It Started as Enjoyment

For me, it wasn't about winning. In the beginning, before I became compulsive, or addicted to gambling, I did it simply for enjoyment, as an evening or a few hours away for myself (almost always spent with friends) When I look back now, though, I remember feeling a little uneasy about even the occasional $40 I spent. If only I had known....

In the fall of 2001, there was a 'series of unfortunate events' that happened in my life that completely took away all feelings of security for me. Since I was a 'strong' person, I didn't realize that I wasn't dealing with these feelings. I pushed them aside and put on my 'strong' facade, smiling and telling everyone, including myself, that things were going to be ok. In the middle of all the things that were happening around me, I went to the casino....and for the first time, I think, I started my road to compulsive gambling. I walked into the casino and felt this HUGE feeling of "AHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh......everything is all right now." Like having a shot of demerol. I relaxed, I drank coffee, I spent money. Winning was welcome, but it really only meant I could stay longer. I never had any plans for winning, never had big dreams of luxury. Of course, I was mostly playing the nickel machines. It was all about pushing the button. About escaping.

Over the course of the next few years, I played any and all slot machines...nickel, quarter, dollar. Played Caribbean Stud Poker when I started thinking I might be 'having a problem.' But always returned to the slot machines, especially the ones with more lines to bet and 'free games'. I don't know what it was about those nickel machines....maybe in some way I thought I couldn't possibly have a problem if I stuck with the 'little machines'. Of course, by the time I realized I did indeed have a problem, I was putting up to $2000.00/day in those little slot machines. Now THAT'S a definition of insanity for you. Doesn't even make sense, didn't make sense to me when I was doing it either, but I couldn't stop.

Days spent sitting in the casino.....nights spent hating yourself for being so stupid. An endless cycle of getting a fix, hating the fix, and wondering when the next fix would be. It's hard to describe or explain, hell... I lived it and I can't sometimes wrap my mind around the things I was thinking and doing. I was not myself. I had no logic, no sanity, and no hope that things could ever be any different. When I was gambling, I could forget everything. As soon as I was away from it for a moment, I had this endless tape playing in my head... "Shelley, you are pathetic" Played over and over again, its not surprising that I began to believe it and thought about leaving my family, either through abandonment or suicide.

The only thing that made me feel...or, more appropriately NOT FEEL was going to the casino. It soon became a total escape, not just from the things I should have dealt with, but life in general. I became detached. After being clean for only a few short months, I look back and see that the detachment is the thing that posed the greatest danger for me. When you can detach yourself from:your feelings, your family, your friends and even your very LIFE...there is nothing left but emptiness. If you have no attachment to anything, your life is meaningless. I tried to quit, many times, and each failed attempt only strengthened my feelings of being 'pathetic. I can honestly say I was in hell. My family and friends had no idea and the constant lying/hiding/putting on the old happy face wore me down so badly that I really would look in the mirror and wonder who that hag was looking back at me. Horrific.

What could have been said to me to prevent this? Honestly, maybe nothing. I have always been aware of Dad has recently celebrated his 26th Alcoholics Anonymous birthday. Alcohol, drugs, never a problem for me. Gambling snuck up on me and took hold like a leech...almost succeeded in taking everything away from me. I always considered myself a strong, able, mentally stable person. I have good morals, great family/friends network. Out of the blue..... like Honesty said... buyer beware.