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So young, so old

I’m 24 but the heaviness inside makes it feel like 60.
I’ve been like this all my life, grew up too fast and it had it’s good things. Now, due to gambling, it came to the bottom.
I don’t remember the first time I gambled nor the first time I got in contact with it; but I do remember being a little boy and hearing my mom acuse my dad of gambling. All of my family’s problems are derivated from money. My mother worked her way up from a very poor background and takes every penny into consideration. My father on the other hand melted thousands of euros over the years.
I’ve gone through some harsh times during my teenage years, and have read that usually problem gambers have other associated psychological illnesses. I’m pretty sure that’s the case with me, even though I have never been diagnosed. I think I suffer from a bunch of them.

As I write this, I realize I’m being too rational, just like a good problem gambler.
Fact is today, after a 1000 euros melt down, I come home to my girlfriend and, even though she would like to understand, she doesn’t. I’m thinking of my father. Of how lonely he is now, of how broke and helpless he must be. I admire my father to my guts but I don’t want to end up like him. It’s what I most fear.
I tried to call him…i just wish he would know what to say…how to stop this madness…

Much love,
Keep strong !!

Now I have to stop “ITS KILLING me”.

I have worked so hard for my money which is the reason why I got into the road of chasing a loss . I am 33 and never really gambled apart from November 2016 when my uncle gave me a football bet which won . After that day I have lost at least 45,000 maybe 50 . I tried to chase back a 100 pound bet which escalated into thousands and thousands . I have thought many of times to end my life but found I couldn’t do it because of my family I leave behind . I lost another 15 thousand today but self excluded myself from many online sites and the casino . Roulette has nearly wiped me out off this world . I could cry to think about my losses but I just need help . Thank you to the stories I have read because I cried thinking how alike I am to all of them . I need help because I feel if my life is over .

How did I let this happen…again?

I am a 53 year old woman who never expected to be in this situation. I grew up near a bingo hall, which eventually turned into a gambling resort. I went there on occasion with my family, but I never found it to be much fun. My mother always said, “We should go to Las Vegas! Aunt J and Uncle M go there every year and want us to join them. I wasn’t interested. I did eventually to to Las Vegas several years later. I wanted to attend a conference being held there and had just met someone who made all the travel arrangements. It was a fun trip. I only brought a little money and ended up bringing it back home. Then the Vegas trip became an annual experience. Every year was bigger and better! I still wasn’t spending a lot of money, but I was begining to experince “gambler’s remorse”.
I didn’t worry about it then because Las Vegas was far away and if I gambled once a year, how bad was that? Then the local casino popped up. Jump ahead 10 years and I find myself a compulsive gambler. That was the catalyst. Out of site out of mind wasn’t working any more. After two failed attempts at “fixing” my gambling problem on my own, or with my husbands help, I finally admitted to myself that I have a serious problem. I am now attemding GA meetings and put myself on the exclusion list at the local casino. That was the easy part. Now I live with the fear of losing the person who means the most to me. Although my husband swears that he will stay with me and help me through this, I worry 24/7 that he will change his mind and leave me. I don’t recognize myself anymore. I know I can get back to that person again, but has the financial damage I caused mean that I will end up alone? I wish I could jump ahead a year to see how my life ends up.

Hopeless case

I have struggled with compulsive gambling for 20 years. Casinos, bingo, and lottery tickets have destroyed me. I always saw the lottery as my only way of ever making it in life. I have been in therapy for years going faithfully trying to find the answer to my problems. I have suffered a lifetime of abuse from school bullying to my brothers verbally abusing me all my life. I have tried medication, therapy, electric shock therapy, and 12 step meetings. I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I have struggled with suicidal ideation for years. I am getting to the point of coming to terms with just no hope in sight. Years of gambling have taken it’s toll. I now am 47 and severely overweight from the stress of nothing working out for so long. I am tired and just don’t have it in me to try anymore. I have come to the point of thinking that things are out to screw me and I never had a chance in life. I am the only one in my family that never had a career or made less than 60,000 a year.

The Ball

There was a Christmas fair every year at my elementary school. The first time I went I was six years old. They had games of chance in one of the rooms and there was bright ball that bounced on board with squares of five colors. There were odds that were determined by the amount of squares that were represented by each color. I took a quarter and picked a color, I would of been better off shooting myself with a gun, because then at least I would of had some chance of surviving. I stayed at the fair all day running from room to room begging relatives for quarters. Already I understood it wasn’t the fact that losing meant money was lost that mattered, but that you were out of the action, if the quarters were gone. The crazy thing is from that day forward quarters, dollars, credit cards, or anything else of value only had one purpose; they were a tool to gain that high I got for the first time that day of my first Christmas Fair. I came home that night and could not sleep and I lied in bed with so much energy and a warm feeling like a heat flash: one would of though my parents gave me speed. Every year other kids at school, thought of Santa Claus when December came around, but to me I knew that the ball and that feeling that felt so good was here again.
I was watching a basketball game not long after I was introduced to that magical and glorious ball. I was in my Grandfathers room and we were watching the Knicks and that Hawks. Two brothers were playing against one another and my grandpa was not happy during the game. At the end I thought his team won and was surprised he still was not happy; then the statement that would define the rest of my life came from his mouth“it’s not who wins or loses that matters, but by how much they win or lose by that matters”. I didn’t understand quite what he meant, but I can assure all, no different than a smashing Serve from Sampras to end Wimbelon, my life and my childhood and any chance at normalcy was dashed that night. Somewhere deep inside I knew that there was a way to combined the two most amazing things in the world that ball from the fair and sports, and that was game, set, and match. My life was for all purposes over and no one knew, I had not even come close to hitting puberty and my path was already determined.
I could give a million stories about the roads I travled in the 33 years that came after that magical ball landed on a color for the first time, but we all have our War stories, and while they are all different, they are still the same. I have worked counciling those who have been confined, due to lost of therir senses and I have been on the other side with that white jacket one too many times. I have taught kids in schools as a teacher, and I had to go to six different high schools as a student myself due to that ball. I have gone to collect money from others in ways I am not proud of and I have been chased from my home, city, and state more times than I can recall. Most of the time I dont even know when I am telling the truth or not, but then I recall a professor I once had that used to say” The truth is overrated”. Seven months ago two little girls came Into my life, they are the most beautiful creatures that have ever arrived on this planet of ours. They are mine and I am a father. I don’t want to leave this world without my story without my battle meaning something positive for them and for others who have suffered, because of a disease that kills you a little at a time,; until you are not sure who you are, who you were, but only sure that you don’t want to know who you will be tomorrow. There is hope though for me, for you, and for all of us, if we stick together, if we fight as one, for in the end all that read this I consider my people my brothers and sisters and I love you all, for those who have this disease know me better than those who love me ever could. Thank you to anyone that reads this.

Suicide Prevention Month

September is National Suicide Prevention month. Gambling addiction has the highest suicide rate of all addictions and the statistics do not reflect that many of these suicides are mistakenly reported as single-car accidents, wrong-way drivers, heart attacks, cerebral stem strokes (from an overdose of anti-depressants), and so forth. This is a true story of two friends of mine, who both planned their suicides down to the last detail and thankfully, both survived. The names and details have been changed to protect their identities, but the stories and devastation are true.

Mary, a 60 year old psychologist became so depressed with her inability to stop gambling, an activity that was consuming her every moment and thought, that she had to stop seeing patients because she no longer cared about their problems. Her husband, her one true love had become ill and diagnosed with dementia, as well as complications due to a congenital heart defect and diabetes. She had her own physical limitations due to severe crippling from rheumatoid arthritis. Mary had 3 grown children and 2 grandchildren- the light of her life. All that being said, Mary still could not tear herself away from the video poker machines to get home and check on her husband. She missed many of the grandchildren’s recitals and sporting events because she had hit another jackpot. Her children stopped telling the grandchildren that she would be there because of their disappointment and sadness of being let down, over and over. Mary found herself unable to concentrate and many times after hours of gambling could not recall how she actually drove home. Read more →

Compulsive Gambler: Life Before & After Recovery

I am a Compulsive Gambler. I didn’t know this. I knew I had a gambling problem. I had a gambling problem for over 20 years. I couldn’t gamble like normal people. I couldn’t sleep when I was in or near a casino. I had to gamble all night, staying up if they closed in the wee hours of the morning or stay up all night if they were open 24 hours. I could stay up for days gambling. I never could go to the casino with a couple hundred dollars. I always had access to more money. Almost every time I gambled I would end up with nothing. If I won, it was never enough, I wanted to win more. If I lost, I couldn’t go home a loser. So I would leave the casino, go to a nearby bank and withdraw money. Larger and larger increments of money. I would use credit cards to get cash advances. I would borrow from friends if they won. I would transfer money into my account from my husbands account (money that was used for house ). I sold my jewelry. I emptied out accounts that I had saved for my daughters weddings. I gambled all of the inheritance from my mom. I took all of my life insurance savings. I borrowed everything I could from my 401k, and I even have stolen money from a family business. This is where this addiction took me. To do things that are unbearable to think that I could do. But I did it. I did it to Gamble. To stay in Action.
I hated myself, I could not look at myself in the mirror. I couldn’t sleep at night. I would lay in bed thinking about how I would cover money I just lost. Or how I could get more money to gamble again. I was thinking of other ways to be deceptive. To continue my life lying, stealing, cheating, abusing myself in my mind, body and soul. I gambled weekly at the casinos. I lied to my employer saying I was sick and I was gambling. I lied where I was to my family, I would tell them I was at a friends, but I was in a casino. Then I couldn’t leave the casino because I lost so much money. I couldn’t go home. I stayed at the casino for three nights, sleeping in my vehicle, wearing the same clothes for four days. Maxing all of my credit cards and emptying every account I had. I didn’t answer the phone when my husband or daughters called me. Finally I answered a texted that I was in a casino, they begged me to just come home. Read more →

Don’t see the Gambler

This remake of The Gambler with Mark Wahlberg should be boycotted by the Recovery Community. Despite the horrible ravages of addiction on the portrayed gambler, never is there any mention or example of GA, therapy, rehab or any hopeful intervention at all. After artfully showing how insidious, overwhelming, and demeaning the disease is, the filmmakers decide the last scene should be about the gambler getting even. What a Joke, BAD Joke!! Here they had a chance, as in the first Gambler with James Caan to show how gambling addiction ruins lives and families and instead they try and make an art movie that somehow says a sick gambler can get even without any treatment. Very sad, unintelligent and moreover detrimental to progress in brining Recovery into the light. Thanks for posting this Lanie and all have a Happy New Year.

I thought I was lucky………

My name is Nancy and I am a 46-year-old woman who has the most wonderful man in her life and two terrific boys who are 10 and 4. Rewind two years ago and I had never gambled a day in my life and thought that anyone who gambled was wasting their time and money. My boyfriend invited me to go to Laughlin for the weekend and I said, “Lets go!” We had a blast and as we enjoyed our Bloody Marys at the bar, my boyfriend would hand me twenty dollars for me to put in the keno machine while he played video poker. As I yawned and played a game that was so simple yet bored me to tears. I sat there and played until I would lose and couldn’t wait to get some food or hang out by the pool.

We went back there quite a bit our first year together due to my boyfriend’s uncle dying of cancer with months to live. And then it happened……while sitting at the bar while the bar was going crazy because we had just won the Stanley cup, I was jumping up and down and looked down to hear this faint bell ringing that seemed nonstop and I had just gotten 6 out of 6 on keno……. I hit my boyfriend’s arm and said, “Look, I won!” Wow, I just won $440 and couldn’t believe it and I said “Now what?” He said “Cash out and go turn your ticket into the machine to get your money.” That’s it? I felt like I was up to no good but I had money and that was it for me, I wanted to save it and go shop or something, but he says “OK, but let’s play $100 of it……ok?” Well the next morning I won the same amount again. It still wasn’t hitting me yet but he said, “You are so lucky!” I felt special because every time I won it made him very proud of me and it felt good. Read more →

Recovering Gambler concerned about internet gambling

I was watching Huckabee Saturday night and there was a Senator on urging folks to write to your rep to stop legalization of internet gambling, here is my letter. I encourage all to do the same Here is the web site:
stopinternetgambling.com

I am a recovering compulsive gambler and I am writing to urge you to restore the US policy banning Internet gambling in order that the destructive effects of this devastating emotional illness does not have a conduit to dismantle families like the one I had prior to my gambling addiction.

The compulsive gambler many times doesn’t even realize they are in the grips of this crippling addiction and now it’s up to you to eliminate internet gambling and help save the families of your constituents, prevent underage gambling, reduce the destruction caused by problem gamblers, and other illegal activity which is virtually impossible to enforce on the Internet.

Please consider the implications of setting up a casino on every computer in America. Allowing internet gambling to continue would be like allowing cancer to go untreated, or other diseases to be left to run their destructive course. Read more →

Compulsive Gamblers Can’t Be Anonymous

Compulsive Gamblers can’t be anonymous anymore. If people don’t know about our disease, there’s never a hope for treating it and maybe, someday, curing it.

These are the sentiments of recovering compulsive gambler and Las Vegas attorney Doug Crawford, who will forever be linked to the very public case which resulted in his 2009 suspension from the practice of law. In a January 2012 trial, Doug was the first defendant in a Clark County, NV criminal case to be sentenced in accordance with provisions of the Nevada Problem Gambling Diversionary Law The Diversionary sentencing mandates therapy and attendance at mutual aid support meetings as well as restitution for crimes committed in furtherance of the disease of gambling addiction.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Doug. He candidly shared his story …from early dependence on alcohol and drugs to a gambling addiction that lead him down a path he never imagined he would take – stealing from his clients’ trust account in furtherance of his addiction.

Stories So young, so old I’m 24 but the heaviness inside makes it feel like 60. I’ve been like this all my life, grew up too fast and it had it’s good things. Now, due to gambling, it came to

The Brief Addiction Science Information Source (BASIS)

The BASIS provides a forum for the free exchange of information related to addiction, and public access to the latest scientific developments and resources in the field. Our aim is to strengthen worldwide understanding of addiction and minimize its harmful effects. The Division on Addiction, Cambridge Health Alliance, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Compulsive gambling is an illness to which I lost nearly everything. Nearly.

Editor’s Note: We are grateful to Ms. Jodie Nealley for sharing her story with readers of The BASIS. Throughout, we have provided links to journal articles and other sources to illustrate how aspects of Jodie’s story coincide with scientific findings.This Editorial is part of our month-long Special Series on Gambling Disorder.

To understand my story you need to understand my addictions. When I was 25, I quit a three pack a day cigarette habit. When I was 37, I quit a heavy drinking problem. Like my father before me, I was proud of myself for quitting. But unlike my father, I went to only three AA meetings, thought I had it licked and was in recovery. What I realize now was that I did not go to recovery -I went into abstinence.

At 50 years old I was living my dream. I loved where I lived, I loved who I was with and I loved what I did. Yet, as irrational as it sounds, as soon as I had achieved everything I had worked for somehow it wasn’t enough. Somehow I felt empty. I remember telling a colleague I had ‘lost my joy.’

It was at this moment when the old desires for escape surfaced. They say that while we are in recovery our addiction is doing pushups in the parking lot. Thirteen years after quitting drinking and because I had been living an unrealistic version of recovery- my addiction was Hulk strong and waiting.

In 2005 I went to a conference that was held at a casino. While I was at the conference, in between meetings and responsibilities, I gambled at the slot machines. What happened then was, as any compulsive gambler in recovery will tell you, the worst thing that could have happened for me. I won!

I had gambled before but it had never consumed me as it did in 2005. Stress, anxiety and a desire to escape all played into this moment when the obsession with gambling took over my life. The slots were my drug of choice so to speak and I loved everything about them.

When I got back to Massachusetts I obsessed over the machine I had been playing and won on. I thought if I could just get back to it – get back to incredible high I felt – a high unlike any I had experienced before – get back to that moment of possibility as the reels spun around- things would be good, money would be easy, life would be better.

Soon I was regularly going to local casinos. If on a scale of 1 to 10, I quit my drinking at a 7, my gambling did not begin at 1— it began at 7. I had a built in tolerance for gambling – quarter slots were not good enough, dollar slots were not exciting enough. Within six months of starting my gambling in earnest, I was playing $100 slots – the highest available – at $200 a pull. For me it was only about the high – the greater the risk, the greater the reward.

I could not lose money fast enough. Within six months of my intense gambling I had lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. I went through my home equity line, all of the credit I could get from my credit cards, and borrowed from anybody who would give me money – all under false pretenses. I spent any money I could get so I could keep gambling. Money was my drug, and since gambling was how I got high, I would get it anyway I could.

There are several risk factors associated with gambling. Two of them stand out in my story – illusion of control over outcome and distorted thinking. I firmly believed I would win back the money I had lost. I firmly believed that if I kept playing the same machine, even though I had put in thousands of dollars, it would hit big. And when I ran out of legitimate sources of money and began to steal from my employer to fuel an addiction that could never be sated, I truly believed I would pay it back.

Distorted thinking kept me from knowing what I, as an intelligent person, should have known: that I wasn’t doing this for any reason other than the adrenaline rush. On a scale of one to 100, gambling is always 100 to me. Everything else, every other good experience, will always be less.

I began gambling heavily in 2005. By 2007, I had been fired from my job for embezzlement. By 2009, at 55 years old, I was sleeping on top bunk in prison – sentenced to two years for larceny.

How could this have happened to me – a Masters educated, intelligent woman who should have known better? To someone who had an understanding of addiction? I realize now I understood it in others but I didn’t understand it myself. I didn’t realize that when I quit drinking it wasn’t enough to not drink. I never examined why I drank so much or why I smoked too much. I never looked at the hole in me I was trying to fill.

As I lay on that top bunk in prison or walked around the track outside, I had time to think and I learned through the help of a 12 step program, that there wasn’t enough money in the world to fill that hole. I learned I had to fill it with something else. That is when my true recovery began.

There are commonalities between substance abuse and gambling. I was totally preoccupied with gambling – I thought about it incessantly. I was a casino gambler so I did not gamble every day. On the days I could not get to the casino, I obsessed about when I was going to go next, how I would get there, how I could to get enough money, and what lies I was going to tell to explain my absence from home.

I had intense cravings to gamble. The days that I woke up knowing I was going to the casino were wonderful days. They were like Christmas morning. My palms literally itched with anticipation knowing I would soon be sitting in front of a slot machine.

Increased tolerance – my smoking began with one cigarette and grew to 3 packs a day. My drinking began with one beer and grew to a six pack. My gambling – a quarter slot grew to $200 a pull. These were among my most troubling symptoms.

But there are also significant differences between substance abuse and gambling disorders. No other addiction calls you a winner. No one comes to up you in a bar and says “Would you like this beautiful suite with two fireplaces, a balcony and room service for ‘free’?” No other addiction lets you put a card in the machine and rack up points to go shopping in the mall.

The reward is the difference – no other addiction rewards you in such tangible ways as gambling. The implied promise of winning money is a reward not given by alcohol or drugs. No other addiction has the lure and the glamour of the casino. No other addiction feeds your desire to be a big shot as gambling does. I reveled in it. I honestly believed that I was an important person- better than others, smarter than others – above the mundane world. The illusion of control and distorted thinking warped my mind to such a point that I did not know who I was. A friend of mine once said gambling sucks out your soul. It certainly did mine.

Another difference between substance abuse and gambling is that you can’t see it. I didn’t come home smelling like bourbon. I didn’t come home with red eyes or needle marks. I didn’t miss work. I didn’t have my spouse call me in sick because I was hung over. My addiction – my illness – was invisible and all the more devastating because of that. The day I got fired, I came home and I told my family. My partner had no idea. My actions blindside my family. This is an addiction your loved ones don’t see coming.

In 2007, I was fired. In 2009, I went to prison. By 2010 I was divorced, we had lost our home and I would have a criminal record for the next 15 years. My gambling took away nearly everything from me- my home, my marriage, my career, my reputation, and my freedom. But it took much more away from my family – for they are the true victims of this insidious disease.

I have been fortunate since I was released from prison. Because I am an optimist I knew that if I kept putting one foot in front of the other I could move towards a better life.

I would get there but it began with my recognition that true recovery was essential. Money could not fill up that hole inside of me. More things would not fill up that hole. Only the belief in myself as an honest, spiritual person could begin to heal the empty space within me.

I work every day to be in recovery. For someone who always wanted to take the easy way, it is hard work. But it is not as hard as being fired. Being divorced, losing my home, being incarcerated – those things are harder.

I think the best film – the one that most reflects at least my story – is Owning Mahowny. If you want to understand gambling disorders, look at the DSM 5 criteria and watch that film. Watch the main character, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, go through every single one of those criteria. I am an extreme case – because of my previous addictions I experienced the devastating effects of this disease quickly. I did not just meet 4 of the DSM 5 criteria- I met all 9. In my 12 step program I don’t answer “yes” to 7 of the 20 questions that are asked- I answer “yes” to all of them. But there are many who may not be that far along the path to extreme destruction. For those who may think that gambling is not as harmful as drugs or alcohol, you are wrong. It destroys families, it destroys lives, and it can lead to prison, insanity or death as surely as any other addiction.

I am fortunate- I have survived. I did not do it alone. One-on-one counseling, peer support through a 12 Step program, friends and family who did not give up on me, and the burning desire to get better- combined with the belief that I could – got me through the most difficult times of my life. I have managed to get my life back. I have a purposeful career which I never thought was possible. I have a good relationship with my family again. I appreciate every day and give thanks that I am no longer controlled by gambling.

Jodie Nealley is currently working as the Intervention and Recovery Support Coordinator at the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling. She speaks frequently to organizations about her experience and conducts trainings on understanding gambling disorders. She received her MS from Indiana University and a certificate in Addiction Counseling from UMass/Boston in 2012. She has been in recovery from gambling disorder for 6 years and in recovery from alcohol for 22 years.

Do you, or does someone you love, seem to have trouble with slot machines, the lottery, scratch tickets, or any other form of gambling? You can take some initial steps on your own. Here are three questions used to screen for gambling disorder, and here is a free, online toolkit for those who might be ready to make some changes. Or, call the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling 24-hour helpline: 1-800-426-1234

Editor’s Note: We are grateful to Ms. Jodie Nealley for sharing her story with readers of The BASIS. Throughout, we have provided links to journal articles and other sources to illustrate how aspects of Jodie’s story coincide with scientific findings.This Editorial is part of our month-long Special Series on Gambling Disorder. To understand my story you need to understand my addictions. When I was 25, I quit a three pack a day cigarette habit. When I was 37, I quit a heavy drinking problem. Like my father before me, I was proud of myself for quitting. But unlike my father,…