By Paul Kennard
Some people associate gambling as a means of enjoyment or social interaction. But at one point in my life it became an addiction. The fun stopped and the problems began, but oddly enough while it was happening I didn’t know the moment the switch occurred. I was introduced to gambling at the age of 23 while working at a small restaurant on the northwest part of town. It was a slow time of day and there were three video lottery machines in a small room in the corner of the restaurant. The entire staff would play the machines during the slow times throughout the day and I never thought much about it. They would spend their tip money in hopes that they would win it big with nothing more than a spare change left behind by patrons.
One day I decided to drop a quarter into the machine myself and take a run with my luck. The game Keno looked pretty interesting to me so I picked ten numbers and hit start. Before I knew it I was racking up credits, 500 to be exact. I couldn’t believe it, I had just won $125.00 and it was my first time playing any kind of game of this kind. I was on top of the world and experiencing what I would later understand to be a gambler’s high.
On my way home from work I passed a couple of casinos, they had always been there but I never really noticed them before. With gambler’s high still pumping in my veins I decided to stop and try my luck again. My line of thinking was that if I only took in $20.00, I could only lose $20.00. However, if there such a thing as beginners luck, I am sure had it. By the time I left the casino that night I was another $350.00 richer and laughing to myself about how I could quit my job to play professionally.
As a result of my “beginners luck” I became a gambler full and true. First only taking in $20.00 or $40.00 at a time, but before long it was $100.00 or $150.00 in sad attempts to gain back what I lost the night before. I was having some personal problems at the time and going to the casino was a good way for me to keep my mind off all the problems at home. Perhaps I was trying to find an escape, or maybe that is just the excuse that all addicts use.
Now a few years later, I was about to have a baby. My gambling came to a halt during this period. I had other things to keep my mind busy, so I didn’t need it at the time. There was about a two year period where I didn’t gamble at all, in fact, I didn’t really think much about it. However, once things on the home front began to worsen again, I immediately started looking for something else to consume my thoughts. I was on the verge of hitting bottom and I didn’t have a clue. With a new born baby at home and never knowing where my boyfriend was, I felt lonely and depressed. I sought comfort in the casinos and began to hit the machines again. It was just like old times.
I can remember going into the casino with $100.00 and my ATM card in hand. It was warm and inviting, like an old friend welcoming me back with a big hug. I never needed my ATM card that day as I had hit the big one with my last $20.00. One thousand dollars, I couldn’t believe it. That was more money then I would make working at the restaurant in two weeks and here I won it while having free drinks handed to me.
Being the gambler I had turned into it was not enough to just win $1000.00. I immediately took $300.00 to another machine and began feeding in my winnings one quarter at a time. However, I guess I had the touch that day for sure; I won another $1000.00 almost immediately. I was hooked and everything in me was telling me that what I was doing was right.
If I hadn’t of won I don’t know that my gambling would have gotten so out of control. I began gambling daily, sometimes all day long and far into the night. I would skip work to go to the casino. Gambling became a big part of my life. I would pass on sleep to gamble, I didn’t eat as the high of gambling kept me from thinking about food. My relationships suffered as suddenly I didn’t have the time to talk with old friends on the phone or participate in the lives of my family.
I would be very irritable with my young son after a loss. The only thing I thought about was sitting at those machines with a beer in one hand and money in the other. Pay days were the worst; I would drop $600.00 in one day. This only led me to lie to my family and friends so I could borrow money from them to feed my son, or even worse, to just gamble it away. My family life was fading away from me and the people around me knew there was a problem.
It was only about two months ago when I lost it big. I received my income tax refund, and with in a week it was gone. I lost nearly $2500.00 to video lottery. It was at this moment that I realized that I desperately needed help. I was very scared to tell everyone what was going, especially my boyfriend. How could I explain what I was doing and where all the money was going? After many long conversations and much heart ache my boyfriend decided to forgive me. He told me that he would be there for me and that we would get through it together. This is exactly what I think was missing in my life to begin with. Someone to open up to and talk to about my problem, and thankfully he was there for me when I needed him the most.
It has been only two months since I came clean and I have vowed not to have video lottery in my life. Each day still comes with its own challenges but I have enrolled in school, and spend much of my time playing with my kids. Ever since video lottery took over my life 5 years ago, I have not had a lot of time for my family. To see the difference in my family life is what is keeping me going. The smiles on the faces of my children and to have them know that everyday there will be a good supper on the table is so magical.
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