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CBN.com “I’m sure I won two million dollars, and lost 2.5 million plus.”
Winning can be an irresistible high, which explains why Americans spend more on legal gambling than movies, music, and sports events combined! John Hartin was no exception…
“It was the excitement, the thrill of the win, the competition between me and the dealer,” John explains.
John didn’t intend to get hooked. It was just a couple of poker games here, some trips to the track there. His wife, Liesa, wasn’t worried either.
Liesa says, “When we first got married, he never gambled at all.”
A few years later, John’s company downsized, and he was out of a job.
John recalls, “[It was] a good job, and that had never happened to me.”
“It just devastated him,” Liesa says.
With mounting financial pressures and a growing family, John says, “I became hooked on the gambling and didn’t look back.”
It seemed like a hobby at first…
Liesa recalls that John would say, “I won the house payment!”
One day a week turned into two. Within six months, John was gambling every day. He was addicted.
Liesa says, “I started noticing he missed birthdays, missed our children’s events. I mean it was fun but enough’s enough. I had no idea the depths that he had already been in.”
John started to “chase” his losses betting more to get it back, and he started to lie…
“I felt sorry for myself, my situation and where was God in my life,” John says. “I pretty much stepped out of reality and into that life. It got its hooks in me, and the next 10-11 years was a living hell.
“There was an eight-year period where I thought 24/7 about gambling. I would come in at five in the morning. She would think I was working, and [she would] be real sweet. I’d been out gambling all night.”
John felt guilty, but handled it this way. He said, “God, I deserve this lifestyle. My wife, job, kids -- they’ll be fine.”
But if Liesa hadn’t worked several jobs and put assets in her name, they would have lost everything.
She says, “I became a very angry, bitter woman. You start getting self-pity. Why me? Why would my husband rather be on a boat than home with me and our children? It wasn’t like he physically cheated on me with another woman, but his mistress was the boat or the track.”
John says, “I pawned my wife’s jewelry, my wedding ring, my son’s baseball cards, and I wrote bad checks for years. I went into my parents’ home at 4 a.m. and took the computer to pawn it. I needed money to do my thing and nobody understood.”
“When I married him, [he] was a wonderful man, a great provider, a lot of fun, very attractive, everything going for him,” Liesa says. “As he got into this, he wasn’t fun. He was mean, became very angry, very abusive.”
They separated several times. Finally Liesa filed for divorce.
She says, “I was kind of in my heart hoping it was a wake-up call. ‘Cause I really wanted him to come back.”
Before Liesa delivered their third child, John did come back and did well. If only it had lasted…
“She was eight weeks old, and he told me he was gonna go out to the store, and he’d be back,” she recalls. “And 9, 10, 11 o’clock, he never came back. He didn’t come back for 23 days.
“I decided, with or without John, I was gonna be okay, and the kids were gonna be okay, because we were gonna follow God.”
Over the years, John went to four rehab centers with no lasting success. By now, he no longer wanted to live. But he decided to try one more…
“I stayed there nine weeks,” says John. “The typical stay was four weeks. Over the period of the nine weeks, I quit the gambling, smoking, and drinking.”
The rehab was very good, John says, but from his Christian upbringing, he knew it wasn’t the key.
“I knew if I had any hope whatsoever, I needed to give it 100 percent to God. There is a God, He did have a Son, and He died for us. He’s forgiven me. Everyday’s a new day. I haven’t gambled since Nov. 16th, 2000.”
With the help of support groups and his faith, John has never returned to his habit. Liesa also got help and has this advice: “First thing, focus on yourself. Find out where you are with God and Jesus and get your life right with the Lord. He is the only One who can sustain you through this.”
Rebuilding their home life wasn’t easy or automatic. But with help, it’s now stronger than ever. John even leads an addiction support group at his church.
“I spent most of my adult life hurting people, and now I want to spend any remaining days encouraging and helping people who have any kind of addiction,” says John. “There is hope, and God can turn your life around.”
Liesa says, “Somewhere in the Word it says that God will do exceedingly abundant more than you ever thought or hoped -- and He has!”
John concurs, “I’m just very thankful that I have her here today. I wanna wake up now. I wanna have that next day with my family, and I look forward to being with God and Jesus in heaven for eternity.”
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