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The Ready.Set.Retire! Blog


The Retirement Success in Maine Podcast Ep 077: Identifying and Overcoming A Gambling Addiction

Benjamin Smith, CFA

Executive Summary

Episode 77

One topic that we know we wanted to discuss on our show is gambling and retirement in the State of Maine. So far, we have two retail casinos in Maine, one in Oxford and one in Bangor. Also, sports betting is getting closer and closer to becoming available in the Pine Tree State. With some cold harsh winters in Maine and a lack of entertainment options, there could be some potential for us to get a bit carried away with participating in retail and sports gambling. But how do we know if we’re developing an addiction that we can’t control? How much is too much? This can be especially problematic for retirees that feel like they have money to gamble but might be living beyond their means to allow for their funds to last for the entirety of their retirements. That’s what this show is about!

Our next guest is a graduate of the University of Washington and eventually went on to work for himself as a general contractor. He built a solid reputation for years and was widely respected as a business owner and professional. What people didn’t know is that he also spent 15 years as a raging gambling addict, lost millions, and nearly destroyed his family. Our guest is a TEDx speaker currently presenting to college student-athletes across the country, and he’s been fortunate enough to guest on over 200 podcasts worldwide. With that, please welcome Patrick Chester to The Retirement Success in Maine Podcast!

What You'll Learn In This Podcast Episode:

Welcome, Patrick Chester! [3:11]

What are the signs of a gambling problem versus recreational gambling? [16:13]

What are the major risks with problem gambling and who is more likely to develop a compulsive gambling issue? [22:27]

What is the best way for us to help a loved one suffering from a gambling addiction? Is there a “right way” to help? [30:36]

How will Patrick find his personal Retirement Success? [43:03]

Ben and Curtis conclude the conversation. [46:11]


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Ben Smith:

Welcome everybody to the Retirement Success in Maine Podcast. My name is Ben Smith, allow me to introduce my co-host the Ted Williams to my Bud Leavitt, Curtis Worcester. How are you doing today, Curtis?

Curtis Worcester:

I'm doing well, Ben. How are you?

Ben Smith:

Good. Well, I'll say again, for those of course Mainers and watching TV over the years, you always saw Ted Williams and Bud Leavitt. Bud Leavitt was the local sports writer who'd befriended Ted Williams. And of course, they did all their fishing and stuff, but in Nissen Bread commercials, and they were the duos.

Curtis Worcester:

That's right.

Ben Smith:

Pretty cool from Red Sox fans nation over here. Well, speaking of Red Sox, right? One thing that we know we want to get into around the State of Maine, especially was retirement State of Maine was around gambling, right? So far, we have two retail casinos in Maine, one in Oxford, and one in Bangor. And we know sports bettings getting closer and closer to becoming available. I know we've got the apps and things, where you can do our fantasy things and you can play for money there. But sports betting is pretty close, and I know there's been a few roadblocks along the way. Such there's a 2019 veto by Governor Janet Mills, and the Senate blocking the bill the following year.

And that all changed when on April 19th of '22, an amended version of LB 585 passed by the Senate. And that was followed by a signature from Governor Janet Mills coming on May 2nd. So now, we really await this potential launch of sports betting in the Pine Tree State. So, soon enough our area could be home to such sports betting operators such as BetMGM Sportsbook, DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel, Caesars, those names that I think we all associate with gambling, especially big Las Vegas, Atlantic City types. So, some analysts really expect that sports betting could be joining the gambling scene in Maine in 2023. So, probably as you're listening to this, this might be hitting here.

So especially Maine, some cold, harsh winters, lack of entertainment options. We're sitting at home, we're watching sports, cheering on our favorite teams. I could see where there's some potential for us to start partaking, and getting interested, and getting involved. But, how do I know if I'm developing an addiction to something like gambling that I can't control? How much is too much? And especially there's a lot of stigma around it. So, this can be especially problematic for retirees that feel they have money to gamble, but might be living beyond their means to allow for their funds to last for the entirety of their retirements. So, that is what this show's about.

Curtis Worcester:

That's right. And obviously, like we do with all of our shows, Ben, we like to have guests on. So, our next guest is a graduate of the University of Washington, and eventually went on to work for himself as a general contractor. He spent many years building a solid reputation, and was widely respected as a business owner and professional. So, what people didn't know about our guest was that he also spent 15 years as a raging gambling addict, losing millions, and nearly destroyed his family. He resorted to criminal acts to feed his addiction, and ultimately ended up in jail. He did leave jail in 2015, and has devoted his life ever since to helping those who suffer in their addiction.

So, he spent many years taking from people to feed his addiction, but now is giving back, and that is such an amazing thing. So, our guest is also a TeDx speaker, currently presenting to college student athletes across the country. He's been fortunate enough to guest on over 200 podcasts worldwide. So by day, he's also a detail-oriented landscape architect with a strong background in design build, landscape construction supported by over 20 years in the field of landscaping and research. So with that, please join me in welcoming Patrick Chester to the Retirement Success in Maine Podcast. Patrick, thank you so much for spending your time with us today.

Patrick Chester:

Hey, it's great to be here, Curtis. And thanks to both you and Ben for having me on, and shedding light on as we can get into what to me is a major issue, and a major problem in this country today.

Ben Smith:

And Patrick, I know it's something where obviously there's a lot of reach with this issue. It's impacting families, it's impacting money, it's impacting relationships, there's lots of things happening there. And I know we want to talk about our theme of really identifying of, how do I know if I have a gambling addiction? But also overcoming that, and going through that as a theme today. But with all of our guests, we always want to get to know you and your story a little bit. And I think especially here, Patrick, with your particular story, I think it's really helpful to understand where you came from and how you found yourself leading into this general contractor architect role here?

Patrick Chester:

Sure. And so, I grew up in a fairly common household. My parents divorced when I was young, which is not that uncommon. And so, my mom raised my sister and I, and worked three jobs to put food on our table, and get me into good schools. And I got good grades, and went to good schools. And was fairly well educated, like you've mentioned earlier, I graduated from the University of Washington in landscape architecture. And so, as I transitioned out of college into my professional life, that's all I knew. And so, as you mentioned earlier, but behind the scenes, I had this sickness going on inside of me that nobody really knew about.

So, I'm juggling my new profession, and building up my business, and establishing relationships with people throughout the community. And gaining their trust and all the while I've got this, like I've said, raging addiction going on behind the scenes. But as far as my profession goes, like I've said earlier, it's all I knew. And so, that's what I studied in college and that's what I went on to do. And like I've mentioned, I spent many years establishing a reputation and the respect from people in the community.

Curtis Worcester:

And you've just touched on it, Patrick, and I want to get into that now, that behind the scenes' life that you had as well there. So, I just want to ask, when and how did your gambling addiction start? And then, maybe in depth talk about how it really developed and what ended up being your rock bottom.

Patrick Chester:

So, I can go back to my early days as a child, looking back now with some clarity. When I grew up my father was fairly non-existent. But when we were together with my dad, in many instances it was with him and his friends, and they were gambling and they were drinking. And I saw this as a kid, never thinking that could be a problem or it was dangerous. It was always portrayed as something that was fun and harmless. And so, as I got into my college years, like many kids in college, we started playing cards and poker, and going to casinos and that sort of thing. And not really just for fun. I may go with 50 bucks or a hundred bucks on my college days, I didn't have a lot of money.

But what I noticed back then, was that if I went with three or four friends to a casino and I lost a hundred bucks, that wasn't enough. I would then ask friends to borrow money, I couldn't just shut it off. And so, those were early warning signs in my own head that I should have recognized, and I didn't do anything about it. And so, as I got into my 20s and was working for myself, my late 20s, it was actually around 2001. If I look back, it's 2001, I was a sports bettor. And so, I won a parley, I hit a three team parlay and won $900. And that was a huge rush for me.

So, that was the beginning as I look back on it now. And then, through the early 2000s as I got into my 30s and late 30s, early 40s, I started making decisions that were out of character to feed my addiction. If I didn't have the money, I was started doing things to get money. Things that were not, again, not ethical and way out of balance, way out of character for me. And so, we get into it here in a minute, what eventually led to my rock bottom. But those were the early days, where I really started to see, know in my head that I was making bad decisions.

Ben Smith:

So Patrick, I think with that, so here you are, you know you need money to then feed this addiction. You need to continue to get that rush, and get that feeling of trying to win. And I can see where also from a spiral perspective is, I need money to then make up maybe losses. Well, obviously you talk about making unethical decisions. How do you know where your rock bottom was? And how did you then go, "Okay, I'm now making really bad decisions and I need to get some sort of help or treatment." And how did that decision play out?

Patrick Chester:

So, what was happened was, I was a general contractor and writing up contracts with clients for 50,000, $100,000 project. I'm now in a position where I'm accepting 30, 40, $50,000 deposit checks from clients. We would sign a contract, they trusted me, they would hand over a $40,000 check, for example. As a raging gambling addict, that was a challenge. I'm now in this and how I characterize it is a game of chase, I'm hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Nobody knows it. And so, when I would accept a $40,000 check, for example, I would take 20,000 of that for myself and my own gambling problems. I would pay off some gambling debts, and then I would gamble with the rest of them. In my mind thinking, not that I'm taking somebody's money. In my mind, I'm just rationalizing this as, well, I'm just borrowing this money now, but I'm going to double it or triple it.

Pay this guy, get this job done, he'll never know the difference. Inevitably, what would always happen was I would get two, or three, or four weeks into this project and run out of money. My client would look at me and ask me, "Hey, where's the rest of the money? Why can't we finish this job?" And I had to come up with excuse after excuse, after excuse to deflect and delay. And try and put this client off until I, in my mind, could get the money, win the money somewhere else, come back. So, you can see the cycle that I'm in. And now, I would go from one client to another client, and do the same thing. And I had at one point, 10 to 15 clients that I owed combined over $300,000 to. And they're all coming after me, and they're all asking me questions.

And now after a while, they start to recognize the pattern and then they go to the state, they go to law enforcement, the prosecutors get involved. And this was all going on while my wife had no idea. My wife and I got married in 2006, we're now about 2010, 2011, 2012 when this is all happening. My wife has no idea, my friends have no idea. So, not only am I doing all these things, I'm hiding it as well. And so, walking through the door each night after living a lie for the entire day. And coming up with lies to my wife and everybody else, was a soul crushing thing to have to go through every day of my life. But that's the position I had put myself in. And so, as we can get into, about two years later is when it all came crashing down.

Ben Smith:

So Patrick, can you talk about then that moment? So, how did it come crashing down for you? What was the moment where all of a sudden you are like, "Okay, this is it. I'm in a pickle that I probably can't get out of at this point." Again, I want to hear about that moment to where you are today, would be really pretty awesome.

Patrick Chester:

So, 2013 I was charged with two counts of first degree theft. And so, it related to a couple of my clients who had filed complaints with the state. And then, ultimately law enforcement got involved, like I've said. They investigated, and I was charged with two counts of first degree theft. And just on a side note, had I been charged with all of the crimes I did commit during those years, I would've been sent off to prison for years. I wasn't, I was charged with two counts of theft, which was still a big deal. That was 2013 and so, that legal process takes a while to play out. It took about, well, it wasn't until late 2014 where I was actually ... Actually early 2015 where I was sentenced.

But before that, the moment of my rock bottom moment was in November 2014. I was no longer able to work, I didn't have many friends left, because I had alienated all my friends asking them to borrow money. Making poor choices to feed my addiction. Nobody knew what was going on, they just knew that I was acting in a way that was not good. And they didn't want to be around me. And so, November 2014, I'll never forget it, I took $9.50 cents for my son's piggy bank one day. He was four years old at the time. And I had no money, I had nothing. So, I took $9 and 50 cents out of my son's piggy bank. And I remember it was that day, later that afternoon I would sit in my car and stare out the window, and I was just crying. And I had no more answers.

I had come to the conclusion that I was no longer of any user or value to my wife or son, and that it would be best for everybody if I just ended my life. And so, then I started planning on how I was going to do that. Because, I wanted to make it look like an accident, so that somehow maybe my wife could collect on the life insurance. So, I was at the planning stages of ending my own life. And then, it was two months later, it was actually late January 2015. And I finally had come to the conclusion that I was going to end my life when I got ... But my wife and I were taking one last trip. We went down to Arizona to the Super Bowl to watch our team, which was the Seattle Seahawks play the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

We had planned this for a while, and we went down there. And before we went, we also went with my wife's sister and her brother-in-law. I had convinced my brother-in-law to loan me $10,000, I had come up with some sort of story why I needed it. I think I told him it was for a part of a down payment for a house, he believed me. What it was, I was going to make one last bet on the Super Bowl while we were down there. And I didn't tell him that. But he wired 10 grand over my bank account, I cashed it out. We're down at the Super Bowl. I put $10,000 on my team, the Seahawks to win that game. And we're sitting there watching. I'm sitting there with my wife, my brother-in-law, and my wife's sister next to my brother-in-law.

The Seahawks are about to win the game, they're on the one-yard line. All they have to do is hand the ball to Marshawn Lynch, he's going to go into the end zone and we're going to win the game. I'm going to win that 10 grand. And as you may remember, they didn't do that. Russell Wilson drops back, throws the ball and the end zone intercepted, game over. So, not only did I lose my final bent, it wasn't even my money, again. And I'm sitting next to my brother-in-law, he has no idea that I just took 10 grand from him and lost it on a football game. And it was two days later we were back home. And somehow while we were gone, my wife's dad, her father found out that I had some sort of gambling problem going on.

He didn't have any idea to the extent or scope. And he got ahold of my wife two days after we got home, and explained to her what he knew. Within 48 hours they arranged an intervention for me, and basically put it right in front of me. Said, "Hey, you have a chance to go off the treatment right now to a gambling specific treatment facility and get help." Again, not knowing, they had no idea of what I had actually done. They just knew I had a problem. And I accepted that, and I was on a plane less than 24 hours later to a treatment facility in Minnesota that dealt specifically with gambling addiction. And that was the turning point for me.

Curtis Worcester:

Patrick to start, just thank you so much for sharing that story and your experiences. I know that may be tough to talk about certain parts or all of that. So, thank you so much for sharing that with us. I think as we move on in this show, I think that's very important. We've now heard your story in great detail. You've let us into, as you've gone through those certain stages of your past. I want to zoom out now a little bit, as we talk about hopefully trying to identify and overcome gambling addictions, whether it's people around us or ourselves. Can we just start by getting your definition of what is a gambling addiction and problem, versus maybe just that recreational gambling going to a casino with $50 here and there? Where does that line get drawn and eventually crossed?

Patrick Chester:

Great question. There are a few different lines that get crossed. And so, number one, and there is such a thing as responsible gambling and that's what I'm all about. And so, I've never been one to say, "Well, if you gamble you're evil and you're doing wrong." No, that's not it at all. Let's be responsible about it. And so, if you budget a certain amount to gamble with and you stick to that budget, that's great. When you start to deviate, when you start to exceed that, and then you lose what you had set aside to gamble with. "Well, maybe I could just borrow some money from this account or take some money from that account." Those are the beginning signs, those are the early signs of an issue. You're not controlling it, you're not being responsible. Beyond that, when you start to make up stories or tell lies to your wife, or your spouse, or your friends or whatever, your family. About where you were, whether you were at a casino or what you did with that money, again, another warning sign right there. You're going beyond the responsible gambling.

I mean, this no longer responsible, because you're doing things that are not right. You're lying and you're deflecting. So, those are probably the first telltale signs of a gambling addiction and problem gambling. And that's where you need to seek help or talk to somebody about it before it gets to a point where I got to. I mean, there were many junctures along the way for me where I could've just owned it, and gone to somebody. But I didn't know where to go, I didn't know who to talk to. I was embarrassed, I was ashamed. And again, it's not like drug addiction or alcoholism where you can see it physically on somebody. And so, it's easily hidden and people don't pick up on it. That's another thing maybe we can touch on, is for family members and friends, things to watch out for.

Ben Smith:

Well, I think Patrick, that's a really great point, because I think as you've said, spotting it in yourself. And I think sometimes from an addiction perspective, you might be able to notice, "Hey, I'm starting to cross some lines here a little bit." But again, I'm addicted, I know I can win and I know I win back any losses. And it's this feeling of maybe this confidence that I have that is maybe the addiction talking here, that I know I'm crossing line, but it's going to get better because of these things. So, can you talk a little bit about, obviously that's what we're spotting in ourselves, and maybe we're able to control it and maybe we're not. But from others and loved ones, and I think that's something to think about is, here's maybe your father-in-law and here's your wife, and here's people around you.

And you've hiding things, you're lying, you're deflecting. How can we, as maybe we have a loved one that is in that situation, how can we help them? How can we identify signs that we think there might be an issue? Because again, we don't want to start being accusatory. "Geez, Patrick, you were lying and you were at the casino." You're like, "Geez, I literally spent 20 bucks." You don't want to then falsely accuse. So, you want to have confidence that, geez, there are some things that are worrying us. How do you identify those signs in maybe, outside people that you love?

Patrick Chester:

So, that's great question. So, I'll just take you back to my wife, and that dynamic here for a second. We've had a lot of time now, we're seven and a half years into this new life now. But she looks back on our time during those years, and again, she couldn't see it physically on me. But there were a lot of red flags, and a lot of warning signs that she missed. And she looks back on that now and shakes her head says, "Wow, I wish I would've just done something." And so, what that is, it's inconsistencies, it's lies. And oftentimes, if you're the spouse or living with somebody, your tendency is to want to believe them. They may be telling you ... I told my wife, I mean, I can't tell you how many stories, and lies, and scenarios I came up with.

Almost in an effort to just confuse her, and spin her in circles to the point where she just had no idea what to believe. But your tendency is to want to believe them, whereas on the outside, if you're a friend or maybe a family member that's not quite as close. It's easier to recognize, "Hey, whoa, that's not right." So, what needs to happen is for the family member ... It's inconsistencies, financial inconsistencies, lies, stories, things that don't add up. You just don't see it physically, but it's all of those things. My wife trusted me to handle the bills and she would get calls from somebody, because a bill didn't get paid. And it's all money related, it's all financial with gambling addictions. So, a lot of it revolves around money, clearly. So, those are things to watch out for.

And isolation, that's another thing we do as gambling addicts, is we tend to isolate, we don't want to be part of. I mean, gambling to me, sports betting had become all consuming. It was more important than sitting down with my family to dinner. It was more important than going to work, it was all I cared about. And so. It's the isolation, it's the desperation, it's the lies, it's the inconsistencies. So, if you see any of those things, and you know or think that maybe your spouse, or friend might be gambling. If you can just sit down with them and lay it all on the table, that's the best thing to do. "Hey, look, this is not adding up. Why are these things happening?" Those are the early signs, and the things that can be done or recognized early on to try and address it. And hit it off before it gets out of control.

Ben Smith:

So again, from our end, Patrick, I know you've been traveling the country and talking to many student athletes about gambling addiction. It's estimated that 750,000 teens to young adults, aged 14 to 21 suffer from gambling addiction. And more than 80% of course, adults are gambling annually as we talk about it. It's every day, according to an October 22 article we read on earthweb.com from Jason Wise. So, if teens and young adults are more prevalent to develop the habits, as you've said, that was the start in college. And you go on a gambling trip, and it starts there a little bit. But what about, again, our population that we work with a lot and this name of our show is Retirement Success in Maine. What about pre-retirees or retirement groups that have more assets, and earning power to gamble bigger amounts?

Because, I could see where from maybe a rural state, not traditionally just had a lot of access to gambling. And maybe at the same time is, "Look, I've compartmentalized. And this money that I had to put away, I really couldn't access it. It was in my company 401K account, I couldn't get it out." But all of a sudden now, I get a pot of money. And this is supposed to last me of the rest of my life. But I could see where that access to money plus access to gambling, whether it be in our state, two casinos. Or there's an app on my phone I can download, and all of a sudden I can start making some bets and just transferring some money. So my question is, is it uncommon to develop this habit later in life and again, especially as we have more and more availability to gambling over time?

Patrick Chester:

And, so you've touched on it, Ben, most addictions begin in the teenage years, right? I mean, high school, college, that's when most addictions start. But having said that, I've come across and I've met with many people that are in their 40s, 50s, 60s, that have plenty of money. And they're just bored or they're retired. And in fact, just a quick story. I went to treatment with a gentleman, he was actually back, I think he lived in Massachusetts. He and his wife had millions in the bank, sent their two sons off to Ivy League schools, ended up getting great jobs. He had plenty of money, he had just retired. I think maybe he was around 60 years old. All of a sudden he had nothing to do. He started day trading just as a hobby, and within four months had blown through his entire savings.

He and his wife had spent their whole life, their careers building up this money to retire on, it's gone. It was gone in four months. And so, it can happen late, what I'm saying is it can happen later life too. People get bored and they have money, and like you've said, and we have all of these apps on our phone. And now in our state, Washington State where I live, sports betting is legal. We have state sponsored sports betting here. And I think it's legal now in 32 or 33 states, and Maine is at some point probably going to be one of them. And so, it's so much more accessible now. And without the education and the awareness, young people especially don't recognize what can happen.

Like you've said, you're on your phone and you've got money in this account or this account. "Well, I'll just place a small bet." Well, if you start to develop an addiction, there's no shutoff valve there. You can max out credit cards in a matter of hours, if you're not able to stop. And it's just so accessible. And we're just throwing this at this young generation without any education or prevention, and very few treatment options for the gambling addict. And so, we're throwing this at society, and just expecting that it's all going to be fine. Well, it's not. We need education and we need to raise awareness about this, because like you've said, it's just so easy and so accessible to do now.

Curtis Worcester:

Yeah, I completely agree. And I'll just add, I think any one of us could take time scrolling through any social media app. And you'll see sports betting romanticized by these blogging companies, the casino companies. So, there certainly is a play there. I want to maybe ask you to expand a little bit or if there's anything else you want to add, but just what do you see as the major risk factors for compulsive gambling? And again, who is more likely to develop that compulsive gambling issue?

Patrick Chester:

Well, for me, I grew up playing sports, I played sports all through high school. And athletes in part, because they have the competitive nature of the athlete. Well, from what I've noticed and what I experienced, tend to be a little bit more prone and susceptible to this. But again, it's also people that grow up in an environment where gambling is all around them, like I did. I grew up in an environment where I saw my dad doing it, and he never told me about what can happen. If you grow up around that without any education or knowledge about what can happen.

Like we do with drugs and alcohol, we talk to our kids about the dangers of that. Nobody talks to their kids about the dangers of gambling. And so, again, people that grow up in that environment are much more prone to falling into that addiction. But also too, addiction runs in families. So, you may have a parent or a sibling that has an alcohol addiction, or drug addiction, or is an alcoholic, that could cross over to gambling. And if addiction runs in our family, we're more susceptible to falling into that.

Curtis Worcester:

That makes perfect sense. I think or we think, there's obviously a bad stigma here about gambling addiction, and statistics also reflect that. So, only 1% of Americans are estimated to have a severe gambling problem. But as we know, since few people seek treatment for gambling addiction, it's really tough to know one, if that's an accurate number or how to get an accurate number. So, what do you think can be done to decrease the stigma about gambling addiction?

Patrick Chester:

Well, this is a really good question. The first thing is, many people will don't even recognize it's an addiction for one. I mean, they can look at a gambling addict, and the choices we make as gambling addicts and just say, "Well, that's just a bad person. Just stop doing it. What's wrong? Just stop doing." Well, we need to make people aware and educate them on what gambling addiction is. I mean, the process in the brain is no different from a heroin addict. A dopamine rush to a heroin addict is the same as it is to a gambling addict. They may show some physical signs. But it's all in the brain, that's where addiction is. I mean, we're making these choices because we want to or we're bad people, we're making these choices because we're sick. And the sooner we recognize that the gambling addiction is a real addiction, the better off we'll be.

I'll just give you an example, over in the UK, they've been betting legally on sports now for years. And they are just now starting to see the ramifications of that. The younger generation that started betting on sports 10 to 15 years ago over there, are dying now. They're committing suicide, they're in prison, their lives are a mess. And that's going to happen here. And over there, there's what, 28 or 30 million people? We have over 300 million people in the states. And now, we're just throwing this at our kids as if they don't need any education surrounding it. And what we're going see five, 10, 15 years down the road if we don't recognize this, is staggered. Because going to lose friends, we're going to lose family members, because they've fallen into this addiction. And it's about recognizing what it is. And appreciating the fact that these are actually really good people that are sick, and we need to come up with some better treatment options as well.

Ben Smith:

So Patrick, I think you're bringing up some really, really powerful things. And I know in a previous episode we've talked to, one of our guests was a mother from California in Sacramento. And her son Kevin became addicted to heroin and meth. And so, a lot of what you're saying about addiction is ringing true from our episode with her. Here's things that and as she said, "Look, I would do anything for my son." And she goes, "And of course, a lot of people were trying to do the tough love thing. Just kick him out and he'll realize one day that he's wrong. And he'll hit his rock bottom, and then he'll come back and it'll be fine. So, tough love the heck out of that and he'll solve it."

And her statement back to us was, Do you know? What I've learned and I know my son was rock bottom, my son was deaf. So, I know and you were talking about that too personally was, "Hey, I was planning this out, I'm going to end myself here. I'm better off not being here to solve this for my family and my loved ones." And I know that as you've just talked about, this big wave of a theme, and accessibility and availability of gambling is coming. So, you almost see it what happened, as you've said, it's overseas happening. You almost see it where we've already tested our society with pain medication, we take it away, and then they go seeking other ways to replace pain medication.

So, you can see this wave of addiction that's happening. And when you say, "All right, right now we have 23 million Americans that have incurred unnecessary debt due to gambling. And the statistics we've found show that the average amount loss is $55,000." This isn't like, "Okay, 23 million people and they're a thousand bucks, And they can put another week of work in, and make that up." $55,000, which as you've said, you're maxing out credit cards at 30% interest. That's pretty hard to overcome. So, I can see where it's spiraling, I'm spiraling. I'm going to get the big win to then pay off, so I have to win bigger amounts to then get myself out of the bigger hole.

So my question here is, we have a loved one that we see spiraling. And I know from our population they have the retirement assets. They see somebody spiraling, they see somebody where you are as or whereas, "Hey, I need help and I am in a lot of trouble." They have the ticket, they have the money. These are people that say, "I love you, Patrick, more than anybody in this world. And if I could solve this for you right now, I will write you the check. I will clear the deck, we will start over. And you're going to be better off." Is that a good solution in this case?

Patrick Chester:

Wow, there's a lot to that. So, there's a way to do this in a right way ... I mean, for me, I'll give you an example. I left jail in June 2015 with a clear head, I had been to treatment, I had just spent months in jail. I walked out of that place telling myself that my life would be forever different, and I was never going to go down that road again. What I didn't recognize or appreciate at the time was, I had over a million dollars debt. I had gotten help, and my head was clear for the first time in years. But I still had a million dollars in debt that I had to pay off, that's the difference. I mean, not to compare addictions, but for a heroin addict or a meth addict or an alcoholic, they can go to treatment and get help. But they're not faced with a million dollars in debt or $55,000 in debt when they're walking out of a treatment center. And so, for the gambling addict that's the issue. It becomes overwhelming, we can't see a way out of that.

And so, for the family member or the friend that wants to help, I mean, the tough love approach is good to a certain extent. But you also need to be there if you can for that person and support them in their recovery, and let them know that you are there. That's the other thing. We go off to treatment, and come back into society again. It's like, "Is anybody going to be with me? Am I on my own?" And to have support, to know that you have people on your side. That's how I was able to get through the first few years of my recovery, because I had alienated all my ... I didn't have any friends left. I had my wife and I had some family members, and I lost a lot of family members through this process too, that I still haven't gotten back. And that's just part of the deal. But to have people that are there for you is what the addict needs early on in their recovery.

And as far as bailouts and that sort of thing, I had family members step up. My wife's family stepped up, and paid off a bunch of stuff that I owed, but I had to pay them back. So, that took the heat off of me legally. Well, in fact, my family was in danger and I was in danger too, because I had people coming after me that wanted to do serious harm to me. So, that was gone, they helped alleviate that problem. But then, I had to pay my family back for bailing me out. And so, that's the thing. Yes, I'm here to help you, but also, you need to be accountable. And that was a big thing with me, was accountability. Having support was amazing, but I also needed to learn accountability, because I had lost all that through the years of addiction. And so, there's a fine line there. But bailing out, and just walking away from somebody and saying, "Nope, I'm done," that's not necessarily the right approach.

Ben Smith:

And Patrick, I think that's something where, again, from what we've witnessed is of course generationally. I think if this was happening 30, 40 years ago, without that generation that we're the parents. I think that was almost, talk about the tough love. They probably could not really even understand coming from that depression era of, "I didn't have that money, and we had to build ourselves up by bootstraps. And we know what it was like to lose everything, and here's what we had to do to overcome it generationally." A generation removed from that, it feels like there's beginning to be a lot more understanding. And that sentiment that's passed forward a little bit is starting to go, that we all need an advocate network. And I know that's something that Barbara Leggier talked about with us with our son Kevin was, "I needed to be his advocate."

I would give anything for him, but the thing he really needed from me was, he needed me to, again, talk to healthcare providers. Figure out insurance, figure out, again, paying things off financially in the financial system, which I don't understand." Because, maybe you're not figuring out how to consolidate debt and what the best way to do this is. So, I could see where Patrick, in your situation, having a team around you that can help you and help solve the problem together. Versus if you were on your own, if everybody had just cast you out, how lonely you'd be trying to heal yourself from this addiction? But then also, trying to heal the financial relationship pain, all of that all at once, all by yourself. So, can you talk a little bit about what you see then from a recovery perspective? How important are you seeing the advocacy network around somebody as a key to their recovery?

Patrick Chester:

And you've just touched on it, Ben, it's what I call the old school approach. I grew up with that. I grew up in a family where we don't talk about our problems, it was that generation. We don't talk about our problems, if you have issues, don't tell me about it. Just go fix it. And a lot of people like the baby boomers, that's the old school approach. I don't want to hear about it, I don't want to talk about it. It makes me uncomfortable, don't tell me about suicide, don't talk about addiction. I mean, now we're better evolving. So, we're doing things a little bit differently now, which is great. Because, when I was sitting in jail after I had been to treatment, I would call my wife on the jail phone once every couple days, and I would get about three or four minutes to talk to her.

And all I needed to hear from her was that she was still with me, whether or not she believed that at the time, I don't know, but she told me that she wasn't going to leave me. And that's all I needed. Because if I didn't have that, if I was sitting in jail staring at walls and uncertain about my future. And knowing that my wife and son were going to be gone, and I didn't have them anymore, I'd have been done. I wouldn't have had any hope at all. So having that ... She may have been just saying it, because she wanted to believe it. But at the time, she's sorting through years and years of lies, and carnage, and destruction. But she told me she would stick with me and she did. And so, what happens to the addict is, we have become so isolated and we're so fragile in those early days of our recovery, that we need somebody around us.

We need people around us just to instill some positivity in us and for us to know that, "Hey, they still believe in." Because, that's what it is. Early recovery is all about belief and thinking you can do something, thinking that you can turn your life around. And if you have nothing, if you have no friends, if you have no family members, if you have nobody that's on your side, that's difficult. And I don't know if I could have done it. I had a few people that were on my side, not many, but enough to give me hope that things could get better. And in the last seven and a half years, a lot of the people that I had alienated that had gone away, have come back into my life. And so, it's not that I needed that, but it's just what happens if you do things right, and you start to do things in a way that's helping people instead of taking from people, like I did for so many years.

Curtis Worcester:

So Patrick, you've just touched on it a little bit, but sitting here today you're seven years, sounds maybe a little more than seven years now free of your gambling addiction, which is just incredible. I want to ask, how can we and I know you're doing things like speaking to student athletes and stuff, but how can we give others hope that entering a rehabilitation facility will allow them to reestablish their lives no matter how bad it seems?

Patrick Chester:

And that's another thing too. Going into treatment I had no idea why I had done the things I had done, I made all of these choices that were counter to what I was taught growing up. I had done things, I was convinced that I was a bad person. So, what I learned by going into treatment was, I learned about the brain of a gambling addict for one. Just because we're making these choices doesn't make us bad people, we're sick. And so, understanding addiction, which is what I was able to do when I went to treatment, understanding what it was. Recognizing what addiction is in the brain and the dopamine, the process and how all of that works. Was enough for me to walk out of there with a belief in myself that I could live a good clean life as long as I recognized what addiction was.

And then also too, the tools, they gave me some mental tools to process, because it's not like I just went to treatment and I was fixed. I still have these gambling urges, and behaviors that were built up over so many years of gambling. But by going treatment and seeking help, you're able to gain some mental tools to handle those addiction or I mean, those urges, I'm sorry. And all the possible pitfalls ,and roadblocks that you're going to encounter as you work through the early days of your recovery. And there are many different resources too. And there are meetings, there are people that you can talk to on a regular basis. I started going to therapy after I left treatment, and I still go to this day. And I'll probably go for the rest of my life, because it helps me talk through things.

Not necessarily that I'm going to go out and start gambling again, but there are still things that come up because of the choices I made. And it's things like that, I made the decision early on to stay engaged with my recovery and I never wanted to be too far removed from the past to where I couldn't see it, if that makes sense. I never wanted to get over my skis and think, "Well, I've got this, I'm fixed." So, as long as I stay in that mindset and continue to engage, and I think that's in large part why I do what I do now, is because it helps to keep me engaged with the recovery community. So it helps them, but it also helps me too.

Curtis Worcester:

It's incredible what you're doing. And again, even coming on our show today to share your story and your experiences, we can't thank you enough. We do have one final wrap up question for you, Patrick. So obviously, the name of our show is The Retirement Success in Maine Podcast. So, we like to ask all of our guests, how are you going to find your personal retirement success when you get to that point?

Patrick Chester:

I don't know, that's a really good question. For me, I had to adjust and rethink some of ... As I left college I had everything in my head, "Well, I'm going to retire when I'm 60 years old and I'll have this much in the bank." So, now it's totally different. So, I've spent the last seven and a half years paying off hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. And so for me, it's about I want to be able to retire at a certain point where my wife and I are still able to travel, and st and still have our health, God willing. And our kids are healthy, and we're able to put our kids through good schools. And we can live a comfortable life after we turn 60. So, I don't have as much time left as I did before, but really that's it for me. It's about making sure our kids are taken care of, can go to the schools they want to go to. And my wife and I can live a good life, and travel comfortably in good health while we still can.

Ben Smith:

Patrick, thank you so much for coming on our show today. And again, I know you just have an incredible story of perseverance and persistence. And again, I know obviously a lot of just working through addiction, but also highlighting that, taking that big giant stage spotlight and putting it on your story. So, I think there's lessons that I think even if it's just, "Hey, here's somebody I saw that has an addiction to anything." Being able to spot and say, "Hey, do you just want to grab a coffee? Can we just go sit down? Can we just talk?" But just being a person in their corner and not have to go, "Well, let's talk about your problems and all the things that you're doing."

Talking about advocacy and just being a friend, being a neighbor, being a family member. Just showing love is the good part of here. And I think all these things that you gave us today are really great tools, things to have in our toolbox. And when we spot these things with our loved ones, we can have better conversations, we can better help people. So your story, I hope it resonates for the people that are listening out here. But also, from being able to take the things, and take your story, and be able to turn it into exponentially amount more positive that's out in this world. So, thank you so much for coming on our show. We really enjoyed having you, and we'll catch you next time.

Patrick Chester:

Thanks, you guys. I really appreciate the opportunity, take care.

Ben Smith:

Take care. Thanks, Patrick. So our conversation today with Patrick Chester, identifying and overcoming a gambling addiction. Boy, a lot of similarities I thought, between Barbara Leggier and her son's addiction issues. Of course, chemical versus gambling, which is maybe more on the mental side here. But again, obviously we're dealing with a brain in both ends, right? I think that's absolutely, that's the big part. And I could see where to the point of story's not adding up, and you have people in your life that are identifying things that are not adding up. Our role's financial advisors for example, hey, people call up and say, "I need 50,000 for this." You go, "Okay, it's your money. Do whatever you want." But warning signs of, "Hey, just don't tell my spouse," or "Oh, it's for this renovation." Like, "Well, geez, you told me about that. I thought you already did it?"

He goes, "Yeah." So, you could see where there's some storytelling and some things that happened in, as I think Patrick was saying with his wife. She's in that cocoon of trust, it might be too close for her to see. So, I could see where again, from this end, again Maine, things that are coming from an availability perspective, the gambling. So Curtis, I think and as you and I were going through and looking at ideas for our show, maybe not what are issues today. But what are potential issues down the road and things that we might be working with? And I think that's why we reached out to somebody that, probably no better expert than somebody that's been through it themselves. So again, those were a lot of the things I came away with, but again, a lot of I think, some similar threads to what we've talked to Barbara about there.

Curtis Worcester:

Yeah, I agree Ben. And I'll add to, I know a lot of our conversation was obviously Patrick's story and again, incredible for him to go through that in very much detail with us. But I think a big piece we talked about is obviously, identifying whether it's yourself or I think we've focused more on someone around you who you love. Whether it's a friend, a family member, a spouse who you may think is going down a road of problem gambling. And I know for our listeners in the State of Maine, the state does have some resources. So, at any time you can call 211 in the State of Maine. It's a confidential helpline that's available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Again, that's just 211.

And they also have a website, which we'll link in our show notes. It really just provides resources to different types of gambling, how to help someone, how to identify the gambling, how to spot the signs and really any other resources. So, we'll make sure to have that in our show notes, so to find that link in detail. So obviously, we were episode 77 today, so you're going to go to blog.guidancepointllc.com/77 for episode 77. So again, you'll find a link to our show, you'll find the transcript link to the YouTube video for those who might want to watch it. But again, we'll have the link here to this, the problem gambling, State of Maine Services there. But as always, thank you all for tuning in and we hope to catch you next time.

Topics: Pre-Retirement, In Retirement, Podcast