After the Super Bowl, March Madness is arguably one of the most bet-on sporting events of the year.
It is a time for fans to cheer on their favorite teams, and for millions of Americans to start putting money down on who they think will win.
For the gambling addict, this time of year is their own personal hell.
"This is one of the most difficult times of year for gamblers who even have long-term recovery to relapse because it's everywhere," said Eric Groh, a national certified gambling counselor. "Depression is another reaction. Sometimes gamblers can get very despondent, and in some cases hospitalized. It's an 'antsyness' or irritability of wanting to bet. And it is the same physical reaction that a drug addict or an alcoholic would feel as they go through withdrawals."
One gambler who goes to weekly meetings through Gamblers Anonymous said the support group saved his life.
"Without Gamblers Anonymous, where do you think you would be?" asked CBS Atlanta's Mike Paluska.
"Probably dead," Terry said.
Terry did not want to use his last name to maintain his anonymity. Since he was in middle school, Terry said he has been hooked on gambling.
For nearly 20 years Terry said he gambled away roughly a half-million dollars.
"That's a lot of money," Terry said. "There are a lot of dreams wrapped up in that one bet, sometimes, so it is a fantasy world. And it's an escape from the drudgery of reality sometimes. How do you justify where the money goes? And you have to say, ‘I went to the casino, or the dog track, and I lost it last night with a bet.'"
Terry said he began to steal money from family and friends to pay off bookies or place more bets. His wife left him when she found money Terry hid in a book.
We could have used that money to buy groceries, to pay bills," Terry said.
Groh said bookies are no different from a pimp or a drug dealer. Terry agrees with that description and knows the dangers of bookies all too well.
"I was on my third bookie, actually, I already owed two - they wouldn't take bets so now I was on my third bookie," Terry said. "The last guy I bet with was pretty serious about getting his money."
Terry has been clean for 19 years. He quit in January of 1994 after losing every single game he bet on during the college football playoff games.
We asked Terry what it's like as a recovering gambling addict, and whether he missed the rush of winning and the lows of losing.
"Was it more fulfilling for you to win a big payout, or watch a kid succeed? Paluska asked. "It's more fulfilling to watch without gambling at all, period," Terry said.
"Even if you could win a $50,000 pay-out?" Paluska asked.
"There is no way I could win, I am winning now, by not gambling," Terry said.
According to Groh and Terry there is not a lot of support out there for gamblers. For more information on seeking help you can log on to Gamblers Anonymous or call their hotline at 404-237-7281.
Copyright 2013 WGCL (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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