"I Gambled Away Our Life Savings"

She spent their life savings at the casino. Can this marriage be saved?
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Her Turn

"I Hate the Person I've Become"

"Rob acts as though I purposely gambled away our life savings just to hurt him and our kids," said Janet, 50, who has been married for 32 years and is the mother of a son, David, 22, and a daughter, Becky, 20. "He's so wrong! I love my family with all my heart! I'd give anything to be free of this irresistible urge to play the slots. But all Rob does is belittle me and say things like 'Why didn't you just stop?' If only it were that easy!

"He's got a right to be furious, though. He bailed me out of $35,000 of debt a year ago. I promised him I'd never gamble again but in no time I was right back at my favorite machine, 15 minutes from our home in Nebraska. Two weeks ago Rob found out I'd taken almost $50,000 out of our joint account and cashed in the kids' CDs. I paid off some of my credit cards, but there's still $50,000 more to pay. Whenever I used credit cards to borrow money to gamble with, I'd get preapproved offers with higher and higher lines of credit. I signed up for all of them. What's really scary is that even when I drained our savings to pay off as much debt as I could, I put $1,000 aside for a last hurrah, convinced I'd hit it big and make everything back. I was planning to go to the casino that very night -- and would have, if Rob hadn't called me at work to say he knew everything.

"I hate the person I've become. And now that Rob and the kids have withdrawn their love, my need for a gambling high is greater than ever. When I'm not lost in the fantasyland of jackpots that might be won, all I can think is that I should drive my car off a bridge.

"It's not that I haven't tried to get help. After Rob agreed to dip into our retirement account to pay off that first $35,000, I went to Gamblers Anonymous. At the first meeting, one guy started rhapsodizing about hitting the 777s; the point was to let us in on the moment when he knew he had to quit. But I got an incredible rush. After leaving the meeting, I drove straight across the bridge from Nebraska to Iowa, where casinos are legal. I won $10,000. I went back the next day and promptly lost all of it and then some. The day after that, I took a cash advance on one of my 'little saviors,' my credit cards. Like always, I told myself I'd use the money to win everything back. I lost $3,000 that day and then at least that much for I don't know how many days in a row. It was about a year later that I went to the bank and got the cashier's checks for $50,000 and cashed in the kids' CDs. Wouldn't you know, Rob picked that day to go to the bank to deposit his monthly pension check -- he's retired from the military -- as well as some money from his part-time job as a chef."

Continued on page 2:  Her Turn, continued


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