Interview and photograph of Daniel, a compulsive gambler in New York City, by Soft White Underbelly. Compulsive gambling, often known as gambling disorder, is the uncontrolled need to continue gambling despite the negative consequences. Gambling involves putting something valuable at risk in the expectation of gaining something even more valuable.
Interviewer: All right, Daniel. Yes, Daniel. Where did you grow up? Where are you from originally?
Daniel: I'm originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a tiny village called Whitefish Bay.
Interviewer: Wow. And tell me about your family. You had mom and dad?
Daniel: Yeah, um, I have a mother and a father. My mother is currently retired. She used to work in funding job training programs for people. And my father used to work as a journalist for the Milwaukee Journal up until he had a stroke in 1990. At which point he was forced to retire because of language difficulty and therapy that he needed to take.
Interviewer: How would you describe your childhood in general?
Daniel: I felt that it was definitely sheltered. There were a lot of things that my mother wouldn't let me do, like watch R-rated movies. You know, close my eyes during sexual scenes and stuff like that. Blocking the Playboy channel. But I think that I was treated fairly. I was definitely bullied at school up through high school, I want to say by one or two people in particular. I was made fun of a lot, not only for my last name but for my weight. And it wasn't until maybe the second year of high school when I found a group of friends that I really clicked with and started getting all the toxic people out of my life that I started actually getting interested in what I was doing and studying.
Interviewer: Bullying is horrible for a kid, isn't it?
Daniel: Yeah, you have these arrangements with people, like they're gonna meet you after school somewhere, and you get called a [ __ ] if you don't show up. And you feel like this person is always around the next corner, and then you have altercations with them in the hallway. I mean, I was lucky that one staff member did spot us once, took us down to the vice principal's office, and the vice principal sided with me, saying that he was tired of this guy being in there all the time. So he asked me if I wanted the police involved, but I said no. That guy, from what I read in the news, ended up being involved in a drug-related death of a female friend of his and had to go to court for some reason. But yeah, the bullying, I wouldn't say it ever really stopped. I would say it toned down once I kind of got away from the toxic people.
Interviewer: You graduated high school?
Daniel: Yeah, I graduated college.
Interviewer: You did?
Interviewer: And you're professional now. You're working?
Daniel: I'm working for myself as a videographer and video editor in New York City, in Brooklyn. I previously worked in Atlanta, and then when that went kind of sideways due to a lot of issues.
Interviewer: Feeling it? You weren't really in love with her, but you felt that it was the next step kind of thing? And that ended up ending due to my addiction and my inability to handle the finances as I once did?
Daniel: Yeah, so you tend to...you're a gambler.
Interviewer: How long has that been going on for you?
Daniel: I want to say it was 2006 or seven. It's been a while.
Interviewer: And tell me how extreme did your gambling get?
Daniel: It's hard to quantify. Basically, I learned how to play Texas Hold'em in Atlanta, and it started as a series of poker. But when I would go and get money to go to this game, I would hold it out in front of me, and the person who got raided said that neighbors saw people coming in with money, so I didn't noticed it and because he was still working as a journalist at the time, he was able to do some investigative work and figure out that I was the one who had taken the money. So he confronted me about it and I had to confess to everything. That was a turning point for me because I realized I needed to get help for my addiction.
Interviewer: That sounds like a really difficult situation. How did you go about getting help for your gambling addiction?
Daniel: It was definitely a challenging process, but I knew I needed to take action. I started going to Gamblers Anonymous meetings and got involved in counseling to address my addiction. It wasn't easy, but I slowly started making progress.
Interviewer: That's really commendable. How has your life changed since you got help for your addiction?
Daniel: It's been a complete 180-degree turn. I'm now able to manage my finances responsibly and I no longer have that urge to gamble. I'm also able to maintain healthy relationships with my family and friends, and I've been able to pursue my passion for videography and video editing.
Interviewer: That's great to hear. What advice would you give to someone who is struggling with addiction?
Daniel: I would tell them to seek help as soon as possible. It's not easy to overcome addiction on your own, and there are resources out there that can help you. Don't be afraid to reach out for help and know that it's okay to ask for support.
Interviewer: Thank you for sharing your story, Daniel. It's been inspiring to hear about your journey and the progress you've made.
Daniel: Thank you for having me. It's been an honor to share my story and hopefully help others who may be going through a similar situation.