Finding Hope: Problem Gambling Awareness

Michelle Edwards

“I didn’t have one penny stuck to a gum wrapper.” Judy found herself on the side of a turnpike in tears because she had lost all her money gambling and did not have enough money to pay the toll. It was February 2008. In the course of two years she went from owning her own $150,000 home and $40,000 Toyota Tundra to not being able to pay the turnpike toll. “I was living two separate lives. After two years, I had nothing; there was nothing to show for what I had spent except big piles of bills, debts, and lies that I told to the people I loved.”

That night she called the gambling hotline. She was met with the voice of a kind man who talked to her for over an hour and got her connected with a gambling specialist in Wichita right then and there at 2am. The next morning, she met with the lady who would eventually become a lifeline. But Judy was not ready to quit just yet. She took the packet of information the lady had given her and threw it in the trash on the way to a poker game that night. It was another four months before Judy reached the breaking point of telling her family what was happening.

“It was a Wednesday and I showed up at my parents’ house and slept for two straight days. I had not been able to sleep because people were knocking on my door wanting money. When I woke up my mom said, ‘What is wrong?’ She thought I was hospital sick. That is when I threw up all the emotions and years of what had been happening. My mom is the kind of person that will research something. When I told her about the gambling specialist I had called in the middle of the night she called her and told her about her adult daughter who had a gambling problem. I made an appointment the next day.”

March is problem gambling awareness month. The theme this year is “Have the Conversation.” Judy finally reached a point of desperation and was able to have the conversation with her family. This was the first step in change for Judy. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, there is help. Kansas offers help at no out of pocket cost to you.

“The first 90 days are like living in a fog but when the light starts to dawn it can be a very good thing, but it can be a very scary thing. It can cause some people to go backwards. Some days, I made big steps, but some days I made little bitty steps. I kept going to Gamblers Anonymous and seeing the gambling counselor. I changed my phone number so my old connections could not get ahold of me. As I kept doing these positive things, the gambling got further away. Put space between yourself and whatever your addiction is.”

Today, Judy is a licensed addiction counselor at Center for Change working with opioid addicted people. “I would be lying if I did not say I still think about gambling.” Judy went back to school and worked hard for her degree, something she never dreamed possible. She shared that gambling is still in the back of her mind but she tries to grow the positive things in her life. As she does, the gambling continues to shrink. Judy attends Gamblers Anonymous weekly. Meetings are open so anyone can come. One of these meetings takes place on Monday and Friday nights at 6:30 at Grace Presbyterian in room 201. 5002 E Douglas Wichita, KS 67208. For more information, call 316-684-5215.

Wherever you find yourself, a friend or family member of a person with gambling addiction, a person who can’t see the way out of addiction, or a member of this community who cares about helping others find a better way of life, let’s raise awareness of problem gambling and have the conversation.