“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.