Gambling has always been a part of my life. My dad was a compulsive gambler. I remember my Mom saying things like, “He spent all the money again,” “How am I going to pay this bill?,” or “What are we going to do?” I didn’t think twice about this and thought this was a normal household where gambling was accepted in society. As I got older, about age 13 to 17, my Mom and Dad would do casino nights at the casino and I would stay in the hotel. I got to see the casino as we walked by and I was so excited—all the lights, sounds and people looking like they were having a good time. I couldn’t wait to turn 18 and get my chance to gamble. It was a rite of passage with my family. We would go every few months and do an overnight. Just before I turned 20, I joined the military.
Over the next two years, my gambling trips were few and far between. I had to be 21 to gamble in Kansas so the only time that I went to the casino was when we got leave and we were back home. I made it a priority to go to the casino each time I would visit home for the weekend. I justified my reasoning: I’m stressed, being in the military and the life of solider was hard, and I was newly married and having some problems. I wanted to go to the one place that made me feel safe and I didn’t have to worry about anything.
My gambling days were somewhat “in control” from 2006-2011. I would go about every three months; however, I binged. It was my time away from the kids and I was able to escape into a different world.
My gambling got worse after 2011, when my dad died. I would use the excuse that this was the only time I could feel connected to him. By 2014, I was at the casino at least twice a week. I sold many things, I stole money, stole time from loved ones, overdrew my checking account numerous times, stopped paying bills, received collection notices and judgements, and, most of all, my relationships with my husband and kids were strained. I was there physically but not emotionally.
In May 2015, I decide to check myself into the Project Turnabout gambling program. I spent the next 30 days understanding my addiction and finally realizing the hurt and pain that I put my family through. I started to work the steps to get control of this disease. I learned how to deal with life as it comes and, most importantly, learned to cope without gambling.
I left Turnabout on cloud nine and really believed that I had this under control. Within a few months, however, I relapsed and the disease took control quicker and faster than ever before. I went back to Turnabout in October of 2015 for another 30 days. This time I worked on myself, how I deal with life, and self-care along with mental health. I did address my other addiction afterward and did another 60 days in CD/mental health inpatient at the St. Cloud VA. Once I completed the program I slipped. I got back up and kept working toward my sobriety. From February of this year until now I have slipped a handful of times. I’m learning that this addiction is hard to beat.
Currently, I’m in an outpatient program at Fairview for my gambling. I see my addiction counselor each week and address my mental health issues. I know I have a long way to go. However, the last year I have had more clean days then addiction days. I know that this will be a struggle for the rest of my life. I’m grateful that my husband has been behind me 100 percent throughout this whole process and that my kids love me. My goal is to make a better future for myself, so that I’m able to enjoy the life that God has given me. I attend recovery church in Crystal, Growth Group at Project Turnabout and participate in Smart Recovery online. I’m grateful for all the people who have worked with me and gotten me where I am today.