“you got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away, know when to run” -Kenny Rodgers.

When I worked at the rehab facility, I can recall numerous time that the clients would ask me what drug I was addicted to? I never really liked talking about my life, because it wasn’t about me. My job was to look after them and keep them safe and on the right path.

My last day there, I had a coming to Jesus with the clients during their lunch. I gave them the opportunity to ask question and get to know the guy behind the title. Well, the first question of course, what drugs or alcohol were you addicted to? I told them that addiction doesn’t always have to do with drugs or alcohol. There’s porn, gambling, video gaming addiction and so on.

I stood there in front of 64 men and women staring at like I was about to announce the winning lottery numbers. I said my addiction is gambling. A few laughed and said that wasn’t a real addiction. I explained to them that their needle or pipe was my slot machine. I explained that the ringing of the machine was a trigger and that my heart will begin to race kind of get the sweats.

They asked when it started and I told them it was right after high school. My grandmother asked me to take her to our local casino boat which I did. Lord, I wish I could have been busier that day. It was the lights and sounds of all the machines that hooked me in, along with actually winning.

Some still didn’t understand the relation of gambling to drug use. I asked them if they have ever stolen to get money for drugs? Yes they replied. I said well same here. I asked if they ever lied to their family and friends because of the drugs? Again, they replied yes. I said you know that feeling when you are coming off your high and trying to figure how you’ll get your next fix? Well, same here.

In 2005 my father called 1800 Bets Off on me and I had to go to the casinos in Iowa and Illinois and ban myself. I did a lifetime ban because honestly, I didn’t know if I could stop myself from going with just a year ban.

Around 2020, Illinois started to allow slot machines in gas stations, restaurants, bars, etc. The apartment complex that I had just moved into was across the street from a stand alone slot machine business. It didn’t bother me because being banned for 15 years already, I really didn’t think about it. One day, I went to the store to grab something and overhead a guy say he one $3000 or so and was excited because it was tax free. I said how the hell is it tax free? He stated that the slots are owned my the location owner and not by the state. The state taxes the business but not the winner.

Damn I wish I didn’t hear that. This is a major loophole when it comes to gambling. Yes, I’m banned from the casino that is state ran, but not from the slots that are business owned. I found a knew “drug” dealer, and it was accessible from morning to night.

“Know when to walk away, know when to run.” That’s the problem. Instead of walking away from the needle, i started to shoot up again. When I go into a gas station and hear the slot machines sounds, it truly is a trigger. My “just a little bit” turns into “what the fuck am I doing”? I wish I can say that I’m “sober” again, but I’d be lying. I’m fighting these demons and even with the thought of my daughter, the demons sometimes win.

I talked to the VA about counseling and they wanted to send me to rehab for gambling addicts. Guess where? Goddamn Las Vegas! That’s like having a drug addict get rehab in a trap house. I literally said out loud to the lady, “what the actual fuck?” Needless to say, I didn’t take the VA up on their offer.

I moved from Illinois to Iowa specially to get away from the slots. How freaking shitty is it that you have to move to a different state because you can’t control your urges? It’s embarrassing and sad really. I really want to get this fixed and get the help I need before I “OD”.

I wish I could say that I have all the answers on how to fight this. I mean if it was that easy, these rehab places wouldn’t be needed.

In closing, I’ll end this the way it started. Hello everyone, my name’s Robert, and I’m addicted to gambling.

Don’t you (Forget About Me)

One of the great songs of the 80s, this Simple Minds song has gone down as a classic. I absolutely love this, I mean honestly, how can you not like it? Little less than a year ago, this song took a new meaning for me.

At the place that i was working, there was a clerk (I’ll refer to her as C) who was so absolutely beautiful. I know it’s kind of cliché to say, but she was just as beautiful on the inside too. In my eyes, C was perfect. She would laugh at your stupid jokes, she would try her best to put a smile on your face. She was always there for our individuals. (I worked in a long term care home) She was honest in the sense that she didn’t tell you what you wanted to hear, she told you what you needed to hear.

As I said, she was perfect. Well, almost I should say. C was married. Now I’m not the kind of person who flirts or whatnot with married women. I’ve been married before and I know C’s husband wouldn’t like that. My supervisor (I’ll refer to as M) and the house manager at the time would tell me that C was not in a good marriage. M would tell me that C and I would be perfect together. Now M was also C’s supervisor, but they were more like mother and daughter. So when M said that C’s husband was a prick and not good for C, I believed her. Why not right?

I got to see first hand how C’s husband was and why C would sometimes have tears in her eyes when coming into work, or after getting off the phone with him. Again, as much as it sucked and as much as i wanted to comfort her, I knew that she was married. Well, one day C gave a hug to one of our individuals and I said something to the affect of, “oh we’re just passing out hugs now?” She laughed and gave me a hug. As we pulled away from the hug, our cheeks kind of touched and lord I wanted to kiss her so damn bad.

Mind you, C and I shared the same small office, so we started to talk more about personal stuff and kind of had a connection. But again kids, what’s the problem? Oh yes, she’s married. About a month or so the playful hugs became more than just playful. There were feelings behind them. And each time, there was almost a kiss that couldn’t happen.

Don’t you (Forget About Me) would play at least 10 times during our 8 hour shift and I would joke to C that she was Clair and I was Bender. One day, C tells me that she has a gift for me. She told me to close my eyes and put my hand out. C put one of her earrings in my hand and closed it. If you’ve seen The Breakfast Club, you know that that scene is kind of iconic. Well, here I am, getting an earring from “my Clair”.

While sitting in the office with C, C turns around and says “i love you”. I’m sitting there in my chair in awe that this beautiful person just told me she loves me. I remember I said “no you don’t” and she smiled and said “Robert I love you”. Now, before the little hearts started floating in the air around my head, let’s not forget one thing. Oh yes… she’s married. A few days later, I told M what happened and M said she knew C cared about me and could tell that I had feelings for C. All I could do was smile.

Some time later, I really can’t remember the time frame honestly, the flirting and hugs and sweet talk lead to something that scared the shit out of me. I was finishing talking to one of my individuals and ended up going back to my office. I believe C had been arguing with her husband on the phone and had hung up by the time i walked in. Out of nowhere, I asked her to stand up and kissed her. After, I remember the only thing I could say was “oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, I am so sorry, fuck!” She was in just as much shock as me. But then something weird happened, she grabbed me and kissed me.

A month or two went by and I started to think about 80/20. You look for that 20% you are missing in your marriage. So I asked her if i was just her 20% and she said no. Well kids, C started to treat me different about a week later. I asked her how things were with her and her husband. She said that things were better, and wouldn’t you know it, things got better around the same time she started treating me different. Yes, I was that 20%.

I felt hurt. I don’t open myself up to people, but to her I did. There was no more laughs, no more sitting in the office with me. I ended up putting in my resignation due to some other issues I had with M. My last day, I was upset, or sad actually because i was leaving my individuals and leaving C. C told me that its not like we can’t get coffee sometime. She said your new job is across town, not across the country. C gave me a hug, told me to take care, and went home. I kid you not, when she drove off, this song came on again. I looked at the little envelope that I kept her earring in and smiled. What’s the odds this song would play?

A week later I called C and asked if she wanted to get coffee she said it probably wasn’t a good idea, and that she probably shouldn’t talk to me anymore. I’m assuming it had to do with me filing a complaint against M. Remember, they were like mother and daughter.

C ended up blocking me on social media. I ended up deleting her number. Do I think about C? Yes, more than I should honestly. However, the feelings she or I had shouldn’t have came to fruition anyways.

I sent the earing back to her at the long term care facility. She was not happy about that, and understandable. She said I could have just thrown the earring away. Yes, I could have done that, and probably should have. But it was my way of letting go of something that really wasn’t there.

Don’t you (Forget About Me)