Gambling addiction in North Dakota

FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live)-- What starts as simple fun and a rush of excitement can lead to an unquenching thirst, if you're not careful when gambling.

"My go to is mainly Blackjack," recovering gambling addict Jim says.

Up until last October, he says he was gambling daily since his early 20's--about three decades.

"In the beginning, I really just enjoyed playing the game," Jim says. "But as it developed, with the addiction and that sort of thing, it became a form of escape."

The casino was the place he turned to when life got tough.

"My life has been kind of a mess."

With the recent passing of a close friend, he says, he's having a hard time staying away.

"Two days ago, I had a really rough day. I was able to get through it because of the things I have learned by coming here."

For Jim, accountability has been the hardest part.

That's why he joined a group though Lutheran Social Services.

He's not alone. There are several others in the Valley battling the addiction.

"I kept telling myself I was not going to do it again," recovered gambling addict Dean says. "Yet, next weekend came around and there I was."

Dean struggled with his addiction for five years and graduated from the program this past year.

"That first month is so very difficult," he adds. "It's much easier now."

Experts say gambling is a hidden addiction and that signs vary for everyone.

"Their relationships are struggling, their work is struggling," Gambling Counselor Dawn Cronin says. "Financially, they can't make their bills, but they keep going back."

For Dean and Jim, they say, some days are harder than others.

For them and most addicts, it's one day at a time.