Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em

My ex is a compulsive gambler.  I’m not sure why.  The guy really sucks at gambling.  I have bank statements and truck repossessions to prove it.

I knew that he gambled for recreation early in our marriage, but I had no idea that it was a problem until it was impossible to ignore…about five years later.

I received a call at work from a bank wondering when we were going to pay our past due loan payment.  Silly banker, we don’t have any loans with your bank.  The only loan we have is for our home.

“No ma’am.  You have two unsecured notes with our bank that total $15,000.”  He proceeded to recite all of my husband’s information – name, address, social security, employer.  Obviously, he has been a victim of identity theft!  Yes, I would like to press charges.  We can be there at 3:00 to process the paperwork.

I called my husband in a panic and explained the situation.  He seemed to be struggling to grasp what I was saying and offered to call the bank and handle it.  “Don’t worry, we’ll talk about it later that night.”  Whew.  He’s a gem.

In the meantime, his mother randomly happened to call me and I told her the story.  Can you believe it?

Silence.

“I have to tell you something.  He has a gambling problem.  He has borrowed money from many people.  I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you sooner.  He promised that he would make it right.  [crying] I’m also sorry because I helped him hide it from you.  I picked up your mail and hid the collection notices while I was staying with you after the birth of your son.”  Mom-in-law-say-what?

I called my mother, while breathing into a paper bag and told her the story.

Silence.

Mother, are you freaking kidding me?  You knew too?

“He promised he would fix it.  He was just really scared that a bookie would come after you and the boys, so we helped him pay off the bookie.”  By this time, the room is spinning and breathing is no longer an option because of the heaving sobs that are coming from my body.  I composed myself, pulled on my big girl panties and started making phone calls.

Hi, it’s me.  Listen, he told me about the trouble with gambling, but he didn’t tell me how much you loaned him.  That much?  Oh, okay.  No, I’m fine.  I’ll talk to you soon.

I called every friend and family member that I could think of.  One and only one that I talked to had turned him down – my sister who was fresh out of college and planning a wedding and couldn’t afford to help him out.  Good for you, Sis.  I also checked bank balances to find out that they were nonexistent and called random banks to see how many more loans there were.  The news was devastating.

My brain had turned into mush somewhere between the seventh and seventeenth phone call.  I decided to change my focus from what sucked right now to what was going to suck.  My husband was going to move out.  I called to have an alarm installed on the house because for some reason, I was suddenly afraid of the big bad bookie.  I drove home to pack my husband’s things. I found past due notices hidden in his clothes and a letter from the bank explaining why the mortgage could only be in my name.  (No, I never asked.  Love is blind, deaf, AND stupid.)

He came home just as they finished installing the alarm.  He asked where the kids were.  He was pleasant and acting as if the world had not ended.  I asked him about the loans, and he admitted that they were his.  He said that he had taken out the loans as a surprise for me.  (Oh, it was a surprise to me alright!)  He was going to use the money to put a down payment on a new car for me.

That’s okay.  I don’t need a new car.  Just give me the money and I will go down and pay off the loans.

“Well, I don’t have it with me, but I can certainly do it tomorrow.”

You don’t have it with you?  Well, where exactly DO you have the $15,000?

Some stalling and stammering…

Nevermind.  Sit down.  I know everything. 

I swear, the minute he walked out the door, the creditors started to call.  They harassed and they threatened.  I was losing my life, and they wanted to take just a little bit more of it.  I visited an attorney to protect myself and my few remaining assets, i.e. the house and the car.  But I didn’t protect my heart and eventually, I let him back in.  I believed, like everyone else, that he wanted to fix it and make it up to me.  And yet, here I am twelve years later, living without him.  And he is still fighting the demons of gambling.  Even though he still really sucks at it.

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