As I sat in the waiting area of Recovery Resources for my name to be called, my mind was racing. What am I doing here? What has happened to me? My hands were trembling, and my heart was beating so fast, as if I had just run the race of my life. Maybe this was a bad dream. This could not be happening to me. I do not belong here; I must find a way to leave without being noticed. But just as I was about to walk out, I heard my name being called. I heard, “The Intake Coordinator will now see you.”
For those not familiar with Recovery Resources, it is a wonderful outpatient service available for those suffering with mental health issues. Included are all categories of addiction, and one is accepted with insurance or with a sliding scale of payment. (NOTE: Clinical care for a diagnosis of Gambling Disorder is available at no cost to residents of Ohio.)
As I reluctantly sat across from the intake coordinator, the first question was asked: “What brought you to Recovery Resources today?” My answer was measured and with a stuttering voice I said, “I have a terrible addiction and do not know where to go or what to do next.”
One might assume my addiction was with alcohol or narcotics since I am a registered nurse with more than 30 years of experience at one of the finest hospital systems in Greater Cleveland. But both assumptions would be wrong. My addiction was one that could be hidden from family, friends and even myself, even though my world was falling apart. It was a secret addiction that many still do not understand. My addiction was to gambling.
“How did this happen?” I asked the coordinator. I was raised by two loving parents who gave me a wonderful childhood. There was no addiction, abuse or trauma in my life. I was a model student, a National Honor Society member. I played varsity sports and was active in my church.
The intake coordinator replied, “Why did you think this could not happen to you? Do you think you are so special?”
Well, yes, I thought to myself. As a nurse I should have known better. I thought I knew everything about addiction, but this happened so gradually over several years until this compulsion took over my life. It began so innocently as fun entertainment, a social event, a weekend getaway. Then it happened. I won a huge jackpot, luring me for more and more.
Instead of going with friends I found myself going to the casinos alone, day or night, leaving only when my last dollar was spent. Small winnings meant nothing then, and I squandered more money trying to win larger and larger jackpots. The money came from advances on credit cards, payday loans and eventually cashing in my life insurance policy and withholding taxes from the Internal Revenue Service for several years. The final blow was an illegal act of forging someone else’s signature to claim a huge jackpot after I self-excluded myself from the casinos. It was done innocently, thinking this person could claim the money that I could not.
The month of March has been named Problem Gambling Awareness Month, and I was asked if I would like to share my unbelievable story to shed light on this terrible, insidious addiction. I was honored.
I am now living my life with hope and encouragement, one day at a time because of the help I received from the programs, counselors and therapists at Recovery Resources. I hope my story will give hope and encouragement to others who still suffer with this terrible addiction. Thank you to all that played a huge part in my recovery – so many close family and friends that will remain nameless. I am most grateful to that Intake Coordinator that called my name before I ever had the chance to escape back to my life of depression and misery.
–Anonymous in active recovery from problem gambling
If you or someone you know might have a gambling disorder, please visit www.beforeyoubet.org. Get Set Before You Bet helps adults understand the dangers involved when responsible gambling morphs into problem gambling. It also includes free resources and links to get help.
Change the Game unlocks the reality of youth gambling and provides free resources and information. Parents, educators and caregivers, visit www.changethegameohio.org and take the time to assess the risk level of a child you know.
You can also call the Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-589-9966 or text “4hope” to 741741 to find free, confidential resources in your area.