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Alcohol & Gambling Addiction
Not a Good Mix!

Research shows that addictive disorders, such as pathological gambling and alcohol use disorders frequently co-occur at greater than chance levels. Consider the “party” atmosphere of many gambling activities, such as players receiving “free” cocktails at casinos, or private poker parties offering “refreshments” for players, such as beer, whiskey or cocktail of choice.

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, a national public health awareness campaign developed to increase awareness and understanding of the causes and treatment of alcoholism. Established in 1987, alcohol awareness month allows communities to focus on spreading awareness and reducing the stigma associated with alcohol addiction. Adding problematic gambling behavior into the mix of frequent alcohol consumption increases the risk of harm and addiction.

William (Will) Hinman, CPRS, CRC, a Certified Peer Recovery Support Specialist for the Center, understands first-hand the risks that occur when alcohol and gambling mix.

Will never felt like he fit in, he felt different. “My family moved to another county just before the start of my freshman year in high school where I had to start over making friends and establishing a reputation as an athlete,” he recalls. “Alcohol began to be introduced at parties I would attend and again I felt like I was the kid on the sideline watching the other kids have fun.  I was asked by a friend from the basketball team why I didn’t drink and just told him I didn’t want to not really knowing the answer.  I just believed it was bad besides the fact I knew we weren’t of legal age maybe I just intuitively knew it wouldn’t be good for me or just believed it was unhealthy not sure of exactly the reasons why I was so against it.”

In his Junior year, Will’s life took a turn. “I was heart-broken over my first high school crush and someone told me I needed a beer to relax me and in that moment of weakness I drank it down and could not believe the wonderful effect it had on me.  I felt relaxed, more self-assured, and knew I had found the answer I had been searching for my whole life.  I started drinking alcoholically from the very beginning generally the kid that was sick by the end of the night passed out in the bathroom, the woods, or in an industrial park.  At the end of my Junior year I was recruited while working my first job as a cashier at a People’s Drug Store to apply for a job at an Irish Pub located in the same Village Center.  There I was taught to drink like a man.”

“Then in college I was introduced to gambling which quickly became my favorite hobby. It didn’t matter the activity or the game as long as I had something at stake when I was playing or watching it. The adrenaline high I would experience from having action on the line was amazing.  The gambling and the alcohol went together for many years. I was a daily drinker for 25 years and gambled regularly for 23 of those years.  I would drink away the blues when I was losing or celebrate a big win with a few drinks.  Sunday football, late nights at the pool halls, trips to the casinos, video games, darts, free throws after basketball to see who would buy lunch gambling was always a way to make it a little more interesting. If there wasn’t action on the line there simply didn’t seem to be a point and alcohol was always part of the equation my best friend.”

“For many years both these solutions in my eyes worked very well until 2012 when they both stopped working. I became living proof that they are both progressive and over any considerable period of time get worse, never better.  My drinking had escalated to an all new level which lead to the initial separation from my ex-wife. Under the condition I continued not to drink, I moved back in attempting to stay sober on my own at which time my gambling took off to an all new level.  I was substituting one addiction for the other which quickly lead to a second separation and an incomprehensible bottom when I decided I no longer had anything to lose. Within a one-year period alcohol and gambling lead me to the desire to take my own life and a plan in place to do it.”

Will found help and hope through divine intervention.  “Recovery has taught me a new solution to confronting my fears” he says. “It has introduced me to new associations and a life beyond my wildest dreams.  I was told that I don’t have to live like that anymore and that no matter how far down the scale I had gone life would get better.  I now know that today to be true and hope to share my experience, strength, and hope to anyone else seeking a new solution and a new life.”

As a Peer for the Center, Will helps individuals seeking to limit, control or stop their gambling. He, along with the other Center’s Peers, has lived experience with addiction and in recovery a minimum of two years. Peers can assist those seeking help to connect with recovery resources available throughout the state so they can continue to work toward their goals in dealing with any gambling problems.

If you or someone you know is struggling with problem gambling and other addictive behaviors, call or text the free, confidential Maryland Problem Gambling Helpline 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537) to be connected to helpful resources, including Peer Recovery Support. Or visit helpmygamblingproblem.org.