Lynnette, Female, 61 Written by Viknesan
I was introduced to the jackpot machines later in life when I was in my late 50s. I used to go to exclusive social clubs with jackpot machines. I was not so interested in going to the local casino because I didn’t like the crowd or the smoke. My children had all grown up and work had long
become routine. I feared that I would become obsolete one day, as my younger colleagues with university degrees and advanced knowledge in computers would outcompete me. Thoughts of being retrenched plagued my mind. My family was financially stable, so I didn’t really have to worry about money and I had a loving and supportive husband. However, I had a lot of time on my hands.
I was first introduced to the jackpot machine by some of my friends. It was never my thing at the start, as I didn’t get the thrill many gambling friends spoke about. But whenever I gambled, I didn’t have to worry about anything else. I entered a world where time, responsibilities and appointments stood still and didn’t matter.
At first, I only used the machines on a recreational basis. Gradually, from once or twice a month, it became a few hours once or twice a week, and then almost daily. I lied to my family that I was working or out with my friends. One lie led to another, and soon I was spinning a web of lies to cover my tracks. My husband and children started to suspect that something was wrong. They saw my personality change as well. From being happy and jovial, I became irritable, especially when asked where I was going. In my mind, it was just a slot machine, and there was nothing wrong with using coins and small amounts of money. Like the saying goes, little drops of water make an ocean, and in my case many coins grew into a whole mountain of debt of thousands of dollars. It eventually wiped out my personal savings, and my family finally found out about my lies and secret life.
My family intervened and got me to seek help. I felt so disappointed with myself. I had always been a responsible woman, taking care of my family and looking after all their needs. Now the roles had changed and they had to look after me. I felt so ashamed and depressed about having to see addiction professionals. I thought only people with mental health conditions needed help from mental health professionals.
Over time, after attending individual counselling and support groups on a regular basis, I realised I was not alone. There were others like me from all walks of life, and I didn’t have to suffer in silence or shame. I learnt there were many reasons for individuals developing a gambling problem but also many were doing well in recovery. The urge and craving to gamble were strong. After treatment I relapsed many times, and each episode was a valuable lesson. The counsellors encouraged me to take every relapse as a learning opportunity to pick myself up and move forward, and not to get overconfident and cut corners in my recovery.
I am now over two years abstinent from gambling. I still get urges to gamble, and I know I am still vulnerable. But I am no longer alone, for I have my newfound recovery family and my own family to support and help me up when I fall. They never give up on me, even though I had asked them to many times because I had caused them so much pain. They are there for me in good times and bad, and this is what keeps me going.
It is also very fruitful to listen to the other recovery group members’ stories. I can take a page or two from their recovery and relapses. I also had the opportunity to share my story and help others. The recovery group is like a family and every week I look forward to attending the sessions, together with my husband. We even celebrate birthdays and festive occasions together. We are like a warm family brought together by a sinister disease called gambling addiction. The journey is filled with long, difficult and winding roads, and it’s easy to give up. However, thanks to my counsellors, doctors, my recovery group and family, I am not alone in this journey. This time, I will value and cherish what I have.
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