Lord knows I would have gambled the money away. I didn’t realize that I had such a problem until I called to get help. Now I tell everyone I know there is more to life than machines. I would get my paycheck on Saturday and be broke on Sunday, most of the time losing everything I owned. The only thing I had left was personal belongings, and because of the addiction I had to stay with a friend.
At this point, life was not worth living. I was depressed, lost all my friends, lost interest in my hobbies; some nights I went to bed hoping I wouldn’t wake up. I had hit rock bottom and knew I had to do something. Driving to work I saw your sign, but I told myself I didn’t need help and kept driving. The next day, depressed, I decided to call. Thank God I did - it changed my life! You all got me the help I needed. Now two years later I’m clean, I have money in the bank, a beautiful wife, a loving family, and I’m getting ready to buy a home. I never knew the difference that one phone call could make in a person’s life. I thank you for all you’ve done for me. Life is wonderful!
When I received an invitation to attend a treatment weekend for compulsive gamblers, I knew I had to attend. I had started gambling small - $5 a hand at Black Jack for a couple hours once in a while. A big win was so exciting it would trigger me to come back more often and gamble larger amounts. When I would lose, I'd stay longer, cashing checks to try to win my money back. It's called chasing your losses. This had been going on for about three years, and I had lost all I could afford to lose. I had lost the will to live.
Before I started gambling, I was rarely late on a payment, rarely bounced a check, and had an excellent credit rating. I lost all of my savings and investments and most of my retirement. I had also lost my pride and the respect of my family. That's why I grabbed the chance to attend the treatment weekend offered by First Choice.
When I arrived at Chief Logan State Park, I was embarrassed and alone. I was scared to death that I would run into someone I knew. Sometimes you just have to swallow your pride and ask for the help you need. In the line of work I'm in, it's really hard to admit that.
The weekend was really great. I learned so much about how gambling works - how it entices you with lies and expectations of the big win. In reality, it delivers only pain and loss. If you talk to a gambler, they will tell you all about their big win. What they don't tell you is how many times they lost before they had that big win and how many times they went back after the win expecting to win again.
Since that weekend, I have not gambled even once. I’ve learned that it’s not the way to get ahead. I'm working my way out of the hole that I had dug. Thank you for helping me kick the habit that nearly destroyed my life. My family thanks you as well.
A New Beginning
I remember going with my Dad to a bar when I was six. He would give me a cup full of nickels and I would go behind a curtain that hid what was called “the one arm bandit” - one of the old-fashioned slot machines. I would put my nickel in, pull down the arm, and then listen to the nickels fall into the tray. Wow, was that fun! Little did I know that the dopamine in my brain would later be awakened by the modern day, full-color, 3D, fun, crazy-sounding game machines. I’d gambled for quite a few years. Always chasing my losses, trying to ignore the fact that I had a gambling problem.
Once I’d start playing, it was like nothing else mattered. I would forget about anything that was bothering me. It was like being hypnotized. I was constantly paying overdraft fees. Then I got caught up in going to the fast cash-advance places just to pay my bills. This only made the problem worse because of the high interest rates. I was sinking faster and faster. I’d borrowed money from my family a few times, but then when they found out that I was gambling, they stopped helping. It was called tough love. I couldn’t blame them. I felt so ashamed, embarrassed, lost and all alone.
I’d battled alcoholism, and beat it, but this addiction was so much harder to understand. I never imagined that I couldn’t stop gambling on my own. Then there came a time when I realized that I had just spent my water bill money while playing a machine. How could this be? I went home and phoned the number that was on the front of the machine (1-800-Gambler). I was in a panic. The woman on the other end couldn’t have been any nicer. She explained to me that the State would help me with my gambling problem. In just a few minutes, this person I was confiding in, began the process to my recovery. I began to have hope.
I went to my first Retreat for Problem Gamblers in Morgantown. There I learned all about the disease (Compulsive Gambling) and how it not only affects your brain, but your whole wellbeing. Everyone was very compassionate. They genuinely care about you. The resources, and support, that they have provided me with have made an enormous difference in my life.
I was assigned a Counselor. I then began my counseling sessions. I interacted with my counselor, opened up and let out all of the bad things that had been weighing me down. You would be amazed at what can actually trigger a gambling problem. I paid attention to all of the helpful information about this terrible disease. Each day it became just a little easier to understand and to overcome. I then began to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Now, two years later – I have not gambled for almost a whole year. I have not had an overdraft fee, in my checking account, for an entire year. I have implemented little changes like, 1) Rerouting my way home - as to avoid the temptation of stopping at a gambling café, 2) I’ve told my friends, if they want to see me then they have to meet me somewhere there are no machines. 3) I’ve been able to change my thought pattern. If I start to think of gambling I tell myself, “It’s only a thought, think of something else.” After all, another thought is always just around the corner. And, 4) I started attending my local church. I was baptized last May. It helped me to rid myself of all the guilt and shame that I had felt. It was a new beginning. You would be amazed at how much having God in your life can help you overcome compulsive gambling. He loves you and will see you through anything. Thank God for the people at First Choice Services and the 1-800-Gambler Hotline. They truly have changed my life!