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Gambling addiction, from one extreme to another: from dreaming of wealth to barely scrapping by

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GAMBLING ADDICTION

What if you could take your paycheck and double it? The only downside is there is a chance you could lose it. Is that a chance you would be willing to take. Gambling is used as a form of entertainment by many people. But what happens when these people begin to feel like they cant lose. Money is spent that shouldnt be spent they become addicted and are unable to stop. The thought that they will win all of their money back keeps going through their head, which causes more money to be gambled away. Non gamblers would think that being able to stop gambling is as simple as just keeping their money in their pockets. But knowing from personal experience, quitting is not that easy. Even though gambling is not considered a drug, it should be because it is just as addicting.

There is that high feeling that comes along while gambling. The feeling becomes even better when you are winning, but can crash immediately when losing. After losing the high feeling, trying to regain it in any way possible becomes a necessity. In 2001 I was stationed in Las Vegas NV. I was unable to gamble at the time because I was under twenty-one, but going into casinos was still an option to eat at the restaurants or see the shows. Seeing all of the gambling that went on while walking through casinos did not faze me at all. Never would I have thought that on my twenty-first birthday, one of the most dreaded and regretful things to ever happen in my life would happen in one of those casinos. My coworkers took me to a casino on my twenty first birthday. They had me sit at a blackjack table and taught me how to play. I won a little bit of money and then ended up losing it very quickly by getting greedy and placing large bets. After losing I thought to myself I can just go to the ATM and get out some more cash, win all of my money back since I won so much before losing it, and then go home and end the night either even or ahead. Things did not happen that way though, I went to the ATM over and over trying to win my money back. I eventually got to the point where my account balance was at zero dollars and I still had about a week and a half until my next payday. My wife was visiting family in Ohio with our two kids at the time. She was unaware of what happened and I failed to tell her.

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My gambling addiction continued even after my wife came back home. I became very dishonest with her every day. I would tell her I was going somewhere, like going to work to get some stuff done or even tell her I was going to the store to pick up a gallon of milk. Instead I would go to the casino and lose more money. Before going home I would stop to get whatever I said I would get and just tell my wife that the line was long or I got stuck in traffic to cover up the length of time I was gone. I would go to these places that were advertising daily work for daily pay just to get extra money to get my gambling fix. Losing was never my intention, but if I ever won a lot of money from gambling that would mean having to explain it to my wife. The feeling I had was weird, I didnt want to lose but I didnt want to win a lot either. I did not want anybody to know that I was an addict. Even with those feelings, I could not drive by a casino without stopping at least once a day. My problem became so bad that it affected the way that I treated my family. I was always depressed because I had this problem and never told anybody about it. I chose to end my career in the military just to move out of Las Vegas. This was the only way I could get away from it all. I ended up telling my wife everything after we arrived back home in Ohio and were settled in. The feeling she had was of complete shock. She questioned her trust in me after that, even though I was not gambling anymore. The lesson that I learned from this whole experience is that the one day that I learned to gamble could have made my life a miserable mess, if I had not have done something to stop it.

There are many other forms of gambling other than just casinos. State lottery games, horse racing, internet poker, etc. are ways to lose money and gain an addiction the same as walking into a casino could cause. Gambling ranges from cockfights to the stock market, in virtually every culture. In the United States gambling has become a big business, even helping to balance state budgets through government sponsored lotteries. The governments have legalized casino gambling in the last half-century, and because of this controlled betting industries have boomed. Annual gambling revenues in the United States are now estimated at over 100 billion dollars (Bayer 27). Even though it may seem to some that individuals should be able to throw their money around any way they wish, society has viewed gambling like taking drugs. Widespread efforts to control gambling resulted. With the exception of Nevada, which permitted gambling establishments to prosper, most states outlawed betting, whether on card games, horse races, sporting events, or slot machines (Kluger). In the second half of the 20th century, however, 28 American states legalized casino gambling, and most states came to accept some form of legal gambling. Potential revenues for governments, churches, businesses, and other interests proved to be too tempting. The only problem with this is that Gambling, like drinking alcohol, doing drugs, or smoking cigarettes does not represent free choice for those who are addicted. With impulse-control disorders, the will to decide how the person wants to act is no longer within his or her power (Bayer 26). This takes me back to being a kid, asking my mom why she will not stop smoking cigarettes. She would reply it is not as easy as you would think I have tried to stop and always start back up again. After being addicted to gambling I knew exactly the type of difficulty that she was referring to.

The question of why will always be there. Why does someone gamble everything away knowing that it is just going to hurt them in the end? Why do addicted gamblers spend everything that they have to try to win, and when they actually do win they are still in the hole because they have spent so much trying to conquer the high that was obtained from gambling? Statistics show that in the United States, the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are 1 in 80,000,000, Dying from drinking detergent are 1 in 23,000,000, Being struck by lightning in a given year are 1 in 750,000, The planet being destroyed by an asteroid, meteor, or comet in the coming year are 1 in 20,000 (Ciarrocchi 14). Just by looking at these odds a person should be able to see where exactly they stand in winning the lottery, but yet they still buy their tickets. Over 86% of the population gambles over a lifetime, in any given year 68% gamble. The proportion of people gambling represents an increase of 18% over the past 25 years, which indicates tremendous growth. During this same time frame, the rates of women gambling have doubled the rate of mens (McCown and Chamberlain 74-75). If I took the time to research the odds of actually winning at casinos my perspective on gambling would have never came to be what it was.

Understanding how addiction takes over a persons life is hard to accomplish. Going through denial with having a gambling problem happens just like having a problem with alcohol or drugs. The subject never is brought up or talked about if it doesnt have to be. When asking my wife, Brooke Valentine, how my addiction to gambling affected her life, she replied If I would have known we could have gotten help for the situation before it became the problem that it was. I then proceeded to ask her if I were to gamble now how would she handle it. I would probably get a divorce from you with no hesitation, she said. That response is pretty much all I need to keep away from gambling. Even when quitting, the sudden urge is still there. The urge to gamble though is fought with just like a drug addict recovering from using. If they try them again even if it is only one time, chances are they will become addicted all over again. The same goes with gambling. A recovering compulsive gambler may go years without betting, but once they do it just once it could possibly turn into a disaster (Jordan 133-135). Going to a casino to gamble after recovering from my addiction would be a bad idea. There is no doubt in my mind that I would become addicted all over again.

Defining compulsive gambling is like defining compulsive drinking: its not clear when you cross the line. But if there are enough signs that your behavior is starting to slip out of your control, chances are that you have a problem. Its a problem of special interest to researchers because it reveals a lot about addiction as a whole. One of the difficulties in understanding drug or alcohol abuse is that the minute you add a chemical to the body, you fog up the mental process. Its hard to tease the connection out because you dont know how much is the drug and how much is the behavior, says Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, But gambling is a pure addiction. To see if this was true, scientists used advanced diagnostic tools such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) machines to peer into the brains of gamblers while they play. In a study conducted at Harvard Medical School, researchers monitored subjects as they engaged in a wheel of fortune game. The researchers looked mainly at several areas of the brain known to be involved in processing dopamine, a pleasure inducing chemical released during drug and alcohol use. Sure enough, the same areas lit up when test participants gambled, becoming active not only when they won but also when they merely expected to win, precisely the pattern of anticipation and reward that drug and alcohol users show. This put gambling on the map with other neurobiological addictions, says Dr. Barry Kosofsky, a pediatric neurologist at Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City (Kluger).

Just like drugs, gambling addiction is a serious problem and if not taken seriously can potentially ruin lives just as it almost ruined my own. Gambling should definitely be considered a type of drug because it has the same effect if addicted to it. Leading to lies, thievery, and crime people will do anything they can to fulfill the high of placing bets or any other type of wagering. Even though gambling will most likely never be considered as serious as drugs, it should at least be thought about. In my house gambling is treated like doing drugs and that is how my wife and I hope to see our kids view the topic the same way, to avoid going through the same obstacles that I have struggled with.

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