From a young age I remember being curious about gambling. I grew up near Detroit, MI. my parents were divorced from a young age. I consider myself sheltered, but I went outside more than kids do these days. I remember my Dad got to see me every other weekend. I first would hear about gambling through family rumors. As a young boy, gambling seemed innocent enough.
I would gamble for quarters, at family dinners during the holidays. This started around the time I was 8. I remember being a bit greedy for the quarters. This type of feeling was never really talked about with family. Especially at my age, the family I grew up in was old school. Cards were a common game at family gatherings.
Around the time I hit my teenage years I became knowledgeable of the rules of every kind of basic poker game. By age 15, I took my grandmothers penny’s and my best friends grandmother’s penny’s. I guess I should of felt sad, but I did not.
As a youth I never identified as being compulsive. But I would always get extra excited about things like gambling for change. I went to Howe military school because I was a problem teen. I did not gamble again until I was 19 years old.
I remember going to Casino Windsor in Canada for my 19th birthday. In Canada it was legal to gamble when you are 19 years old. I stayed up all night playing 2/4 hold’em. At first I was drawn toward cards games in the casino. Soon after this I joined the Military and eventually deployed over sea’s at age 20.
Gambling Overseas was a change in perspective for myself. I recall underground poker games at the recreation center in Iraq. A place where I could gamble with anyone who wanted to, this was exciting. It felt very empowering to take a supervisors money during the war time. I did rather well gambling during this time.
Note, it was against the regulations for a soldier to gamble during the war. War is also rather glum and dull with regards to feelings. By contrast, Gambling made me feel alive. Texas hold’em became my game of choice.
Escapism comes to mind. I was not excited about my reality during OIF3. So I would focus on the gambling, this became my reality. Thinking back, both my parents would often escape reality though their own habit’s. I do not blame. Escapism being a common quality in my family, I often worry about my own sons values.
I got married shortly after returning home from the War. It was around this time I felt I was becoming a problem gambler. I would often go to Indian casinos in Arizona, where I was stationed. Poker was very popular at the time; as it was widely watched on TV. I felt sharp because I can hustle solders. I was not as clever as I thought. I got my ass handed to me by several more talented poker players. In poker lingo, I was a true fish.
I choose not to accept the reality. I was not a good poker player. Eventually, I lost my cool and charged up my credit cards at the local Indian Casino playing blackjack. I lost all the money from my deployment and racked up 10 Grand in Debt at age 21. I convinced myself it was a lack of skill. I did not think I had a problem. I thought my luck would turn around eventually.
I would reenlist for California. My wife, I put through some hard times. I would often lie to her, and than justify my actions. I told her often that I would quit gambling. A series of random events would always draw me back to play poker. She lost her patience with all of my BS. When she left with my son, I was sad, maybe even depressed. However alone, I was very motivated to gamble.
I think my identity shifted during this moment in my life. I felt resolve to become a professional poker player. From 2005 to 2008, I took my hard knocks in the poker rooms of AZ and CA. I did read every poker book I could get my hands on before I left the army in 2009. I felt I had the street smarts and the book smarts to win at poker. Besides that, look at what I sacrificed for this game.
I moved to Lake Tahoe where I went to college. Of course I would often gamble. I was more disciplined, fresh out of the military. I would often win large sums of money. In early 2010 I beat the WSOP Champ Jerry Yang in a cash game (See earlier post). I felt that I had something to prove. I felt I was going to make a living playing poker.
In the Summer of 2010 I spent the first part of it at the WSOP in Las Vegas. I was a dangerous poker player. I would stay awake for days straight, I would often forget to eat food. I felt like I had found my groove, my feelings were in control (numb).
Often times in my gambling career I would win lots of money. Like in Vegas I won 10 Grand two separate times. Winnings would always come from poker. Eventually I would work up the courage to play table games or slots. I would loose, than chase the money. Eventually I would be broke. This is what happened to the 10 grand I won in Las Vegas in 2010. I would repeat this action. I ended up winning and loosing 10 grand twice in the same fashion.
This was my gambling Peek. Isolated from the world. Like a walking computer with odds. Disciplined as a monk with my emotions. I would start a pattern where I would eventually get sloppy. I would let my feelings take control and I would loose all the money I had.
Looking back, it may have been spiritual matter as to why I would loose the money. What type of person would I have become had I been successful? I was a solid armature poker player in 2010. If I had been successful, I would of probably become someone full of vanity and without any real spiritual life.
From 2010 till 2013 I got progressively sloppy when I gambled. I would gamble drunk or high often. I got in trouble in 2013 when I got arrested for 3 DUI’s (See earlier post). When I got into recovery in late 2013, gambling was a after thought. I worked the steps in the AA program. I also became a born again Christian around this time. It was not until 2015 that I would even gamble again.
At first I convinced myself to play poker at the local casinos in Reno. For a short time things seemed okay. I thought myself, not a addict. Gradually I would escalate my gambling habits. In 2016 gambling became a compulsion again. I feel it was effortless to gamble, I would not give it much thought. Tragically, I did not share the same will to succeed that I had in my 20s.
At this time I had a recovery leadership position while employed in community college. I had a image in the recovery community. Nevertheless, I would go out and loose money every weekend.
I gradually started to play more machines in the casino. Eventually I stopped playing poker all together. I was not trying to impress anyone. I was isolated and numb. I have been most recently rather negative or pessimistic in my addiction. I did not enjoy what I was doing, I felt trapped.
I once won 10 Grand in one night on several machines about a year ago, Christmas time. It took me 3 months to loose this money back to the casino. I wanted to stop but I could not.
I started going to GA after trying for several months to control my gambling. Before I went into GA I was getting about 900 dollars in free play a month. I got 2 free buffets per week and 30 dollars in food comp and another casino. I was desperately living free play too free play. No matter how much I won, it was never enough.
I got a sponsor, I am now working the steps. I am coming up on 2 months. I am happy to have this much time not gambling. Recently, I have been in a spiritual place with steps 1-3. I try to keep a open mind going forward in GA free from gambling. Looking at my past, I feel my judgement about life was wrong on many levels.
Having a spiritual discipline these days, gives me Hope. Today, I have mixed feelings on gambling. I would not be who I am today if not for gambling. Through the steps I am looking at God in a fresh light. I take issue with addiction and I seek balance. With my higher power, I am able to expect more out of myself in terms of personal virtue.