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Originally posted by kathryn
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Hi Paul,
"… Your family in France, are you in contact with them?  It seems that you have a lot of loose ends that are playing on your mind and these are obvious triggers in reading your post.  I would like to know a little more about them, have they been to the US since you arrived there, are you planning to divorce? …"
Take care, bye for now, Kathryn xx
 Fighting the good fight…One day at a time

Added pre-script: be prepared for a long post.
I am finally getting around to reply to your post above. I have been kept occupied by responding to other post, it is a lot easier then replying to those about myself.  Those responses, addressing problems similar to mine, were however directed to me also, and has helped me to reach this point of addressing some of my own problems and issues, even if just for now with unknown, but just as real, friends. 
It has been over seven years since I left France and have seen my family. Seven seams like a small number when you type it, but when you think about all that is encompassed in that number and of everything that could have been shared during that time, that small number turns into a life time. It may be true that "only time will heal" but time and miles can also destroy.
I met and had a brief affair with my then-to-be wife, Annie, during her visit to the States and New Orleans. Three years later, after a long distant courtship via the mail and Internet, I went to France to "visit" her and my new daughter, Maeva.  I stayed, and we were married. Ironically, she wanted to, and we were, married in Vegas (during my only non-gambling visit there). I did however, gamble one afternoon in Mississippi while visiting other parts of the States while they were at the pool, I guess, now as I see it, as a "reward" for my gambling free time during our honeymoon.  For the next three years we lived a happy life in France. I was a stay-at-home house husband, my main responsibility, and one of my greatest pleasures, was taking our daughter to school each morning and picking her up in the afternoon. A couple of my fondness moments with her was during my first time of walking her to pre-school and she so proudly showed off "her Papa" to  her classmates (I later learned that she had been teased about being fatherless) the other was when I was told about her "take-to-school toy", an American Beanie Baby with Stars n’ Stripes that I had sent her, and one with which she was characterized. The small stuffed toy was worn and faded, but still it brought her comfort in being away from home each day. My granddaughter here in the States, at the same age as Maeva then, has her "dogdog" to take to her pre-school for the same reason.
During my day I did normal everyday chores and made almost daily shopping trips to the local fruit and vegetable markets and bakeries.  These common events and duties (if you can imagine an English-only speaking American undertaking and sustaining life in a foreign country as common)) came very natural to me and my lack of French did not hinder me in the slightest way.  I also ventured out on my days alone at home and visited the small nearby  attractions and "villes".  During some of these outings I also visited and gambled at the ten or so local casinos. 
My attraction, to gambling was not a "compulsion" to me at that time, but, looking back, it was an unhealthy attraction and had been such for years.  I also recall that, though the casino visits were not a "secret" mission, they were not a topic of discussion during "what did you do today, Dear?", and I also know that the money that I selfishly gambled could have been better enjoyed for family events — prior to this new family life, the money I gambled was my "discretionary spending funds".
During our time together as a family, when Annie was off work and Maeva did not have school, we lived ordinary lives with normal daily happenings: Maeva’s playtime, her social time with her friends and her taking different lessons and classes; a few nights out for our own social life; occasional visits with friends; and, a few gatherings with Annie’s co-workers.  Of course a lot of these "ordinary" events were not so ordinary to me, but were entirely new and exciting experiences being shared in land with a much different look at life then that of the overly fast pace one that is dominate in the US. Sorry for getting off-track about gambling here but, just a personal observation and note along this line: Overtime and "IMHO", I did notice the gradual changes in the slow-paced lifestyle and erosion of "family-time" brought about by (what I term as Americanization or Capitalism) the extended shopping hours and inclusion of more and more businesses being open during holidays and on Sundays whereby families could no longer be together on these days because one or more member now had to work. — Now back to gambling.
We stayed home a lot, took short one-day adventures (my favorites being frequent evening B-B-Q’s on the beach and the International Firework Competitions on Friday nights during the summer months), went on a few week-end excursions, took our vacations, and simply enjoyed life — notice that there were no casino references in the family activities.  During one family trip I did go off one afternoon on my own to the casino in Switzerland while the rest of the family went to the lake beach; this was to fulfill my desire of visiting exotic casinos. I can now recognize this abnormal desire as nothing less then another straw added by me while on my path toward compulsive gambling.  
Then came 911 and the attack on the US.  This event changed my life, I can only speculate to the reasons it affected me in the way it did. I didn’t know any of the victims or their families, nor did I have to deal with the consequences in a up-close or personal manor. I know that mine was a quite normal reaction, and that the attack affected many, many, people around the world, some more then others and some less; and that this unbearable intrusion on my life was no different in intensity to that of others ("Bad is bad, even when it is "better than."), but my being away from the target, safe in a foreign land, so to speak, gave me a guilt that weighed heavily on me. I could not sleep, I had to stay up late and be awake early each morning for the live news from the States, and then stay glued for any further events throughout the day. 
I did experience a lot of support and compassion form my local friends and from family and friends far away in the States, and even from strangers here recognizing me as an American  — I never saw any of the resentment from the French that the American news portrayed as existing during the Iraq invasion. (on the contrary, the French I came in contact with, still hold America in high regard for their liberation during WWII)  I did ,however, notice a hidden concern, shown by my wife through our conversations, of resentment directed toward her (she has Arab features) from some of her high-school students that knew that she was married to an American.  She had quite a few students that were from ArabMuslim cultures, and they did have and showed resentment toward Americans. The concern for the safety of my wife and daughter caused me additional stress. This and the guilt I felt put me in such a depressed state, that I thought I had no option other then to run away to save my life and that of my family. There was no want or desire for me to leave on my wife’s part, and I truthfully did not want go, I felt I had to leave, that I had no choice; If I had only sought out counseling at the time I would not have left. And on this same note, if I had received counseling after a closely following tragedy, Hurricane Katrina, I may have been able to return then. With counseling at those times, I really believe that I would not be in the compulsive state I am in now. I would still have had the unhealthy attraction to gambling, and that might have brought me here eventually, but this I will never know.
After deserting my family, all the time I spent away before I realized my mistake, the miles and ocean between us, the pull of my local family and friends, plus my foolish pride prevented me from returning.  Now our divorce is almost final and our only contact, other then between me and our daughter for her birthdays and holidays, has reverted back to the email; email that once kept us together way back when, but now keeps us apart. My daughter feels deserted, and I can only hope and prey that she will have a better understanding later on in life.  My memories of our life together and my love for them, although still ever constant, are slowing becoming "worn and faded" like Maeva’s Beanie Baby, but also like it, they still provide me comfort and a reason to continue.
Well Kathryn, you said you would like to know a little more about my French family. I took this as concern and that you were not being nosy. But, be careful what you ask for. Writing the things you are about to receive in reply, is a tremendous load off my mind, I only wish it was me awaking from a bad dream instead.
The effect Katrina had on me will have to come at another time.  There is one good thing about today, it is my Day48 of being gambling free, this is not a normally recognized milestone, but I wanted to close with a happy thought.
God bless you and best wishes on your journey.

"Day Two is Still a Day Away" – With the help of a Higher Power, My 3G’s – God, GA, and GT, I will not have to relive a Day 2.
— 9/29/2009 11:29:43 PM: post edited by paul315.– 9/30/2009 12:47:49 AM: post edited by paul315.