I was 17 when I met and married my husband. Although I had grown up as a daughter of a military man, life wasn’t always easy as an army wife.
I felt so much anxiety and loneliness. And my husband, who I loved deeply, was plunging more and more into alcohol abuse. My loneliness was becoming overwhelming.
I found myself regularly going through catalogues and ordering clothes for my kids and husband, or things for our home, trying to fill the emptiness I felt. It was great at the time, but once the items came, so did the guilt. I was doing this behind my husband’s back.
We didn’t have much money to pay the catalogue bills. And then it turned from catalogue shopping to gambling. I had been going to bingo for a few years and loved the buzz I got from it. I ended up discovering a bingo website which became addictive . . . not that I thought that at the time! The site offered bingo, slot machines and other games. Each week my allowance would be spent on online gambling. This went on for months until I got us into real financial bother. Before long we had no money to pay the bills!
I became so depressed, but also scared in case my secret came out. I didn’t want anyone to know how badly into ‘it’ I was! I used to wait until everyone was in bed before I would go online. And if the children ever saw me on a gambling site, I would tell them not to tell anyone. It was awful!
Things came to light when my husband tried to get money from the ATM, but couldn’t! There was no option but to confess what I had been doing. He was supportive but obviously angry. I felt ashamed and depressed. And I felt like my family didn’t deserve me to be around—they deserved better.
A few years before all this I had decided to become a Christian, and I gave my life to Christ. But I hadn’t really believed in the healing or the life changing power of God’s Word. At my lowest point in my struggle with addiction, I began to realise I needed Jesus back in my life.
I made a phone call to my parents. They were in Cambodia at the time, teaching people about Jesus. I was at the end of myself. It took a lot of courage for me to call my mum and dad as I didn’t want them to see me as a failure. But the fact is we are all failures—it is a lie to say we are perfect, but it’s also a lie to say we are too bad to be forgiven. My parents were amazing and prayed with me. Lots of tears were shed!
This was the start of my journey to freedom. It wasn’t an instant release from my addiction, but from that moment I didn’t do any online bingo. I stopped.
It was a road of healing. I won’t say I didn’t go to bingo ever again, because I did a few times . . . but God’s grace and forgiveness always allows me to turn back to Him and say sorry. He is just and merciful to forgive me and heal me. God is awesome and has, and still is, doing a great work in me! I’m not perfect but He loves me and that amazes me every day!
But the truth is that healing took a while. After all, my husband had to trust me again that I wasn’t going to blow all our money, and my kids had to see their mum wasn’t going to do it again too. I had to say sorry to my kids and my husband.
Also I had to deal with the depression which caused me to turn to gambling in the first place. Most importantly I needed to forgive myself. It took time as a family to move on. We were not only dealing with my addiction—Andy’s drinking was still an issue in our lives. But, even though it was a long hard road, Andy has also been healed from alcoholism, thanks to Jesus becoming the centre of our marriage. Now, as a couple, we are closer than ever.
When I look back, God has brought us through so much!!
We are much more open as a family now. Our kids have seen us make lots of mistakes. We are not perfect, but we know that God can help us at even our lowest.
I have always worn my heart on my sleeve and want my children and others to know the truth about me. No one knows what is going on inside your head unless you tell them. I have shocked people when I have openly admitted the addiction I had, because that’s not who they saw on the outside!
We are always learning about ourselves, and there are more things God brings to light that we have to deal with. We are all ‘works in progress’. And we won’t be completed until Christ returns. But as Christians, we can know that God is with us, forgiving all our mistakes and failures, and healing us from them.
Jesus can heal you too, if only you confess your problems and give them to Him, trusting that He is more than able to save you and lead you! There is nothing in your life that is too big for Him to save you from. His death on the cross paid for all our wrongs, so that we can be forgiven by God!
Every day I thank God for sending Jesus to die for me and pay for my failures. And I thank Him that He is alive and living in me. He will never leave me and He is preparing a place in heaven for me!