Two hundred and thirty-one thousand four hundred and thirty-four euros and fifty-seven cents.
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€231434.57. This is a financial balance: a debt due for collection which now reminds me of what was but no longer is, and never again will be.
It is a massive debt. The cost of a large detached house. An amount which makes a normal person’s jaw drop open with astonishment. For me, it is just a student loan. A student loan thanks to which I am now here, a happy person equipped with expertise, self-knowledge and a huge amount of know-how, a happy person who never needs to gamble again. Not a person who must not gamble, but a person who does not need to.
That debt reminds me of the years when gambling was as normal as breathing. And as well as the debt, I also carry with me a criminal record containing over one hundred cases of fraud. These reminders, however, are small compared to the fact that four years ago it could very well have been that my friends and family were visiting my grave to remember me. Through my gambling addiction, I lost contact with myself for years, and my children lost their mother, my husband lost his wife, and my parents lost their daughter.
Gambling addiction is a wretched illness. It destroys everything around it. It turns people into devious liars who hate themselves and do things that harm themselves, who put themselves all the time in situations where they hurt the people they most love, situations where morals, ethics and love are just empty words.
I was all my life trying to get from gambling that feeling, that state of being where everything is possible. The more I sought this from the world of gambling, the more the gateways to real life closed up. The more I grabbed at the opportunities offered by the online casinos, the narrower and more restricted my outlook on life actually became. And the options left to me became less and less. After a decade of pathological gambling and lying, I realised I was in a situation where my only option was to take my own life. That was the option which would end the addiction which I was no longer able to fight against.
I had been gambling my whole life. I know now that right from my very first gambling experiences, gambling was sending me the wrong messages, evoking completely the wrong feelings. Because I’d started gambling already in primary school, I was already a complete gambling addict by the time I reached adulthood. I was a person who could not control their actions.
I have spent many years of my life lying and covering up my actions. I have been afraid of everything and everyone, especially myself. I have been afraid that the money will run out and afraid that it won’t. I have dreaded the thought of being found out, and then been completely shocked when I wasn’t – yet. I have dreaded the thought that I could continue this for however long and no one would come and stop me. I have cried at the thought that no one will come and stop me, and that I myself am not able to stop.
It took many years to get to this point. I had to leave behind the shame and self-hatred which had become part of my personality. I was so used to hating myself that even looking in a mirror required much practice. I had to learn to love the person that I hated. I had to understand that although I bear the responsibility for my actions, I can also be graceful towards myself. I had to understand that I was sick, and that I could recover from this sickness.
This is my fourth year free from gambling. Living without gambling is as normal for me as breathing. I work as a expert by experience for gambling addiction. The phenomenon of gambling interests me and I am actively involved in discussions on the negative effects of gambling and seek to continually expand my knowledge of the topic. I have written a book about my experiences called “When Gambling Takes Control” and I am currently writing another book about debt problems and debt recovery procedures. None of these things, however, is more important than the fact that I love myself. I am a good person – the best mother for my children, a trustworthy wife, a daughter and sister and good friend. I have done a lot of work to get to this point where I can say that I am proud of myself.
For years I was trying to get from gambling that feeling, that state of being where everything is possible. Today, without gambling, everything is possible. Everything.