By Michael Welch
In 2007, I opened a business to finance my addiction. My idea was to help addicts; prey on the vulnerable. I would find those who were desperate and capitalize on their need.
Within one week I was pulling from a massive line of credit. At two weeks, the proper business paperwork was in place. At three weeks, I had a physical hub and full business facilities. By the end of the month, I was open for business. At no time was anyone aware that I was in full-fledged gambling addiction, barely getting by financially. I looked good and acted the part. I was to spare no expense with cars, dress, relationships, and good etiquette. The level of anti-social conduct I was participating in had taken on a personality of its own.
I spent the majority of my time in Vegas by holding down the basic business responsibilities via phone, stepping foot on my property maybe once a week. Within months I had lost everything, but I still believed my intentions were good; I believed I could keep hustling as long as I convinced my clients to continue to participate in more unsatisfactory treatment services. My salesmanship suddenly began to falter; I panicked. I went to my investors and found ways to increase capitol and give myself more wiggle room. The lies began to compound, people began to question, and for the first time in almost a year it was clear to me that I was "out of control".
The gig was up. I couldn't stomach the lies any more. I had to throw my hands up and confess. Instead, I ran. I hid. I turned to drugs. I couldn't face anyone. I was a fraud. I was no one. My façade was swiped from me and the reality of what I had done slowly saturated.
Through criminal intervention, I am face to face with a Rabbi who is coined the "holy thief.” He saw right through my empty arrogance and immediately spoke to a part of me that I assumed was lost. Over the next year, a very cathartic experience began to take shape. He imparted the most important approach to self-perception that would prove to keep me afloat and stay the course: "Don't let your past actions rule who you are today.”
I was approached by a friend last week who shared with me that he felt like a fraud. That his life was over, everyone who had been there was now gone. He was facing serious legal repercussions for his actions. I didn’t look away in shame or judgment; I understood exactly what he was going through. I was filled with anxiety and compassion. I knew what he was up against. I think I know what we are all up against. I don't look forward to facing my wreckage, but it’s necessary for people like me. I have to promote the message to live on.