The first time I realized my husband had a gambling problem was the day he came home from work to tell me his employer was sending him to treatment in Granite Falls — that very night! I knew he had done some gambling but I didn’t know it was an addiction. I guess I was pretty naïve about the whole thing.
Upon learning what was happening, my reaction was quite emotional. I felt cut off at the knees or like the air was sucked right out of my lungs. I wondered what I did to make this happen or what I could do to fix it. I felt very lonely, and ultimately felt like I was on a fast trip to hell.
Looking back on it, John’s behavior had been strange. For two or three years, he was very crabby and hard to talk to. We weren’t getting along at all and he had turned into a person I didn’t like. He would disappear for long periods of time and be out into the wee hours of the morning. I actually thought he was having an affair. The difficulties we experienced eventually resulted in our getting divorced in January 2013 after 33 years of marriage. It was something I never wanted.
Although we divorced, our connection continued, and I hung on to John and kept tabs on him. I made sure he was eating — he’d been losing weight and not taking care of himself. I was very involved with him, but he still had a private life that I was not a part of.
John came back from his first stint at Project Turnabout in July 2013. He learned on the drive home that he’d lost his job. He also didn’t come clean on his drug use during his treatment for gambling addiction. Within three weeks, he relapsed and things spiraled downward. He later told me he felt he had nothing to live for since he had lost his job and figured his family was ashamed of him.
Three months later, John went to Hazelden for drug abuse treatment. But just a few weeks after that, he relapsed again. John has he didn’t think about suicide at that point, but felt it would be OK if he died, and that as alone as he felt, he thought people would be better off without him.
I watched John get better and fall again, and by the third time I was ready to say, “I can’t do this any more. I’m done. You have to make a choice because I’m not going to keep living like this.”
It wasn’t until February 2014, when John returned to Project Turnabout a second time, that the pieces really came together. They helped him address both his gambling addiction as well as his drug use addiction. The spiritual side of his journey came together when he went to Serenity Village after leaving Turnabout. Today, John is totally calm and happy, willing to make whatever amends he needs to.
Thankfully, John is doing so much better now. He works hard to share his story with others, to remind people that they’re never completely alone. And things have never been better between us. In fact, we got remarried in 2014.
Since we’ve been through this, it’s amazing how many people know so many people who have some kind of connection to addiction. It makes this big world seem so much smaller when you just start talking. It’s so important to find out that you’re not alone, that you’re not walking this journey by yourself. So many people are out there willing to help but you have to start talking.