"I Gambled Away Our Life Savings"

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Her Turn, continued

"His working nights at a restaurant is one reason I got away with all that time in the casino. That and the fact that the kids are away at college. I'd leave my job as a school secretary at 3 p.m. and come home just before Rob got in at midnight. On days he didn't work, I'd say I was shopping. My absence didn't bother him. Ever since he retired and moved near his family, he's been content to watch TV or visit his parents or brother and sister-in-law. I don't go with him because his family and I have nothing in common. They've spent their whole lives in Nebraska and I've been all over the world.

"In fact, Rob and I had an exciting and romantic life together from the moment we met. I lived near the Navy base where he was stationed and one night when I was 17, a girlfriend and I went to one of the Navy dances. I thought I'd pass out when this handsome guy in uniform asked me to dance. Soon we were dating. When he got his orders less than a year later to go to Hawaii, he asked me to marry him and come with him. Over the years we were stationed in all sorts of fascinating places. David was born in Guam and Becky in the Philippines. I'm a thrill-seeker and a gypsy at heart, so I thrived on packing up and moving to each different place. My secretarial skills meant I could always land a job, and I loved meeting new people.

"Then, two years ago, Rob took early retirement. Suddenly I was also coping with an empty nest. I had no kids to take care of, a husband hooked on ESPN, neighboring in-laws I didn't like, and the first symptoms of menopause. I felt bored, old, and worried that my good years were behind me. Rob suggested I get a hobby, and I did: I started going to the casino with friends. At first I was a social gambler like them. But before long I was going alone so I could spend as much as I wanted with nobody watching. I'd find one slot machine and stick with it all night long. I played a game with myself, trying to figure out when it was set to pay off. If I won, I'd tell myself I knew what I was doing.

"But then came that horrible day two weeks ago when Rob found out I'd emptied our account. He didn't even know about the extra credit-card debt. I was terrified to face him, so I stayed at a girlfriend's for three nights. By then my kids had flown home because they were so worried about me. I can't even describe the shame and hopelessness I felt when I finally faced my family.

"Rob and I are living like strangers, barely civil. I'd give anything to get myself under control and have his love and trust again."

Continued on page 3:  His Turn


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