I was a good liar. I told the landlord that I could not pay my rent, which I owed him for three months, because my mother was in the hospital. The gas works wanted to shut off the gas, and the post threatened to lock the phone. Daily bills arrived from grocery stores and clothing stores. My gas station attendant also threatened to seize my car because I was in arrears with my payments.
I was hopelessly deep in debt. Bailiffs wrote bad letters to me and even called me at the hotel where I worked. I was tired of the many admonitions. I had a secure job as a chef in a luxury hotel in San Francisco. So I got some good references and then went to a well-known bank. There they gave me a big loan – but at a high interest rate. I had calculated everything exactly and was sure that I would succeed.
But my cash loan did not even last a month. I had a passion – bets. And so I spent the money on the racetrack. I bet on favorites – surefire horses, but I rarely won. With the last money I owned I went to Reno and played cards, dice games and machines in the casinos. The next day, I did not own a cent anymore.
After I had lost my cash, I began to pledge everything that belonged to my wife and me – from the stereo to the typewriter. Once it would work out, I calmed down. But that never happened. I only lost more. One of my colleagues introduced me to a bookmaker who took my bets. I lost further.
Finally, I was so desperate that I went to see my father. I told him my wife Sandra was ill and needed to undergo surgery, there was only a small chance of life left. The operation would cost $ 5,000. I knew my dad could mortgage the house that belonged to him. My father gave me the money. Immediately I paid the money lender for threatening to beat me up. Of the $ 5,000, I still had $ 1,000. I lost one day at a horse race.
For the first time in my life, I collapsed. My wife and I held each other in our arms and wept. Sandra still believed in me. She turned to her family and asked her to help us. From the money we could pay part of the debt.
I decided to change. I no longer bet. I did not go to any casino anymore, I avoided the racecourses. Instead, I attended meetings of the “anonymous players”. They told me about their lives, again and again, stories in which players had thrown away a fortune and thus plunged their family and relatives into great distress. The stories reminded me of my own situation. I was convinced that I finally healed.
But then something unforeseen happened: the employees of most big hotels went on strike. I had been used as a picket. And suddenly there was the old urge to play again. Although I only got $ 50 a week from our union strike fund, I brought the money back to the betting offices and lost everything. Sandra guessed what I did. She cried. But angrily, I said, “I have to relax and only sit down if I have a sure-fire tip.” Sandra looked at me helplessly. Finally, she said, “I can not stand it anymore; I’m leaving you. “” Do it! “I said. “I do not care”. Sandra left. I took a deep breath. I did not need her. I did not need anyone at all. Full of self-pity I thought of my parents’ marriage. My mother would never have treated my father like Sandra did me. After all, I was not a drinker and not a womanizer. I had never cheated on Sandra. That she was so upset about the bet was not right, I realized. And I only thought incensed: “Let her go!”
Then a letter arrived from a lawyer. Sandra had filed for divorce. Good, I thought, let her have her freedom. There were enough other women.
After a month, the strike in the hotels was resolved. I resumed my work. But every day I had some trouble, I could not concentrate properly anymore. One day I was quit suddenly.
Soon after, the cheap hotel room I lived in was terminated because I could not pay the rent. I did not have a penny left and was hungry. I tried to beg in the street, but people looked so peculiar. Then I went to the outrigger types who lived in backyards, archways and under bridges. I hoped to find a connection there. I had become a tramp. I had lost everything I owned. Even my family had renounced me because I lied to them and gambled away the money they lent me. I was 23 years old. I did not have the courage to go on living. Why not just jump down from the Golden Gate Bridge? And so I climbed on one of the small towers on the bridge.
“God forgive me,” I said aloud, adding, “If there is a God at all.”
“Hey, wait! Do not jump! “Said a deep voice from below. I had ventured far out onto the parapet. When I looked back into the interior, one of the patrolmen under my wing was standing a bit below me.
“Listen,” he said. “Let’s talk.”
“No,” I said angrily, “do not come nearer, I’ll jump.” The policeman said affirmatively: “Nothing can be so bad that you have to take your own life. Tell me what weighs you. Maybe I can help you.”
“No, leave me alone.” “Can not I get someone to talk to you – someone from your family or girlfriend?” “There’s nobody to worry about me.”
Then the policeman said, “I’m worried about you.”
Down below, in the depths, I saw the cars. Some of them were already stopping to watch the “jumper”. Someone shouted, “Come on, jump.” I stared at the long, uneven waves of the water. My life was a pile of rubble, but suddenly I was in doubt. Did I really want to die? “Oh please come down here, I’ll help you – I promise. God loves you, believe me. He wants you to live. “
Suddenly I lost the urge to jump. I leaned down and grabbed the policeman’s hand. He helped me down from the steel tower. I was shaking all over. Then they took me to the psychiatric department of the nearest hospital. I was watched for three days. When I made the impression that I had caught myself again, they released me. A young man was waiting in the corridor. “Do you remember me?” I looked at him closely. “You are the man who brought me down from the tower.” “Yes. Today is my day off. I was told that you will be released. I thought you might want to talk to me. “
His name was Rex Scott. He took me to a small hotel owned by a friend of his family. They paid the rent for me a week in advance. Then Rex took me to the city mission. There I got something to eat. And finally, he gave me a job in a cafeteria. Rex visited me regularly. One evening he told me about his faith in Jesus Christ.
“You have a friend who has been with you the whole time,” said Rex.
“I do not understand that.”
“His name is Jesus. He wants to help you, he loves you. In his eyes you are not worthless. You can start over again. “I stared at him. What Rex said sounded like hope, a fresh start. Anyway, since Rex took care of me, a lot had changed. Now I knew why he did it – out of love for this Jesus Christ. Suddenly, a big longing seizes me. I also wanted to give my life to this Jesus.
“What do I have to do?”
Rex knelt down and took my hand. “Just ask Jesus to come into their lives. Say to him, Lord, have mercy on me sinner. “I repeated the words. Tears ran down my face. And suddenly a peace and a peace that I had not known before filled me. I felt as if a great burden had been lifted off my shoulders. I suddenly knew very well that God had forgiven me.
Then I started to read the Bible, and I saw how that belief changed my life and attitude toward people and my old passions.
I called my wife. We were divorced, but I had to tell her what I had experienced. Sandra came back to me, we had realized that we still loved each other; and we decided to start over. Sandra also gave her life to Jesus. Meanwhile we got a little son. I still pay back debts to my parents and creditors. But I know now that my life has meaning. I have caused sorrow and worry to those who loved me. But my life is proof that Christ can totally change a person. The more I grow in faith, the more courage I have to resist the temptation. I am free from the urge to play. I finally have solid ground under my feet.