The Truth... What is it?

He Blew His Money, Reputation, Family, and Future

Published Saturday, September 25, 1999, in The State.

The young gamble away not just money, but their lives.


He was a pre-med student at a college on the coast. Now he is a video poker addict living at a recovery center. He was the apple of his mother's eye, a handsome, tall, bright, lively son, good in sports, on the dean's list at school. Now, his mother says, "This gambling has made my child a thief, a liar, a manipulator."

His parents didn't understand at first. When he confessed he owed some money from gambling, they thought he was betting on sports events. When his grades fell and he became ill, they thought it was just a tough semester. When he said he needed a hundred or so because he had lost a book or wanted to buy some shirts, they believed him and gave him money without question.

Then, in November 1998, he called his mother and tried the good news/bad news ploy. The good news: "I went to a GA meeting." The bad news: "I have some debts."

His Mom asked, "What's GA?" And he answered, "Gamblers Anonymous."

She asked, "How much?" and he said, "$1,800." When she exclaimed "$1,800!" he began to cry. He said: "Mom, I have a real problem. I need help. I thought about killing myself, but I knew what that would do to you."

His parents did what any parents would do: They rushed to their child's side. They found a drawer spilling over with bad check notices. They answered the phone to hear strangers threatening to cut their boy's throat.

He had sold his computer. He had sold his mountain bike. He had sold his stereo and both speakers. He had sold his television. He had sold his watch.

With the help of a school counselor, his parents placed him in a local drug and alcohol rehab center ($2,700 a week) because that was all they could find. Because addiction to gambling has been so underground, not many places treat it specifically, and no one claims to really know how.

His parents allowed him to stay enrolled in school. They paid off everything he owed. Once a week his Mom would drive from their home in York County to the coast to attend a group session with him.

In April, when the rehab center handed over rent money and he gambled it away and lied, the rehab center handed over more rent money, and then he confessed -- but not before he'd stolen his roommate's ATM card and withdrawn $800.

His parents came down again, took him home, stayed on the phone until they found one of the few places on the East coast that specializes in gambling addiction. He did well in Florida ($6,000 for the first month). He did well until he came home to South Carolina's video poker machines in July.

"He says it's like a high to hear the bells and see the flashing lights," says his Mom. She can't send him anywhere and keep him safe. To the gas station? Video poker machines. To the grocery store? A machine next door. To a 24- hour market? Video poker machines. Many restaurants? Video poker machines. In York County, you can walk just a few steps in most any direction and find a machine to bet a few hands.

His father asked him, "Son, do you ever win?" He replied, "I don't know, because if I win I put it right back in the machines."

He told his parents he was going to the Y, and his father found him at one of his hangouts, perched on a stool, engrossed in a hand of video poker.

He took his father's tools and pawned them. He swiped three checks from his mother's business checkbook and cashed one. He stole a friend's ATM card and withdrew $550. He charged $1,600 on his mother's corporate card.

His parents now understood that they weren't dealing with a bad patch in the road; they weren't dealing with a troubled child; they were dealing with an addict. They looked at their 30-year-marriage, strained at every seam; at their older son, who wept at a counseling session, saying he felt his brother had died; at their finances, dealt blow after blow by what must be nearly $100,000 in rehab bills and debts they've covered.

They told their son he had to leave home; he was on his own. "My priorities have changed now," says his Mom. "He'll never go to veterinary school. Now I just want him to live.

"With addiction, the more you love them, the more you can hurt them. You can destroy them with love."

So the college student is in treatment again; the Florida center now has a York County location. But he can't go home; he can't call home; his parents won't bail him out; he has to pay for his own treatment.

"Your child is your child for life," says his Mom. "But to let him go on stealing from me, pulling me down in the vortex with him, that is absurd. If loving him would have made him well, he'd be the healthiest person in America."

She says: "It's a silent disease. That's why people don't realize. I start thinking about his future, and I can't go there. This is a kid that had it all. He says, 'I can't believe I can't beat a machine.'

"The thing that scares me is that addicts who get well are older and have hit bottom. He thinks he's young and invincible, and right now he's throwing away his entire life. This could go on years and years with no end."

This was a child who gave his lunch to a homeless man because he recognized one of God's angels. Now this child is an addict and a thief. In South Carolina, this could be anyone's child.

Names were omitted because of the addict's youth. If you need help with a gambling addiction, call Gamblers Anonymous at 1-800-313-0170. If you're willing to tell your story, please write Ms. Brinson at The State, P.O. Box 1333, Columbia, S.C. 29202, or e-mail at

You should consider subscribing to The State. They have done a wonderful job in informing us of the dangers of this pan-societal menace!



***give me your comments about this page***

check out the Highest TRUTH

(posted 2 Oct.. 1999)