Vices #2

I really enjoy this Proverb in regards to vices. “The eyes of man are never satisfied”… what does that even mean? I believe it means that humans hearts will always desire more Earthly things or possessions or activities than our minds can keep up with. Which in moderation can be okay for most, but the more it tugs on your mind and heart, the more trouble you can get into. This applies to Christians and non Christians alike. The only difference is that those who fear God also fear Hell and the more you let temptation lead you, there is plenty in room in Hell for the sinners and the disobedient, just like the bible verse states.

One of my other vices that I struggle with is gambling. I grew up in a family of gamblers. My mother, my nana (her mother), and all of my family on that side gambled. My sister, mom, and I spent most of our summers with my nana at her house. At age five, my nana bought me a piggy bank and taught me the importance of saving money for a rainy day and the more I save, the bigger my piggy bank would grow for when I needed it. But nana also taught me how to play cards and dominoes for money. Usually she asked my sister and I to save up our coins throughout the school year so that when summer came, we would have enough to place bets on our domino and card games. This started at age five and lasted every summer until I was sixteen. Nana passed away in spring 2015, so I had just turned seventeen. I remember looking forward to that summer because I had my first job so I had money to make decent sized bets. I was also looking forward to playing slots with nana at the casino when I turned eighteen. But obviously that couldn’t happen. I remember those summers very fondly and will never forget them.

Whenever my sister and I had a birthday, were sick, or just having a rough day, my mom would buy us scratch tickets and if we won, my mom would either give us our winnings or we could get more scratch tickets. I always asked for more scratch tickets. My favorite to play was the $2 Bingo scratch tickets because it took a while to scratch off and I usually won my $2 back. After the third or fourth win in a row, mom would get tired of driving to and from the gas station to redeem them so she would let them expire so I would never get my $2 from the last ticket.

On my eighteenth birthday, I bought my pack of American Spirits in the dark green box from my best friend, Brent. But I also bought $20 worth of scratch tickets. I think I had two winners and I redeemed those at the gas station for more and then I vigorously scratched those off and they were losers. I remember that feeling of being mad and feeling defeated because I just wasted $20 for a quick thrill. And that’s all gambling is; it’s a quick thrill. But it doesn’t stop there unfortunately.

I went to the casino for the first time not long after my eighteenth birthday. I was too intimidated to play table games because I was alone. So I played slots. I think I brought $40 to play and I don’t think I won a single spin. I thought, “Well, this is pointless!” and I didn’t go back for about six months. I tried slots again and got the same result. I didn’t go back for another six months. At age nineteen, I went with Diego who apparently used to gamble a lot. He told me to try Blackjack. At first, I was terrible and didn’t find the fun in it. But we went together a few times and he slowly, but surely taught me the concept and then I started going without him. I played and played and played. Next thing I knew, I was going every two weeks or so. Then once a week. Then a couple times a week. Then a few. Then… daily. I would go while he was at work or while he was at the bar with friends. I never won at Blackjack, but I held my own and at least didn’t lose money.

He eventually found out how often I went and would restrict me from going only when he went and would limit my spending to $60 per time we would go. All my bills were paid early if not on time. I didn’t see the problem. I started pulling out of savings in order to support my gambling habit. When I turned twenty, I started working for the government so I was making more money than I knew what to do with. I wasn’t putting any money in savings, but I put a killer amount into retirement and I worked six days a week and had school after work. So after school and work and while Diego was working, I went and played slots for a bit and then would play Blackjack. Then when I would spend my paycheck on gambling, I would use my credit card to pay for my shopping sprees and what not. Eventually I maxed out my credit card. Then I applied for another credit card and since I had virtually no debt and had just paid off my car loan, my credit score was in the 700’s, so I got that new credit card easy peezy lemon squeezy. Then I spent my next paycheck at the casino and then I maxed out that credit card.

At this point, I had about $2,500 in credit card debt, I had just purchased my 2016 Volkswagen Jetta at a whooping $400 a month for five years, had a $400 rent payment, $120 phone bill, and house utilities. I had just got hurt at my government job and I broke my foot so I was in a boot for six weeks. I then asked the local credit union for a $4000 loan and since I still had good credit and I worked for the government, I got approved for that loan. I paid off my credit cards and said I would put $1000 in savings and $500 towards my new car loan. I did half of that and slowly, but surely spent $1000 at the casino and lost it all. Because of my injury and Diego and I’s relationship was in shambles, we ended our house rental agreement and moved back in with our respective parents’ houses. So now, I had a $20,000 car loan and $4,000 personal loan, no credit card debt, no savings, and a $120 phone bill.

For ninety days after my injury, I received my normal pay from the government. After those original ninety days, I had to rely on OWCP (federal L and I) for payment. Since I got hurt on the job, they were required to pay my lost wages and pay all my medical bills. They paid my medical, but never paid me a dime of my lost wages. So I was forced to get a job. I was out of my boot, but I was awaiting an MRI to confirm the fact that I needed surgery. I worked in a children’s psych ward at night so it paid well and was primarily a sedentary job. It paid almost as much as my government job, so I was able to pay my bills and continue my gambling habit. I would work from 11pm-7:30am and I would gamble from 8am-1pm and then I would sleep 2pm-10pm.

Slowly I started racking up my credit cards again. I started taking cash advances out on my credit cards and after working in the financial industry, I knew that was a big no no. In February of 2019, I quit and went back to my job at the local grocery store as I awaited surgery on my foot. I went to the credit union and they stated I was approved for a loan up to $15,000 because I worked for the government. Although I wasn’t getting paid by the government, I technically still worked for them so when they asked how much I made, instead of putting my grocery store income, which wasn’t much, I put in my government pay. So the credit union gave me $10,000. They paid off the original loan of $4,000, I paid off my credit card debt, put a little towards my car loan, and put the rest in savings. Of course, the new “savings” went to the casino and I was left with about $30,000 between the car loan and the new personal loan.

In July of 2019, I got fed up at the grocery store and walked out in the middle of my shift. (That’s a story for another time). I left there with no job in sight. I fell upon a paralegal job and enjoyed my three weeks’ vacation and began my dream job. I worked half as many hours and made the same amount as working full time at the store. I still awaited surgery and one day I went into my bank and they told me I was pre-approved for a credit card so I took it. It had a higher limit than the other two combined so I was more than stoked. By the end of August, I decided it was time for an upgrade so I traded in my Jetta for a Kia Sportage. The Sportage was only one year newer than the Jetta and forced me to roll the negative equity of the Jetta into a $23,000 car so that car, after taxes and everything, became a $35,000. With that new car loan, and the $10,000 personal loan and close to $4,000 in credit card debt, I decide it’s also time to get a new mattress. Altogether looking at $50,000 of debt with a killer credit score.

In October, the government let me go because I wasn’t meeting quota, even though they sent me home without work and without pay due to my injury on the job. I fought human resources and tried to get my job back, but it was all said and done. Although I was working and gambling a lot, I flipped out about how I would pay back all of this debt. I was running out of options because I knew I couldn’t get a third loan through the credit union because I was making legitimately half of what I made working for the government. I had also been approved for surgery for October 28th, 2019 which meant I would be out of work from my paralegal job for awhile without pay so I went to desperate measures and it’s not something I’m proud of.

I walked into my financial adviser’s office and asked for $8,000. They said I was twenty one so I could withdrawal as much or as little as I wanted. It was money in a mutual fund that I inherited when nana passed away. I didn’t withdrawal all of it by any means, but I took almost a third of it. It is something I despise about myself to this day. But I felt I had no choice. I paid off all three credit cards, and closed the two with the lower credit limit so I couldn’t have this happen again. That was $7,000 and I put $500 towards the Kia and $500 towards the personal loan.

By January 6th, I lost my job as a paralegal. It is almost March and I am still looking for work, but just a couple days ago, I finally received my unemployment which is the same amount as when I was working as a paralegal. In the month of January, I managed to max out my credit card on gambling and buying stupid shit. In January, I somehow managed to win two jackpots back to back in the same night so I got almost $3,000 which I paid my car and personal loan through the middle of April and put some money towards the credit card. But most of it I gave back to the casino. I got through most of February by borrowing money from my parents and luckily I have friends who understood my situation and paid for me when we went out to eat or go to the bar.

Even tonight, well I guess yesterday into today, I had a little extra money after making credit card payments, and paying towards my loans, so what did I do? I went to the casino. I actually was up $1,500 on slots, but I gave it all back. It’s not so much that I am bad at gambling, I am actually quite good, or at least I am very lucky. But I can’t walk away when I am up because I always think I can win more. It’s a stupid ideology and it leaves me feeling angry and hopeless and like I just wasted $420 for a quick thrill. Because that’s all gambling is.

This is more of a rant than some meaningful post about overcoming my vices. Because obviously I am letting this vice control me. It’s funny because today was a good day. I painted, I blogged, I grocery shopped, I hung out with the guy I have feelings for. Today was a good day and I am letting my weakness take over and ruin my life. I let it ruin me financially and let it ruin my relationships with those around me because I have grown dependent whereas if I didn’t gamble nearly as often, I might have a lot less debt and could actually pay my way through. I guess a vice is a vice for a reason… but I can’t let that excuse my actions. But instead of cursing myself up and down for what I have done, all I can do is move forward and change my actions from here on out.

Til next time,

Dani

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