Thomas: Father, Friend, Gambler.
Recently, we got the opportunity to present on the topic of gambling addiction. Afterwards, we had people coming up to us thanking us and telling us how the information we gave made sense and helped them understand their friends, family members, or even themselves better. Then we had one man, for privacy’s sake he asked to go by Thomas, who told us how much he used to struggle with gambling addiction and how it changed his life. We asked if we could interview him for a blog, and we sat down over some coffee and he shared a bit of his life with us.
So, Thomas, I just want to start by saying thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today.
T: It really is my pleasure, I always take any opportunity to try and help someone who could be struggling or feeling trapped.
That is so great. So how did it all start?
T: Well, everything really started when I was in my early 20’s, I’m 58 [years old] now so it was a while ago, ha ha; but I had gone to a friend’s Superbowl party, and everyone was placing bets. I had never really gambled before, but I made a bet and won a little bit of money. And you know, it was crazy, it was almost like a little burst of electricity when I won, it was something I had never really felt before.
Oh yeah, that makes sense. Now growing up, did you know anyone who gambled frequently?
T: Well, I grew up in Las Vegas, I still live here now, born and raised, so I was pretty much around gambling my whole life, but the only person I really knew personally who gambled was my dad. He used to go to the sports book and bet on horses all the time. I would go with him and I always like it because I got to hang out with my dad, and sometimes we would get McDonalds after, ha ha, I always remember that.
Awe, it really is incredible how those small memories can make such an impact. So, after the Superbowl party, did you start gambling regularly?
T: No actually, it definitely wasn’t right away. I would go maybe a month or so and then play the lottery, or place a small bet at a casino, and then real slowly it just grew and grew.
And then when did you realize you had a problem?
T: Well, like I said it started slowly, I would borrow a little money from people here and there, my wife and I started having little arguments, and then before I knew it, I was in debt, I had stolen money from my brother, my parents, some friends, and I had even taken a few advances on my paychecks. I would always tell myself I was going to give the money back, or I would use money I was supposed to use for bills to bet, and tell myself when I won, I would use the money how I was supposed to but looking back that never really happened. And I knew I had an addiction.
And then when you were at the peak of your addiction, what did that look like?
T: Well, things got really bad when my wife had had enough. I had promised her over and over again that I would quit, we would fight all the time, and then one day we just kind of stopped fighting, she ended up leaving shortly after that.
Is that when you knew you needed help?
T: No actually, that was just the start of the end, but really that pushed me to gamble more, looking back, she could have been my reason to quit, but now that I didn’t have a reason to quit, I just started gambling more. It was at its worst when I was about 47 [years old]. I was alone, broke, and contemplating suicide, at the time it really felt like the only way out.
Wow, I’m so sorry to hear that. So how did you finally end up getting help?
T: well, it’s kind of funny actually, there’s a lot of two things in Vegas, gambling, and help for people who want to quit gambling. So, I started attending these meetings, almost like A.A. but for gamblers, at first I thought it was going to be stupid, until I started hearing some of their stories, and they were almost exactly identical to mine, that’s when I really started to not feel so alone. And actually, I had recognized one of the guys in the meetings from when we used to gamble together.
Oh man, that’s crazy! So now would you say you are “recovered”?
T: Well, yes and no. it’s better now, I used to find myself accidentally driving to casinos or really itching to bet, and now it’s like I don’t get that urge, but I still do have to avoid certain places or certain people just because I don’t want to ever go back to that life.
Wow that is amazing you were able to pull yourself out of that dark place. Just a couple more questions, if you don’t mind; first, what advice would you give to someone who thinks they may be struggling with gambling?
T: well, that’s a tough one, because you’ve got to be real honest with yourself, which isn’t always easy, but I would say to ask yourself the 20 gamblers questions, and really sit and think honestly about them, then just reach out to someone, a friend, a family member, a local gamblers meeting, just let someone know you need help.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today Thomas, can I just ask, how are things for you now?
T: you’re very welcome, I should be thanking you! Ha ha. Yeah, things are better now, I reconnected with my kids, well I guess not kids anymore, they’re in their 20’s, but I was scared to for a long time and then I was so surprised and grateful when they forgave me and wanted to reconnect with me. Sometimes shame can keep you from making things right with those you love, ya know, but man, you’ll be surprised how far an apology can go, so yeah, I’d say things are definitely lookin’ up, I got my kids, I got new friends, and I’m feelin’ real good about myself these days.
Wow, thank you so much for sharing your inspiring story Thomas, I am so glad things are looking up for you.
T: Ha ha, you’re welcome.