The British government has decided state-regulated gambling may be out of control, according to a recent editorial in the Monitor (see “Britain’s rethink of gambling,” CSMonitor.com).
The stats certainly point in that direction. An estimated 600,000 people in Britain are problem gamblers, average gambling losses per household are £500 ($612), and 1 in 5 uncontested divorce petitions cites gambling as a cause for ending the marriage.
I was one of those “problem gamblers” in my 20s, playing the fruit machines (one-armed bandits) in the West End of London, day in and day out. I wasn’t poor when I went into the arcades – I was earning a weekly salary and had few expenses at the time. Yet mostly I was a whole lot poorer when I left! And on the occasional time when I managed to leave victorious over the odds, the glow of victory was short-lived. I would invariably take my winnings back to the arcades later the same day.
So my heart goes out to fellow Brits who are experiencing such misery and even risking their marriages because of that urge to “have a flutter” as we euphemistically call games of chance in Britain. Looking back from the freedom I’ve since found, I hope the British government will find ways to reduce opportunities to gamble, and I pray that individuals will find their own route out of such circumstances, as I finally did.
What happened in my case was someone introduced me to a book that has since become a constant companion. It was Mary Baker Eddy’s “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” a deeply healing book that introduced me to a love of the Bible’s profound message of comfort and hope. I was blown away to read something overtly spiritual that made practical sense. It clarified spiritual moments I’d previously experienced that had a practical impact on my life. It showed me that such glimpses of spiritual awareness should and would bring actual healing.
I wanted to “beat the odds” that claim addiction is a problem that can only be managed and never defeated. Reading the Bible brought to light Christ Jesus’ sweet assurance that God is Love and loves us all – no matter what dead-end path we might temporarily find ourselves on. It also assured me the kingdom of God was not just a distant promise, but included the experience of harmony here and now. Science and Health says: “This kingdom of God “is within you,” — is within reach of man’s consciousness here, and the spiritual idea reveals it. In divine Science, man possesses this recognition of harmony consciously in proportion to his understanding of God” (p. 576).
In other words, my overriding need was to understand God better. So I read more. I prayed more. And I came to understand the basic idea in Christian Science that God is ever-present and all powerful – “a very present help in trouble,” as the Bible puts it (Psalms 46:1).
This opened my eyes to the understanding that it wasn’t true to my spiritual nature as the child or expression of God to be governed by material urges. And as I challenged those urges, I found that happiness and self-worth were within my grasp as I let the spiritual idea of being that empowered Jesus in his healing works lead me to learn of my own, and everyone’s, relation to divine Love as God’s pure, spiritual reflection. As I did so, many opportunities to express love toward others – and to feel cared for by others – came about, and I found myself increasingly at peace.
Compared to all that, the pull to gamble just totally lost its hold on me. I not only stopped giving in to the habit, but stopped even wanting to gamble. The desire hasn’t ever tugged at my thought in the three decades since.
While stuck in the gambling rut, I believed my thoughts and actions were beyond my control. Now I understand, and to some degree have proved, that I am the child of God under God’s control, and that’s enabled this (former) problem gambler permanently to say, “I’m free!”