When one hears the word addiction, usually a person’s mind goes straight to drugs or alcohol. What many forget is that it is possible to develop a gambling problem in the same way that it’s possible to develop an alcohol problem.
Many gambling addiction stories start out innocently enough—a trip to the casino here or there, a few good wins, then a loss or two.
Then something happens. The same chemicals in the brain that cause a person to become addicted to alcohol or drugs soon start to react to the act of gambling in a similar way. A person feels a “rush” when he or she gambles, and because of this desire to experience the same rush again and again, starts to lost control over how much time or money he or she is spending on the ‘hobby’.
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Gambling Addiction Horrors
Many people have a hard time understanding how or why people develop gambling addictions in the first place until they are caught smack dab in the middle of their own gambling addiction horror story. These are some personal stories about the strife, turmoil, and devastation that gambling has caused for gambling addicts and their families.
Mary’s struggle with gambling
Mary started off playing the slots as a way to relieve stress, to have fun. Eventually, though, she found herself going to the casino three or four times a week, losing hundreds of dollars with each trip. She wanted to stop, but by this time, Mary says she was “on auto-pilot.” Before she knew it, she no longer had the ability to control how much time she spent at the casino or how much money she was spending on her gambling habit. Once she ran out of money, she took out cash advances on her credit cards. But that money went to the machines as well and she found herself unable to make any credit card payments, let alone payments to make up for the cash advances.
With no money left and without the use of her credit cards, Mary successfully stopped gambling for eight or nine months. But as she tells, “That was only because I didn’t have access to any money.”
Once she got back on her feet and things were looking up again, her curiosity got the best of her and led her back to the casino “just to see what would happen.” Within four days, she had overdrawn her bank account, causing the bank to close it out.
After that, she began “borrowing” funds from the company to which she was president and chief executive. Since her eyes were the only ones to see what went in and out of the account, she figured she would take some here and there, and pay the amounts back when she could, all without anyone knowing. It didn’t take long for her to borrow more than she could repay.
Don’s sports gambling addiction— personal stories about a broken marriage and tainted childhood memories
January 3, 1983, will forever be ingrained in Dianne’s mind as the night her husband, Don, started their family down a long and winding path of deceit, disappointment, and disaster. That Monday night, the Minnesota Vikings were playing the Dallas Cowboys. Don had placed $1,500 bet on the game…and lost.
After that game, it wasn’t long before Don’s debts began to pile up and reach unmanageable levels. As Don explained to his children that their video cassette player was broken—and that’s why the men were here to take it back— he was only telling the first of what was to be many lies in order to conceal his gambling addiction from his children. They eventually found out anyway.
Don’s betting expanded to more than just football. Soon, he had his own bookie. “I bet every day of the year except the Monday and Wednesday before and after the baseball all-star game, the only two days of the year when there was no sports betting,” says Don.
When Don’s bookie was the focus of a police raid, federal agents showed up at Dianne and Don’s home. This was a wake-up call for the family; it told them that Dad’s sports gambling addiction was worse than they had imagined. Dianne packed up the kids and left the house.
Seeing an empty house made Don think he was ready to quit betting. In 1986, he began to attend Gambler’s Anonymous meetings and convinced Dianne he was done with it all. Dianne questioned his resolve when she found a piece of paper with a list of football games one night when they were on vacation. He told her that they were old games—he didn’t gamble anymore. After minimal research, she realized the schedule was for the current season.
Don controlled the family’s finances, and so, could get away with numerous tricks and sneaky behaviors that would have not only been met with disapproval by his wife but were illegal.
He forged his wife’s signature to take out loans to pay off gambling debts. Don learned how to kite checks between three different checking accounts, essentially loaning himself large amounts of money interest-free by writing bad checks between the accounts, and then clearing the checks with more bad checks, and so on and so forth. Don found himself visiting one banker or another on a daily basis. “I could at least relax on the weekends when the banks were closed,” he says. Don rushed home from work daily to beat the mailman to the house in fear that his wife would see any bank statements.
Eight years after his first GA meeting, Don canceled plans with a friend and got his shift covered at work covered so he could stay at a casino.
When Dianne didn’t get Don’s afternoon call (which came every day like clockwork), she knew something was wrong. When Don finally called, he asked if she would mind if he cashed in another $100 check. She told him, “Do whatever you want, stay as long as you want, I don’t care.” She felt too defeated to argue it anymore.
When Don came home late that night, the bedroom door was locked. He knew he had screwed up bad.
Because of all the pain he had caused the family, every broken promise big or small, his daughter refused to let Don attend her graduation or her wedding.
Anyone who says ‘gambling isn’t a deadly addiction’ doesn’t know this story
Many gambling addict stories end with mountains of debt, broken marriages, and lost opportunities. The story of Jihad Hassan Moukalled of Farmington Hills, Michigan has a much more tragic ending than all of these things combined.
H. Moukalled had amassed more than $60,000 in credit card debt and had caused his own printing company to sink deep into debt, once mentioning to a neighbor that the business was more than $500,000 under.
Over the course of two years, Moukalled had been making weekly trips to Las Vegas and Atlantic City to gamble large sums of money.
After returning from a three-day trip one November night, Moukalled wrote out a suicide note, and placed it on the kitchen table, held down by salt and pepper shakers. The note read: “I never ever had a bad intent toward anyone. I think that I was gripped by the hope of ‘one more shot.’ I did not know how else to escape what I got myself into. It is over.”
He then proceeded to suffocate each of this three children—daughter Aya, 7; son Adam, 5; and daughter Lila, 2—as they slept in their beds. Afterwards he shot his wife, and then himself.
Apparently, at some point during his most recent trip, he had asked his company to deposit $85,000 into a bank account, hoping he could transfer the amount to a Vegas casino. The bank wouldn’t honor the check.
Even if the bank had taken the check from a company that was already more than $500,000 in debt, it wouldn’t have covered eveb half of the $225,000 in torn-up casino markers that police found in Moukalled’s home during the investigation of this gruesome murder-suicide.
Gambling Addict Stories — Admitting There Is A Problem
Randy reaches for help with his gambling addiction
“Approximately ten years ago I wrote a short story about myself entitled “The Bobber. Yes, that was me just bobbing along in all directions in the middle of an endless ocean. I kept a vigilant lookout, hoping that someone would save me by throwing me a lifeline. All those lines out there and none of them were close enough to grab onto. I was really tired after years of bobbing along and began looking forward to when I would eventually begin to sink into total emptiness. My writing cried out for help, but no one heard it…
“Since being in recovery for a number of years, I’ve heard similar stories. Not knowing exactly where we were supposed to be and who we really were. Today I’ve just learned to accept that I am where I am supposed to be, one day at a time and doing the next right thing. As for those “recovery lines” … well, I found out that you actually have to swim out to get them and grab onto them. They don’t necessarily come to you. But once you grab them, never let go.” — Randy
Mary resolves to come clean about her gambling addiction
Mary sat in her car outside the casino, contemplating her situation, fighting the urge to go in and find a chair. Gambling had become an ‘emotional chore’ for Mary; something she felt she had to do because she knew she had to do something to try to get back all the money she had lost. Then she started to look at the bigger picture. She thought about her future: “I was so scared that I was going to end up doing this for another 20 or 30 years. I was scared that I was going to get fired from my job. I was scared that I was going to end up in jail.”
As much as she wanted to, and as easy as it would have been for her to get out of her car and walk across the parking lot and into the casino, she didn’t.
Mary started the engine, backed out of her parking space, and drove straight to her work. Again, she was apprehensive. Mary says, “I didn’t want to admit I was a compulsive gambler. I didn’t want to say it out loud. It’s hard to admit you’re a liar and a cheat and a thief.” But that’s exactly what she did. She told her business partner everything that had been going on.
Don realizes he’s lost his family to his gambling addiction
The night after coming home from his trip to the casino—after his wife told him she didn’t care what he did anymore—morning came and went, and the following night Don went back to Gambler’s Anonymous. The previous night would be the last time Don ever gambled.
Gambling Addiction Stories that End with Recovery
Mary gets a second chance to reclaim her life, her job, and her self-respect
With the support of her company, Mary decided to attend a Gambler’s Anonymous meeting. As she looked around the room, she had a hard time believing that any of the people there had ever been compulsive gamblers, simply because they all looked so happy. She acquired a sponsor, but it soon became clear to her that she was going to need more than a few nights each week at Gambler’s Anonymous meetings to get herself back on track.
Mary checked herself into a 30-day rehab program in Canton, South Dakota, which she says saved her life. In being surrounded by recovery addicts in GA and in the treatment center, Mary realized she wasn’t alone in her struggle. “I kept thinking I was something special, that my situation was unique,” Mary says. “But I wasn’t, and it wasn’t.”
After completing her inpatient rehabilitation program, Mary returned home to Minnesota and continued to attend GA meetings as a part of her aftercare program.
She also went to go face her old co-workers; almost immediately after coming home, Mary went to meet with her company’s board of directors. Mary was absolutely terrified. “These were people I had lied to and had manipulated…but they gave me a second chance.” Mary has slowly started to pay back what she stole from the company to prove her commitment to both her job and her recovery.
After 18 months of being in recovery, Mary still attends GA meetings a couple times each week. She says having recovering people in her life helps her to stay on track because she knows she’s not alone.
Vern finds help for his gambling addiction in rehab
“I’m a compulsive gambler. That was difficult to admit when I attended my first GA meeting. But it was even more difficult after I had relapsed.
“I had stopped gambling for more than three years when I succumbed again to the compulsion of gambling. It was at this time that I knew I needed more than a weekly GA meeting to get me on the road [to] recovery. I searched the web for places that concentrated on compulsive gambling and found Williamsville Wellness. I contacted the center, and Bob called me. With his encouragement, I applied and have never been sorry.
“Apprehensive at first, I was welcomed by the staff and other compulsive gamblers throughout the four weeks I was there. Bob’s staff is incredible—top shelf all the way. They challenged me, listened to me, guided me and encouraged me to see the true inner self and the possibilities that had been hidden by my own behavioral patterns and compulsive gambling.
Today I am on my road of recovery, thanks to the staff at Williamsville Wellness. What I gained there was worth the time, the financial investment, and the work to get me back on track. — Vern
Don’s journey to redemption in recovery for his gambling addiction
Don has been religiously attending GA meetings ever since his turnaround.
Don has done a lot of work to gain back his family’s trust. He has even reconciled with his daughter, who banned him from having anything to do with her early adult life.
Even 17 years into his recovery, Dianne still cringes internally when she sees Don flip through games on the television because she still remembers with clarity the days when her husband would be checking the scores of games he’d bet on.
After years of GA meetings and marriage counseling, Dianne and Don have gradually repaired their relationship. Don is thankful that GA helped him to get over his gambling addiction, and overcome it at an age where he will still be able to repay his debts, and hopefully start some sort of savings account. A former gambling addict with a savings account—what a beautiful picture.
- National Research Council (US) Committee on the Social and Economic Impact of Pathological Gambling. Pathological Gambling: A Critical Review. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1999. 5, Social and Economic Effects. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK230628/
- Fong T. W. The biopsychosocial consequences of pathological gambling. Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2005; 2(3): 22–30. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004711/.