A New Journey in Christ

I am a believer in Jesus recovering from my addiction to gambling.

For so long I felt so alone and exhausted. I had a void inside me that I could not understand or explain. I got hooked on gambling, pawning & selling my own things, even coming to the point of stealing and entering into a sexual relationship in exchange for money. I literally emptied our house just so I could have money to gamble. I went as low as praying to the devil in exchange of my soul. I was a slave to sin!

Early morning of June 23, 2008, I realized that I needed help and that my insanity had to stop. I was on the verge of committing suicide. I needed to talk to someone desperately so I grabbed the directory, looking for numbers of people and places who could help. I called hospitals, psychologists and even the National Center for Mental Health but I was unsuccessful. I came across the number of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and called them at 12:30 in the morning,

At last someone answered. I told the guy who answered what I was going through. My family had turned their backs on me because of gambling. Little did I know that that guy had gone through the same struggle before and had recovered from it... He gave me encouragement and advised me to seek help and to ask forgiveness from the people that I hurt. Before we ended our conversation he asked me if I could pray with him. I realized that I was talking to a Christian. For a while I wondered what on earth he was doing in PAGCOR, but God does work in mysterious ways. He provided what I needed that night.

The next day, June 24, 2008, I had myself admitted at Penuel House. Penuel House is a transition home for men struggling with any type of addiction. I had so many uncertainties, questions, anxieties, resentments and bitterness. My mother was at least willing to finance my stay in Penuel. But she said she did not want to have anything to do with me after my program in Penuel. She told me to forget about her. The next day during quiet time in Penuel, I read the bible for the first time after so many years. Jesus spoke to me through Mark 5:19.

I am a product of a broken marriage. My parents separated when I was 4 or 5 years old. I grew up with my mother, while my older sister grew up with my father. My dad was a substance user for decades. A few years after the separation my mum left to work in the United Kingdom just so she could give me a comfortable life and send me to school. I was left under the care of my maternal grandfather who passed away after two years. I eventually lived with my mother’s sister who was married and had 3 children. There I suffered mental, emotional and physical abuse. When my father could no longer support my sister’s studies, she came to live with me in my aunt’s house. She suffered the same fate as I.

After many years of pain and suffering, my mother found out about the abuse and moved us out of there. To make a long story short, my sister and I ended up living together on our own. I was 14 and my sister was 16 at that time. My mother would send us money every month and we would buy things that we wanted and not what we needed. We lived a comfortable, liberated and independent life. With all that freedom, I went through a lot of different experiences, in search of something different and exciting. I tried smoking, drinking and fornication at an early age, but none of these satisfied me.

In 2001, my dream of being with my mother was fulfilled. I left for UK to be with her. There, I was able to finish my schooling and eventually found my first job. I thought it would be easy for me and my mother to get along but it had been 12 years since we lived in the same house. We often quarrelled, but I saw how she worked hard just to give us a good life. She had 3 jobs during the week and on weekends she would still work. I adopted her work ethics. Money became the motivation and the centre of my life. I was earning a lot for my age, and I felt that everything was within my reach. But still the emptiness wouldn’t leave me.

I tried to fill that hole inside me by buying things or shopping after work but the happiness was just temporary. I met and had my own circle of friends with whom I would, every night, go clubbing, drinking and meeting girls for fun. But still I was not satisfied. I was introduced to gambling and there it seemed I found the thrill and excitement that I was looking for. Not long after, I was hooked. My mother soon found out what I was into so I stopped.

I left my old job in the restaurant and found a good and stable one. I enjoyed my new job, and I became good at it. I became known among local Filipino businesses because of my innovativeness. I thought I was happy but not long after I was back into my old addictive behaviour, and this time around I no longer cared about who would be affected by my gambling. The company found out about my problem and asked me to resign. Again, my mother was there to support me through this difficult time.

After several days I found a new job. I told myself that I would not let myself down again. I changed my habits. I even went through a different route to work just so I wouldn’t pass through the casinos. I would take the long way to work or home just so I would not to be tempted to gamble. I focused on my new job. I worked until the wee hours of the morning. I was on call 24/7. I gave everything I had: time, talent and dedication just to prove to my previous colleagues at work that they were wrong. Everything went smoothly for about a year. Then my visa extension was turned down. That frustration knocked me down. As if that was not enough, my employer terminated me without notice and without salary. I became the butt of gossip in the Filipino community.

It was like one frustration after another and I couldn’t take it. I got to hating people and wishing they would experience the same pain and shame that I felt.. I wanted to get even with them. I started self destructing. I didn’t care anymore about the consequences of my actions. Not long after I was vindicated when the company that fired me closed down and the owner ran away with all the money. But it was too late. I had done a lot of things that I regretted.

December 2006, I came back to the Philippines to try and pick up the pieces of my life here and start start anew. I was employed at an entry level position in one of the largest banks here. But as soon as I experienced another setback, I was gambling again. People around me grew tired. I lost everything because of my addictive behaviour.

Looking back I was full of anger, bitterness and envy. I envied people for what they had. I still remember telling myself that there will come a time when all the people who hurt me will pay for what they had done. I would have fantasies of me excelling in whatever I do and being very successful, similar to what you watch in telenovelas. But all telenovelas come to an end.

But my story continues and I have recently started my journey in Christ. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone the new has come (2 COR 5:17). I am glad and blessed that God found me in the wilderness. I learned a lot during my stay at Penuel House. I used to have a very distorted image of God that’s why I could not relate to Him. Now I am enjoying my new found personal relationship with Jesus. And I believe that He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

God has enabled me to forgive all those who have hurt me. My relationship with my mother has been restored. I am now able to talk freely with her about how I feel and what I think. I thank God for her unconditional mother’s love for me. She has forgiven me. My love for my strange father whom I used to just see on Christmas, if I was lucky, has been rekindled. I also now enjoy the new relationship with my sister and her family. My prayer to God is that He would use me and that He would touch the heart of every member of my family to accept Him as their personal Lord and Saviour. I have also forgiven my auntie, uncles and cousins, and I am building a relationship with them. Praise God for all these.

For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). While in Penuel House I also had the privilege to experience my first singles retreat. I praise and thank God for touching the heart of someone to sponsor me in this event, thus allowing me to experience God’s love and blessings. In this retreat, I made my public declaration to be a committed follower of Christ. Here too I was able to give my testimony about how God found me and helped me with my struggles.

Right after I finished the program in Penuel House, I volunteered in the NexGen Children’s Ministry of Christ's Commission Fellowship (CCF). Eventually I was hired as a full-time worker. I enjoy serving God..I have made a lot of mistakes in the past which I cannot undo. But that old life is no longer me. The life that I live now is God’s gift, and I live it only through His grace.

Recovery is a life-long process and so is Christianity. Now I can find comfort with the words of God. When I am weak He strengthens me. My faith in Him grows bigger and bigger and everyday I am excited about what He will reveal to me and what he has in store for me. He is my Lord and Saviour. And this is what the Lord our God told me the first time I read the bible in Mark 5:19 Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you. You are that family - my family in Christ. I am Ian R., a child of God, and to Him be all the praise and glory.

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