Gisele Jubinville became a millionaire in 1993. By 2009, she had lost a good chunk of her fortune in video lottery terminals (VLTs) and slot machines.
She couldn't stop and would spend her days at bars, lounges and casinos trying to get her fix.
No matter how hard Jubinville tried to play responsibly and stick to her budget, she would only walk away after losing all her money and feeling like scum for playing the machines irresponsibly.
"Like a hamster on a wheel, I repeated the same action over and over again," she recalls. "I was convinced I was actually getting somewhere, but in reality I was only becoming more addicted and losing more money."
The only thing left for Jubinville was God. "When I realized that I was so severely addicted that's when I started to pray to God for help," she said. "As I struggled with my addiction, my faith grew stronger and my relationship with God became a deeply sacred and personal experience."
It was not until she lost over $400,000 as well as nearly losing her life and her marriage that Jubinville discovered the reason she had quickly become a severe addict.
Jubinville, a successful St. Albert inventor, artist and mother of three, is the author of Dismissed, a 200-page memoir that examines her struggle to end her VLT addiction, save her marriage and expose the true nature of gaming machines.
Dismissed, written in collaboration with her daughter Dana Da Ponte, is published by Adigi Books of St. Albert and is available in print and online.
Jubinville's research on the VLTs reveals how manufacturers program the machines to entice gamblers to lose control and become addicts. She also says the government makes 30 per cent profit from VLTs, not eight per cent as it claims.
A member of St. Albert Parish, Jubinville is a strong supporter of Archbishop Richard Smith's ban on gambling revenues to fund Catholic schools and other organizations.
"I want to help people realize that these machines are unconscionable fundraisers because of the hundreds of thousands of lives that are destroyed to enhance our own."
Jubinville's first visits to the casino were casual but it didn't take long for her to become addicted. "I wanted more time on the machines because I was convinced the big jackpot was just a few spins away."
No matter what Jubinville did to help herself once she recognized her addiction, including attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings, AADAC's treatment program for problem gamblers, private counselling, years of intense self-discovery, asking God for help and reading books on addictions, the overpowering urge to play the machines never left her.
Like most addicts she has since met, Jubinville could sometimes force herself to stay away from VLTs for short periods but the constant urge to play would eventually take over.
"As soon as I started playing, the effects of the machines would wash over me and slide me into an altered state where rational thinking was impossible to access. It's as if someone slipped me a drug and I would stay fixated on pushing the spin button bet after bet, intoxicated and out of control."
For years Jubinville believed what she had been told - that she had a disease that could not be cured, or that she was one of the small percentage of the population predisposed to addictive behaviour, or that it was her fault she could not play responsibly.
"I profusely berated myself for not being 'strong enough' or 'faithful enough' to quit playing machines and I lived in constant shame, guilt, anxiety and depression to the point of wanting to end my life as the only way out of my addiction," she writes.
"But the one constant throughout those 10 hellish years was my gut feeling telling me there was more to VLTs than I was being told."
Finally, after much research, Jubinville discovered that VLTs and slot machines are programmed to make players lose control by altering their behaviour. That realization was enough to end her addiction.
"Why had no one ever told us that our addiction was not a disease or a weakness but rather a programmed behaviour?" she now asks.
She felt duped and victimized. Like a lab rat, she had been conditioned to keep pushing the spin button until all her money was gone.
"I wasn't sick," she says. "It was the machines that were making me sick."
But what about the many addicts who had committed suicide because they were convinced their addiction was an incurable disease? Why weren't addicts ever told the truth about the machines, not even in the treatment programs?
With God's help, Jubinville transformed from feeling victimized to feeling empowered. She realized the very thing that had created her hell on earth could be a catalyst for freedom and peace. Her new-found freedom took root in her life and Jubinville soon felt like the woman she was before she began playing VLTs.
"Actually I felt better than that," she writes in Dismissed. "My addiction had forced the problems in my marriage to surface and after the gruelling trek through our issues, Len and I were able to start fresh."
Her relationship with God had also changed drastically.
"I had only prayed to God in the past. But when my addiction forced me to my knees and I started writing to God, I began a conversation that awakened my spirituality."
Jubinville's relationship with herself was also repaired. For the first time in her life she developed a deep appreciation for her intuition and curiosity.
"My addiction was a gift, not a tragedy," she wrote. "My life had blossomed and I had my addiction to thank for that."