Tony Rossi, Director of Communications, The Christophers

Famous Broadcaster Faces Gambling Addiction

 

     Spencer Christian was the happy-go-lucky weatherman on ABC’s “Good Morning America”

for 13 years, yet behind-the scenes, he experienced moments of “self-loathing.” The reason:

he had a decades-long hidden gambling addiction that was ruining his life. 

     In his memoir “You Bet Your Life: How I Survived Jim Crow Racism, Hurricane Chasing, and

Gambling,” Spencer recalls a moment after a run of bad luck at a craps table: “I was walking rapidly and nervously through the streets of Atlantic City – past hookers and derelicts, the homeless and the hopeless – wondering if I had anymore dignity than they did at that moment.”

     During a “Christopher Closeup” interview, Spencer explained why he continued to gamble despite it making him feel desperately low: “There was a surge of adrenaline, a rush of excitement that I felt initially when I started gambling, especially when I was winning…That feeling had almost a narcotic effect. When I began losing, there was something inside me that said, ‘Your luck will change next time.’...So there were competing forces inside me: one side that was looking for that thrill of winning, and the other side that was feeling sick and ashamed of myself.”

     Spencer grew up in a Christian family, so he prayed all the time about his gambling issues – but he realizes now that he was praying for the wrong results. Instead of asking God to take away his anxiety and get him out of debt, he says he should have been praying, “Take away my desire to have [gambling] in my life. Take away the pleasure that I derive from it so I can find the strength to walk away from it and give it up. It wasn’t until I arrived at that point that I began to lose the desire and feel like God was leading me in a more purposeful direction.”

Spencer credits his parents, Spencer Sr. and Lucy, with modeling the faith, hope, and determination that allowed him to move beyond his addiction. This is especially noteworthy because, as African Americans in Virginia, they faced the harsh realities of racism that could have left them angry and bitter. Their belief in God, however, allowed them to choose a different road. “God was present in our life every day,” Spencer recalled, noting that they emphasized leading “a Christ-like life.” 

     When Spencer himself experienced the injustice of Jim Crow racism, it was again his parents who looked toward a brighter future that would allow people of all colors to achieve the American dream. He said, “I remember in my early childhood, when I was probably no older than four, asking them why I can’t use the bathroom here in the store where we shop. Why do we have to use that old, dirty, broken down water fountain that’s marked ‘colored,’ and why can’t I use the shiny clean one that says ‘whites only.’ And I remember the pained expression on their faces...One thing they used to say to us is that ‘Our God delivered our people from the bondage of slavery [in the Bible], and you can see evidence of that in the Civil Rights Movement’…My parents always pointed out to us that it was a righteous cause, a God-inspired cause.”

     Thankfully, Spencer’s parents got to experience that better day of racial equality, and also enjoy the success he achieved on TV, which brought them “joy and thankfulness that their prayers had been answered, that their children were now going to be able to enjoy these freedoms.”

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