Group offers help for problem gamblers
July 14, 2011
FORT SILL, Okla. -- Bright colors were flashing before his eyes and a constant chiming was all around him. In a sort of hypnotized state he continued to press buttons just waiting to see if they would return him with luck or not.
"Patrick," a retired Soldier, was spending another countless hour at the casino, not realizing he had a problem.
"I was getting up at 3:30 in the morning. Going to the casino from about 4 o'clock to 7:15. I knew it took me exactly 15 minutes to turn in any tickets I had if I had won and drive to work to start at 7:30. At lunchtime, back in the casino."
Pat is a recovering gambler who has arrested his problem, but said it never truly goes away. After finally admitting to himself that he needed help, he turned to others and after a long time of no gambling he is now a facilitator of the first Gamblers Anonymous group on Fort Sill.
"I've walked the path of a problem gambler. I know what problems it can cause, and I also know through fellowship which is important knowing that others have walked that path and they're recovering and sharing those experiences we can learn from one another."
Pat said he grew up gambling and thought nothing of it. He said he, like many others, didn't realize there was a problem until he faced financial and subsequent marital troubles.
In the military, while gambling is legal, the problems that may result from it can wreak havoc on a Soldier's career. Under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, Article 134, debt, dishonorably failing to pay can be one of many legal issues a person can face when gambling takes control.
"Soldiers, I believe, have been displaced. They had a hobby before they went overseas. They had that adrenaline rush while they were deployed and they need to fill that. They don't go back to their old habits. That chemical rush that you get in your brain when you hit and you win is just as powerful as morphine. It's real bad."
He said there are many indicators that gambling is a problem, and one is when a person thinks he or she will win back losses by simply putting more money in. This vicious cycle can be a fast way to lose cash that may have been necessary to paying bills or other necessary things.
Pat's wake up call came only after the other people in his life had been hurt by it. Spending $1,200 in a day didn't do it. Gambling away three years worth of retirement and disability pay didn't do it. He didn't even admit he had a problem after his wife asked him plain and simple, "Do you want me to pack my bags, or do you want to pack yours?"
His revelation came after he had stopped gambling for three months and thought he had kicked the addiction.
"One time I went in there for cigarettes. I gave them 10 dollars and I got five dollars change. I had to walk through the machines to get to the door to leave, and I thought well I'll just try five dollars. And I put it in. At that point I thought
'My God.' I didn't have to push a button, not one and I wouldn't. I refused to. I just left it. And I realized I have a serious problem. This is sick."
With many forms of gambling prevalent in society, Pat said you don't really think about it. Lottery tickets, bingo, cards; anything where the person is relying on chance is by definition gambling.
"I still get urges to gamble every day. It's a lifelong endeavor. None of us are perfect. Some of us slip. It's OK, you get back on the train."