This is where I’m at now:
I have lost over $250,000 in total and am $20,000 in debt. More importantly, I lost my wife and now only see my son three days a week.
This is how I got here:
I slowly developed a sports-betting addiction over the last five years. It started small. I wagered $100 maximum on a single bet, and I would panic if I was in the red at all. For years, I was in the black, about $8,000 at most. I was thoughtful and researched almost every wager.
Then I went on a really bad losing streak. I generally kept my wife in the loop on how I was doing. I told her that I had lost a lot of the profit I’d made and that I wanted to make a big bet to try to get it back. Since it was all profit at that point, she didn’t care. I put $1,000 on the Washington Capitals to beat the St. Louis Blues at -120 or so. (This was the year STL was dead-last and then went on a crazy run and won the Stanley Cup.)
That bet lost.
I didn’t immediately spiral into massive risky bets. But betting soon took over my life to an unfathomable degree. It dominated my thoughts the way my wife used to when we first met. I literally couldn’t stop thinking about it. I hated that I had lost so much and needed to get it back. In the next period of my life, I was constantly on my phone checking scores. At this point, I had stopped telling my wife what I was doing. I told her I needed to check my phone in order to stay up-to-the-minute for my job, which is sports-related.
Predictably, my addiction destroyed my marriage. I won’t go into much detail, but suffice it to say I was an absolute shit partner and father for years. My attention was never on my wife and son, at least not fully.
My wife eventually came to feel very differently about me and demanded I leave our house. That was about two years ago. It should have been a turning point, and in some ways it was. I sought psychiatric help for depression and recognized/acknowledged what an asshole I had been. The antidepressants definitely had an impact; it was like slowly coming out of a coma. I couldn’t quite believe how awful I had been to the people I loved the most.
I slowed down my betting a little and got considerably better at hiding my phone. But I didn’t stop.
My wife and I tried to reconcile during quarantine. It was a disaster. We were both trying to work from home with our young child. She was confronted 24/7 with a person who had, at worst, traumatized her and, at best, completely neglected her for the better part of a decade. I was supposed to be the one person she could always trust and rely on, and I had turned into a fraud.
Even though I was slowly starting to return to better mental health, I couldn’t undo the emotional damage I had inflicted. There was no going back. Eventually she said she didn’t love me anymore and wanted a divorce.
This fucking destroyed me.
I don’t know if I have the words to express how deeply I loved this woman. Here is the best I can do: For most of my life, nothing frightened me more than my own death. There were nights when my existential dread kept me awake until sunrise.
I would have gone to the gallows for her without hesitation. I would have wrapped the noose around my own neck and pulled the lever if she needed me to.
When she told me she wanted a divorce, I moved out for good and started betting non-stop. (It’s a miracle I didn’t get fired I was so unproductive during the day.) If I wasn’t betting, I was thinking about the fact that I would never be her partner again; I was thinking about her sleeping with someone else. I didn’t want to be alive anymore.
It took me about six months to rack up $50,000 worth of debt and lose about $65,000 in total.
Eventually I broke down and told my parents about the hole I had dug for myself. They were surprised but are also very understanding. They knew the emotional toll losing my family had taken on me. They leant me some money to at least pay off my credit card.
A few months ago, our divorce was finalized and I acquired about $175,000 from the sale of our home. I paid off my existing debts and had about $125,000 in the bank.
My dad, smartly, said he thought I should put the money in a joint account with him, one where we would both have to sign-off before money could be withdrawn. I told him I wasn’t a gambling addict. I told him I had chased my losses because I was hyper-competitive and couldn’t stand losing, but that I had learned from past mistakes.
I am a gambling addict, and I hadn’t learned anything.
I have lost every penny and more. I started making max bets on whatever betting sites I hadn’t excluded myself from in moments of clarity.
Much like the day my wife asked me to leave our home, I am sitting here in disbelief about what I have done.
Losing all of my money is an awful feeling. But what I did to the woman I loved is far worse. Gambling didn’t only turn me into a different person, it indirectly turned her into a different person, as well. She loved me; she trusted me; she needed me. And I wasn’t there for her during the most difficult years of her life. The toll that takes on a person is immense. She bears little resemblance to the optimistic, compassionate, unflinchingly-principled woman she used to be.
Now I feel more like a widower than a divorcé.
I don’t consider myself overly smart or overly skilled. I’m pretty average in almost every way, shape, and form. The one area I think I may be anomalous is determination.
I’m not sure how many days I have left on this planet. But I am going to spend every single one of them trying to be the person my wife thought I was.
Quitting gambling is step one.