I made $52,000 in 1994 and never bought a pair of shoes that whole year

 

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story, "Gambling: A tribe hits the jackpot."

"Tiffany" - she asked us not to use her real name - is a 48-year-old real estate agent from Phoenix. She gambled uncontrollably for two and half years and nearly ruined her marriage before controlling her compulsion. Now, she attends two or three Gambler's Anonymous meetings a week, sees a therapist and hasn't gambled in more than a year. But she still owes about $50,000.

"When we moved out West I started going to Laughlin, Nev. It was a lot of fun. I'd usually lose $200-$300 in a weekend, do that two times a year.

"Then I stopped at Fort McDowell once. I thought, 'Wow, this is just like Las Vegas in my own backyard.' The worst thing that happened to me was that I won $5,000. Then the next weekend, I hit another $5,000. I was convinced I was the luckiest person in the world.

"Before I started gambling, I'd been married 29 years. I was conservative with money. My husband used to say I could stretch $10 to $20. But after you become compulsive, it doesn't matter whether you win or lose.

"It's not the money. It's the excitement of being there and winning, or maybe winning. You know that the jackpot will hit any minute so you will do anything to stay. I'd sit at a machine for 32 or 34 hours and not eat or go to the bathroom. We're robots. We're just compelled to sit there and pull the handle.

"It's an escape. When you're sitting there in front of the machine, it's just you and the machine. It's a wonderful place to stuff feelings. I'd pick a fight with my husband just so I could go, then I'd blame it on him. All you think of is yourself and your high.

"I started changing work appointments, calling in saying I had a flat tire or something. When I wasn't gambling I was thinking about how I could get there. You cover up your tracks. I maxed out five credit cards. I also went and got my own post office box so financial statements wouldn't go to my home.

"They have ATM machines in there. They make it so easy for you. They say they're on the lookout for compulsive gamblers but they're not. I hit rock bottom when I wrote $3,300 in bad checks at Fort McDowell over a 30-hour period.

"You feel totally insane. Finally it's all over. It's almost a relief.

"I'm not totally against gambling. For normal people it might be fun. But we're all at risk. If you're going once a week, there's the potential."

High Country News Classifieds
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Field Seminars for adults: cultural and natural history of the Colorado Plateau. With guest experts, local insights, small groups, and lodge or base camp formats....
  • PLANNED GIVING OFFICER
    National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the nation's oldest and largest national parks nonprofit advocacy organization seeks a Planned Giving Officer. Do you find energy in...
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    The Methow Valley Citizens Council has a distinguished history of advocating for progressive land use and environmental values in the Methow Valley and Okanogan County...
  • ACTING INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS DESK EDITOR
    High Country News is seeking an Acting Indigenous Affairs Editor to oversee the work of our award-winning Indigenous Affairs Desk while our editor is on...
  • GRANTS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Cinnabar Foundation seeks an enthusiastic, team-oriented and knowledgeable Grants Program Director to work from their home in Montana. Established in 1983, the Cinnabar Foundation...
  • ARTEMIS PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Artemis Program Manager will work with National Wildlife Federation sporting and public lands staff to change this dynamic, continue to build upon our successful...
  • ALASKA SEA KAYAK BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Well-known and successful sea kayak, raft, hike, camp guiding & water taxi service. Sale includes everything needed to run the business, including office & gear...
  • MEMBERSHIP AND EVENTS PROGRAM COORDINATOR
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness seeks a detail-oriented and enthusiastic Membership and Events Coordinator to join our small, but mighty-fun team to oversee our membership...
  • PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT FACILITATOR
    ABOUT THE HIGH DESERT MUSEUM Since opening in 1982, HIGH DESERT MUSEUM has brought together wildlife, culture, art and natural resources to promote an understanding...
  • LAND STEWARD, ARAVAIPA
    Steward will live on-site in housing provided by TNC and maintains preserve areas frequented by the visiting public and performs land management activities. The Land...
  • DEVELOPMENT WRITER
    Who We Are: The Nature Conservancy's mission is to protect the lands and waters upon which all life depends. As a science-based organization, we create...
  • CONNECTIVITY SCIENCE COORDINATOR
    Position type: Full time, exempt Location: Bozeman preferred; remote negotiable Compensation: $48,000 - $52,000 Benefits: Major medical insurance, up to 5% match on a 401k,...
  • EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT
    ArenaLife is looking for an Executive Assistant who wants to work in a fast-paced, exciting, and growing organization. We are looking for someone to support...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Mountain Lion Foundation is seeking an Executive Director. Please see our website for further information - mountainlion.org/job-openings
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Driggs, ID based non-profit. Full time. Full job description available at tvtap.org. Submit cover letter and resume to [email protected]
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.
  • SPRING MOUNTAINS SOLAR OFF GRID MOUNTAIN HOME
    Located 50 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada in the pine forest of Lee Canyon at 8000 feet elevation. One of a kind property surrounded...
  • MAJOR GIFTS MANAGER - MOUNTAIN WEST, THE CONSERVATION FUND
    Cultivate, solicit and steward a portfolio of 75-125 donors.
  • NATURE'S BEST IN ARAVAIPA CANYON
    10 acre private oasis in one of Arizona's beautiful canyons. Fully furnished, 2123 sq ft architectural custom-built contemporary home with spectacular views and many extras....
  • HEALTH FOOD STORE IN NW MONTANA
    Turn-key business includes 2500 sq ft commercial building in main business district of Libby, Montana. 406.293.6771 /or [email protected]