We recently had former WORLD CHAMPION boxer Christy Martin in to speak to the community about domestic violence, addiction, and her remarkable story of survival and resilience. Though gambling was not part of Christy’s story, she highlighted the reality that you never can know what someone is going through behind closed doors.
I remember as an amateur boxer coming up at the time she had reached the highest levels of success in professional women’s boxing, thinking that she had it all. I admired, and let’s be honest, envied, that she could train full-time and dedicate herself fully to the sport. After all, she lived and breathed boxing, with her coach also being her husband and manager. In her workshop with us, Christy stated “you all though I was on top of the world. But the world was really on top of me.” You see, it was all a façade. The more success in the ring Christy achieved, the more her husband and coach tightened his grip on every aspect of her life. From installing cameras throughout their home, to preventing her from being out of his sight long enough even to go to the salon. How else could he keep her from getting help, from letting people know that she was being abused and terrorized in her own home, that she had turned to drugs as an escape?
I look back and am ashamed at my petty envy of her situation. I imagine I would not have survived her circumstances, had I been in her shoes. The situation was truly that dire. It was life and death serious. She survived a brutal attack and attempted murder, recovered from her addiction, and now shares her story with others to shine the light on some very dark issues.
I heard in a song recently something like “you want to be great? Put the “e” after the “t” and add “ful.” We are forever GRATEFUL for Christy’s bravery, humility, and generosity. People who struggle with such issues behind closed doors are also in life or death circumstances. People with gambling disorder have a suicide attempt rate higher than that of ANY OTHER ADDICTION. So please don’t assume you know what someone’s life is like by what you see on the outside. I’ve seen gamblers whose beautiful homes are empty on the inside. No furniture; knickknacks; nothing. Everything pawned due to the never-ending loss-chasing. And to hit this idea home even further: another guest speaker (Ray, see screen shot below) recently shared that, at the height of his gambling addiction, he almost chose suicide when faced with not having money for presents for his children at the holidays.
What’s our takeaway? Gambling disorder and other addictive disorders are potentially fatal. It’s imperative that we do everything we can to prevent them, that we help athletes and others who have increased risk learn about their specific vulnerability, and that we extend compassion and understanding to those who struggle. And let’s not forget GRATITUDE. To those, like Christy, and Ray, who share their stories so openly in the hopes that others can come into the light. Thanks to you and every other person that pays it forward to help others in similar circumstances. You are truly a GIFT.
If you would like to attend a workshop like one of those mentioned in this post, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We provide free workshops to any Illinois group to raise awareness of problem gambling.