Habitual. Addiction. Problem.
These are all just words. They can't begin to describe the ecstasy of something you feel compelled to do over and over again.
Anything is addictive. Most commonly we think of drugs and alcohol when we thing of addiction. Really, though, anything can become habitual and enticing to the point that you cant live through the day without feeling or touching or being close to it in some way. Food. Sex. Power. Gambling. Addiction is about anticipation, longing, breaking taboo, and, finally, the fulfillment of some wanton desire.
A food addict, for instance, waits for that secret moment when she can quietly devour a whole box of donuts without anyone watching. A sex addict secretly desires co-workers, strangers, or anyone who can fulfill her burning desire.
Addiction. Habitual. Why is that a problem?
My addiction, the object of my secret lust, is gambling. I live for that moment right before you either win or lose. It's the dream of winning the jackpot and spending all that money that really gets me high. The moment before I roll the dice or scratch the ticket or pull the arm on the slots, I feel elated, hopeful, and dizzy with anticipation. Its the hope that Ill get out of this crappy Las Vegas apartment. The hope that Ill be able to pay my rent with money rather than in trade and its the dream of the shiny things I could buy that keeps me going back to the casinos.
While I wait for the big payout, I work as a waitress at a small bar on the outskirts of Vegas. Its not a place the tourists usually visit, but not because of the location so much as the atmosphere of booze, smoke, and anger that seems to coat the walls like soot.
It's filled with all kinds of low-life types and, yes, I guess I'm one of them these days. I'm thirty-five, but I've been smoking so long that I look like I could be older. However, the dim light of the bar, my blond hair, and my big breasts squeezed into a tight uniform of a miniskirt and halter top, both with the bars name on them, distract the customers enough that I get better tips than most of the other girls at the bar. I'm lucky that way, though, which is why I found that ten-dollar bill just lying in the dirt of the parking lot outside the bar.
I just knew it would be lucky and so I headed straight to the casino. I knew that the dollar slots would pay out on my lucky ten dollar-bill. Ten chances to make it big! I drove down the Strip once again enthralled by the millions and millions of twinkling, multicolor lights welcoming visitors to come in and try their luck or see a show or just have fun.
I parked in my usual spot, a parking garage near my favorite casino, the Paris Las Vegas. I stopped outside and smiled at the Eiffel Tower, lit up like a Christmas tree with a soft yellow glow; I considered it my good luck charm. After a moment of silent prayer for good luck, I walked inside.
The casino was jumping with tourists and regulars stationed at the various games, from nickel slots to blackjack tables. I maneuvered my way through the amateurs at the nickel slots and the tourists at the quarter slots until I finally reached the dollar slots in the back. The machines were almost all taken by women and men with intense and serious expressions of concentration. No one talked in this small slice of gamblers paradise and all I could hear as I walked down the row was the chink as a player pulled the arm down and the clickety sound as the panels rolled the verdict.
After changing my lucky ten-dollar bill into quarters, I walked slowly up each aisle, looking for an open machine or a player that was about to run out of money and leave their machine.
There was a woman wearing khaki pants and pearls who swore like a sailor each time she lost. Another elderly player wore a blanket around his shoulders and looked as if each coin inserted into the machine was terribly hard to lift. I continued down the aisle looking for my lucky machine that would take my lucky ten dollars and, well, make me the luckiest girl in the casino.
I turned the corner and as I walked down the aisle, I felt someone looking at me. I looked down the row and saw a man of about twenty-five staring at me. More accurately, he was staring at my breasts. Glancing down at my outfit, I realized that in my excitement I had driven to the casino in my work uniform. I felt embarrassed, but I decided that I sure wasn't going to give up on my lucky ten dollar bill and go home to change clothes. Instead, I stared at the creep until he finally looked up at my eyes. We locked eyes, in a staring contest, until he finally looked away ashamedly and continued playing his machine.
Distracted by the battle and smug over my subsequent victory, I almost missed an empty machine a few feet away from me. Smiling, I walked quickly over to it and hopped onto the stool. Looking at the machine, I took a deep breath and, per my usual custom, said a prayer to God that he grant me this one wish that he make me a winner.
Slowly, I put in my money, grasped the arm and pulled with all my might. The panels clicked furiously as they spun away. The first panel stopped and then the second and I knew I had lost. Sighing, I repeated this eight more times without winning anything. As I looked at the last of my lucky ten dollars, I felt a deep sorrow. I wasn't really upset that Id lost nine dollars already. I was really upset that I wouldn't have any money left to gamble once this last dollar was gone.
What would I do if I won? Keep on gambling until it was all gone? Walk away, invest wisely, and live well? How would I deal with a real jackpot? I put the last dollar in the machine and pulled the arm of the slot machine.
Addiction. Habitual. Why is this a problem?