On an evening during the month of April 2000 I sat at our dining room table with my parents and two other men. The meeting had been called by all of them. It was an intervention of sorts. I did not want to be there. I was resentful and angry. Nobody had the right to tell me what to do and yet here I was and I was being told to lay all of my debts out on the table. Everything. Every credit card statement. Every collection notice. Notification of my garnished wages. All of it. “You’re going to have to stick it to your parents one last time”, one of the men, my sponsor, said. I growled and pouted and put up a fight as I reluctantly unwrapped the rubber band from around the thick stack of papers and one by one placed each of them on the table. For the following 90 minutes I was forced to answer questions I didn’t want to answer about things I had done and was asked to explain why I did them. I was humiliated. Within 20 minutes, though, I was a blubbering fool. By the time we were finished I felt more relieved than I had ever felt. I was scared shitless, but I was relieved. I had finally gotten honest.
Many who know me do not know that I am a recovering compulsive gambler. It’s not the kind of thing you talk about. On the occasion that it comes up in conversation I almost always get the same response from someone who didn’t know: “What? You had a gambling problem? You don’t LOOK like someone with a gambling problem. I would NEVER peg you for a..a…gambler” What? A degenerate gambler? Yep. Degenerate sums it up. At times I told myself that I was a slightly classier version, but the truth is that I wasn’t. I did the same things as them. I lied, I stole, and I cheated, just so I could push that button one more time or play another hand, even if I did it in nice clothes. Nothing else mattered.
It’s been over eighteen years since I last gambled. And even though it hasn’t been 18 years since I told a lie, I can honestly say that I’ve turned my life around quite a bit. I won the trust and confidence back from my family after years of hard work, including working on my personality flaws and paying back my debts. I put myself through graduate school and changed careers. I moved out on my own and have lived on my own for 18 years, rarely needing to call my parents for help paying the bills. (I’m sure they’re happy about that!). I’ve earned respect from my peers and colleagues. My life has got significantly better, so much so that, at times, I forget that I used to gamble. It almost feels like it was another life. It’s almost unrecognizable.
Why am I telling you all of this? I’m telling you this because it is the reason that the “I’ve-known-Brett Kavanaugh-for-30-years-and-I’ve-never-seen-him-be-anything-other-than-respectful-to-women” defense doesn’t hold too much weight. Not with me anyway. I KNOW what I was when I gambled, but like I said, ask someone who has known me for less than 18 years and they’d (hopefully) have similarly respectable things to say. Most people wouldn’t believe that I was lying to practically every person I knew. Most people wouldn’t believe that I pawned jewelry across the street from the casino in desperation to get money with which to gamble. Most people wouldn’t believe that I wrote checks to be cashed at the grocery store knowing there was no money in the bank to cover them because I needed my drug. I was so out of my mind that I didn’t even know I was breaking the law. I am embarrassed and ashamed of having done those things. But they happened and they are part of my past.
As I watched Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony I saw myself in him. Well, I saw my 18-years-ago self. I saw that fear and angst and avoidance and the self-pity. I saw a man who was boxed into a corner who was panicking. I saw a man who lashed out when confronted. I saw a man who looked like someone who had just been caught and was grappling with what to do about it. Finally, when he was asked to request an FBI investigation into himself he looked like a man who was terrified at the possibility of being found out. Am I saying he’s guilty? I don’t know. I do know that I believe Dr. Ford. She was unbelievably credible. As I watched I remembered thinking to myself, “Brett, if you DID do this, just tell the truth and you could be free, even though you might not get the job.” Overall, in the end, I saw a man whose temperament is not consistent with what is appropriate in the job for which he is applying.
Maybe Brett Kavanaugh is a good man. He may be a wonderful father. Perhaps he is as honorable as the people in his paid ads say he is, but it’s quite possible that it’s not a complete picture of who he is and who he may have been. There is already evidence to the contrary. Should his life today be defined by the things he did back then? Should mine? I guess it depends. Then again, I’m not a nominee for the Supreme Court of the United States. If Brett Kavanaugh is the best we can do then we are in a lot of trouble.