by Jeri Darby
“This is supposed to be a quick break!” I thought trying to minimize my impatience. While waiting in the sluggish checkout line at the drugstore—I sighed. I worked across the street and was grabbing a few high calorie snacks.
While standing behind a man playing the lottery, several times I thought he was done. Then he either placed another bet—or purchased another instant ticket. “I wish he would hurry up!” I mentally screamed. Like an internet pop-up images of myself thirteen years ago erected in my head. Only, I was the one pondering the dangling instant tickets and scribbling another lottery number while others fidgeted behind me in line.
With a refreshed perspective I relinquished my frustration and embraced an attitude of prayer and praise. “God I know that it’s only by your grace that my past gambling addiction lingers only as a dim memory.” The realization that this could have easily been me made me shudder. I silently prayed for this stranger aware of the alluring powers of a strong haunch.
I read about people with serious gambling problems, but I didn’t think much of the hype back then. It didn’t apply to me; after all, I wasn’t a gambler. I was thirty-three years old and had never purchased a lottery ticket though clustered by avid lottery players. I was accustomed to others flickering through TV channels to witness the televised lottery drawing. “I was so-ooo close, just one number off! I played that yesterday!” These disappointing comments begin circulating soon after the winning numbers were displayed.
One day while taking a walk, I selected a number that I would use if I were going to play the lottery. “If I were going to play the lottery- I would play…” Three digits printed in my head and I memorized them and toyed around with the idea of actually playing them- I didn’t. Sure enough, that same night my three digits flashed across on the screen! Though remorseful, I was convinced that the lottery was definitely the way to go. My juices for gambling were stimulated as a gambling addiction conceived in my heart.
“How do you decide what to play?” I questioned a friend.
“Lottery books,” my friend explained. She educated me to numerology booklets that listed assigned numbers that matched names, objects, emotions or anything else imaginable. I discovered that many stores kept a variety of these books near the lottery machine. I purchased several. I dove into them right away, sometimes browsing them for hours at a time. I learned to match numbers, names, dreams and incidents with three and four digit numbers.
Before long I could look at objects and accurately match them with their assigned lottery numbers from memory with the best. My co-worker had amazing memorization for numbers. One day we pulled into the parking lot at the same time. “I dreamed about him last night.” My co-worker said after we exchanged greetings. We continued talking while walking through the snow covered lot to enter the building.
She responded, as she shared more details of the dream with me.
“What does his name play for?” I questioned. Three digits rolled off her tongue without hesitation. I made a mental note and played the number she suggested after work. Excitement swelled inside me when these very numbers were announced later that night!
Unfortunately, winning tickets were a rarity. This only caused me to try harder by playing more and more numbers for more and more money. When I began betting one-hundred dollars on one number it was evident even to me that I was out of control. Of course this money was needed for other necessities; but I always felt so-ooo close! I embraced the fantasy that someday I would win for an outrageous sum. Strong haunches deluded me into believing that I was just one bet away from the big win.
Excursion with life outside of church opened the door to this addictive lifestyle. I committed my life to God at age twenty and discovered during this time that my dreams had spiritual significance. “I dreamed about you last night,” I would share with a church member. On numerous occasions I was left speechless as others unveiled the relevance
my dream had to their current lives. Dreams were soon replaced with nightmares when I stopped attending church and sought to match my dreams with numbers.
When I began seeking numbers for my nightmares to increase my chances of winning the lottery – soon I could no longer recall them. Even today I seldom recall a dream or nightmare though I have not gambled in years. Like a hard core addict who began using marijuana believing it’s merely a harmless recreational indulgence- who later realizes that they are chained to stronger debilitating drugs.
I progressed from an occasional lottery ticket to bingo- (sometimes twice a day), Las Vegas nights, race tracks and casinos. This progression into harsher forms of gambling demanded more time, more money, more and more and more… until I looked up and ten years of my life had liquidated and I was staring into the faces of adult children.
My venture causes me to agree with Wilson Milzner, a former US screenwriter who said, “Gambling is the sure way of getting nothing for something.” The consequences were tremendous. The occasional drizzle of small winnings will never compensate for the broken promises to family. I failed to pursue dreams or acquire further education and wrestled feelings of depression and hopelessness for years.
Research has shown that it takes about ten years for a gambler to hit bottom. This proved accurate for me. After ten years this addiction had siphoned my vitality for life. I lacked the energy to go on. My life was butchered; gambling had ripped through every aspect leaving tatters. My heart cried out to God for answers. I pressed my way back into habits of prayer, Bible reading and church attendance. I felt God reaching for me. I clung to Him and sensed Him dragging me from the pit which my gambling addiction had flung me.
I emerged healed, whole and standing on solid ground. I was fully aware of what God could do with a life submitted to Him and I was excited. He had made the crooked places straight in my life once before and I knew He would do it again. I was eager to begin my journey of recovery from the negative consequences of gambling. These don’t dissipate overnight. After prayer one day I was lead to read Psalm 4o.
It began, “I waited p-a-t-i-e-n-t-l-y for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.” The word patiently amplified on the page and I wept. Gambling creates a craving for instant gratification and “patience” is like a four letter word. I had to choose between a life of chasing haunches or learning to be patient and follow God.
I chose to follow God and the power of this addiction was miraculously broken from my life. Satan continues to test me and look for ways to slither in once again. 2
Corinthians 10:5 says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” I have learned to cast down the very thought of indulging in any form of gambling. Its nature is cunning and seductive and these powers are not to be underestimated. Yet they are an unworthy opponent against the power of the Most High God.
I know a woman that grabbles for scriptural truths to support her choice to continue with games of chance. Though she readily acknowledges the pain and disharmony constantly encountered because of gambling, she fervently defends her choice to continue. “You cannot find where it is wrong to gamble anywhere in the Bible,” she argues armed with unique scriptural interpretations. The truth is- gambling results in bankruptcy, broken families, depression and suicide. The world is surrounded by of cloud of witnesses that have been victimized and exploited by this addiction, myself among them.
Nothing changed for me until the pain created by this dysfunctional lifestyle forced me to face the truth about my addiction. Someone said, “if we argue for our weaknesses- we get to keep them.” Like the man in John 5:1-9 lying by the pool of Bethesda for thirty-eight years, I too juggled excuses for many years. Jesus is yet asking, “Do you want to be made whole?” If so, you must stop chasing haunches- no matter how strong. Jesus is the only “sure thing.” Follow Him…