His name is Douglas, he's an addicted gambler and he values this world without games.
"It's like being an alcoholic and there's no alcohol anywhere," he said.
His name is Joe, he's an addicted gambler and he also sees a prism of positive in this sports world gone dark.
"This is a great opportunity for anyone with a gambling problem to get a foundation of recovery for when things start up," he said.
There's a long list of what we're missing in sports due to the new coronavirus pandemic, from basketball to baseball to just this past weekend Tiger Woods doing a puzzle at home with his children rather than defending his Masters golf title.
But there's an equal and opposite silver lining for a tortured circle of gamblers for whom no games means less temptation. It's lure of relapse isn't all gone. Addicted gamblers can switch to online casinos, horse racing or even invented ideas like, "what penny lands closer to the wall," says Arnie Wexler, a nationally renowned gambling counselor in Broward whose clients include the two aforementioned men who wish only to use first names.
Douglas, 42, is the rare gambler who only bets on sports. He was an athlete himself, a national collegiate champion who lives in Palm Beach county who found only winning at sports bets, "delivered a similar high to me."
Douglas most recently placed his last bet March 1. Forty-three days ago on Monday. And, yes, he counts the days. He has spent the past 20 years alternately controlling and succumbing to his personal demons and the businessman's gambling totals are, "in the seven figures," he said.
"When I'm into gambling, it can be the NBA, women's tennis in China, basketball in Brazil - anything," he said. "In the throes of the addiction, it's hard trying to get three to five days without a bet under my belt. It's like a drug addiction. Could your detox get you that far?"
Forty-three days out would normally pose problems, too. But now there's no games to tempt him. Now he meets regularly on Zoom with his gambling support group. Now he's back in a disciplined program to help him, spends time with his wife and finds positive outlets in life.
"If sports were happening right now and we had this stay-at-home order with nothing to do, what do they say about an 'idle mind is the devil's workshop?' " he said. "Sports not going on is the best thing for me. A lot of people, including myself, even when sports come back, I've found there are other things to do."
Joe, 31, hasn't gambled in a year-and-a-half. He, too, was consumed with betting on games. He, too, saw his world crumble as losses mounted before getting treatment. He spends this time on similar Zoom meetings for his local group or sometimes attends the a nightly and national Gamblers Anonymous meeting.
"I've noticed just from being at home and online a lot that the advertising for gambling on different social media platforms is going full-blast," he said. "If I wasn't in the position I'm in now, where I had a year and a half recovery, I could see myself having problems with all this down time on my hands."
That's his fear, too.
"I wonder about a lot of younger people who weren't in a program already and don't have access to these (video) meetings," he said. "Now's the time to get help, too. There's no easier starting point than when the action is limited."
Wexler made his last bet 52 years ago last Friday. He remembers the struggles of stopping. Ten years into recovery, he'd wake up in the middle of the night, "sweating like a pig, thinking I'd gone back to gambling and then realizing it was only a dream."
This stretch of the pandemic isn't anyone's dream. But when you're down from missing sports in this dark time, when you consider the lost fun and missing drama on some empty nights, consider what others are missing, too.
As Douglas said, "The urge to gamble isn't there."
Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com
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