On November 30, 1977, the Taunton Dog Track closed for the winter. Within four days, Ed Talbot was planning to kill himself. The 35-year old Talbot was in trouble and he didn’t see any way out of it. He had lost everything. His wife wanted a divorce and had kicked him out of their house, he had no job, owed “all sorts of money” and was tired of “sponging off his father.” He didn’t see any way out of his troubles or any reason to continue his life.
It was during this time, his darkest hour, when Ed made one last ditch effort and reached out to his family priest for help. The priest told Ed something that his wife (at that point separated) had been telling him for years. He confirmed that gambling could turn into an addiction, just like drugs or alcohol. The priest referred Ed not only to a therapist, but also to Gamblers Anonymous (GA).
Hesitantly, Ed attended his first GA meeting. According to him, “It was like old home week. I was reunited with four or five guys I used to go to school with, as well as a few people from the racetrack who I remember thinking, really belonged there because they used to make some stupid bets.” Ed bonded with his old schoolmates and they helped him, “stay in the group, bear down and work hard.” Ed has not gambled since.
Looking back at why he began gambling and what his life was like when he was gambling, Ed recalls, “I thought that I was very knowledgeable about the sport. I felt that I had a graduate degree in Greyhound handicapping.” He also realizes that he was using gambling to escape problems. His particular problem was responsibility. That year, Ed had a new marriage, a new baby and was overwhelmed by it all.
He worked in sales and had a lot of free time. He began going to the dog tracks to unwind and take a break from the realities of family life. A few years later, he took an extra job working part time at the dog track on nights and weekends. That is when his problem worsened. Every spare moment he had, Ed spent at the track. He couldn’t stop gambling. He began borrowing money, lying to cover it up and was feeling like he had no way out of his debt. He felt he had no choice but to keep gambling and, “hit that big one.”
Ed had what he thought was a terrible money management problem, a problem that took its toll on his family not only financially, but also emotionally. He was lying to cover for missing money, dodging calls from bill collectors and in all reality… missing his daughter’s childhood. “I missed her gymnastics routines. I missed her birthdays. I was always too busy,” said Ed. He recalls both he and his wife telling their daughter “Don’t bother daddy. He’s studying for the track.”
The “money management problem” was upsetting Ed’s family and making him feel helpless. He tried to quit gambling many times on his own only to fail. “I have two brothers. Before my mother died she had private conversations with each of us. She told me to stop gambling, that it was ruining my life. I wanted to quit for her, but even then, I just couldn’t do it on my own.”
However, eventually Ed did “do it” with the support of GA and guidance of a counselor. In fact, this year marks Ed’s 26th year in recovery and he’s had many happy memories in this life …the life that he never dreamt was possible.
“Life is so good. It is 180 degrees different than it was when I was gambling. I have more self-esteem than I ever had. I have been able to cope with unemployment, divorce and a heart attack,” he said.
GA and therapy helped Ed get his life on the right track. He earned his certification as a drug and alcohol counselor and began working in programs and services for corrections institutions, working mostly with people who were in the system for OUI offenses, and eventually, before retiring after 20-years of service, became Chief of Staff of the Department.
Today, he is the founder of a not for profit Gamblers Assistance Program in the southeastern part of the state and is engaged to a wonderful woman named, Pam. In addition, he has a better relationship with his daughter than he ever imagined and a good friendship with his ex-wife too.
Ed still attends GA meetings and feels that he needs to be there not only for himself, but also to help others with the problem. He says, “I like to tell them that they can do anything they want in their lives, other than gamble.”