"My Husband is a Compulsive Gambler"

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His Turn

Living a Lie

"I've been living a lie for years," said Nick, 38. "But I've learned my lesson. I've changed, and I want us to be together again.

"To me, lying was always second nature. I grew up in a small town not far from here, and as far back as I can remember, I rarely told the truth. It was a knee-jerk reaction, a way to protect myself, I guess. I remember my father whacking my younger brother and me around if we did or said anything that displeased him, even something as minor as being late for dinner. He was an iron worker, a real physical guy, and he'd hit us with his hand or a wooden paddle. I felt so protective toward my brother that I'd race home from school or bring him with me when I hung out with my friends, just to get him out of the house in case Dad came home in one of his bad moods.

"Dad was an alcoholic, and a violent one, too. My mother didn't do much to stop him, either. Theirs was a pretty traditional relationship, no question about it. Dad gave my mother a certain amount of money to run the house, and that was it. I wasn't close to either of them. I can never remember talking to my father about anything of any substance. He wasn't around a lot and was private with his own time. I know he had a regular card game going at his club and, though he made a good salary, from time to time, money would be tight. At one point, when my father lost his job, we had to move in with relatives for a few months. I assumed he gambled, but no one ever talked about it. Neither of my parents ever shared their feelings, and I certainly didn't think they cared very much about mine. Though I was captain of the football team, neither one ever attended a game. But I had a close group of friends, guys I'd grown up with. They were a second family.

"When I was a freshman in high school, I took a job as a stock boy in a department store. I worked after school and on weekends so I could have the kinds of things my friends had--new clothes, a new baseball glove, money to go to the movies. After high school, I wanted to be a teacher, but my father wanted me to be an engineer and he refused to help me with tuition unless I went to the college he wanted me to go to. I felt I had no choice, but my heart wasn't in my studies. At the beginning of my junior year, I dropped out. I found a job with an airline; the salary was good and the benefits were excellent. Since Kim and I planned to get married, I thought it was a good move.

"The first few years, I did well. I moved up fast, and by the time I was 25, I was in charge of a department of one hundred and fifty people. I'm not sure what happened to me then. Maybe I can't handle success. I started to feel overwhelmed. I had a hard time delegating, and there was too much work for me to do. I hated to reprimand people -- and having to fire someone, forget it. I couldn't do it. I developed an ulcer.

Continued on page 4:  His Turn, continued


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