Woman Tells Harrowing Tale Of Her Gambling Addiction - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

12/16/04

Woman Tells Harrowing Tale Of Her Gambling Addiction

Melissa remembers her first video poker jackpot. She won $1,199.

"It was exciting," she said. "I was whooping and hollering. And so was everyone else around me. I loved it."

Less than a year later, the hollering stopped. But Melissa's finger kept tapping video poker machines.

"It became so necessary to feel that way again that I just kept trying, trying, trying," she remembered. "It didn't matter how much I spent."

Melissa added it up one day. In 10 years, she won, then lost, then won and lost more than three million dollars.

"And as desperately as I knew the problem was, I couldn't stop," she said.

She maxed out credit cards, and emptied her retirement account. And then, she drained her husband's savings account.

"When I had to start making up excuses about where I'd been and what I'd done, how much money I had spent, that's when I knew I had a problem," she recounted.

Melissa put her marriage at risk -- and lost.

"He never trusted me again, justifiably so," she said. "Our relationship was shattered. And yet, I still felt, in a way, to go back and gamble."

Despite the last three years at Gamblers' Anonymous, the problem hasn't gone away. Last week, Melissa was back at a video poker machine.

"I went chasing after that feeling again," she admitted.

She knew the risks.

"It destroys lives. I've lost everything," she said.

But she had to play.

Right after the interview, Melissa said she would fill out self exclusion papers, so casinos could legally ban her from their properties. On Friday, she meets with an attorney to begin bankruptcy proceedings.

Her warning to others is simple.

"It's just not for me, and it's not for anybody else who has the propensity to be a compulsive gambler."

If you think you have a gambling problem, call 1-888-777-9696, or click here to learn more about the help that is avaliable to you.

by Brad Kessie

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