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  December 14, 2013      
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Joyce Barrett

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"My Story is about Caring."

Today I am a mother of three lovely children, and a grandmother of eight. I will be celebrating 24 years of marriage to a wonderful man. I have a full-time job and try to manage a household the best I can. I am a sister, aunt, cousin, mother, wife, grandmother and friend to many people in my life. I am also a recovering compulsive gambler. I have been abstinent from gambling for a little over 19 years. When I was told 19 years ago that there was life without gambling - I laughed!

I was nine years old when I started gambling. My family used to get together and play Pokeno. We played for pennies. I even had my own special good luck card that I used. I was taught the game 21, blackjack. I was introduced to poker when I was in high school. Poker was always my favorite form of gambling. I would play lottery, once in awhile go to the race track with friends and continued playing poker with friends all throughout my early years.

When Joker Poker was introduced at a place where I used to work, the machine had my attention instantly. What started out as playing with quarters each day, ended up as playing with hundreds of dollars. I could not stop. I spent eight to 12 hours in front of this machine. People knew I gambled but not one single person knew the extent of my gambling. Winning or losing did not matter to me anymore - I was out of control and did not realize it. I needed my fix. I was one day away from prostitution and one day away from dealing drugs. I would have done whatever it took to get the money to gamble. I was a liar, cheat, thief and not one single person knew. I would get the mail first and most of the time the phone calls too.

Finally, things started coming down around me. I was writing bad checks and cashing insurance checks that had to pay doctors or hospitals. The grocery store was going to take legal action against me and finally someone was going to tell my husband about the money I had borrowed from them. I had no choice but to tell my husband. That was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I never tried to kill myself, but I didn't care if I lived or died. It would have been alright with me if I did not wake up in the morning.

I will never forget the look on my husband's face. He was angry at the person I had become. He was angry at the $80,000 debt that I had. All of a sudden, he became angry at himself for not seeing anything. He started to feel that it was his fault for not seeing any of the signs but I would not allow him to see anything! I kept it hidden for more than two years. In order to save my marriage, I had to go for help. I did not believe I had a gambling problem - my problem was that I was running out of money with which to gamble. I HAD DENIAL BIG TIME! My husband and I sought help in the Twelve Step programs of Gamblers Anonymous and Gam-Anon.

We are still married today and he has been part of my support net for 19 plus years. It feels wonderful to know that today none of my grandchildren know the gambler. My children and family are still very supportive of me and realize that at times I will struggle, but there is not one person who knows me that does not know what I have done or who I am. I am not alone anymore and today I like myself. It feels great to have "Joyce and a Choice!" Today, I choose not to gamble. I will deal with tomorrow when it gets here.

My name is Joyce, and my story is about caring. What's Your Story?


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New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services
1450 Western Avenue, Albany, NY 12203
Find help for alcoholism, drug abuse or problem gambling at 1-877-8-HOPENY

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