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From Dakota Student Online, a publication of the University of North Dakota.
Published: September 2, 2011


Addiction: a gambler's hand

By Brandon Becker

The hand dealt

On May 24 of this year, I stopped gambling. It is a date that I treasure and hold in a higher regard than any other date of the year. It is the day that marks the start of my journey to a new life.

For the last five years of my life, I have gambled almost everyday. My choice of gambling happens to involve something that I love dearly, and that is sports. I first started betting on sports at the age of 17 and became immediately hooked. It quickly replaced poker as my choice of gambling, because it combined two things that I loved: gambling and sports. Throw in the ability to do it over the internet, instantly and impulsively it spells trouble.

My friends had also started to bet on sports, which only increased my desire to gamble due to the social aspect of it. I loved talking with friends about games that night and whom they were betting on. By the time I graduated high school I had developed a gambling problem, but was far from ready to face it.

A lifestyle of self-destruction

Entering my first year of college I was excited like every freshman is. I lived in the dorms my first year and it presented a newfound freedom that I thoroughly enjoyed. But I abused the freedom I had and became lazy with schoolwork. I resorted to gambling to relieve my stresses, and mostly because it took my mind off of my responsibilities. Instead of focusing on a speech that was due or a research paper that I had to write, my focus was on who was playing that night and which team I was going to bet on. Gambling served as an effective tool to help me procrastinate.

Despite my gambling problem, I was able to maintain solid grades over my first two years at UND. Last year, last semester in particularly, is when everything fell apart. My gambling had spiraled out of control. I knew I had a problem but I couldn't stop. I chased the high that I got with placing a bet, the adrenaline that came with a win and a fantasy world where I would make a living off of gambling.

School became less important. Class became optional—I would estimate I missed over 60 percent of my classes this past school year. My bank account was dwindling; the lies I was telling started to pile up and my head felt like it was going to explode. The only relief I found was in the next bet. The desperation I was feeling after each loss grew deeper and deeper. I had jumped in a hole and kept digging. I was living a lifestyle of self-destruction. My worst enemy was the man that I saw in the mirror each and every morning.

The road to recovery

Seeing as things had hit rock bottom I decided to seek help at the UND Counseling Center. At first, my commitment to stopping gambling was genuine, but it proved to be frugal. Even though I failed to stop gambling I continued to see a counselor on a weekly basis. It was here where the groundwork of my recovery was laid, although at the time it didn't feel that way. Eventually, I attended a Gamblers Anonymous meeting in hopes that it would help me abstain from gambling. It didn't. Even though I returned to gambling again I still attended meetings due to relationships that I had formed. It was in Gamblers Anonymous where I became informed of a gambling program called Gambler's Choice in Fargo, which was done through Lutheran Social Services.

I called to try and set up an appointment with the program directors, but was unable to reach them. Instead of leaving an email or a message I chose to continue to gamble. Finally, after the semester had concluded I decided that I couldn't keep on living the way that I was. After seven years of gambling compulsively, I had made an arrangement with Gambler's Choice to start treatment every Tuesday and Thursday night.

A life without gambling

To say all my problems have up and vanished since I've stopped gambling would be a blatant lie. It doesn't quite work like that, but I have now begun the process of

dealing with my problems and responsibilities rather than gamble to avoid them. I have met a lot of great people in recovery and it is because of them that I have abstained from gambling for a little over three months.

My intentions for writing this article are to spread awareness about a problem that has gone greatly underreported on our campus. As a society, it seems that we pay a greater attention to alcohol and drug abuse than to those that suffer from a gambling addiction.

Compulsive gambling is a silent addiction that can be extremely hard to detect, especially with computers and online gambling. For those that are currently battling a gambling problem, I challenge you to go to the UND Counseling Center to get help. It was the first step for me and helped change my direction in life.

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