Sandra’s Story

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I grew up playing cards around the dining room table. The stakes were low, mostly pennies and nickels. Gambling always had positive associations for me — good times and warm memories of my family. And for a large part of my adult life, gambling wasn’t a problem.

In 1990, my husband was offered a great job on the other side of the province. I hated that I had to move. I couldn’t find work in my field and I felt trapped. I was so resentful. I started playing Bingo once or twice a week. When I was keeping track of my cards, I didn’t have to think about anything else. That’s where I ran to when things got tough.

The negativity in my life peaked with two horrific accidents that happened within two years of each other. The first accident left me struggling to recover physically and emotionally. Then, my husband got into an accident. My car was totalled. That car was a symbol of my independence. I bought it after I split from my first husband. And now it was gone. Relieved my husband was OK, I was also angry — and guilty for feeling this way. In this frame of mind, I picked my husband up from the accident scene, brought him home and went directly to the Bingo Hall.

The accident started a four-year streak of playing Bingo daily. If I lost, there had to be something wrong with the filter — the numbers weren’t dropping properly. I went back every day, hoping to win the money back. I never did.

After four years, I was $88,000 in debt. I had no choice but to quit. I joined Gambler’s Anonymous and enrolled in a 12-week treatment program. I dealt with my debt and got on with life. I was doing so well, in fact, that I thought I could handle a night at the casino. I discovered the slots. The cycle started again.

Problem gambling was eating away at my self-esteem, taking away everything I liked about myself. With my addiction, the actress was born. I’d be juggling money, bank accounts, taking my husband’s credit card, lying, pawning jewelry. My husband would ask me why I wasn’t wearing my rings. I’d tell him I had eczema.

It was the deception that made me realize I had to quit. One of the last times I gambled, my sisters took me out for my birthday. I pretended that I hadn’t been to the casino in ages. If fact, I was there less than 24 hours before. I set them up. I used this special night as an excuse to gamble. I knew it had to stop.

I returned to Gambler’s Anonymous and started connecting with other problem gamblers. It takes a long time to come out of it. I was very angry. Angry because I couldn’t gamble anymore and angry at myself. Everything I used to fuel my gambling — arguments, fears, disappointment– is still there. But now I find other ways to cope. When you’re in the depths of an addiction, nothing else exists. It’s like when you press your nose up to a mirror. You can’t see anything. It’s when you step back that your world becomes visible. Now, I can see clearly.

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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