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Gambling’s overlooked toll seen in mother-turned-addict

GULFPORT, Miss. (BP)–As pro-gambling forces celebrate the fifth anniversary of legalized gambling in Mississippi with glittering receptions and glowing reports of financial windfalls for all involved, the human and spiritual toll remains largely ignored.
Gaylon (not her real name), a Gulfport resident profiled in an Oct. 24, 1996, article in The Baptist Record newsjournal, is one such example.
A devout Southern Baptist mother of five, she was sucked into the vortex of gambling addiction after several visits to a casino simply to sample the large-scale restaurant buffet.
She began detouring by the gambling rooms and, before long, her ever-deepening video poker addiction consumed her personal finances, drove her to steal $30,000 from her children and ultimately led to a life of prostitution when all money ran out.
She even considered selling her young daughter for sex in order to feed the obsession. To Gaylon, suicide seemed to be the only solution.
She sought help and, thanks to the intervention of a godly woman in her church and a Christian counselor specializing in gambling addictions, Gaylon began to see light at the end of her dark tunnel.
She was taking one day at a time and was optimistic about winning the struggle to get her life under control.
“Every morning I wake up and promise myself I won’t go to a casino,” she said.
That was then. A lot of things can change in a year.
“I haven’t seen Gaylon in a couple of months. I don’t know where she is; I’m afraid she has ‘slipped,'” her counselor said, referring to his fear Gaylon has returned to her previous life of addiction and degradation.
The counselor had arranged for Gaylon to live away from the allure of the casinos in a structured recovery environment and insisted she maintain a regular counseling schedule.
“She began to cancel out on the counseling appointments. She went from that to just being a no-show. Then she left the structured environment where she was doing so well, and I haven’t heard from her since,” the counselor said.
Such behavior is not unusual for a person who has fallen back into addiction, the counselor pointed out.
“I don’t know where she is or what shape she’s in, but you can be sure that she’s suffering — physically, emotionally and spiritually. At this time last year, she was near suicide,” the counselor said.
Gaylon fought hard, but she apparently again is losing the struggle to turn her life around.
While the hollow pronouncements of gambling promoters continue to tout rising benefits from legalized gambling, Gaylon’s poignant, world-weary words of a year ago still haunt:
“I would invite (anyone) to come with me and stand outside a casino at 3 a.m. They will see men and women fighting. They will see wives crying. They will see hungry children locked in cars. They will see how wholesome it is.”

–30– 11/11/97 Parents counseled on handling kids’ requests for Disney toys
SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Keith Thornton’s 6-year-old daughter didn’t at first understand why “Sleeping Beauty” couldn’t be added to the family’s video library.
Thornton, a chiropractor from Sevierville, Tenn., is participating in the boycott of The Disney Company over films, books and practices by the entertainment giant which, according to boycott supporters among Southern Baptists and other Christians, reflect an anti-family and/or pro-homosexual agenda.
Thornton, in the November issue of Focus on the Family’s Citizen magazine, recounted that he talked about the boycott with his daughter – – “not about homosexuals and gays, but the fact that the company represents some things that are not godly, and they won’t get any more of our money.”
Thornton’s approach drew affirmation from Tim Geare, a private- practice family counselor in Colorado Springs, Colo., and columnist for Focus on the Family’s youth culture newsletter, “Plugged In.”
“A young child won’t understand concern over Disney’s support of homosexuality,” Geare told Citizen, “but he would understand that (Disney CEO) Michael Eisner is doing things that displease God.”
Geare counseled parents against being too zealous over Disney items already in the home.
“There’s no point ripping a Pooh stuffed animal out of the arms of a 3-year-old,” he said. “If Disney already has your money, there’s no point in setting fire to the items you already have.”
But to requests for more Disney toys, such as Pooh’s pal Tigger, Geare advised, “You redirect the child, using the same process as you would when the child sees candy in a grocery store. You can acknowledge that Tigger is fun, but gently assert that you won’t be buying the Tigger item today.”
Focus on the Family joined the Disney boycott in late August. Initiated in 1995 by the American Family Association, the boycott gained momentum after messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention joined the initiative during their annual meeting last June in Dallas.
The Thornton family are members of Pigeon Forge (Tenn.) Church of God.

    About the Author

  • William H. Perkins Jr.