THE STORY OF GAIL, 4 YEARS OF RECOVERY, SENIOR CITIZEN, OTTAWA REGION
I was the child of an alcoholic and compulsive gambling, Irish-Catholic father and a strong,
courageous, French-Catholic mother. I grew up with 2 sisters and 6 brothers. My home life was
chaotic and dysfunctional, with no apparent loving intimacy between our parents.
In our home, gambling was a way of life. My father, along with his mother, held frequent
weekend poker sessions. Because of my father's alcoholic rages my childhood was riddled with fear,
shame and guilt. My father's abusive behaviour also caused me to have low self-esteem among my
Somehow I moved beyond all that. I graduated in my field of studies, travelled, married, raised
children; and generally, lived a happy life for many years. In 1999, I began gambling innocently
enough by going to the casino at the invitation of a friend for short periods of fun. It was a
time when I needed an escape from the reality of my life's problems and anxieties brought on by
my aging mother's needs and her death; as well as, my son's estrangement from us after his marriage.
Initially, I was satisfied with winning small jackpots from the slot machines if only to cover
hairstyling costs. These jackpots made me feel ecstatic like I was getting something for nothing.
It didn't take long, though, for those winnings and fun times to develop into shame and
After long hours at the casino, the drives home began to be more and more filled with anxieties and
fear at my inability to quit gambling. Miraculously, the very next day all was forgotten; and I would,
once again, be obsessed with finding that excuse to spend just “a few hours” at the casino. I would
optimistically remind myself that I had quit smoking when I wanted to stop; and so I felt that I could
quit gambling just as easily. As months passed, however, the length of time and amount of money I was
spending at the casino were increasing; and I realized that I was heading towards a disastrous outcome.
My relationship with my husband and family was being negatively affected. In truth, it was my husband
who recognized that I had a gambling “problem” long before I felt the need to stop and take inventory
of my destructive behaviour at the casino.
Finally, in May, 2003, came a REVELATION in a manner that I would never have expected. The credit for
this light-bulb moment goes to a young casino clerk who paid me my last jackpot and said to me,
“... some people come into the casino everyday at 10:00 a.m. and remain here until closing at 4:00 a.m.
the next morning”. These words struck me like a bolt of lightning because the length of my stays at the
casino was increasing dramatically.
I attended my first Gamblers Anonymous meeting on May 27, 2003 in Ottawa. The experience of entering
a room full of strangers was frightening and shameful; but at the same time, exhilarating because I was
emotionally, physically and spiritually bankrupt.
Today, I am grateful that, with 4 years and 3 months of recovery, my life has once again become fully
functioning. I have received an abundance of support and wisdom from the GA Fellowship. My husband and
family are beginning to trust my word again. I look back at those 4 years of sheer insanity at the casino
as an experience of insight into my character. I now realize that I am not the perfect person I thought
I was. I have many defects of character to change ONE DAY AT A TIME.