CINCINNATI - The ads are seductive, and they're all around us. On TV, billboards, online.
Gambling seduced Mike H. more than 15 years ago.
"When the boat came to Lawrenceburg is when it started for me, but if there had been a way to gamble long sooner, I sure would have."
Blackjack, roulette, and slots became much more than games to Mike.
"It's a compulsion. I'm a compulsive gambler."
But why is it that some of us can play, and win, or lose, and then just walk away, while others become addicted? The answer is in your brain.
Dr. Stephen Strakowski is Director of Psychiatry at UC Health.
He explains, "There's a part of the brain, deep inside the brain, the nucleus accumbens, responsible for reward processing."
Dr. Strakowski says addictions may develop because of deficiences in this reward center.
"Gambling, video games, internet, they all activate segments of the brain that launch something called dopamine into the nucleus accumbens, that tells your brain, this is potentially rewarding."
Dr Strakowski says many addictions go hand in hand. Mike is also a recovering alcoholic, and like many alcoholics, he smokes.
"I'm addicted to anything that makes me feel good and I do it till I hurt," he says.
The hurting threatened Mike's business, his marriage, and one night, his life.
"I had been drinking, and coming back from Argosy, angry, mad, because I had lost x amount of dollars that week again, and was flying like a crazy man, down 275 or 74, flipped my van, almost killed someone and ended up having to go to the hospital."
Mike's wife gave him an ultimatum.
"You're having an affair on me and it ain't with a woman, but you're having an affair on me with that boat."
Mike finally found help at Gamblers Anonymous. And now he's paying it forward by answering calls for their helpline.
Gamblers anonymous gives Mike support to resist temptation, especially with all the new gambling venues in the Tri-State.
"It certainly doesn't make it easier for someone compulsive like me," he admits. "When it's coming after you from every billboard, every commercial."
Perhaps he can't change a compulsive personality. But Mike has found a new, healthier addiction, on the golf course. He's sober and abstinent, and it feels good.
If you or someone you love is struggling with a gambling addiction, call toll-free 1-855-222-5542.
or go to: www.gamblersanonymous.org
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