Macon woman tells of gambling addiction

There are a range of addictions out there.

We're taking a closer look at gambling in a two part series, we first hear a woman's story about what it means to be addicted to games of chance.

"They called it the bug, that's the name they call it," said Connie M. of Macon. Gambling was a household pastime.

"I can distinctly remember at 4 years old, my mother asking me what number to play. And I said 404," she said.

That number stayed with her for the next 60 years. "All through my gambling career, I always told people that was my lucky number."

The pursuit of a chance to win took her all over the states.

Now, Connie is a recovering gambling addict who lives in Macon and asked to keep her identity hidden.

"I did it legally and illegally. I only received money the times I played," she said.

But in Georgia, It is illegal to redeem money at convenient stores. Only store merchandise excluding tobacco and alcohol and now lottery tickets are allowed.

The ease of lining up the stars won Connie $1,200 and got her hooked. "That $1,200 was gone not long, maybe in the next couple of days because I kept going back," she said.

Winning fueled Connie's addiction, it also emptied out her pockets. Connie spent hours trying to outsmart the game.

"I can remember the time I put in $100 bill. And I thought, oh I got it now. The more money you put into the machine, the more opportunity or chances you get of being a winner," Connie said.

She tested her theory and fed the machines her income tax, "that being about $6,000. I left with nothing that day."

Win or lose, Connie stayed loyal to these machines for three years. The nearly unattainable jackpot.

It was part of a cycle that spun her addiction out of control. Connie borrowed funds from loan sharks, family and friends.

She said she pawned her car and jewelry for money.

But there was one big play in Las Vegas. "I had about five to $6,000, I lost that quickly."

And it changed her life. For the first time in 63 years, Connie said she lost control of her life.

"The lying, the cheating, the concealing of information. It all passed me through that mirror. And it was at that time I was embarrassed, hurt, and I didn't like who I saw," she said.

So Connie enrolled into Gambler's Anonymous at Lighthouse Baptist Church and continues to go once a week, even though she completed the 12-step program.

"I thought there would be a 13th step so that they could tell me what I could do to continue to gamble because I didn't want the consequences of gambling, but I still wanted to gamble," said Connie.

Although the urge is still there, Connie has not sat down at poker table or lined up the stars in a convenient store in five years.

We will follow Connie's story Tuesday on Eyewitness news at 6. We'll have more on how she gambled and what authorities are doing to curb commercial gambling.

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