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Fall In: A Veteran with a Gambling Addiction | Dave Yeager

After initial recovery and relapse, a subsequent recovery leads Dave to live each day OUT LOUD as he shares his incredible story of hope with others.

Recovery advocate, podcaster, husband and father Dave Yeager shares a deeply personal story of his recovery journey after developing a gambling addiction while serving as a non-commissioned officer in the US Army. Dave talks about the progression of his gambling addiction, fueled by an early win, as it spiraled into daily gambling, borrowing money from subordinates, lying and eventually stealing from his unit in order to satiate his gambling need. Ultimately, it’s his fortitude and character that shines bright in his endeavor to share his recovery with others.

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Shane Cook: Hey everybody at Shane Cook with another episode of Wager Danger. Our guest today is Dave Yeager, an Army veteran, joining us to talk about his recent book, Fall in A Veteran with a Gambling Addiction. It’s Dave’s personal story of gambling addiction and his journey through ongoing recovery to remain gambling free. Dave shares with us is early childhood development and the role it played in his addiction.

He also talks about his two military enlistments, his first stateside, where there was no access to gambling and a second enlistment in South Korea, where access to an on base slot machine room and an early win fueled his addiction. Dave’s message is a story of hope, where he credits his struggles, therapists relapse, and the support of his family all combine to give him the strength to live his recovery out loud.

Welcome to the show, Dave.

Dave Yeager: Thanks, Shane, Really appreciate it.

Shane Cook: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve had the opportunity to sit together here for the last couple of days. We’re in Washington, D.C., in the nation’s capital and attending a conference that is sponsored by the National Council on Problem Gambling. Good opportunity for us to break away for a little bit this afternoon and talk about a book that is coming out that you have authored.

One thing I learned reading through this book, this is actually your second book.

Dave Yeager: Correct?

Shane Cook: And I did. And I want to touch on that one a little bit when we get into our discussion. But, you know, I actually had the opportunity to hear your story at other conferences that we’ve attended together. We’ve had some side conversations about your background. But what was the time that you kind of figured, okay, it’s time for me to write this book?

And what was what was it that made you decide to write it at that particular time?

Dave Yeager: A good question. I wrote the first one in starting in 2008 and actually finished it in 2009, and it was after I had gone through a treatment program for gambling addiction. When I had gone to I went to I’m a veteran, a veteran of the Army and had gone to Cleveland, to the Department of Veterans Affairs Gambling treatment program.

And when I got out of there, I felt so good. I decided I wanted to write this first book as well.

Shane Cook: And the name of that book.

Dave Yeager: It’s called Be Happy with Crappy A Journey through Trauma, Addiction, rock Bottom and Recovery. And if I can, I just want to give you kind of the meaning behind the title. If. Sure. So when I was in that first treatment, my therapist, who is a very, very, very well-known therapist within the gambling treatment field and I can say her name because she worked there was Lori Rugal.

Dr. Lori Rogel was my first therapist and we were sitting in a session and I was learning kind of how to deal with my feelings because a lot of what I had dealt with and growing up and some of the things I dealt with was kind of compartmentalizing, hiding my feelings. So we’re sitting there and she goes, Well, how are you feeling today?

And I said, You know, I got to be honest, I don’t know. She goes, What do you mean? I said, Well, I feel really happy today. I said, But at the same time, I’m kind of sad because there are some things happening over here. And I said, I’m not sure which one to feel. She goes, Well, why don’t you just feel both?

I said, You can’t do that. You can’t feel both. She goes, Why not? I’m like, You can. She goes, Yeah, you can. I said, So I can feel happy and crappy at the same time. She goes, Yes, you can feel happy and crappy at the same time. And that’s where the title came from. It was honestly a pivotal moment in my recovery.

That first time through, I learned something about myself and about kind of experiencing emotion that I had. Honestly, I had no clue. I had no clue that I could feel two distinctly different things at the same time. I was just learning to feel one thing at a time. Let alone two. So. But long story short, that happened. And then I got into recovery.

I slowly but surely that recovery kind of faded over time. And I’ve got to be honest, for part of that time, I didn’t even really know it was happening. So then I relapsed and in 2020 I went back into treatment and it got pretty intense the second time around. I think the first time that I got into recovery, I knew I had a problem with gambling.

The second time I got into recovery, I knew that I was powerless over it unless I did something about it. So what what I chose to do about it was kind of fully immersed myself into it. And I did that through getting myself into Gamblers Anonymous. I did that through joining an online problem gambling support group. I did that through going back to the gambling treatment program in Cleveland for five weeks with follow up care.

I also then when I got out of that, I had been part of that group that I was involved with online. I got connected to a podcast, which was all in the Addictive Gamblers podcast. And one of the things that they did was they did Sunday groups, right where we actually did group therapy as a podcast. Now we all agreed to it.

We all said that we were speaking out loud. We knew it was in the public and we chose to do it anyway because I’m not afraid, you know, to live my, my recovery out loud. So as I got involved with that, I started to think, Man, I can do more with this. And I got with the host and said, Listen, I would love to start one of these things for myself, specifically for military service members and veterans.

And that’s where I started my own podcast. But then an outgrowth of that is I started to think, you know what? I think it’s time for me to rewrite my story. And my initial idea was to rewrite, be happy with crappy. But as I got into writing it, it molded into something of its own, right? It’s a much, much deeper version of what I told in my first book because I was willing to go much, much deeper than I realized.

I had been willing to go my first time around. So that’s kind of where the book grew from, was that desire to tell my story in as much depth as I was starting to explore myself?

Shane Cook: Sure. And it comes through in your new release Fall in a veteran with a gambling addiction. That’s that’s the name of your new book. And it really comes through that the first time through treatment. It didn’t really seem like you were totally committed at the time or stepping gingerly through treatment, which is probably a better way. That’s the way to interpret it.

And then the second time it was, okay, now I recognize it’s done X for me. You know, it’s been I’ve had some success. Now let’s figure out how we take it up to 100 or turn it up to 11, if you will, to, to use a a reference there from that crazy.

Dave Yeager: Model that.

Shane Cook: First by this is Spinal Tap. Mike God, what can I come up with that. But anyway, yeah, I think, you know, that really comes through in it and if you wouldn’t mind, this might be a good time for us to kind of focus in on fall in this newly released book. We were fortunate enough and you were generous enough to share with us an advance copy so we could go through it and at least get your story out today.

And I’m glad you mentioned your podcast, which is also titled Fall In. And this is a great opportunity for two people that are out in the out in the community telling stories about gambling addiction and sharing information with people. You’re geared towards the military and people that have served our country, which are dangerous. It’s a little bit more general in nature.

We cover a lot of different topics on any given week, month and, you know, it’s a good opportunity for us to just share with each other. But turning back to the book here, I took away from your book and mentioned this pre-show that it really kind of falls into three components for me, early childhood development, where you were your time in the military, which was a very formative time period for you, and it’s where you were introduced to gambling while you were in the middle military.

And then it focuses. The third part is on your journey. So if a coach just kind of chunk those out and go back to the beginning and talked about early development, and now that you’ve had time to go through and process this on your own, maybe highlight some things from early develop in years that you recognize now, Hey, this really was a pattern that started developing very early in my childhood.

Dave Yeager: Yeah, absolutely. And just to encapsulate what you just said is, yeah, the book is broken down into several sections. You know, the first section is called Before Gambling, and a lot of it focuses on my childhood. And within that it was basically a story of growing up in a broken home. So my mother divorced at a very early age.

She remarried, and the person that she remarried was an abusive alcoholic. So we spent most of our years and I describe this in both of my books as a terrorist state. So there was a lot of you know, there was a lot of disciplinary beating, There was a lot of yelling. There was a lot of screaming. There was a lot of working.

We were constantly put to work. And through all of that.

Shane Cook: Not easy work.

Dave Yeager: Now, that is correct. For sure. Yeah, for sure. Yeah. And one of the things that I learned through all of that, without really realizing that I’d learned it till later in life, was that was the concept that emotions were bad. So if I expressed sadness, if I expressed anger or if I expressed whatever it was, usually I got beat for it.

So I learned at a very early age to kind of, you know, kind of capsulize and, you know, take all those feelings and tuck them away because they weren’t, quote-unquote, useful to me at the time. What that turned into was as I was, you know, got into high school and all that. And I was I was socially interacting with other people.

I was quirky and I used my sense of humor as a mask. So my job was to be funny so that people would so people would like me, you know, that’s and I was a people pleaser. I always wanted to please other people to make them happy so that they didn’t have to experience what I did. That’s a lot of as I got into an especially this recovery, the uncovering of the depth of that, I knew it was there right?

I knew that that was there. But to start to really uncover the depth of what that did to my belief system was really eye-opening for me, you know, and the damage that it did in my adult life up until I really started to untangle it and deal with it. You know, it did a lot of damage. It’s it’s a lot of what led to my gambling issues was the was the inability to face uncomfortable situations.

Right. Right. Because I didn’t want to feel it. I just did not want to feel it. So, yeah.

Shane Cook: And I think that happens with a lot of us. You know, it’s interesting. We’re roughly the same age, you know, give or take a year here and there. But we are a product of a generation where the men in our lives really didn’t share our emotions very openly. So I can I can relate to that on a on a level where we just didn’t show emotion, you know, German descent on my side, which was very, you know, we’re we’re going to go march forward and heads down, nose to the grindstone type of attitude.

Right. And it it plays a role in our development and how we interact with others. So I appreciate that. Sure. Now, as you go through high school and graduate, then you get out and you decide to go into the army, enlist in the Army. Is that correct?

Dave Yeager: The first of two times, yes.

Shane Cook: Yeah.

Dave Yeager: I actually when it got into the Army, when I got out of high school, I graduated high school, I went to college for a year, didn’t really do well in college. I kind of floundered. I was lazy and just left after the first year trying to decide what to do with my life. So I decided, you know what?

I’m going to go ahead and go in the Army. So yeah, I went in the Army at the age of it was 20 years old when I finally got into the Army.

Shane Cook: Sorry.

Dave Yeager: Yeah, that was my first time in the Army. And I was in then for, I want to say it was four and a half years.

Shane Cook: Okay. All right. And that was before your time. You had a you had a period then after that, four and a half years where you reentered the civilian lifestyle at that? Yeah.

Dave Yeager: During that period, in between my stints with the military, I reentered the civilian world, got a job, got married for the first time, and I brought my two kids into the world during the period between the two times in the military.

Shane Cook: Okay. Yeah. But now it’s your second time that you entered the military where you had the experience of being introduced to gambling.

Dave Yeager: Yeah, I was introduced to gambling actually, many years ago. I’m from eastern P.A., so I’m not that city. So I had gambled, but it was only very periodically. It really was. I would go down there with a certain amount of money. If I blew that money, that’s great. I went home. If I won some money, I might spend it, but I might not spend it.

But I still always kept my gas money to go home. It was more or less responsible, but it was only every now and again. I had gambled maybe a handful of times before that second time in the Army and that second time in the Army. It was it was 2001. It was about a month and a half after the events of 911.

I had come down on orders to go to Korea. At the time, my children were both under the age of five. I had been arguing with my first wife, then got on the plane, flew over there. I was stressed, I was tired, I had anxiety going on. There was all of these different things happening. I got settled into the hotel in Seoul, walking around and lo and behold, I look in a room and lo and behold, there’s a casino-style slot room right there.

Shane Cook: Right. So let’s set this up a little bit more, because I think you touched on something that that’s really important here, that the timing of this on the heels of 911, you’re shipping out to Korea right next to one of the named axis of evil. Uh, that was just to your north. Tensions had to be pretty high there.

Dave Yeager: I would say. Was it? I want I don’t want to go as far as to say tensions are high. I want to go as far as to say my stress level was high.

Shane Cook: Okay.

Dave Yeager: So I know what to expect when I flew into that country. Right? I’m flying. I’m flying 12 hours away, time zone-wise. Right into a country I had never been into. And as I’m flying into the into the ocean air base, you’re watching Patriot missiles pointing right at you, you know, and everything was barricaded off. When you get there, we, you know, flak vests, the whole nine yards.

So for me personally, it was very, very stressful.

Shane Cook: I’m sure that would induce a level of stress that many people don’t experience. Yes, I would agree. I mean.

Dave Yeager: There were no active hostilities, nothing like that. So it wasn’t like I was walking into a firefight, but I I didn’t know what I was walking into. And that’s what that’s what stressed me. Yeah. Plus, I was leaving a situation at home that I did not want to leave. I had two young children I didn’t want to leave behind, and I did not leave my first wife on the best of terms when I got on that plane.

So I flew in there with a lot of stress.

Shane Cook: Yeah. And it’s it’s it’s interesting having gone through that, uh, that 911 experience. And I think all of us to a certain extent experienced trauma on that day because we we’ve seen the videos and it, it lived with us for a while and it created a ton of uncertainty for everybody. Sure. We all had that heightened anxiety that came along after the 911 experience.

So I just want to give you the opportunity to at least say, yeah, you’re experienced me, you’re you’re a level of stress may have been X, but you know, here I am going into another country that’s, you know, potentially we don’t know exactly what’s going on. But right now we’re going close to the fire here in. Right. So tell us about the experience there.

Korea and being introduced, introduced to the slots.

Dave Yeager: Yes, I get on the base, I get to the hotel in Seoul on Yongsan base, a very, very, very nice hotel. I get settled in my room. I find some dinner. I’m tired, but I’m not necessarily sleepy because I’m stressed. I’m walking around the hotel and as I’m walking around, I’m seeing like a little shop here and a restaurant there.

And then I start to hear noises that I’m like, Wait, what is this? So I turn and look in the room and it’s it’s not a full-blown casino, but it’s a room full of slot machines, much like a casino, you know, dimly lit with the fun lights in it and all that, all that sort of thing. So I’m like, you know what?

I gambled when I was younger. This looks like it could be fun. It’s a great way to kill time. And still I can actually sleep because I’m not ready to sleep. So I took some money out of the ATM. You know, I went I sat down and I started to play. And the first thing I noticed as I started to play was that my shoulders started to relax a little bit.

So I’m like, okay, maybe I will be able to sleep now. But then I made and I always call this the biggest mistake a budding compulsive gambler can make. I want. Okay. And it was not it didn’t break the bank. I did not strip the Republic of Korea and the U.S. Army of all their money. Right. But I won enough war in that moment.

Just in that moment, all of the stress, all of the tension, all the fear, all the things that I had been experiencing up until that point were gone. They literally in that moment were gone. And it just felt good. Sure. You know, that moment felt good. Now, I’m not going to sit here and say that on that day in November in 2001, I became a compulsive gambler.

What I will say, though, is the seed was planted because, you know, I went through the rest of getting processed in and they got me all signed in and they got me a signed and I got picked up by my unit, which was all the way at the southern end, a peninsula about 4 hours away. I was in in a Pusan, which is at the southern end of Korea.

Okay. So they picked me up, they took me there, they got me settled into my house. I was a noncommissioned officer, so I was in a house with four other noncommissioned officers. I got settled into the base and it was probably a couple of days until I was walking around and I walked into the community club there, happened to walk to the back of the community club.

And lo and behold, here’s another one of these slop rooms, much smaller, you know, much less glitz to it, but it was still one of the slot rooms. I’m like, Oh, you know what? I had fun doing this up in in Seoul. Let me go ahead and try it again. Well, over the course of the next several months, that went from maybe going on a Friday to going on a Friday and Saturday to go on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, to now wanting to go Monday, Tuesday.

And within probably 2 to 3 months, I was going 6 to 7 days a week to this room because it was my little escape because I didn’t feel like going back to my room at night because I was there all alone. I really didn’t have anything to do. I was bored and oh, by the way, this seemed like it was fun and felt good.

Shane Cook: Well, sure, you’re getting the hits of that dopamine every time you go near misses that appear to continue to pull you in because you’re close to winning, right?

Dave Yeager: Correct. Yeah. And then and then what happened was this. It accelerated probably over the first couple of months, You know, it was okay, but then it started to accelerate. So now it started to accelerate to the point where I’m running out of money right? So at first, what I would do is I would I when I would talk to my first wife at home, I would tell her a reason I needed more money.

Well, we’re going on a trip this weekend, send some more money, which turned into, oh, I have one of my fellow soldiers who’s in trouble. Let me help them out until they can pay me back, which turned into God only knows what else. I gave her multiple, multiple different excuses to send me more money, which at first she did.

And then eventually she started to say, Wait a minute, this is this. Something’s not right here. I think you’ve covered everything you need to cover. I’m not sending you more money. Right. So when that happened, and I’m still having these desires, you know, as this is going on, I’m like, okay, well, now I can’t feed this need to go to this room anymore, except for what I have regularly.

So then I started to sell off the possessions I had with me. So I brought a bicycle over with me. I sold that I had some electronics, like a TV and a stereo and whatnot. So I sold those off. Right, Right. That of course, I went through very quickly because I didn’t have that much with me. I was only there for a year.

I brought enough to make sure I could get through, but it held me over for a tiny little bit. So then I started getting creative because by now the obsession was kicking in. By now, this need to go to this room. The desire to go to this room for fun is now becoming a need to go to this room because I don’t want to be without it.

So then it accelerates from selling my stuff and borrowing from home to now borrowing from my subordinates, which if you know anything about being a noncommissioned officer in the military, that’s a huge, huge no, no, you just don’t do it. And at first they were accommodating, you know? Yeah, yeah, we’ll take care of you. And then eventually they’re like, Wait a minute, you make more than I do.

You’re a higher rank to me. You’re in charge of me, right? One of the things I was doing was I was I was impacting mission readiness because I was in charge of these people. I was in charge of their lives. I was in charge of their training. And here I am borrowing money from them like I’m the newest kid off the bus, you know.

So that went on for a little while. And then I did go back to my my ex-wife and, you know, was able to get her to increase amounts a couple of times. And but eventually I took probably the biggest mistake that I’ve ever made in the military. I stole from my own unit. And that’s where the trouble really began with the Army.

And that’s where the point where I knew something was going on beyond me because I felt like I couldn’t control it anymore. It was out of my control. Once that theft took place, an investigation started. As soon as the investigation started, I went right to them and I confessed what I had done because I felt horrible. You know, here I am living one life as this noncommissioned officer who is developing soldiers, who’s developing a training program, who’s making sure the mission gets accomplished while at the same time I’m degenerating into I don’t know what and I have no idea why it’s happening.

You know, it just it scared me, you know? So I did get pulled aside and I got immediately relieved of my position. Right. Got pulled up to Seoul to headquarters, because now I was getting close to my end of my time in Korea, got pulled up to Seoul and was just put up there and given the odds and ends duty until the until it was time for me to go.

But in the meantime, I was I was given my discipline there. Right. So my colonel, my commander pulls me in and he sits me down and he says, I got to be honest with you, I wish I didn’t have to do this because everything that you’ve done for this unit in a year, in your year here has been exemplary, with the exception of this character issue.

And that’s what he called it, the character issue. Right? So, you know, so they reduced me by one rank and they sent me on my way. Meanwhile, my first sergeant pulls me aside and has to do my noncommissioned officer evaluation for the year end. Well, I got just about the highest marks you can get in every category except character.

Right. Here’s the thing. Okay? Here’s here’s the thing that drives me to do what I do today. Not once during that entire experience did somebody use the word gambling with me. Not once. Yeah, right. Not once. Did somebody say you have a gambling problem. Let’s get you some help. Make sense.

Shane Cook: Yep.

Dave Yeager: So, you know, So my time in Korea ended with me losing rank, being sent home back to the States. Right. With really, in terms of my own addiction, Nothing to show for it except carrying the addiction back home to the States. So which did get quiet for a while because that reduction in ranks scared the crap out of me.

So sure, you know, it did quiet down for a while.

Shane Cook: Yeah. So there’s there’s a couple of things about this and I appreciate you walking the listener through your experience while you were in Korea. The first time I heard you tell this story was a year ago when we were in Boston for this same conference. Right? And I was sitting there and you kind of walk through your experience in Korea.

And my initial thought was, wait a minute, they have slot machines on overseas bases for enlisted military to go in and gamble while they’re on the base. And, you know, you have a lot of downtime, right in, you know, in in the service, you’ll have periods of just grueling activity. And then you have a period where you’ve got a lot of downtime.

It comes in cycles. So and I think you talked about that during that initial talk that I saw, but I’m still amazed that the slot machines are located in overseas bases. And this is really kind of given as an entertainment option without without with very little attention to, hey, this can cause some people can develop a gambling addiction just by playing these games.

And there’s not a whole lot that’s being done on the education side within the armed forces.

Dave Yeager: Yeah, and here’s the thing. Look, there there were one time I don’t know if there still are, but at one time there were over 3000 of these slot machines in overseas facilities. There are none in U.S.-based military facilities. Right. But an overseas facilities there are they’re hosted by morale, welfare and recreation. AMW are to be able to bring money in to provide other recreational opportunities to service members who are serving overseas.

Right. So from that perspective, I don’t necessarily have an issue with that because you’re because, as you know, 90 plus percent of us that are out there can gamble safely without an issue, just like many of us can drink without an issue. And there are bars on just about every military installation. Right. So from that perspective, no big deal.

Now, here’s the thing. These these 3000 machines have generated up to $100 million a year. Right. But not one penny of that had been turned around or has been turned around into education, screening or treatment of problem gambling. And and again, you’ve hit on a good point, because if you walk into that that slot room and there’s a sign on the wall that says these are the signs and symptoms of a gambling addiction.

Right. If you if you experience any of these, reach out to whatever the number is or whatever area you want to send these guys to for their particular unit. Right. Then at least maybe you’re not going to catch everybody. We know that already. But if you catch that one person who’s sitting in front of that slot machine for a couple of hours and all of a sudden things, you know, I just I am gambling with increasing frequency and I need to spend more money to get the same thrill out of it.

Right. Maybe this is something I need to think about. If you can plant that one tiny little seed to that one soldier, that one Marine, that one airman, you might help prevent that guy from getting to the level that I got to. And I’m not saying that if I walked into that room in Korea and saw that sign that I would have stopped gambling.

I’m not saying that. All I’m saying is it would have planted a seed and made me think about it. You know? So, you know, my one of the things that I try to speak for and one of the reasons I tell my story so often is to try to move in that direction, to try to give these soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines an opportunity to learn about the addiction before they hit the addiction, because many of them don’t even know it is an addiction.

So that’s a great point.

Shane Cook: Yeah, that’s been my experience, too, is there’s still a lot of people that are in the general population that don’t recognize gambling as a potential addiction. Right. Swipe at Gateway. We spend a lot of time out in our communities talking about problem gambling, talking about gambling addiction along with substance use, addictions, process addictions, things like that. But just to just to create that awareness.

And at least in Illinois, I think over the past couple of years as a statewide community of providers, we’ve done a pretty good job, I think, of elevating people’s knowledge about the warning signs when it comes to gambling addiction. So in this podcast, it’s just another avenue to reach a different audience that we might not otherwise reach.

You know, same with your podcast as well. So okay, so let’s turn back to the book a little bit and we’ll try to we’ll try to skip ahead to how you’re going through treatment. That’s kind of where we started our discussion today, but how you get through your second treatment phase that you would you had gone through. And here are the types of things that you’re doing today that keep you mindful about the continuing recovery.

Dave Yeager: Yeah, and let me say this. Leading up to that second time that my relapse state, if you will, that relapse didn’t happen overnight. That relapse happened over several years. Right. And the biggest contributor, the one single thing, if there’s one top thing that kind of characterized that relapse, it was dead lies. Right. It was the it was that need to hide the addiction and just tell lies to make sure that I could do what I wanted to do.

You know, I, I remarried in 2014 and I was already processing towards that relapse at that time. You know, and even from day one, even though I wasn’t doing it every day, I was lying to my wife. I lied to her about my finance, a you know, about credit that I had that it was out. I lied to her about, you know, where I was getting money from.

I lied to her about the money that I had. You know, I would tell her everything’s great. Meanwhile, I’m what I’m doing is I’m taking out one loan to pay off another loan to pay off another loan to pay off a credit card. And thinking the whole time with this gambler’s mentality, Oh, I’m going to find a way to fix it.

I’ll fix it all before she even knows what happened. And to me, if there’s someone out there that’s listening, that’s struggling with a potential gambling issue that is one of the biggest things to pay attention to. What lies am I telling to myself and other people? Right? Because if it’s going to reach a point eventually where that’s going to come out, whether you’re the one who says it or whether it’s the other person or people that say it, at some point those lies are going to come to the surface.

Right. For me, I just kept hiding it and hiding it and hiding it and hiding it. When I finally did tell her about it at the beginning, at 21, 2020 or 2020, Right. It was a blindside of epic proportions. Like she never, ever expected that this is what was going on with my life and with us. So when I got into this recovery, it was imperative of me to understand what was going on underneath of what I was doing, because if I couldn’t untangle what was going on beneath the surface and beneath the actions that I was taking, I was just I feel like I was dooming myself to repeating the cycle again.

Does that make sense? Yeah. So when I got into recovery this time, I made a commitment to myself that if I truly want to do this, if I want to stay in this marriage, if I want to have the relationship chips with my family that I have, if I want to have the relationship with myself that I want, right, then I better be willing to do the work to really start to dig in and uncover it and figure out what the heck is going on with me.

So that was my motto when I got into recovery. This time around, I sat down with my counselor the very first day that I got out to the VA treatment program and she said, What are your goals? I said, to unravel what’s beneath the addiction, because if I begin to unravel what’s underneath the addiction, then I believe I can start to better understand the addiction.

Dave Yeager: And I can I can take better control of myself within this addiction. You know.

Shane Cook: Essentially, you’ve got tools, right? You’ve got a better tool kit.

Dave Yeager: Coping mechanisms. You can’t cope if you don’t know how to cope. Right? So the first thing I had to do was learn how to cope, and then I had to be willing to apply those skills. So within this second recovery or what I call my kind of my major recovery at this point, you know, my life recovery, one of the things that I learned is, is that I have to be willing to get uncomfortable.

Right? If I’m not willing to get uncomfortable about things that are going on with me. And this goes way back to what we first talked about when I was a kid, right? If I’m not willing to get uncomfortable with what I’m feeling, I’m not going to deal with those feelings. And what I’m going to do is want to run from them again.

Right. And whatever manifests itself, it’s gambling is kind of my number one go to. But whatever manifests itself is going to be my grab on to to escape from that feeling. So rather than do that, what I try to do now is to admit that I’m uncomfortable. Right? So then I would I’ll say early on with my wife, I would say, okay, I’m uncomfortable saying this to you, but and I did that for myself because I knew I was uncomfortable, but I had to get comfortable with it.

And some of the stuff for many, many people that are out there listening, some of this stuff when I admitted to will sound kind of silly, like, how could you be uncomfortable with that? But I was I was sharing pieces of myself, was not comfortable.

Shane Cook: So yeah, yeah. And, you know, go back to the beginning, you were well-practiced at suppressing your feelings. Yeah. So, you know, you start talking about unraveling. You’re talking about unraveling 40, 35, 40 years of suppression. Right? Right. So that doesn’t happen overnight.

Dave Yeager: Right. And here’s the thing. I could tell my story before I relapsed, but I kind of told my story detached from my story. Right. So I could tell you the story all day long. But I didn’t I wouldn’t allow myself to feel it as I was saying it. Now, there are times when I tell my story where I genuinely feel what I’m saying, as I’m saying, and it’s very, very different because, you know, I don’t want to lie anymore.

You know, I don’t want to be a liar. I want to tell my truth. Because you know what? And we’ve said this before. You’ve heard this in recovery before. It’s easier to tell the truth because you don’t have to remember what you said. Right. That is so much easier of a way to live life. Plus, you know, when I talk to my wife, who is my biggest supporter, thank God, because I could have come home and found all my stuff on the front porch and still could someday.

Dave Yeager: I don’t know. But thankfully, as of today, that’s not happening because I find it incumbent to say to her when something’s going on to tell her what’s happening, you know, to tell her about how I’m feeling. And she’ll sometimes have to pry it out of me because my ego wants to hold it in still. But she doesn’t have to prompt me as hard as at one time she may have or even I don’t hide it from her.

I don’t lie about it. I don’t manipulate it. Right. I might say, All right, yeah, I am feeling this way or yes, I did do that or whatever it happens to be because it just feels so much easier to feels lighter after I do it. That’s what the second education process was about for me. The second recovery process was about and then the other part of that was getting connected to recovery and staying connected to recovery, right?

It is so important for me to talk to other people that go through this addiction because it’s the way that I stay anchored to. How do I get healthier? Well, I get healthier by remembering that I’m not going through this alone. I can remember a time in my addiction where I just sat there and thought nobody could ever possibly understand what’s going on in my head.

I remember that. But now I know better. Now I know it’s not true. And every now and again, you know, for me weekly, because I go to a G.A. meeting weekly, it’s great for me to check in and just hear that I’m not alone. You know, That’s great for me. That’s a that’s a healing moment.

Shane Cook: Yeah, That’s probably the number one thing I hear from people in recovery. Once they had an opportunity to participate with a group, to just have that realization that the experiences they’ve had are very similar to the experiences that I’ve had. Right. And I think that’s, that’s empowering on a lot of levels and really helpful on another level, right?

Because suddenly you’re you’re like, Oh my gosh, I thought I was the only one that felt that way. Yes. To find out that you’re not is comforting in one sense, but it’s also liberating on a whole another level at a time when you most need it right?

Dave Yeager: Right. Well, now, here’s I do want to add to that, though, because I think what you just said is very important for people to hear. You get a connection to somebody who gets at a time when you need it the most. Right? Yeah. But there’s another step to that. There’s another level to that that actually got me into trouble, my first time in recovery.

Now that you’ve experienced that sense of somebody gets it and that sense of connection, right now comes the important work of sticking with it. So week after week after week after week, you’re going to these AA meetings and yeah, you’re reading through a book and you’re doing all these different things and sometimes it might feel a little bit, let’s be honest, sometimes it might feel a little boring.

Dave Yeager: Okay, But the thing about it is some people can think, okay, I think I got this. I think I’m okay. I don’t need to go to next week’s meeting or, you know, I’m feeling really healthy right now. I’m going to go ahead and skip one week and just feel good about myself and then the next week comes up and I’m like, You know what?

I felt good last week. Let me go ahead and skip this one, too. And what happens is very, very gradual. As you do that, you might still feel healthy, you might still feel strong, but very slowly and very surely that addiction is starting to tap you on the shoulder and say, hey, I’m here, I’m here. You know, as you start to degrade back to where you were, I’m going to be ready for you when you need me.

I’ll be here for you. Right. So maintaining that connection is even more important than making that connection. Yeah, because my first time in recovery, that’s exactly what I did. I thought I got this. I feel good. I’m not gambling anymore. I don’t want to gamble. I’m cured. Right? Right. I won’t. And there are other people who will argue with me on this as far as I’m concerned.

For me personally, I will never be cured. Right? This is a lifelong disease that I need to take my medicine for, you know, on a regular basis. Now, for me, that’s my weekly meetings that’s doing this kind of work that I’m doing right now. For a while, I worked in a in a addiction treatment center and worked with gamblers in a treatment center, whatever it takes to keep me connected to this, I’m going to do this for the rest of my life.

Shane Cook: Yeah, well, I Dave, I really appreciate you sharing your story. I loved reading through the book. It was very personal. I know it’s a very personal book because you get into you get into a lot of detail in there that that I know I can imagine it probably wasn’t easy at times to put that down on paper. So I really appreciate I applaud the courage that it took to to put this down on paper and to to release it and share it with others.

But I think it’s very important message, as I know you do, too, because you do this work every day and you’re you’re greatly reader and thought leader in this area of gambling addiction and gambling recovery. So I really enjoyed the opportunity meet you and I just want to take a moment to say that and thank you again for sharing this book.

And I want to make sure others have the opportunity to access this book. So is there some particular way that people should be on the lookout for how to acquire a copy of Fall In.

Dave Yeager: If you’re interested? First of all, if you’re interested in the book, fall in a veteran with a gambling addiction, you can email me directly at fall in podcast at Let me know your email. Let me know if you’re interested in knowing when the book comes out, and I will personally email you back when it’s out. But I will also tell you is, look, you know, probably within the next two months, start looking on or on

Those are the two primary outlets where you’re going to see the book available. And it’s simply titled Fall in a Veteran with a Gambling Addiction. That’s the easiest way to find it by day, by date.

Shane Cook: Yegor Yeah, perfect. Well, we’ll make sure to include that in the show notes and we’ll keep an eye out the for the drop and make sure that we’re we have the links in there for a copy of the book as well.

Dave Yeager: I appreciate that. Thank you so much for doing that.

Shane Cook: So and before we step away and step out of the studio, I did want to mention that what I found delightful about this book is at the end, I think as a reader, you walk away with the sense of hope, Right? And I know that you were you were very explicit about that up front when you when you did the foreword to the book is making sure that you walk away with a a sense of hopefulness after reading the story.

And I think it really comes through, or at least it did for me, and I’m sure it will for others. So I wanted to mention that because I think it’s important. Any time we’re talking about an addiction, there’s got to be a message of hope at the end. It’s not it’s not a lifelong process of drudgery. There really is better days ahead and I think you did a great job of capturing that in this book.

Dave Yeager: Thank you for that. I appreciate. And the very first words of the book and the very last words of the book or that are this is a story of hope. And that’s what I meant it to be. You know, there’s so many of us out there that don’t feel like there’s hope. There is hope. There is hope. You just have to be willing to step into it and understand you’re not alone.

Shane Cook: Right. Last thing before we go here, anything that you wanted to cover that we haven’t covered?

Dave Yeager: I don’t think so. I think we got through it pretty well. We did an overview of the book. The only thing I would say is my biggest mission in life and doing what I do right now is covers exactly what you just talked about to make sure that people out there understand that they are not alone. So if you are somebody out there and I speak to veterans and military service members, but to anybody, if you’re out there listening to this and you’re someone who is struggling with not knowing where to go, with not knowing what to do, and with kind of feeling like there’s you know, there’s no direction for you, reach out to somebody, call, you know, I’m sure that Shane will make, you know, available places that you can go to find help. You know, he does it every single day. So, you know, go find that help. Go talk to somebody. Go say, you don’t have to go through this alone. I say this at every podcast episode that I do myself.

And I just felt that it was important to share it on yours as well. And I appreciate the opportunity.

Shane Cook: Yeah, absolutely. Well, Dave, good seeing you and catching up here over the last couple of days and in D.C., I look forward to our paths crossing again in the future.

Dave Yeager: And I’m sure they will.

Shane Cook: Godspeed to you, brother.

Dave Yeager: Thank you. I appreciate it.

Shane Cook: All right. We love hearing from you so please take a moment to like, share and comment on our podcast. You can reach out to us directly via email at Wager Danger at Gateway Foundation dot org. Look for us on Facebook and Twitter at Recovery Gateway on LinkedIn, at Gateway Dash Foundation or through our Web site at Gateway Foundation.

Wager Danger is supported through funding in whole or in part through a grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Division of Substance to Use Prevention and recovery. And remember, recovery is a lifelong process. If you are a family member struggling with a gambling problem, call Gateway at 8449753663 and speak with one of our counselors for a confidential assessment.

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