Case Studies

Sports Medial Consumption/Self-Banning from Online Gambling
“Ben” Age 29 years old, Asian Male, Last Bet 12/17/2016

The first few months of my recovery were critical for me. I enrolled into an intensive outpatient program and decided to “be all in with it”. I think that had a huge perspective shift in my mind, and that's really where I brought into the idea of recovery and brought into me not gambling ever again and being surrounded with other people who have like-minded goals. I’d be lying though if I said that there wasn’t a small disconnect between a counselor and a peer. Having those people who are in the same shoes as you, who are also going through similar things, was huge in the beginning for me.

After I finished with the IOP, I moved away from GA and focused on work with my therapist. I think having that safe space where I could openly and honestly talk about my feelings was crucial. It was the bread and butter of my recovery. Also, coming up with a plan to pay my debt. When I started this process, I owed my dad between 50 and 60k. I declared bankruptcy. Getting out of this financial situation caused by gambling was a huge motivator for me.

I think being a compulsive gambler, my relationship to watching games and sports media has changed. I do not seek to watch out every game. If there's a big game on or a big fight or a big Sunday Night Football, I’ll check it out. But now, I always notice the betting odds scrolling on the bottom and I get... I don't know, not triggered, but I feel this emotional reaction where they primarily target gamblers. I'm more sensitive to it now. I'm more so like, "Screw gambling, screw the gaming industry." So I'm disappointed by the way that the sports industry has let gambling be intertwined and normalized.

A huge help in my recovery has been my new passion for endurance sports. These days, I usually begin my days with either a run or a bike ride. If I don't start my days out with it, I'm usually after work doing a bike ride or a run. So every day I do some sort of aerobic physical activity. I also do try to practice a little yoga and mindfulness.

I think the work in therapy and hitting the absolute rock bottom with the bankruptcy has made me more insightful of how I think and how I process things. If I do ever feel urge... "Oh, I could come up to Vegas and deposit money." I think just being able to regulate and play the tape in my mind like, "Is this something I really want to do?" Now, I can think about the consequences, and I can think about the disappointment that my family would feel. Having that clear head and being able to think and fully process of what gambling will ultimately do to me is so important for me.

Gamblers Anonymous Involvement
“Drew” Age 30 Years Old, Caucasian Male, Last Bet 04/01/2021

It has been over fifteen months since I’ve placed a bet. And for me, my recovery program has consisted of two things: therapy and GA. Therapy is where I can talk out my week, talk out my fears, talk out my feelings, talk out the reasons why I'm drawn to gambling…One of my favorite things about GA is when a new recovering addict comes in and you can feel and hear the pain in their voice and it reminds you of when you were there.

I can always relate to sports betters a little bit more. I was never a horse racing gambler, so when someone's talking about that, sometimes I can't relate to the specific example that they're saying, but at the end of the day, we are all sort of hooked on this gambling thing. And whether it's horse racing, blackjack, sports or slots, it still triggers the same things in your brain. And when you lose, you want to go back and win it back. And so the patterns are really what are similar.

Rather than completely stopping watching sports at all, my goal has been to be able to watch sports without betting. And it's changed a lot. I mean, when I was gambling, I was able to watch the most random sports game you could imagine, Hawaii versus San Diego State, because I had money on the line. I was never enjoying watching those games. It was the possibility of money that made me want to watch. So now, if I turn on that same game, I mean, I'll fall asleep, because it means nothing to me. And now I watch sports only because I want to. Only because it brings me pleasure to watch these sports.

I think it's an impossible task to be a family member or a partner to a recovering gambling addict, because you want to believe in them and trust them but you’re dealing with the fact that you’ve been lied to or had money stolen from you. You want to show trust and commitment with them and that you believe in them, but at the same time, it's a disease. And if you're going to counseling or GA, you probably put yourself in a spot where you have either stolen or lied about money to your loved ones. So there's that breach of trust.

I've reached the point now where my struggle is that in my heart, I believe that I am never going to gamble again. And while that's amazing, it's also a little bit scary, because I also know in my heart that at any moment, this thing could pop back up. So for me, the thing is, I just need to continuously remind myself to not get complacent, to continue going to therapy, to continue going to GA, even though there are a lot of days where I believe I'm good. I've rid myself of this addiction. When in reality, I the only way that it won't pop its head back up, is if I continue to do the work.

I have a calendar alert that at 9:00 AM every morning, I get a notification. And I mean, sometimes I'm on the phone and I don't see it until 9:30 or whatever it is. But whether it's a millisecond or five minutes, it just sort of reminds me, "Drew, you have this addiction." And it just reminds me every day that I need to keep focusing.

“Radford” Age 26, Caucasian Male Last Bet 4/25/22

I gambled for about 15 years or so, and those thoughts of gambling do not go away, but I definitely take a few minutes out of the day…I actually sit down and I meditate for about five minutes to focus on not gambling and almost celebrating that I’m not gambling.

Once you find your own reason of why you can't gamble, you just stick with that north star, it just resonates in your mind, hopefully forever. I believe that it will never go away from me… My north star was being at the very bottom of the barrel of having basically nothing left in life, besides a couple friends and my family, and I realized that if I ever gamble again, that very few things left in my life will be gone.

I think I found a new reasoning to myself, of surrendering to gambling of never ever believing I'll win again, which is a major part, and so many times of winning and losing just all mixed together and coming to a consensus in my head of just, no matter what will happen, this is just going to destroy my life… I have, if not any desire to gamble at all, there's the smallest desire of maybe wanting to, but it doesn't matter because once you have fully surrendered and know that you can absolutely never do that again, you don't even consider it, so it's been pretty easy, and I feel like it will continue to be that way.

I'm not against GA by any means, I've had good experiences, I've had okay experiences. I will say the number one thing, at least for my eyes is it's all about the people in the room at GA, maybe my rooms haven't been as powerful as other people's, The people I've been in the room with have been a little bit older and more old school gambling in regards to going to casino till four in the morning, playing slots and things like that…it doesn't connect with me as much because I personally have never done that, and I know gambling, slots and sports betting it's all gambling, but I've never been addicted to slots and I personally don't have any desire for slots. So someone in a GA room talking about, they get their paycheck and go to the casino all night. Yes, it is gambling and it's the same addiction, but it doesn't connect with me…

For me, just having an hour of open conversation, no judgment, and talking about what's been going on is the most important and the most helpful for me at least, and even in, I hope in 10 years I'm still sober to that day. I believe I'll still be doing that once a week therapy, and maybe in 10 years, I won't be talking about gambling at all in that therapy, maybe I'll just be having the hour long session to talk about life and maybe we'll touch on gambling too…. But right now for me, I think the therapy with you, my parents joining once a month is really empowering for me, I think it's been good, I think I've personally opened up…

Daily Consistent Action
“Stephen” Age 28 Years Old, Caucasian Male Last Bet 03/07/2020

It's definitely been a process to build trust with the people that were affected by my gambling-- My family and the people closest to me--it was so mind blowing to them and so hard to wrap their heads around the damage that I caused and how it's even possible. And I still think that continues today. And when I look back on it, it's hard for me to wrap my head around it. So it's a step by step process. I caused so much financial damage to myself and my future, which is a really heavy weight to live with. I would say obviously getting right mentally and feeling like you're in a good place and getting right in your workplace and getting your focus where it needs to be is obviously important. But the financial aspect plays such a big role in all of this. So that's been a huge part of my past, is building a plan and sticking to a plan to get right financially and get out of debt, which is still ongoing to this day. I'm multiple years in. And I got a little over, I think, a year left before I'm completely out of debt, but I've just stayed committed to it. I've tried to be aggressive with it and do everything I can to get myself back to where I was, which is a long road ahead, but I feel committed to getting there.

I think from day one in a road to recovery, it was all about being completely open and honest with exactly what's going on, facing the problem head first, actually identifying what the problem is and addressing it. And obviously my therapist being there every step of the way and guiding me through that honesty and through those conversations and putting some solutions into place, putting constant reminders and open communication into place was really undeniably the reason why I was able to completely break the cycle of gambling and break the addiction so that I could get my life back on track both mentally and financially….I'm really appreciative that you, as a therapist, didn't just put me into a cookie cutter bucket of, okay, everybody has to do it this exact way on their recovery. But you really allowed me to find solutions that worked for me.

I wouldn't be where I was or where I am today without therapy. I needed help and I feel extremely fortunate to have found some unbelievable help and someone that really understood me and understood the issue at hand and the industry as a whole. So I can't be more appreciative of our time together and continuing our time together. And I think it's such an important role of today's society that is increasingly reliant on gambling as part of the sports industry. I mean, you see it everywhere that it's growing and growing, and that problem gambling is going to continue to be a problem for many. And it's only going to get bigger and bigger, whether it's identified or not. I think there are a lot of people out there that have many problems and whether that's financial problems, whether that's just time commitment or they're hiding what they're doing and it's unidentified that it's an addiction and that they need help from people like you.

Staying on Track in Recovery
“Edmond” Age 28 years old Latino Male, Last Bet 03/15/2022

I was just so, under so much stress all the time. When I woke up, the first thought I had was, "Oh man, I'm down so much. How am I going to get it back today?" And when I was done with work, as I'm driving home, I'd just be looking at my phone and be like, "Damn, I need to put some money on this or some money on that." It'd be like that, all night checking all the scores until I go to sleep. And then to start all over again. And so, when I stopped, honestly, it was more just enjoying the little things. Even when driving to work, I would just be thinking about all the numbers in my head the whole time, and now I'm just concentrating on driving and concentrating on other things.

I think stopping gambling was like doing basically what they call in basketball, full press, full court approach, just go all in basically. For me, just taking the easy access and triggers away. One was taking my phone away because I could contact my bookies or still place bets through the bookie website. I had my social media on my phone, especially Twitter, and could check scores, and I was following a lot of people who would like, "Oh, you should bet this today. Bet that, bet that, bet that." Also, starting some type of therapy, whether it was like GA and then going on to talk with you and Dan. I would say just definitely try to get in some therapy and talk about it.

I think what also really helped for me was finding other people in GA who had the same struggle as I did and had the same emotions and feelings that I did, because when you're in it you feel like you're the only person kind of going through it and you're like, "Oh, why did this have to happen to me?" And then meeting other people and hearing other people's stories, and how they went through the same feelings and emotions you had. Some people had worse stories than I did, some not as bad, but when you hear their success stories that motivates you to turn it around. I would say that played a big deal in it as well.

I would say also as you're going through it, definitely start a budget and figure out how much you can spend every month. That definitely helped my recovery in trying to pay off my debt as soon as possible and sticking to a budget. And it'll obviously help me in the future when I'm done paying off my debt, and still sticking to a budget, in general, is just a life skill that you need to have. Because when I was in it, I didn't care about how much money I had. Even if I didn't have money, I'd try to get cash advances on my credit card and just be like, "I'll figure it out the next day," type of thing. Whereas, if you have a budget, you have weeks, months of planning, and you can see where your money's going.

I'm definitely a chill person in general, but I was never really into meditating or that type of stuff, but I definitely think about how far I've come every day, even if it's for a couple minutes. I would definitely, in general, recommend whoever it is, to think about what you've done in the past, whether it's one minute, three minutes, or five minutes, whatever it is, just to see how far you've come. And then, after I'm done thinking about it, my last thought is like, "Oh, it feels so nice now." It's just a constant reminder to never to go back. Every day I still think about it for at least a couple minutes, just kind of ponder where I was and where I'm at now.