In 1979, I graduated with Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and worked as a clinician for the next four years in San Antonio and Abilene, Texas. In 1983, I moved back to Austin with my family and began a career as a retail stockbroker. Within a matter of days, I had the experience of doubling my money with my very first options trade. Even though the amount of money I made was relatively small, I knew that if $1 is doubled 20 times, the amount is greater than $1,000,000. I believed that if I had done that once, I could do it again, and again, and again…
I was immediately hooked on the adrenalin rush of getting rich quick, with little to no effort. I studied the markets, developed strategies and began to generate money for myself and my clients in fast, risky markets. At that time, it was called speculative investing . I refer to it now as gambling .
Though initially successful, I began to lose some of my own money, and then lost some of my family’s and my clients’ money. When I lost, I was simply more determined to make that money back and then some (known as chasing ). My work became an overpowering and uncontrollable impulse.
My physical and mental health suffered, so I entered an addiction treatment center in Arizona. Even though they stated they treated gambling addiction, they approached gambling treatment using the same model as alcohol treatment (which does not work), so my gambling was still untreated.
I did not really understand it at the time, but the way I would manage the painful consequences of losing was to jump up into my head, imagine turning things around (winning), and as soon as I would do that, I would feel better. (I have come to understand that as the primary process of the addiction). My gambling enabled me to escape reality and enter a mood altering fantasy world, and left no physical or chemical trace. This addiction was easy to hide, even from the very competent capable clinicians from whom I sought help. It was also easy to hide because, as a broker, I was just doing my job .
In 1986, after treatment, I decided I wanted to rebuild my therapy practice. I continued to trade the market because I felt in control, but after three months, I had lost everything. I ended up in bankruptcy court, divorce court, and eventually lost our home to foreclosure. So, as a financial professional and as a marriage and family therapist, I had lost everything. I finally ended up in Austin State Hospital in the suicide ward in March of 1987.
After talking my way out of the State Hospital, I attended a conference in Dallas where I met Dr. Robert Custer, M.D., who was responsible for creating the first gambling treatment program in the United States. He was also responsible for the inclusion of pathological gambling in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1980.
After spending three months in treatment with Dr. Custer in Baltimore, I moved to Chicago where my ex-wife and children had moved.
I opened a practice and began receiving calls from other gambling addicts asking me if I would see them professionally. They said they wanted to see me because I had been there and understood . It has been my privilege to help hundreds of gamblers who struggle with recovery.
For the past 28 years, my private practice in Illinois consisted of treating problem/compulsive gamblers and their families, along with working on a state and national level to educate legislators, counselors and other professionals about the growing problem of compulsive and problem gambling. My practice expanded in the last 15 years to treating clients who struggle with sex addiction.
I moved back home to Texas in October, 2015, and opened an office in Austin, in addition to maintaining my practice with clients around the country via phone and Skype.
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