Father gets life back with help from DHS
Nate Peterson knew how to handle money. He made a career for himself as a bookkeeper, tracking every penny spent. His employers trusted him with thousands of dollars every day. At home his friends and family described him as honest and hardworking. From the outside Nate’s life looked perfect. Then in November 2008 the truth came out: Nate was caught stealing from his employer.
“I wanted to get caught,” he says today. “I couldn’t do it anymore. I’ve never felt so much shame and guilt.” Over the course of four months he’d stolen thousands of dollars to feed his gambling addiction.
Nate says the addiction took hold of him gradually. It started with throwing a few dollars into a video poker machine; unexpectedly his casual habit exploded into a full-blown obsession. He remembers standing in front of a machine and saying aloud, “I’m not going to play,” then later waking up in a fog after hours of playing the machine.
“It took over my life,” he says. “I’d sneak out of my house in the middle of the night while my wife was sleeping to go out and gamble. I couldn’t stop.”
After losing his job and facing the threat of jail, finally Nate had to tell his family. A few weeks earlier, he told his wife he had lost his wallet with his entire paycheck inside. In reality he had spent the money on video poker before going home.
“I was lying to my wife and forsaking my family and everything else just to gamble,” he says.
Nate knew he couldn’t quit on his own so he picked up the phone and immediately received information on state-funded options for treatment. Oregon leads the nation in providing free, confidential and effective treatment for the problem gambler and concerned family members. Within days he was enrolled in a Department of Human Services-sponsored residential program for problem gamblers located in Salem at Cascadia Bridgeway.
Nate describes the intensive treatment as life-changing. For the first time he understood his addiction and had the tools to begin rebuilding his life.
Now in recovery, Nate is enjoying life and rebuilding relationships with his family. He is also working part-time to pay off his debt to his former employer and plans to go back to school in the fall. He aspires to become an addictions counselor.
“I have no problem telling my story. I know so many people out there are struggling, trying to keep their addiction hidden. I want to help these people like I’ve been helped.” No longer able to handle money as a bookkeeper, Nate now prides himself on handling life.