When you find yourself up at 2 a.m. betting on Chinese league basketball games, something you know nothing about, you have to realize that maybe you’ve got a gambling problem.
My relationship with gambling started when I was young. I remember playing cards with my uncle when I was nine or ten years old. At that time, poker was all over television, with ESPN broadcasting various poker tours. I found a website where I could play online for practice, and I spent many hours doing that.
By the time I was 14, I was staying up until four or five in the morning playing poker with my parent’s credit cards. My gambling progressed, and when I moved out on my own, I thought that maybe I could gamble all the time.
But by the time I was 18, I ended up in Gamblers Anonymous (GA). It was at a church and there were only two people there. At the time, it didn’t feel like the place for me. I had a full college scholarship for chess and figured I’d grow out of gambling. Unfortunately, I only lasted three months in college, and when I lost my scholarship, I lost some of my identity. I continued to gamble and also found substances as a way to try to keep gambling away.
There was a lot of pain and suffering between age 19 and 25. Although I visited GA again in 2013, I was very stubborn and didn’t stick with it. I got sober when I was 25 but didn’t give up gambling. By that time my income was substantially higher and my bets were larger. I also got involved in illegal activities to sustain my gambling.
In 2021, I had a substantial win and thought that would change everything. But, of course, it didn’t. I found myself sick and tired of being sick and tired. This time, my involvement with GA feels different. I’m more committed, have sponsors, chair meetings and go every week. While treatment centers may work for some (I went to the Vanguard Center for Gambling Recovery in Granite Falls as well as to a gambling treatment center in Florida), I’ve found that GA works best for me.
It’s now been eight months since I gambled. I’m very happy now. I have a great job and great friends. I’m back together with my girlfriend, who has been through a lot with me.
As someone who got into heroin at one point, I can honestly say that the high from gambling was greater than that of heroin. It is the hardest of the addictions. It’s easier to lie
to think you can win something. With drugs and alcohol, you won’t win anything, but with gambling, you can trick yourself.
To those who are struggling with gambling and wondering what to do, I would say this. Nobody accidentally finds their way into a GA meeting. If you think you’re having an issue, you more than likely do. But there’s help out there. There are a lot of different meetings and a lot of people are willing to help you. The environment is very welcoming and nonjudgmental. I realize now that the age factor — my being younger than many in GA — was simply a copout.
But I do think there’s a need for more GA meetings focused on young people, particularly now there are likely more younger people gambling because of the easy access. It can be difficult when you look around and see that most of the other meeting attendees are older. For this reason, I’ve worked to create a “young persons” GA meeting. My hope is that it will help others like myself.