had some tough times. I was miserable giving up gambling, and I wanted my husband to be miserable, too. But God got us through it all. Today, I’m happier than I’ve ever been. —Brenda Kay

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