All that glitters is not gold. Isn’t that what we’ve always been told? Well, what if you’re Midas?
Believe me, if you are, then it’s not a superpower. It’s a disaster. There was a time when I was making tens of thousands of dollars a week. And then, I started gambling. In just five years, I made millions. But I also ruined my life. Ironic, isn’t it? In the wink of an eye, my gambling turned into an addiction. The kind where I’d even forget to eat because my brain was preoccupied by the idea of making money – an insane amount of money! My condition deteriorated to the point where it became a compulsion. I was in fact, diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD. I’ve gotten better since then of course. A lot better.
But before I get to the part where I got cured, maybe I should start at the beginning and give you a better idea of the absolute mess I made of my life…
The road I shouldn’t have taken
I was a freelance programmer. After graduating from one of Texas’ finest colleges, I decided to go freelance. I just never saw myself as the guy who could work in an office, throughout the day. My freelance work paid me well, more than enough for my lifestyle. One fine day, I got an order to program an online gaming platform. This was kind of a fascinating project for me. I got in touch with the client. I was surprised to know that he was a programmer himself. On asking the reason for not programming the platform by himself, he just said, ” To start a company, we need company!’ The guy was a mathematical genius, and it wasn’t long into our collaboration before our product was market-ready. The API (it’s just a part of a program) was designed such that it would make a lot of money for us. The tides started to drown me when I realized that we could multiply this money by actually gambling. In what? Blackjack. I played it for fun in high school. But this time, it was serious business. I was doing well. I won, lost and won. The guy told me a golden rule for gambling, “If you lose, double the money at stake, the next time.” Some ‘golden rule’ that turned out to be…
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I was becoming compulsive about making money through gambling. I didn’t care about anything but gambling. Well, we all know that by counting cards, we can win every game. But my compulsion fed on the ‘adrenaline rush’ during gambling. So consumed was I by this gambling ‘rush’ that I pretty much let my partner steal our product and all the profits from our collaboration right from under my nose. I had no documents to support my claims if I filed a lawsuit against him. But truth be told, even if I had a fighting chance in court, I just wasn’t in the state of mind to do anything about it. All I was anxious about was getting money and betting money. I couldn’t even perform my daily chores, let alone find gainful employment. There was no way to get money. I’m almost too ashamed about what happened next to talk about it, but it’s a necessary part of my story. I stole food. And money. I sustained myself for a short while before I got caught and found myself in jail. Now, to most people, being incarcerated would be one of the devastating things that can happen. But for me, prison actually gave my life a ray of hope – in the form of a psychiatric ward!
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Getting back on the track
I was diagnosed with a gambling addiction, which had turned into an OCD. The symptoms of anxiety, depression and frequent panic attacks made that evident. In a few months, I was sent to the rehabilitation center.
Now I know that most of you might be reading this story just to know, “How to help a gambling addict?” Well, here’s the answer, as I discovered it – Struggle to overcome the withdrawal symptoms (yes, gambling, like any other addiction, comes with severe withdrawal symptoms), divert your mind and most importantly one, seek professional help. The compulsive gambling help programs offered by rehab centres can be a virtual lifesaver, as I’ve discovered. Remember always – You are not alone. Over 80% of American adults have gambled at least once in their lifetime. 15 million Americans are at risk of addiction, and 2.9% of the population is suffering from a serious gambling addiction.
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There’s one very important point to be noted. Most addicts won’t go for rehab of their own volition. They are usually taken there by someone – sometimes, as it was in my case, by law enforcement. Try to be the exception to this rule. If you have a problem, seek out help on your own. Ultimately, the process will be a lot more effective if you are proactively trying to change. Do you know the best part of my story? These days, I’m a volunteer at the same rehab centre that saved me from my gambling addiction. I’ve been involved in the successful treatment of over 70 cases of gambling addiction, as well as alcohol and drug addiction. My way of making up for the mistakes of my past. Now, by no means am I suggesting that gambling is always devastating and should be made completely illegal. If you keep it in check, it can be harmless entertainment. Just make sure that it’s only a bit of your money that’s at stake – and not your life!