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Gambling addiction leads mom of two to Payment Partner

“When I was in my early 20s I discovered I had a gambling problem,” 39-year-old Anna Angell of Fond du Lac said.

With two small children and living paycheck to paycheck, struggling with creditors and facing surmounting debt, Anna found the resource and help she needed when she was referred through her employer to Payment Partner, a program of Goodwill NCW that helps eligible participants pay their monthly expenses and manage their money. The program provides representative payee and bill-paying services to people of all ages who receive Social Security benefits, veterans’ benefits or pensions and those who work and receive paychecks and find themselves unable to manage their finances.

“I was scaring myself,” said Anna, who knew if she had money in her hands she would end up in a casino. “I just didn’t trust myself to have my paycheck in my hands. I wanted to protect myself from myself.

“It was almost at an emergency point, and I knew if I had that money in my hands, if I had a weak moment I would blow it.”

Through Payment Partner, she received a weekly stipend that was enough to live on, but she didn’t have full access to her paycheck. While it was an adjustment to give up power over her finances, Anna quickly found the convenience factor of not having to worry about paying bills to be well worthwhile. She knew they would get paid and paid on time, and creditors were more willing to work with Payment Partner.

“It is such a freeing feeling to know that that stuff is being taken care of. Watching your debt going down is amazing.”

She began to build up her savings and learn how to live on a budget, and those successes only motivated her to keep going and do more.

“Once you see that little bit of progress, it gives you the drive to work harder,” Anna said. “It did retrain my brain to not impulse purchase.”

“Anna has been great to work with as she was very involved in the process even though we received her full paycheck,” said Carmen LeMaster, Payment Partner Team Leader. “Eventually we did work together for her to take over some of her debt as we have done with other clients. We are super proud of her efforts and getting help when she needed it.”

After time, what once was a necessity for her financial future morphed into a convenience as Anna became savvier with saving and budgeting. As someone with a stressful, professional career who travels frequently for work, the bill-paying service became a tool that allowed her to focus on other priorities and provided peace of mind.

“It went from me saving me from me to a big convenience,” she said.

After about 10 years with Payment Partner, Anna recently decided that she was ready to take back her finances and started paying her own bills, but this time without any debt and with a sense of confidence and safety nets in place.

But she wants others to know that there are options available for people who are struggling with gambling.

“Gambling is a very real thing,” Anna said. “Don’t be ashamed of doing something for yourself.

“It’s an absolute addiction. This is a very good way to get it under control. Until you can get the help you need and discover what triggers those moments of weakness, this covers you financially.”

Anna knows firsthand what it feels like to be desperate and scared and trapped in a never-ending cycle of chasing your losses, and throughout her experience she not only has gained a sense of financial stability but humility and an understanding of how important it is not to judge others.

“I didn’t destroy myself,” she said.

Anna, who no longer lives paycheck to paycheck and doesn’t feel as vulnerable as she used to, has people to call when she’s having a weak moment and encourages others not to be afraid to ask for help.

“You have to do what’s right for you. This is your future, and you have to take control of it.”

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