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The Ghosts of Christmas Past: Vegas Baby! Edition

Updated on December 13, 2008

One of the strangest holiday memories I have...

 comes from the years I had lived in Las Vegas. Oh, hell yeah! Nothing like being young, full blown into addiction, making killer money and living in Sin City. Nevada... gambling, drinking, and except for Clark County, prositution is legal 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Just thinking back still bring a small tear to my left eye.

Anyway,  I am reminded of one particular holiday season while living in "Lego Land." You see, I was getting close to down and out. Granted I was make really good cash, but there was one small problem; I was on the "fast track" to becoming what a fellow casino employee called a "true citizen of Las Vegas." He used to tell me, "You are never a true citizen here, until you file bankruptcy twice and have to change your name...And you have to sleep on different friends couches, while making serious cash, because you blow every dime." So, I was definitely on my way to being called a "local." And I was doing it at the speed of sound!

Well in true form of the morally corrupt addict is started praying, a lot. I would go into churches and light candles (that you are supposed to donate a couple bucks for), but I never had any "extra" cash, because that may be the two bucks that turn-it-all-around for me. So, I'm praying like a son of a bitch..."God help come up with a way to make enough money to save my place, and if you do I will turn my life around and do right; once again."

Now, I may have been a gambling man, but I believed in putting some odds in my favor and if God isn't caoming through for me; maybe I need to look into another option. So while praying in a chapel, I am also going you know I would be willing to cash in my soul for a bottle of good whiskey, a pack of camels, and hitting a video poker machine for about 2 grand. So I'm making deals with God, St. Jude, Mother Mary, and something "less...mmm...good." Hoping one of them would come through for me, because I've been a good person most of my life, and damn it! when does the self-serving, addicted, hedonistic, true believer get what is rightly his? So this little Monty Hall moment went on for a week or more.

One night after work, I went home, got cleaned, and headed to my favorite neighborhood joint. The bartendered already had my usual poured and updated me on if any of my gang had been in yet. So I ordered a burger (which he was kind enough to comp.) I lit up my cigarette, and slightly enjoyed my first drink of the night. I then bought like $30.00 in quarters (for some of you...that's 3 rolls). You never gambled first. It is alway smoke, drink and gamble. Because smoking a cigarette takes about 5 minutes, a drink takes averagely less time then that, and if you are having a bad gambling night; you could be done in about 30 seconds (so it feels like.) I eventually got around to play a progessive jackpot video poker game.

I hit a 4 of a kind, and it payed like $300 and some change. I hit a straight flush for like another $575. Good gravy! I hit a little luck. So I was laughing, drinking and smoking with my buddy the bartender. When I slapped down a hundred buck and ask for a rack of silver dollars. I "walked" over to the silver dollar games on the other side of the bar, and proceeded to load the machine in front of me; while I got loaded on the drinks in front of me. I hit 4 Jacks in my second try..ching-ching $1,500 bucks! BANG just like that. While the coins were cashing out, I thought just for fun I would pay the machine next to me...pop-pop-pop...a "no-brainer" 4 sevens...another $1,500 bucks. The bartender looked at me...I glazingly looked at him and said, "This should cover my tab for the month" (of course you don't really pay for drinks...if your gambling...10 dollars for a roll of quaters and they "give" you beer or drink of your choice, but you don't pay for drinks *wink, wink*) and I hand him 300 dollars. He looks at me going "Oh, God bless you! You just made my night, I can now make my truck payment. You've saved my ass."

So, I'm feeling pretty good about myself. Since I such a big winner and just did a good deed by helping out this "friend," I decide I bet go and continue my luck somewhere else. Like a good little alcoholic I fled into the night. Nudie bars, tons of lap dances, heavy tipping...gambling and and loving every sick moment of it. Calling for "private dancers" to come to my place and entertain me. It was a festive, wild, sickening 2 days, and then the dead screeching stop...I was flat broke again. Still never fixed the problems that I needed the money for, because I spent every dime and more, so much more. I had to actually call my aunt in Phoenix, and ask her if she could "loan" me 2 grand to save my ass. She agreed to wire me the money the next day. Which took me a long time later, after getting sober at the age of 30 to pay her back.

Shortly after, maybe 2 -3 months later...I started sleeping on friends couches. Eventually I get tired of living like a "disaster victim" (though in a way I was) and I asked my parents to send me a plane ticket back to Ohio. The first year I was home I went out every night and drank approx. 100 dollars a night. Finally, one night after a Halloween party, I had a friend drive me to a rehab center at 4 in the morning. From that day, I stayed sober for 10 and a half years. Never once did I desire a drink...that is until one day in April of 2007 when I relapsed. Then it wouldn't be until Oct 23, of 2007 after two DUIs that I would find sobriety again.

I'm not sure if it was a Higher Powers grace that helped me get out and get sober, or the Devil attempting to collect his due when I relapsed, but today I am sober, and I'm still looking  over my shoulder to see who's sitting on it. 

"Viva Las Vegas" performed by The Dead Kennedys

"Hell in a Bucket" by the Grateful Dead (live from 1994 Las Vegas show)

It's Christmas in Vegas, Baby!


Submit a Comment

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    Come by and say HEY NOW

    Great vids thanks!

    Dead tour 09 so hot!

    Peace Mark

  • Katherine Baldwin profile image

    Katherine Baldwin 

    10 years ago from South Carolina

    Great Hub, St. James, it's those that actually live through it that tell it the best. Keep fighting your demons, it's worth it. There is so much in life to live for and any kind of addiction isn't one of the good choices.


  • profile image


    10 years ago

    Wow, what a story. Godspeed man , and keep looking over that shoulder to make sure the Devil does not get his due.

  • profile image


    10 years ago from NYC

    That was a good story and very intriquing look forward to more of your stories.

  • Misha profile image


    10 years ago from DC Area

    Wow! What a story. Interesting, you know, the older I get the more I think we have to try and exhaust all what we can in our lives.

    No, let me start from another angle - in order to successfully quit some kind of addiction, we have to exhaust it first. Not sure if it happens over a span of one life though...

  • goldentoad profile image


    10 years ago from Free and running....

    I never hit bottom or have gone on any binges like that, close, but I think I have a guardian angel that has worked overtime to protect me. Good story and hope you stay strong.


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