A Superbowl that changed my life

It’s Superbowl Sunday!!!  Even if you aren’t a football fan it is likely that you are aware that it is Superbowl Sunday.  Except for two other Superbowl games  I have no recollection of anything about any professional football game I’ve ever seen.  The one other was in 2006 when the Seattle Seahawks were playing and lost due to some terrible calls.  That is my opinion anyhow.  I am not a big football fan yet I could tell that the ref’s in that game were doing some serious picking on the Hawks.  I couldn’t watch the last 5 minutes of the game.  It was disgusting.  I am certainly glad they won today’s game.  The 48th Superbowl played in New York was one they deserved to win.

The other Superbowl Sunday I recall is one that changed my life.  It was 20 years ago.  Superbowl XXVIII.  The Cowboys and the Bills.  I don’t recall where they played the game.  I know who played because I googled it.  I do remember where I was and who I was with and what I did to change the course of my life forever.

I was at the Newport Hilton on the Oregon Coast with my then husband, Mr. B.  We had decided to go over to the coast to enjoy our weekend and have a place to watch the game.  We had only been married for about 3 months so of course we were still very snuggly and cuddly and romantic. Mr. B. was a huge sports fan.  In fact, I sometimes think he would die if he didn’t have access to watch sports and keep up on his favorites.  So, a weekend at the coast at a nice hotel was a compromise of what I enjoyed and what he enjoyed.  And we both loved the beach which is why we decided to watch the Superbowl from there.

The bar had a few huge TV’s.  That was back when big screens were just starting to be made.  Technology has come a long way since then.  There was a lovely view of the beach.  They were packed and there was lots of food and everyone was having a good time.

Every so often my husband would go over to some machines and put some money in them.  I didn’t know what they were except I had seen them before and knew he sometimes put money in them and played a game.  I was feeling a big ignored, with both sports and now this machine and so I went over to ask him what it was about.   He then gave me $5 and said put it in and I’ll show you.

That was the first bet I made in a video poker machine.  I had never really gambled before that.  Maybe some penny ante poker, but nothing worth recalling and never on a machine or at a casino or anything like that. This was a whole new experience for me.  I can’t tell you if I won or lost.  I can’t tell you what game I played.  I can’t even tell you how it made me feel.  I just remember that is the first place I ever made a bet.

We enjoyed our weekend.  Like I said, I don’t remember much about the game because I was mostly there to spend time with my husband.  I know we stayed over another night and probably took our time driving home, stopping for lunch at one of our favorite places along the way.  But I can’t tell you for certain.

While I didn’t play a machine again for a few months, that one bet was the start of the change of my life.  You see, I became a compulsive gambler.  In less than a year from that Superbowl game my family was doing an intervention to get me into treatment.  I was lying and stealing money.  I was not being the person I used to be.  I was not there for my family.  I was not performing well at my job.  That was just the first year of my gambling.  I ended up battling my addiction for 16 years.

I am proud to say I am nearing my 4th year without making a bet.  But it being Superbowl Sunday and the year 2014, it hit me hard the memory of that game 20 years ago an how my life changed course.  I can’t help but wonder what would have been different if I had never made that first bet.  I had no idea at that time that anyone could get addicted to gambling.  I was very careful about addictions.  I was raised in a home with addiction.  Had I known…I may have done a few things different.  But I didn’t.  The price was very costly.

Not only did I lose thousands of dollars over the course of all those years, but I lost friends and family.  I lost respect of my peers.  I lost opportunities.  I lost moments that can never be made up.  I lost a part of me.  I lost more than can ever be imagined.

I can’t change what was done.  I can only go forward from here and hope that the lessons I’ve learned are directing me along the path God has set forth for me.  I took control of the reigns of my life that day that changed my life.  Today, I let God be in charge and I trust He will find a way to use all  those years for some good.  Maybe good for me, or maybe good for someone else.

Knowing what I know about compulsive gambling today, would I make the same decision?  NO WAY.  Gambling can ruin lives.  It is the addiction with the highest rate of suicide of any addictions.  It eats at your mind faster than your wallet.  No, if I knew then what I know now, I would not mindlessly put my money in a machine a place a bet.  Or, would I?  There is no way to tell now.  I just have to live in today.  And today was good, because I watched the big game (well, only the second half because I have the flu and slept through the first half) and I didn’t make a bet and I didn’t make any big decisions that were life changing.  I just watched the game.  And I will remember who played and who won!  I was present.  Thank you God…for the Present of today!