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When 23-year-old Oliver first started gambling, a typical night at the casino was strictly entertainment and, in his own words, “pretty tame.” He and his girlfriend liked poker and blackjack. “We would limit ourselves to about $200 each. When we lost, whether it was two minutes or two hours later, we would leave.”

At the height of Oliver's gambling problem, a 'typical night out' was anything but. “I would go to the casino by myself after work and blow whatever money I could get my hands on—usually about $2,000 to $3,000 at a time. I'd stay until morning and then struggle to stay awake at work. I'd do it all over again as soon as I had put in my eight hours. Sleep was limited to lunch and whenever I could pull over on the side of the highway. It was dangerous, and in retrospect, I’m surprised and grateful that I never caused an accident.”

Oliver realized that gambling was becoming a problem when it started to affect his day to day life. “I saw my friends and family less and put off doing chores and running errands to make time for the casino. On weekends, I would wake up extra early so I'd have more time to gamble. And rather than accepting losses, I would try to chase them back, or bet in larger amounts to try to win back what I had lost. Gambling was no longer a pastime. In my mind, it was a business venture.”

Oliver reflects on what gambling first offered him and why he got in so deep. “As ironic as it may sound, I initially chose gambling because it gave me a sense of control. The idea that my fate (winning or losing) was based solely on the decisions I made at the table appealed to me greatly. Eventually it became my release, my escape. When I was stressed out from work, family life, or from friction in relationships, I turned to gambling as a way to clear my mind.”

One Saturday morning, Oliver came home from a night of gambling and couldn't sleep. “My mind was racing, thinking about everything that I had once been proud of, everything that made me who I was: a good brother, a good son, a good friend; someone who was dependable, responsible, and who others could turn to for reassurance or insight. It was then I realized I had lost things money couldn't replace, things that had defined me. I had lost my sense of self. It was the saddest day of my life and one that I will always remember. A few hours later I called my sister and could only manage to blurt out four words, 'I need to stop.'”

Oliver says that admitting, and then facing, his gambling problem was one of the hardest things he had to do. “I won’t lie to you - it will not be easy, but there is hope. Chances are, if you’re in the position I was in, you feel a loneliness so heavy and dark that you fear you’ll never come out of it. The truth is, you are not alone. The first step is yours and yours alone to take, but after that, you’ll be surprised at how many people will help you. No matter how deep you’re in, no matter how much of your life gambling has eaten away at, none of these things are irreversible. Money can be made and lives and relationships can be rebuilt over time.”

Oliver's Story
"As ironic as it may sound, I initially chose gambling because it gave me a sense of control. [...] Eventually it became my release, my escape."

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