Confessions of a compulsive gambler

In Faith

I grew up with the Chinese culture of gambling. It was ingrained in me. My family used to buy numbers weekly and we would all gather to play cards every Chinese New Year.

At the age of 13, I started to gamble after school, playing ‘Chor Tai Tee’ at the hidden corridors.

At the age of 15, I was introduced to football betting. I would call my friend to place the bets and he would then place the bets with bookies. I recall losing RM2,000 and not having money to pay it back. I borrowed money from my friends but I still did not have enough to settle my debt. I had to confess to my mom, and she bailed me out. I still remember the disappointment and sadness in her face. She cried so much.

When I was in college, it was the beginning of the internet era when football betting went online. I tried my luck, of course. My allowance at the start of the month would come in just in time to pay my overdue debts I owed the bookies. I worked part-time at a snooker center to earn some pocket money.

I would bet from 7pm when the English Premier League kicks off until 10am in the morning when the NBA finishes. My classes were affected as I had to constantly keep an eye on the scoreline. I remember when I lost a bet with an elderly man and was forced to borrow money from a loan shark. The interest I had to pay was super high and I had to borrow from everywhere just to clear it off.

It was not that I was unlucky or a bad analyzer. I used to analyze the games so much that I was an excellent pundit. I joined forums to follow insider tips. I used to win a few thousands a night, but continued gambling and lost it all. The root of the problem was the greed for money. The need to get ahead in life. The need to get money the easy way, the fastest way. I was addicted to the thrill and adrenaline of winning and losing the bets.

I was a compulsive gambler.

I moved on to the working world. With a salary, I could now gamble in bigger amounts. Bank loans and credit cards were opened to me. I remember at my luckiest, I won over RM30,000 in one night. I squandered it and got into further debt in just two weeks after impulsive spending and even more gambling. I got into debts that were surmounting to the tens of thousands. I maxed out four credit cards and had two bank loans to pay.

I was living in fear. Everyday was a constant worry. There was no peace at all. Every phone call was either a bank or a bookie. I owed money to many of my friends. My parents bailed me before and had given up on me. I was broke, hopeless and alone. It was the darkest days of my life.

I hit rock bottom.

Not too long before that happened, a friend invited me to a church event. I was searching for some sort of hope, something that could save me from my predicament. I heard about the gospel of Jesus Christ and thought of giving it a shot. If He was not who He claims to be, the most I wasted was just time. I gave my life to Christ on the Easter of 2008. My problems didn’t go away immediately, but something happened in my heart. There was an awareness of God in my life for the very first time. I continued to learn about Jesus through church and small groups.

Although I went to church every week, I still couldn’t kick the habit of gambling.

Change didn’t come until I opened up to a leader in church. I confessed my bad habits and my problems. I was discipled and the first thing I had to do was to flee from temptation. I stopped watching football, as it was tempting me to gamble. I avoided playing mahjong which was my favorite past time. I kept away as much as I could.

There were days when I thought I had broken free from the shackles of gambling, but I stumbled again; I still had a mountain of debts to pay. I prayed, fasted and sought God for a financial breakthrough. He gave me a huge financial breakthrough as I profited from a transaction of my apartment. With the money, I managed to pay off my debts. Beyond monetary breakthrough, I believe God was dealing with the sin of greed that was inside me. I had to come to a place of repentance.

I found a new purpose in Christ.

And he changed my perspective of money. Since then, I’ve been free from the shackles of gambling. As I walk closely with him, I have a peace that even I do not understand. I have such joy in my life!

In retrospect, although the early days of my life were wasted working off to pay for the consequences of my sin, my arduous journey was what brought me to Jesus, and receiving this gift of salvation has been the most valuable thing in my life.

I want to take this opportunity to thank my parents for their love for me. I know I may have disappointed you in the past, but for the remaining future, I will honor you. Thanks to the community of Christian brothers and sisters, leaders, who never fail to encourage and pray for me. Lastly, my total gratitude to my God who loved me so much, that He sent His only Son to die on the cross for my sins so that I can have a relationship with Him.

I have now found a purpose in this life that You have created me for.

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