I met the love of my life when we were both serving in the military. We married young, raised our family, built a life together. We should now be enjoying retirement and our “second life,” traveling and spoiling our grandchildren.
But he just hasn’t come home yet.
I remember many nights. It might have started when he began betting on horses, I’m not sure. It definitely happened constantly after the casino opened. My husband would call me around bedtime. He wanted to tell me where he was and that he would return very soon. I believe he meant to live up to his promise. But, inevitably, he didn’t come home.
He stayed until it was too late. Too late to recover the money he lost, too late to replace the family time he missed, too late to recoup the rest he physically needed. Eventually, it was too late for our marriage too.
A popular cliché says hindsight is always 20/20. I can now see with perfect clarity how his addiction began and how it progressed. I struggled, though, to watch and comprehend my own downward spiral. I can’t remember when or why I began feeling like I was caught in a tornado. I just started waking up depressed, sad and angry. I felt terrible most of the time.
That’s why I came to Maryhaven. I couldn’t get him to stop gambling but I was desperate to save me. The whirlwind of pathological gambling was stealing my joy, peace and financial security. I couldn’t ride out the storm alone anymore.
Maria and the team at Maryhaven helped me understand that all of my laser focus on my husband and his disease meant I was not only neglecting my life, I was ignoring my own issues. I tried constantly to manipulate my husband, see-sawing between raging threats and angry fits and tear-filled pity parties.
Don’t misunderstand. I did the best I could with the tools I had at the time. My responses just weren’t healthy, and, in fact, they trapped me in a negative cycle and probably inadvertently enabled my husband to continue betting our lives away.
When Maryhaven and I started clearing out the fog, my path emerged. Though I love my gambler dearly and I know he loves me, he is not interested in changing or seeking treatment. He remains in denial about his gambling and the huge toll it has taken from our lives and financial stability. I filed for divorce and worked to divide and protect my share of our assets. I remain friends with my ex-husband and I pray for him to move through denial and seek help. But I realize that decision is his to make.
Our children are relieved that I’ve taken steps to safeguard my retirement and live out a healthy, happy life. They, too, lost a lot to gambling. Both of their parents were often too preoccupied to make it stop—their father with the next bet and me with my next move. Thankfully, they love us and now have their own families and lives.
I found me again with Maryhaven’s guidance. I am out of counseling but I faithfully attend Gam-Anon every week. Spending time with others who have similar experiences strengthens me and gives me that magic opportunity to pay it forward with someone who may face the same kind of pain I experienced.
What I chose to do may not work for everyone, but I’m home. Maybe someday the man I’ve always loved will come home too.