Gambling addiction ruins lives. The statement does not sound as harsh as heroin, as common as alcohol addiction or as crazy as sex addiction when you say it out loud, but I assure you that it is equally painful and devastating. Gambling addiction is something most often not spoken about and it sounds harmless right? Let me tell you my story first hand (and the story of thousands of other children) as a child of parents with gambling addiction.
It is 2 am, I am 6 years old and I have not been able to fall asleep yet. See, I am in a bathroom in a casino where my parents are gambling. I am lying on my sisters lap in a public toilet cubicle (she is 7) and we are waiting for our parents to finally run out of money or time, whichever comes first. We are both exhausted, kids that age should have been in a warm bed at home a long time ago. We don’t know how long before our parents come to find us as sometimes it takes more than one day. So we wait.
My parents are recently divorced, and our weekends and some week days consisted of driving for 2 to 3 hours with my mom and stepfather, to a casino where our parents would gamble. Usually, until they win something, then lose what they have won, and start all over again. They have become addicted to the prospect of winning. They mostly justified that they are doing it for “us” thus eliminating all possible feelings of wrong doing. I always dreaded not knowing if we would be there for a couple of hours, or a couple of days. This depended on winnings. I remember my mom always saying “I have been through a tough time this week this is how I relax”. The stereotypical “ring” of alcoholics and drug addicts?
Casinos, in those days, catered for parents to bring their kids to a “play area” where we would be watched and could stay until 12:00am. From there, the play area would close and we will be left to fend for ourselves. This situation is something we were so used to. A Casino with a play area, even under those circumstances, would still be a bonus considering this was not always the case. At times we were taken to Casino’s that were not child friendly at all, and we would have to stay in the car and wait for up to 12 hours day and night. Casino living became a norm weekends, some school days, depending when our parents got paid.
Sleeping on bathroom floors, and in a parking lot areas, were not the only price we paid for our parents gambling addiction. The saying goes “When you gamble, the house always wins”. It means exactly what it says. In the end the casino will take it all. It happened to us. Our parents were not poor, they earned a decent income. If they had applied it differently could have generated a whole different outcome. I remember going to school in another school’s clothing as we could not afford school clothes. All I wanted to do is fit in, but we ended up being teased and never really had a fair chance of normality. We really did lose it all, we had nothing.
Being poor is not the issue, I could have lived with that. Growing up in a home where we are safe and cared for would have made up for that. I have a 6 year old child at the moment, and can never in a million years imagine leaving him in a car for 12 hours. Don’t get me wrong, our parents don’t hit us or underfeed us, they did not verbally abuse us. They simply just cared more about the prospect of winning the money.
Was it their fault? I don’t know. I would like to think that people have choices in life but I know that this is also a disease.
For a very long time up until recently, I have always resented that our parents did not love us or care for us enough to put us first. I had this conversation many times with my sister and still have not had much in terms of closure. If they have loved us why would they leave us so many times, why would they not care. Why would they leave us on Christmas day to spend it in a Casino? The questions will always be unanswered as my mom has passed away. I don’t think forgiveness really plays a role here any more I think its more acceptance. I cannot change what has happened I can only accept it and move on.
It took me a very long time to write this article because I did not want to be disrespectful to my parents. I loved my mom dearly and this is not indented by any means to take away from what a wonderful person she was. I do think the story needs to be heard though. There are children out there who live with this every day still and it is really not acceptable.
If you are a parent and you have a gambling problem hear this. What you are doing is not innocent. You are robbing your children of their University Education. You are robbing them of a basic need feeling safe and secure. You are taking time away that you could have spent with them. The worst of it all is you will NEVER win. In the end the house always wins.