Writer Cathy Lyon shares her experiences with gambling addiction and recovery. Click here to buy her book on Amazon: Addicted to Dimes
When did your addiction start?
My gambling was a slow, progressive decline from about 1996 to 1999. Many factors were in play at that time. My husband was in the construction field, and most of his jobs were taking him out of town for long periods of time, leaving me home alone. I was bored and I had too much time on my hands. I didn’t come from a family background of gamblers, but I had a difficult family dynamic when I was younger because my father drank a lot. He was in the Air Force, so I just thought that was normal.
When I was older, I went to Reno with “the girls” once a year and gambled the way any other normal person would. I think my addiction really got going when the state of Oregon approved video poker machines . . . they were everywhere!
So, from 1996 to 1999, I started gambling more and more. I also started going by myself because I had so much free time on my hands. That was the start of my addiction being more noticeable in my daily life.
When did you realize you had an addiction and what was your reaction?
I think it was in 1999, when my husband got a new Job. He was home every evening, and I noticed I started to lie to him if I got home late from work (I got in the habit of stopping to gamble on my way home.) And it got worse. I’d tell him I was going food shopping, something that usually takes an hour or so, and I’d be gone for 2 hours. I’d tell him I ran in to an old co-worker and we had coffee. There were just so many lies.
I finally realized my gambling had become more than just a fun pastime when my husband and I took a trip to see my family in 1999. I noticed that I would get angry when I couldn’t go gamble, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the next time I’d get to do it.
My mom planned the whole trip for us, with stops in Arizona, Laughlin, Nevada, and Palm Springs, California. The last night that we were in Laughlin, we’d all been out all day and some of the evening. Everyone wanted to go to the rooms, but I didn’t want to go. They had been dragging me around all day, and every time I’d get on a winning streak, (or at least I thought), they wanted to go somewhere else. I blew up in front of everybody and confronted my husband. I made everyone uncomfortable, so everybody went back to their rooms. The next morning at breakfast, my mom said she thought that maybe I was gambling too much, not knowing my husband had made very similar comments to me. So after that trip, I called the Oregon Lottery Helpline for problem gamblers at www.1877mylimit.org.
That was Sept 1999, and the rocky start of recovery.