Carolina’s Story

carolina_img

(as told to a translator at COSTI Problem Gambling Service)

I moved to Canada from Central America 35 years ago. I was the happiest person in the world. I left behind everything and everyone I loved, but I felt ready for a new beginning. A new adventure.

My husband and I started a business together in Southern Ontario just after we were married. It was very successful. We were always busy and very popular. I stayed home with our children when they were small and my husband would spend hours at the business. We were felt productive and happy.

As the children got older, my husband spent more and more time at the business, and I found myself with a lot more time on my hands. I felt isolated too, because I don’t speak English very well. I started going to the casino every week for something to do. At the casino, I could be outside of the house and not have to speak to anybody. Then I started going more and more. I would always go alone. Sometimes I wouldn’t get back home until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. My husband was so worried about me. But he is a calm and gentle man and he didn’t try to stop me from going. Instead, when I got back home, he would quietly ask me how much I had lost.

I always lied about how much money was gone. At first, I would go with $200 and it wasn’t enough. Next time I would bring $500. Then I started charging $1,500 on my credit card.

And I was very superstitious. I would make sure I was at the casino on the seventh of every month. I would never enter the casino at the unlucky hour of 6:00 p.m. Now I can laugh at how complicated a trip to the casino was for me, but it is also very troubling. I believed that if I pressed the button on the slot machine at the stroke of midnight, I would win millions. And I loved to go to the casino on Saturday and Monday, because I was convinced that the slot machines would be full of money from Friday and Sunday night.

And I would never enter the casino without my collection of lucky charms. Each one had a job to perform: for example, the chili pepper charms would stop the envious people who were waiting for my machine from sending me bad vibes. Now I realize all these beliefs are lies.

My son was so worried about me. I was going through our savings so fast. I was alone at the casino all the time. I would travel alone at night. He thought that if he bought me a toy slot machine, it would keep me out of the casino and safely at home. But if I won on that little machine, I took it as a sign to go to the casino.

I would be down to my last three $100 bills, but I couldn’t leave. I wanted to lose everything so I could just go home and sleep. I knew I needed help, but I didn’t want to stop completely. My first step was to call the Ontario Problem Gambling Helpline and they helped me book an appointment with a treatment agency. I kept going back to the casino at that point, but I set a deadline for myself to quit — on a very special date for me. On my final visit, I went with $700 and lost it all.

If you are in the same place I was, don’t be afraid to ask for help. But at the same time, only you can make that change. If you don’t believe you have a problem, you won’t change. I still struggle every day. The pain I put my family through and the debt I racked up weighs heavily on me. I am ashamed because I gambled away everything that my husband and I worked so very hard to save. But when I go to see my counsellor, and now, sharing this story with you, I feel relief just talking about it and facing the truth.

I hope that someone in a situation like mine can think about my story and stop gambling. It’s never too late. I have lost so much, but I feel I can save my money and start over. You can too.

COSTI’s Problem Gambling Service provides counselling in different languages for gamblers, as well as for family members and friends of the gambler. All services are free and confidential.

COSTI Problem Gambling Service: 416-244-7714 or 1-866-222-9993
Website: www.costi.org

If you are concerned about your gambling, or the gambling of someone you care about, there is free and confidential help.

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