By Michael Stein
This starts out as a pretty typical story.
Andy is a young quiet man who started gambling in his late teens. He tried a few scratch games, never thinking he’d win big money. Going to a casino was his way to avoid the loneliness of sitting at home and to relax and meet friends.
Like many typical stories, there are a few unfortunate twists and turns. While leaving a casino one night, Andy crashed his car and subsequently had to take out another loan to replace it.
“I was hoping to get my first car fixed since I was still paying for it,” Andy said. “I started getting payday loans and using my credit card more often. I was hell bent on getting money to continue playing.”
He was also asking for advances in his pay and lying about why he needed them.
Feeling of intoxication
As a restaurant manager, Andy works in a fast-paced environment. After being transferred to Jamestown, he missed his family and didn’t know anyone else there. His choices were go to the casino or stay home. The latter choice was too lonely to think about.
“I really don’t have any other vices,” Andy explained. “So going to the casino was something to look forward to. It was better than staying home alone.”
As with most gamblers, there were good nights at the casino. Andy said after a night of playing he often felt intoxicated, even though he doesn’t drink.
“One night last year I lost $400,” he said. “I started to worry more about my finances and being able to pay my bills.”
Andy contacted FirstLink, a 211 number that connects callers to information about health and human services. They referred him to Lutheran Social Services Gamblers Choice and started going to group sessions.
Finding positive ways to fill time
“I really didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “But it’s been interesting to look back on my life and see how I got to this point. I still want to gamble, but I’m finding other things to do.”
Dedication to his job, which he’s had for more than seven years, has also helped Andy in overcoming his gambling problem.
“I like my job and I don’t want to risk losing it,” Andy added. “My boss knows I’m getting treatment and he’s been very understanding. In fact, I went back and admitted that I lied about why I needed those advances.
“People say they can stop gambling any time they want, and that’s not always true. You have to have self control and you have to care about being able to pay your bills and just be a responsible person.”