I Married A Gambler

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My mother was always wary of gambling. As far as I knew, my father never gambled much. He liked blackjack but he could always enter a casino with a set amount of money that he would allow himself to lose and be able to walk out before he went over his limit. That number he had in his mind was never more than $200 and he didn’t gamble often. Besides, my mother hated when he gambled, it reminded her of her childhood and of her deadbeat father who gambled everything on mahjong. I wasn’t around gambling much as a child.

So when my husband lost $500 on a poker game, I didn’t think much of it. It was his hobby, something that helped him relax. Little did I know that I was inadvertently enabling him.

My Husband, we’ll call him K, is a good poker player. He gained interest in it from his Uncle who had run some illegal poker rings in the city and did some time for it. He started playing with his friends and when his friends stopped playing with him because he was taking all their money, he moved on to the casinos.

And he had a lot of beginners luck. He made $10K and paid off his student loans with that. He was a good player and he swore that it was a game of skill so, to me, I never saw it as a gambling problem.

But that how gambling problems start…

K would ask if he could take a trip to the city underground clubs or the casino when I went away and visited my parents for the weekend. I didn’t mind because he was asking me and he was still winning occasionally; it was a shared financial decision. If he lost, he lost. If he won, then even better. The truth is, I was also gambling. I was gambling on him to win.

And we did this for years, even though my job would fluctuate in income because I worked on commission and we still had debt to pay off and a small child to take care of. I knew we were being financially irresponsible so I started to make a tight budget to get things under control and I started looking in depth at our bank statements.

“K why did you take out $300 from our checking on this date and why did you take out another $300 two weeks before? What are you doing with this money?” My voice was soft and nervous about the answer. I mean we needed that money, it was winter and the slow season for commissions.

“Oh I owed my dad some money and I used the other $300 for a little spending here and there.”

“I didn’t know you owed your dad money… Please just let me know beforehand because I wasn’t expecting this expense.” $300 for money here and there seemed like a lot but I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

A few months passed from that incident and I didn’t think much of it until I saw another large debit from our checking only a month later. This time $400!

“K, what are you spending this money on! You spent nearly 1/2 of this commission that I made. I wanted to buy X, Y and Z and now I can’t because we can’t afford it.”

He lowered his head in shame and spilled it. He had been gambling behind my back for the past couple of

months. Instead of seeing a movie, he was going to the club in the city. Instead of taking a trip with me to see my parents, he stayed behind to “clean the apartment,” but was really taking a trip to the local casino to play poker.”

“But if you could only see the hand I lost on! Statistically I should have won any other time. He just caught a lucky card on the river!”

I could feel my blood start to simmer with rage. He had spent over $1000 behind my back over these three months. Here we were, we agreed to get our debt down and cut down spending and he was just dropping money down the drain at the casino. I was the only one sacrificing by cutting down my trips to Starbucks and holding off on buying new work clothes. And worst of all he was lying to me about it.

I never felt more resentful.

And that was our cycle for the next couple of years. Months would pass by with us saving and then a charge would pop up mysteriously for $200, $300 or $500. It was always just what we could afford to lose but it kept us from saving. On days I found out of his secret gambling, we’d fight viciously. Then he’d promise never to do it again or try to rationalize a reason why he would win next time. Then he would stop going to play poker for a few months until he got the itch and this cycle would start again.

It was toxic.

Still, K was a smooth talker and managed to talk me into a trip to Las Vegas one year.

“It’ll be fun, we won’t even gamble that much. We can do shows, go to clubs and walk the strip.” He knew I liked clubbing.

“Ok, but we should just go with a set amount of money to gamble with and leave our debit cards at home.”

“I don’t want to be stranded without our debit cards in case of an emergency,” he said, “we’ll be responsible” he assured me.

We spent $2500 on gambling during our 4 day trip to Las Vegas.

This time I was out of control too and got sucked into blackjack and slots.

I was so angry at both of us, it ruined our trip. I never wanted either of us to gamble again. Everything good about our trip was overshadowed by our ridiculous spending.

Later that year, his gambling got worst. He discovered online poker and dumped $20-100 a week into that and hid his trips to the casino where he was losing $200-500 per visit. Every time I would go through our statements, it was in fear of what I might find. I was tired of fighting and of feeling like I was getting nowhere. I kept trying to make up his losses by working harder but it was still money being lost. The fights were terrible. I’d scream at him and call him a loser. We were starting to fight in front of our daughter to the point where she would try to break up the fight or start crying.

One day K suggests that he can do the budgeting. “It stressed you out too much and I can see where the money is going and can help out.”

At this point he had swore he would never gamble again and had gone 6 months without an incident. I really wanted to believe he was under control. So I let him do the accounting for two months.

It wasn’t long before I realized he wasn’t doing it; I got an email saying we missed a credit card payment.

I think I knew what I would find, but I really didn’t want to find it or even believe it. But there it was, back before he offered to handle the budgeting was a $1500 debit on our checking account. This would be the most he has ever lost in a single day. He was taking his gambling up another level. And his whole reason for wanting to take up the budgeting was to hide his gambling again.

“What’s this charge for $1500?” I asked my husband as he walked in from a grocery run. I already knew the answer.

His composure just slumped in on itself and he lowered his head in shame. My head was spinning. I could barely hear him as went through his usual excuses…”I didn’t mean to spend that much,” I was playing so well, but it was just one hand that went south and ruined it for me,” “You don’t even know how much this makes me feel like shit,” “I’m such a loser.”

He was good at gaining sympathy. But this time it was so clear to me. I couldn’t believe that I didn’t see it before. Maybe I didn’t want to believe it.

K was sick. He had a gambling addiction and, through my own denial, I enabled him.

$1500 dollars. That was 1 months rent, that was a commission that I was lucky to get if a client closed after 2 weeks of work, that was 4 months of groceries or a year of gas. This time I wasn’t going to let it go. I closed my eyes and saw myself at 40 years old with a deadbeat husband who had spent $100K in gambling during their marriage. I envisioned myself as a 40 year old preparing for divorce.

I wasn’t going to hide the problem and pretend it was just between us. I wasn’t going to make up the money. I wasn’t going to make him promise to pay it back. (Which he never did).

So I called his mother.

And I told her everything, that this was the end of the road. That I couldn’t be married to a gambler and he had lost $15K during the course of our marriage so far. He needed help. He needed to go to Gamblers Anonymous (GA) and see a therapist.

I was angry for a long time. I made him sleep on the couch for two months. I cried randomly by myself. I wouldn’t talk to him or look at him. I couldn’t trust him.

His parents had an intervention and expressed their disappointment and concern. They didn’t want to see our family fall apart.

After that, he made a commitment to go to GA meetings. I took away his debit card and put him on a cash only system. He had to provide receipts for everything he bought. I made him change his number because the casinos and poker clubs would text him “buy in deals” to tempt him. I cancelled anything that reminded him of poker. And he agreed.

It’s been a year and he hasn’t gambled. Today he called me and told me he went to a GA meeting for support. He felt tempted because he had some spare cash from his birthday he felt he could spend. But instead he went to the meeting. I’m proud he’s able to still admit his weaknesses and work to correct them.

I feel lucky most days, so far he’s overcome this demon that haunted our lives for so many years. I can’t deny the role I played in enabling him either. I know it could have gotten worst and that there are some women who learn too late that they’re losing everything to gambling.

If you know someone afflicted with gambling addiction please don’t be afraid to confront them or intervene. The contact for the National Gambling Helpline is:

Call 1-800-522-4700

Chat ncpgambling.org/chat

Text 1-800-522-4700

Sending my thoughts to the men, women and families dealing with this mental illness and obsession.

Even though my husband has been gamble free for a year, I can’t forget that he’s capable of it. And I have to forgive him for the money he’s lost. For my sake and his, all I can do it support and love him through his gamble free journey.

On Becoming Mother

I was never one to want to be a mother.

I remember being a child and having no interest whatsoever in baby dolls. As a teen, my friends talked about that one day they would have children but I stood silently in the corner not really thinking about it. It wasn’t a priority for me.

I had other things I wanted to do first like go to parties, travel, be a successful business woman and maybe date the man of my dreams. I didn’t have time for children and the thought of giving birth to a child honestly terrified me.

So when I became pregnant with my first child at 23 years old, it was the scariest thing I ever did. And honestly it took me a while even after she was born to come to terms with the fact that I was now a mom.

Little did I know that being a mother would be the most meaningful and extraordinary thing I would do in my life. I didn’t really understand that right away. Forget traveling and forget being a CEO at some major company, by becoming a mom I was able to make huge a difference in someone else’s life. Jobs come and go, friends too but family is forever.

A lot of things had to change first. I couldn’t just go out with my friends anymore. And I couldn’t just take any kind of work to support my family. I couldn’t spend money on frivolous things either. I had to be smart; I had to think of what I needed long-term instead of what I needed for today.

Sidenote: fathers are pretty amazing too. But what they bring to their children is totally different. My husband is more of a rock. In addition to knowing that he loves them, he gives our kids a sense of confidence, stability and direction.

I’m more of the nurturing mother who stands by her children and comforts them when they cry.

Children are like little miracles. I look at my two month old child and she already knows me and can pick me out of a crowded room. That’s insane.

Looking at her big oversized eyes staring back at me as I breastfeed her gives me a sense of wonderment. Like, who will this little one become? What are her dreams?

My oldest daughter is six. She’s a little more complex since she’s starting to become self-aware about her emotions. So every little emotion she feels, whether it’s happy, sad, or embarrassed, she lets us know. It’s been strange to see her become much more independent, I feel like I just had her! But I know I’ll always be her mother and that I’ll always be there for her when she needs me. There’s a long road of life ahead of her so chances are that there will be plenty of situations where she will need me more than ever.

But six years ago, I had no idea the impact she would have on my life. I’m a better person. I’m stronger, more capable and aware. I can empathize and I know exactly how my child is feeling. Sometimes I can’t make all the boo boos go away, but I try.

My little one is just as amazing! I love the stage where they need you all the time for everything. It makes you feel so loved and cherished. She really is like a little doll. I forgot how beautiful they are when they’re newly born and rely on you for everything. My mother-in-law tells me that I hold her too much and that she’s spoiled but she’s two months old! And I don’t mind a spoiled two month old. Her smiles are pretty amazing too!

If I could have countless children, I would. That’s how much I love children and love my role as a mother.

If you had told 18-year-old me that I would love this role and that motherhood would come to defined me, she would’ve scoffed at you. She would’ve called me a sellout for picking the path that everyone chooses. What about all my dreams to travel, my desire to date, become a rich successful career woman?

Priorities change. And looking back, those goals were great but superficial. What I have now is a never-ending love, for my children and from them.

Being a mom isn’t the easiest path, in fact it has to be the hardest thing in the world to do and do well.

I never asked to be a mother but it was blessing brought into my life with my children. So to all the mothers who are struggling today to keep it all together, be proud, because you are doing something incredible.

Check out my other posts

Top Things To Buy For A Newborn Baby: Baby Product Review

My Postpartum Experience: What I Didn’t Expect

Top Things To Buy For A Newborn Baby: Baby Product Review

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This is my second child and I decided I wanted to just get the bare minimum when it came to buying the baby stuff.

Baby items are expensive and with my first daughter we had a big baby shower. I got tons of gear, half of which I didn’t even use. It was just sitting around my house collecting dust. Some of it, my baby didn’t even like, so I couldn’t use it. Now that I’m kind of a veteran in baby care, I know exactly what to get so I don’t end up with items to give away.

Here are my five top items for new moms

1)Ergo Baby Carrier With Infant Insert:

I got the Ergo Baby with my first daughter because I was just tired of hauling her around in my arms. A lot of people commented that they had their own carriers either a baby sling carrier or the Bjorn baby. I ended up with the Ergo Baby because I thought wearing your baby sticking in versus facing out was better. And it seemed easier to put on than a sling. The Ergo Baby, I believe is the best best baby carrier for six months and older unless you also get the infant insert. With my second child I bought the infant insert and was able to put her in the carrier right away. I would say I started around three weeks because her legs were just a little too small to put in any sooner. She was actually not that heavy to carry and she slept a lot the first three weeks.

Overall, I use it almost every day. Most of the time I don’t want to take the stroller if it’s too bulky, I’ll put her in the baby carrier. The stroller is really good for long walks or or outings like shopping at the mall. I like baby wearing for shorter outings or if I know I’m going somewhere where there won’t be a ramp and if there’s a lot of stairs. And my baby is pretty comfortable in there. She likes to burp, it’s a good way to burp your baby and she’ll fall asleep pretty easily.

 

Ergo Baby

2) A Baby Swing: Ingenuity Swing

So with both my children, I got a newborn baby swing. I forget which brand my first had but my daughter really liked it; so with my second child, I decided to get another one. This time I got the ingenuity swing. It’s really cute! It has multiple settings: six settings for speed, a little button for songs, a little light and a rotating mobile that the baby can look at. The actual seat of the swing can be removed and become a rocker. We’ve used it outside as a rocker and she fell asleep in it while we were having a party! The multipurpose aspect is great. It was a bit of a pain to put together but most baby items are for safety reasons.

Ingenuity Swing

3)The Sleepea Swaddle:

Created by Happiest Baby On The Block, this swaddle is amazing! This baby sleep pod immediately resulted in better sleep, it’s a miracle swaddle. I think the secret is the inside wrap, in addition to the outside wrap swaddle that you can zip up or down. Perfect if you need to change your baby, you don’t need to undo the whole thing. It’s supposed to be very snug, so just keep in mind that the small size will fit children up to about four months and then after that you’ll have to get a medium. My friend had referred this swaddle to me. At that point I was desperate, my baby wasn’t sleeping well and my husband and I were exhausted. Since then, I’ve recommended it to two other families and they absolutely love it! This is the swaddle to get your baby to sleep. A reminder, you’re supposed to stop swaddling once your baby starts to be able to turn over on his own. The medium size is good for bigger babies to feel secure but there are openings on each side so the arms can be out, so it’s safe for infants able to turn.

Sleepea

4)Carter’s 3 Month Old Onesie Pajamas And White Onesies:

Babies grow so fast! I found that the newborn onesies will shrink and get too small within two weeks, especially if your baby was born 7.5 lbs or bigger. Just jump to the three month pajamas. They’ll be a little big at first but your baby will quickly grow into them. They won’t really get too small until your babies are at the end of two or three months. Don’t even bother getting the fancy outfits like the skirts, the dresses or the little pants and onesies sets. Sure, they look great but your baby’s going to outgrow them quickly and they’re going to ruin them by pooping through them. Let friends and family shop for all the cute stuff or buy them secondhand because, trust me, I only used the fancy baby clothes once or twice to take a picture and then was never able to fit them in that again.

 

5)The Boppy Pillow:

This is great for if you’re either breast-feeding or bottlefeeding! Holding a baby with the Boppy pillow will help them fall asleep after they’ve fed. I bought this pillow with my first daughter and now with my second child I had to get it again because it’s just so comfortable for breast-feeding. The one I have has a slip cover, that’s the outside cover that you can take off and wash so if breastmilk or spit up gets on it, it can be cleaned. Totally essential.

Boppy

6)Diaper Gene

This is 100% necessary. I absolutely love the new Diaper Gene. Dirty diapers no longer leave a smell or stench, the Diaper Gene traps the odors. There are a lot of different brands for diaper disposal but I really love the diaper gene for the refill insert packs. The blue ring packs are just so easy to find. If you’re in a pinch, you can find them at any drug store, Target, Walmart, etc. The lesser known brands are just as good but when it comes to buying the refill bags, it’s more challenging to find.

Diaper Gene
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Overall, these are a must buy for those either having their first child or another one. I can’t imagine surviving the first year without them! It took me a lot of trial and error but my babies used and loved all these items!

Check out my other mommy life posts!

My Unplanned Pregnancy Story

My Postpartum Experience: What I Didn’t Expect