Meet David Yeager: A Veteran Recovering from Problem Gambling
My first introduction to gambling was in 2001 during a deployment to Korea. The stress of Army life and the geographical separation from my family left me feeling depressed and constantly on edge, but when I was sitting in front of a slot machine nothing else mattered. It was there that my addiction truly took hold.
I recognized I had a problem with gambling when I ran completely out of money. I was borrowing money from subordinate soldiers because I felt like I had to gamble, concocting stories to hide my gambling losses. Over the years I knew my gambling was out of control, but I didn’t want to stop.
At the height of my addiction I was jobless, homeless, and hopeless. I found myself stealing money from my children and then losing custody of them following my divorce. I attempted suicide four times. Having lost myself I knew it was time to seek help.
I sought help through my local VA, who then referred me to the VA’s Gambling Treatment Program in Ohio. The treatment I received gave me great help, encouragement and some real insight into my gambling behavior as well as some practical tips and strategies for dealing with the urge when it strikes.
Battling gambling addiction has not been a fast or easy journey but seeking treatment was a true turning point in my life. Today, I am happily remarried. I have finished my Bachelor’s degree, and am working on a Master’s degree in Social Work, and I have the honor of co-chairing the National Council on Problem Gambling’s Military Committee.
I was lucky enough to receive treatment for my gambling addiction, however there are countless service members that have not been as fortunate due to the lack of available screening and resources. The DoD and VA need to dedicate more resources to educating veterans and active duty service members on the potential dangers of gambling, and specifically problem gambling, as well as the connection between PTSD and problem gambling.
To my fellow veterans, or anyone struggling with problem gambling, please know that you are not alone and help is available.