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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The End of an Affair

Most people love money. So many people today choose to buy expensive material things and validate themselves by these purchases. Money helps people feel important, to take control, to make a statement about who they are. Money becomes a best friend, a family member, and a lover. Obtaining money is all some people can think about and all that they believe in. It doesn’t matter how they get it or who they hurt in the process, as long as in the end they get the money they need to feed their addiction.

Some people don't have the means to gain the money they desire but this doesn't stop them from having irresponsible flings with it. Even though these people may be late on their bills, they will go out and buy something they can't afford just to make themselves feel better. And it will usually work. During the heat of the moment people who make an impulsive purchase will feel like they are at the peak of their happiness. And when the feeling disappears they'll likely feel guilty, ashamed and regretful. Not much different than a one night stand.

Like all love affairs, my own love affair with money was short, sweet and tumultuous. It was both satisfying and completely unsatisfying at the same time. And similar to many love affairs, mine began at work. My job as a sales representative on Wall Street in New York City started up a love for money that would only go away after it ran its course. It became a love-hate relationship in which I began to spiral out of control.

Making a ton of money as a person who wasn’t even good at her job seemed like everything I ever wanted. I was renting an apartment in a top building and I was able to buy anything I wanted. I shopped in boutiques, purchased the newest cell phones the day they hit the market and treated people to dinners and drinks. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was building my life around money and money was the thing that was in control.

After I lost my job the love affair became quite rocky. I no longer had the sparkle of admiration I once felt towards money since it was now seeing less and less of me. I moved out of my elevator building apartment into someone’s rental in their house. I went from having a washer, dryer, dishwasher, microwave and air conditioner to having none of these. The quiet of the building I had lived in was replaced by screaming landlords who constantly argued with each other. Instead of shopping at boutiques I started shopping at Old Navy and other discount clothing stores. Eating out and partying all the time was replaced with staying home and cooking dinner.

Some people in my situation would have never given in to the evil tricks that money played on them. These types of people would have picked themselves up, got a new high paying job and started up their love affair again. They would believe that they were back in control, but of course this would just be another trick money would play on them. The second time around would likely be more passionate than the first, and it would become a lifelong addiction that created life for those who chose it. People that would never dream of a real life affair find themselves embroiled in controversy and secret desires.

But love affairs rarely end up so happy in the end. If they do, it takes a lot of pain and struggle to get to the end goal and a lot of people get hurt in the process. I chose to end my love affair with money by replacing it with something real, a true love that was not based on sneaky escapades and under-the-cover operations. As you look back on the choices you’ve made thus far in your life, ask yourself, are you in the midst of an affair?

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Doubling Down On Debt: How I Became a Gambling Addict


One tidbit of information about me that most of my friends don't know is that I used to be a gambler. You may not think that's such a big deal, but my reasons were different than most. Many people visit casinos and play the slots and other games for recreation; still others enjoy the thrills and high drama that ensue with games of chance. Neither was the case for me. As young as nineteen years old, when I went to the casino, I was serious and focused because I was going there to make money. I gambled to make money because I was drowning in debt.

The legal age for gambling in Canada is nineteen years old, so many young Michiganders cross the Ambassador Bridge looking to have a grown up good time. That's why soon after my nineteenth birthday I began to study the game of Blackjack. The slot machines weren't much fun to me because they seemed to leave everything to chance, with most players losing their money in the end. That wasn't much fun at all. I had heard that Blackjack was the only casino card game in which the house could truly be vulnerable, so, in my free time away from my studies, I learned as much as I could about Blackjack. The more I learned, the more obsessed I became with getting good because it seemed that this form of gambling might really empower me to pay off my debts. By my sophomore year in college I was beginning to rack up lots in student loans, and I had a couple of credit cards that were close to being maxed out because I was not as fiscally responsible as I am today. Throw a new car with a note in the mix and you end up with one very frustrated young lady. I was mostly paying my own way through school, so I quickly learned about the stress that comes from high debts with low income.

I needed a quick way out.

So, I turned to gambling. Not being a real risk taker, I vowed to only gamble moderately, and to only play a game like Blackjack that could yield a reasonable return for my educated effort. In the beginning, my plan worked. My visits to the casino brought me some much needed prosperity. However, as time went on and my debts began to accumulate, my gambling trips became more frustrating and I became more desperate. I found myself addicted to playing Blackjack and addicted to winning. I would even play the slots that I disliked so much, just hoping for a break. I would take bill money to the casino to flip it so that I could pay more bills, and end up losing the little bit that I had. My youthful ingenuity had turned into a full blown gambling addiction, and it was doing more harm than good.

I needed a quick way out.

I thank God that at the height of my demise, my mom was in the picture with a watchful eye. She saw what I was doing, and she began to counsel me. She even helped me get my head back above water. Because I hated losing so much, her lifeline of encouragement and comfort was easy to grab a hold to. I was falling into deep depression, so her understandng and care nursed my poor spirits back to health. I really needed someone older to tell me it would be alright and offer me a helping hand. There are millions of struggling gamblers who are not so fortunate, however. Many gambling addicts do not have a shoulder to cry on, and many of them are so hooked on the thrill they get from high stakes that they aren't able to pull away the way that I did. I'm glad that I was able to get out of gambling before it truly became a lifestyle. I feel the same way about debt. Maybe if gambling and debt were part of my lifestyle today, I might still be trying to juggle them both. I suspect that many gambling addicts are performing such juggling acts right now.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Why Are Casinos Allowed to Advertise on TV?

I was watching TV last night, and I saw a commercial that I found disturbing. It was a commercial for a casino, and the tag line was, "It's an escape that stays with you!"

Great! It stays with you! Yes, that's fantastic news, especially for those who are addicted to gambling.

Why are these commercials allowed on TV? TV ads for casinos should be banned, just as TV ads for cigarettes are not permitted. The casinos will make a lot of money no matter what, just as the cigarette companies continue to thrive despite law suits, public outcry and limited advertising venues.

Casinos are run by nasty people. Why no clocks in casinos? So that gamblers have no idea how much time they've spent inside. That's also why casinos almost always have no windows, so that patrons can't see the sun come up.

I've never had a problem with gambling, but I watched a college friend throw his life away with gambling and drug addiction. Ugly stuff.

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