I had nothing but a car. I'd lost a beautiful home and a great marriage, and I had never previously wanted for anything. But I was angry, and the first thing I did was drive straight to a casino. -- Christine
I guess it's not surprising that I developed a gambling problem. I had a risk-taking personality and was exposed to various forms of gambling as early as age 9. My father was a bookie and sold football tickets. I'd spend my allowance and purchase tickets from him.
I became insanely addicted to gambling in my early 20s. I was working at a charity bingo hall when the casinos opened in the '80s, and a lot of us would go to the casinos after work.
For many years, blackjack was my game of choice. Then one night in the mid '90s, I had a dream that I put $20 in a slot machine and won a huge jackpot. Shortly after that dream, I went to the casino, put $20 in the slot machine and won $15,000.
From that point on, I switched almost exclusively to slot machines. It was a bigger, faster win, and I liked that I could isolate myself more. With cards, I had to communicate with others.
Within six months after the big win, I realized I had bit off more than I could chew. I had given back all the money, and more. I kept chasing that feeling of the huge win.
I soon became secretive about my gambling. I lied about losing and I lied about playing. I gambled any chance I could.
In 2004, I started a business that quickly had financial success. I had so much money that I thought I'd never run out. But eventually I couldn't even come up with postage to ship a package. I started selling stolen goods to cover my losses and eventually ended up in prison on a mail-fraud charge.
After prison, I was released to a halfway house. When I had to leave after six weeks, I had nothing but a car. I'd lost a beautiful home and a great marriage, and I had never previously wanted for anything. But I was angry, and the first thing I did was drive straight to a casino.
Fewer than nine months later, I was back in prison for violating probation by gambling at casinos. I was sentenced to 15 months in a higher-security prison. But this time it was different.
Something clicked the day I was shackled off to jail. I decided that I would never gamble again, no matter what. I evaluated the choices I made and why I did what I did. I took responsibility for my own actions and worked hard to get back on my feet.
My life is better and calmer now. I meditate every morning and am very involved in Gamblers Anonymous meetings. I listen to others and share my story whenever I can. I receive respect from other people and have enormous respect for others.
I hope to make a difference for others who similarly never expected they would go through the horrible things we do as gambling addicts.
Editor's note: This essay was first published in the Northstar Problem Gambling Alliance newsletter. Used with permission.
Women and gambling Women are just as likely as men to gamble at casinos and play the lottery. Women are generally more likely to play bingo and slot machines, though less likely to gamble at the track, on sports, on cards or do illegal gambling.
Women problem gamblers generally start gambling later in life than men and progress to pathological gambling more quickly.
Adolescent girls who gamble are about four times more likely than boys who gamble to experience symptoms of depression.
Source: Northstar Problem Gambling Alliance