Picture if you will, a 10 year old girl who is in such a dark place that going to sleep and not waking up was the only answer. That was me, and the first attempt at suicide.
My home life was one of absolute misery. I was a victim of alcohol fuelled abuse, as were my siblings and mother. There was no escaping it and no help to be had.
I did not feel valued, loved or a part of anything. The atmosphere in my home created a situation where I felt I had to keep everything a secret from the outside world. I had no friends or social network and was considered different.
This formed what I now understand to become the blueprint for my life.
As soon as I was old enough, I moved out on my own. For a while, things looked like they were travelling along OK. I met and married a wonderful man, inherited two lovely step-sons and skipped along in a world of illusion. I could not have anticipated what lay ahead. My husband suffered a life altering accident and I became the bread winner. I found myself completely overwhelmed. Things began to pile up layer by layer, mentally, emotionally and financially. The darkness re-emerged. I began to spend more and more time at work, averaging around 70 hours a week. People pleasing came with this futile effort. I could not say no. I was so desperate for acceptance and inclusion, I thought being a yes person was the way. It just made me dig a deeper hole for myself.
I had to find a way to escape all this craziness. Then, there it was. I found the club and the poker machines. It was another world. Social gambling was the way it started. Going to the raffles then having a flutter later. Spending so called quality time with my family members in front of a machine was fun. It was lots of fun at the time and something I considered harmless……BUT…..
IT ONLY TOOK ONE BIG WIN.
I won a good amount of money and it felt amazing. People were happy for me and I loved the attention and that winning feeling.
I was hooked, and kept going back over and over hoping to do it again, but now I went by myself. The visits quickly progressed. I began going to the club more and more on my own. I was there to throw money down the throats of machines, not have a laugh. My days were spent working and trying to find moments when I could go to the machines without detection. It became an obsession that engulfed my every waking moment.
The next big win never came. Eventually I began supplementing my income by fiddling books at work.
I look back now and remember how I felt at the time. I was so caught up in the ACTION, I failed to take care of the most important person in my life…ME. Gambling took hold of my thoughts, actions, and personal choices. I gave no thought to how I was going physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. The cloud came back and completely engulfed me. It was such a sad time.
Of course, there is always someone out there younger, smarter. I was caught. I lost a job that I hated, and had clutched on to for 30 years.
So, there it was, rock bottom. No entitlements to take with me. Police charges were laid, court was looming …. What would happen to me?
This led to the next serious thought of suicide. It was close. Only by realising, in the last second how this would affect my husband and family, and how bewildering this final act would have been to everyone in my life, was I able to draw on my last ounce of courage and I CHOSE LIFE.
I had to confess all to the person I love most in the world. The look of disappointment and bewilderment broke my heart. I felt that he had every right to walk away from me. But he did not. He made it his business to find out where I could go for help. That resulted in the most important choice I would ever make in my life. He contacted someone who knew about compulsive gambling and encouraged me to talk it through.
I was given the number of someone involved with a local Gamblers Anonymous group who convinced me to go to a meeting.
The next day, I was dropped off at the door of a group meeting and walked in not knowing what to expect and absolutely detesting myself. There could be nobody as bad as me. I described myself as the worst pond scum on the face of the planet. I really believed that of myself and expected to be judged, ridiculed, chastised and in my mind, had to find a way of doing penance. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I walked into a place where I was made welcome. Had a hand to hold and shoulders to cry on. There was no judgment to darken my experience. I was given the opportunity to identify myself as a Compulsive Gambler, acknowledge that I have an illness and my life was unmanageable.
After that first meeting, when I was picked up at the door. My husband asked the question “how was it?”. My answer was Ï am not alone”. That was March 2001. I have not gambled since.
The court case did not result in prison but I was given the opportunity to work within the system and receive much appreciated group therapy. That was a good time for me and I learned how to cope with everyday life
Going to the first GA meeting was a defining moment in my life. It took a while, but working through the 12 steps of recovery, and going to multiple meetings helped me find a way to be honest with myself.
Slowly, the pain has subsided, however, is never forgotten.
What does that mean to me now? I wake up in the morning happy to greet the day. When I was in active addiction, I woke with such a dread of what was to come I was physically ill. Now, I look for at least one thing for which to be grateful each day.
I decided to become involved with the Gambling Impact Society because the word needs to get out there. Compulsive gambling is an illness that can only be staunched with a willingness to accept one’s own helplessness and be willing to ask for help.
I was a victim of my illness. Now I am a survivor.
My wish is that others can also find this path.