Addicted to gambling
Article with testimony from Christian newspapper “Ganytojas” (engl. Shepherd)
We know that the abuse of alcohol and drugs is an addiction. Although gambling is an addiction just like the aforementioned, people do not talk about it as much. In 2014 only in Lithuania people have lost 80 million euros through gambling. The Gaming Control Authority stated that betting organizers had the biggest incomes during 2014: a surprising sum of 233 million euros!
Tadas Daujotas, the host of the radio show “From Death to Life” on XFM radio channel, tells about his addiction to gambling. In his life, everything started with “innocent” gambling games back in his early years, but later it took over his business, work and career. “I wanted to be the best, I wanted to do something which was never done before, I wanted to win peoples’ attention and of course I wanted to win huge sums of money…”
We invite you to read Tadas’s testimony: how God set him free from the hands of this cunning addiction and how Jesus restored his broken life.
“Innocent” childhood games
It all started when I was a child. Me and our neighbourhood kids loved playing card games called “Trina” or “Eye” and to make small bets. Gradually we started owing money to each other. More severe gambling started later.
Back in school I was very successful in math – I was one of the five best mathematicians in all classes of my age. I would win prizes in competitions. Of course this gave me a sense of security. I remember that even back then in Lithuania were illegal casinos, but they didn’t attract me very much. There were places where you could play legally, e.g. arcade game rooms and bars…
Once my childhood friend invited me to gamble. At that time I was already studying at the faculty of Mathematics and Informatics and I had just received my scholarship. We put in 3 or 4 litas and we won 30 litas! Back then a normal scholarship was 40 litas; thus winning 30 litas was really incredible. We wanted to celebrate so we went to the nearest pub for bear. That’s how I became addicted; at first my friend showed me how to gamble and later I started doing it on my own. We became an excited group of people going to bars – we would put in a few litas and would win. Later it became an obsession; I would see how somebody had put in money into the slot machine and would think that I can win that money as well. Sometimes I would get lucky – there were times when I won a few hundred litas.
I remember playing a poker machine for the first time – I think I won around 300 litas. At that time this was a huge sum for me. Even the bartender didn’t have so much cash so she gave me some money and said that from now on I have a personal account in this bar – I can eat and drink. I was so happy that I bought drinks for everybody in the bar. That’s how gambling became an addiction. I continued gambling and lost all the money I won. When I didn’t have any left, I started borrowing money from managers at different bars and arcade game rooms since they already knew me. My debt was increasing and one day it reached 2000 litas. This happened 16 years ago so for a freshman like me the sum was overwhelming.
There came a time when nobody wanted to lend me money because they didn’t believe in my promises and understood that lending money to a person who promises to give it back when he wins is naïve. So I reached the edge – I didn’t know what to do.
A promise to my parents
Since I didn’t know what to do I went to my parents. I explained the trouble I was in. Of course they were very shocked… My parents weren’t rich so they didn’t have such an amount, but they borrowed money and gave it to me so that I could pay my debts but with one condition – if I promise to never gamble again. I kept this promise for some time.
But it’s easier to keep a promise in front of your friends than it is living abroad… I started working in a travel agency and was sent on a business trip. So I celebrated my 20 birthday in Czech Republic. Coincidentally, the bar where I celebrated had an arcade game machine which I knew how to play. This was a short game but I won some money… Yes, when I was abroad I broke the promise I gave to my parents…
Later I started working in an agency where the director was addicted to alcohol and gambling. Everybody would leave after working hours but we would stay and the director would bring a bottle of brandy and we would drink and “work”. After work we would call a cab and go to a restaurant to eat. And around midnight we would go to a casino. But I was more cautious when gambling, because the greatest amount of my wage was already spent – I had loans and I couldn’t squander money.
Later on, my life became a gamble. Organizing trips in a tourism agency is similar to gambling. If you organize a bus trip and gather people, you win and if you don’t – you lose. Once, when organizing a trip with my friend, we earned 1000 dollars each and at that time this was a huge sum of money. But later in the upcoming year we had a financial loss and my friend said to me: “You know, this is your loss.” So I was betrayed and went into debt again.
Later I started organizing concerts. You organize a concert and you’re happy; you have a profit. But in a small club only two or three, sometimes four concerts a week would be profitable while the fifth or the sixth would be unprofitable though the losses weren’t huge. However, when I started organizing festivals with bands from abroad, I started having bigger and more frequent losses. I was lured by the wish to earn more money: if I succeed in organizing this concert the hall will be full and I will earn much…
I was moving up the corporate ladder. At that time we had had just finished organizing the fifth rock opera of Mathematics and Informaticst days in my universtity and the Rector suggested to organize an event to celebrate the jubilee of the Vilnius University. We organized a rock operetta “Neformatas” in 4 months. It was a spectacular event in Vilnius, Vingis park. Around a hundred singers, musicians, dancers, stenographers and many other artists were involved in this event. This is how my career in concert production started.
Photo from rock operreta “Neformatas”, 2004 09 18
I was a workaholic – my work was number one in my life. I would work with 10 projects at a time so a few times my body was totally exhausted. There were successful periods, but later I would have depression which would sometimes last for half a year – I wouldn’t want to go anywhere. After getting back to normal I would take up more activities but very often alcohol would accompany me in my work. At our work we suffered from stress so we would try to relax using alcohol, weed or other narcotic substances. It looked like this was what life was all about, but in reality this was just an illusion which had enticed me into a fake reality.
In 2007 we organized an event at Siemens arena. It has huge spaces and we had big dreams. We spent much time creating and thinking how this event should look like. That was a rare moment of sobriety in my life because I had suffered a heart attack that year. Once when I was at a bar I started having terrible chest pains – my heart was beating very fast. I was in a cold sweat and I went outside. I didn’t know what to do and started praying the Lord’s prayer. It was wonderful that the heart palpitations had stopped though I still felt the fear of death for a few hours after.
Doctors found very serious signs of exhaustion – they prescribed antibiotics to treat four diseases. I also had a sinus infection and they had to operate me and after they made a CT scan they found a tumour in my head… After they had operated and removed the tumour, I was afraid to get back to my old habits. Yet, I couldn’t stop doing one thing – I couldn’t stop smoking. But this was the end of alcohol and drugs. Of course only to a certain period…
However, when in the beginning of 2007 we organized the event at Siemens arena, I slipped again and started using drugs. During the organization process we made a few strategic mistakes and me and my friend who took all responsibility for the event had a loss of 70 000 litas (about 20 000 Euros). My life started going down the hill…
Endeavour to save myself
I tried to return the debts. I started taking credits from everywhere. I managed to work in the same field for 1.5 years though it was really difficult because everybody knew that I owed money to many people so very few people wanted to cooperate. Again I started gambling, using alcohol and drugs…
But one day I understood that I couldn’t continue like this any longer – I needed to change something. I decided to change my surroundings. I was offered to go abroad and to participate in two music seminars. One was held in Germany and the other in London. I packed my bag and left my home with a wish to start new life. I took a book called “An easy way to stop smoking” but I also brought two blocks of cigarettes. I thought to myself: after the seminars I will stop smoking, but for now I will have some fun.
On the last day of the 1st seminar in Portsmouth at a hotel I was drunk and I tried to gamble. Unfortunately I wasn’t lucky and lost everything. After I bought a train ticket from Portsmouth to London for £18 I was left with £7…So after I lost everything I went to London to start a new life. I stayed at a friend’s house for a few days. She lent me some money; I only had to promise that I wouldn’t buy drugs or alcohol with that money. After promising this I went to the seminar where all of my old friends were waiting for me…
After the seminar I asked the friend who invited me there: “Where will we go next?” He said: “I am going home, but I don’t know where you are going”. Again I was betrayed… And this time the friend to whom I made the promise and broke it helped me… She again loaned me money, found a place for me to stay and paid for the flat… I stayed in the new place for one month. I didn’t drink or smoke anything for three days, but the landlady, an British women, smoke very much and her cigarettes were very strong. I fought with these temptations for three days but then I cracked… Again I returned to my old habits: alcohol, weed, and thoughts about stronger narcotic substances. After a month I was kicked out of that house and I ended up on the street with just a few pennies in my pocket.
Searching for God
I remembered a phrase from the book “An easy way to stop smoking”: an easy way to stop smoking is to swear to God that this is your last cigarette. This referred to everything in my life: a cigarette, a joint of marichuana, a pint or a glass – it all had the same root. That night I made a promise to God with tears in my eyes: God, I promise that I will never drink again, never smoke again and will never use drugs again. And again that friend helped me: she found me a place to live and she paid my rent.
I came to live with young Christians. They were somehow different and they read the Bible. I thought that I know so much about God because I had read various books on Eastern philosophy. Even though I once sang in a church choir, I had never read the Bible. And right next to me young people were taking about the God from the Bible. They invited me to study the Bible with them and it was really interesting.
I truly sought for help and would go into various churches every day. I didn’t care whether it is a Catholic church, an Anglican church or a Methodist church; I would see a church building and would just go in. In the church I would often cry, talk to God, and would light up a candle. I would tell everything that burdened my heart – my sins were strangling me. But in those cold churches, no priest, pastor or anybody had come to me and asked: Why are you crying? What’s wrong?
But one day when I was working on the street, and strange man came to me and said: “Jesus sent me to you. And Jesus says to you: Don’t go to that house (he pointed towards a casino), go to that house (he pointed to a church)”. This message shook me. This was a message from Jesus! It felt so weird: how can a person say that Jesus said something to him? Is that Jesus real? Isn’t He just a talking figure hanging on the cross? This touched me deeply. This man explained that he and his wife were addicted to heroin, but I didn’t seem to hear his story – I was shocked by the news he had told me: do not go into the casino, go to church.
The Christians with whom I lived invited me to their church – that’s how I came to the Lithuanian Christian Church in London. The service reminded me of a concert rather than a church service, but I loved the songs. The entire community joined in singing. I started singing along because the lyrics were quite simple. I sang and I cried. I couldn’t understand what was happening. I saw my friend with her hand lifted up. I thought that I should do that too, but my hand was so heavy that I couldn’t lift it up. In the end I managed to raise my hand and an invisible power touched me. I had encounter with the Holy Spirit. At that time I didn’t understand that it was the Holy Spirit, but I felt love, peace, joy, and acceptance. It was so wonderful that I didn’t want it to end. It surpassed my short term relationships with women, it surpassed any kind of drug, alcohol, all kinds of joys after organizing an event or winning a big amount of money – it surpassed everything. I just stood there and cried like a baby. And this happened every Sunday when I came.
On the third Sunday I came, I heard the news that Jesus died for my sins. I had heard that Jesus is the Saviour of the world but I had not grasped it personally. My sins were chocking me. It was like a huge bag of garbage which would get bigger every day and wouldn’t let me live. That day I thought that the whole sermon was meant for me. I thought that the preacher is reading my mind… When was invitation for prayer I ran to the front because I understood that this was exactly what I needed that day. I prayed a simple prayer: “Jesus, forgive my sins, come into my life and be the Lord of my heart”. This prayer radically changed my life.
At that time I hadn’t had a smoke for three weeks but it cost me a lot of will power; however, when I was praying this prayer, freedom came in an instant. Freedom from everything – the invisible garbage bag, the burden of sin, which I felt, was lifted in an instant. I felt very easy.
We all try to fill in the emptiness inside of us. I tried to fill the void within me with work. I tried to relief my stress with alcohol, drugs and gambling… But only God can fill that emptiness inside of us.
If you are trapped in the snares of gambling and you can’t get out; if you are trying to stop and have tried coding, please understand – these things are temporary. You have to start seeking God. Jesus is the Son of the Living God who died for all of your sins. God so loved the world and so loved you that He gave His one begotten Son so that today you would have life.
If your relatives have an addiction to alcohol, drugs or gambling, don’t condemn them, don’t push them away but show them the direction – Jesus Christ is the answer!
The Bible says: If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. So I wish you would humble yourself before God and would acknowledge His rule in your life. Invite Jesus Christ into your life and into your heart and you will see how your life will start changing. God will start restoring it.