Milwaukee, Wisconsin may be the city of my birth, but I have always considered Las Vegas, Nevada to be my home town because we moved there when I was just two years old. My mom went there to divorce my father, but when she discovered gambling, she liked it so much she decided to stay.
I grew up hearing my mom say, “I can’t wait until you’re old enough to go play the slots with me.” It was a love/hate situation. I hated her gambling because she was never home when I got home from school, but I loved the times when I was with her, so I thought I’d be able to spend more time with her when I was old enough to go with her. I started gambling in 1972 when I was just 19-years-old.
I have been working in a casino environment for almost forty years and I have learned that there are two kinds of gamblers; those who can gamble for entertainment and those who become compulsive gamblers. It’s kind of like the difference between people who can drink socially with no problem and those who become alcoholics.
I was a compulsive gambler. It means that once I started, I was unable to stop until I was broke…and I always wanted to start. Gambling was my escape. It was my way of not having to deal with problems I didn’t want to face for just a little while longer. It was my drug of choice. I have been praying for many years, “Please, God, help me not to do this,” but it seemed like there was never any help given.
In 1998 I moved to Washington State, thinking I would do better if I left Las Vegas. I had been hired to open a new casino, and employees were not allowed to gamble there. It worked, but only because there was no place for me to gamble. Then it happened. One day a co-worker needed a ride to pick up her car at a repair shop. It turned out that it was near a different casino that I knew existed but never wanted to know where it was.
Telling myself that I was just curious about our competition, I went in. “Just one time,” I thought, but I was immediately hooked again. I was working in one casino and gambling at the other one every chance I could for the next 10 years. More casinos had sprung up during that time and I visited them all, thinking that a change would be luckier, or that I would be able to go home a winner if I had to leave earlier because of time constraints. That didn’t work either.
If you read my “Follow the money…” blog, you may remember that I said I never had the courage to find out why I was always broke, but what I was really saying was that I never had the courage to find out how much I spent gambling. I left that category out when I created the image of my Excel spreadsheet because I wanted to share more about it than just numbers.
I created my spreadsheet after I made my New Year’s Resolutions for 2011 as a way of helping me to “Love and respect the gifts the Universe gives me.” I knew I couldn’t show respect if I didn’t know where my money was going, and when I saw the figures adding up in the Gambling column, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Because of my compulsion, I only took about $30 with me when I went to a casino, but I gambled almost every day and it was starting to add up.
I decided to make it more difficult for me to go to a casino by asking the casino closest to me to “bar” me from their premises. That means I chose to make it a crime for me to be on their property. But I just went to one farther away. Eventually I barred myself from there, but I just went to one farther away until I barred myself from that one, too. I made it necessary to have to travel almost an hour to get to a casino that I hadn’t barred myself from. It didn’t stop me completely, though. I still chose to drive that far 2 or 3 times a week, but it was better than every day.
One day I gambled for over 8 hours on my last $20. Ordinarily, I would have been having a great time lasting so long on such a small amount of money, but I remember feeling different somehow…almost like I didn’t want to be there.
The next day I went back to work, and without thinking anything about it, that whole week I went straight home every day after work. When my days off arrived, I stayed home. The next week, the same thing happened. When I analyzed the spreadsheet like I do after every pay period, I saw that I hadn’t entered a figure in the Gambling column for two weeks, and I was amazed because I realized I hadn’t even thought about going to gamble. The weeks following were the same, and the months after that. My prayer had been answered.
This experience taught me the meaning behind the saying “God helps those who help themselves.” If there’s something in your life that you are asking God to help you with, you must really prove it to yourself that you actually want it. God is not a mystical being who grants wishes. He is within us. He is us. We answer our prayers…or don’t, but either way it’s always our choice.
Face your situation honestly, without fear or judgment, and do whatever it takes for as long as it takes, even if it takes you forty years. Standing still will get you nowhere. Start to move forward and some day you will find your light at the end of the tunnel. Take the necessary steps to answer your prayer and you will find, as I did, that you are strong, courageous, and capable.
“The wishbone will never replace the backbone” ~ Will Henry
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My name is Laura Mozer Davis, and I was born over half a century ago. My life’s journey has included raising three children as a single parent while caring for my parents who both became disabled during the last 10 years of their lives. Now that my children are grown and my parents have passed into the next part of their journey, I finally have time for me to grow as a person, not as just a care-giver. What I am learning, however, is that my destiny is to always be a care-giver. When I started writing for The Daily Sisterhood blog, I realized that I was to continue my care-giving through my writing. If my words help even just one person find either solace or joy, I know my life continues to have meaning.