Former Oklahoma senator shares his story of gambling addiction to help others | Health
SHREVEPORT, La. — Rick Brinkley was at the height of his career. He had been a pastor, an Emmy-nominated television producer for the show “Sally Jessy Raphael”, a successful businessman and was elected to the Oklahoma State Senate in 2010 and again in 2014.
But less than two years after the last Senate victory, it all came crashing down because of a gambling addiction. Now, he’s sharing his story to help others bring their addiction to light.
Brinkley grew up without vices.
“To date, I’ve never had an alcoholic drink in my life,” Brinkley said. “I have never used drugs in my life.”
But when he walked into a casino with a group of friends, his world changed instantly.
“At that point, it was over,” he said.
Brinkley said it was like stepping into a snow globe.
“Everything outside of that building is gone,” he explained. “Nobody asked me for anything. Nobody wanted anything. I could just sit there and concentrate without thinking about anything.”
The gambling addiction started immediately. It wasn’t the money he wanted. It was the leak.
“It’s the same, I think, for a lot of addictions, whether it’s drugs or alcohol, it’s the escape,” Brinkley said. “It numbs you to what’s going on around you.”
And like other addictions, it’s a progressive disease, which means it keeps getting worse.
“It’s a brain thing,” Brinkley said. “Brain chemistry kicks in and you have the exact same type of reaction – a gambler does in a casino – that someone else does when they take a hit.”
But unlike other addictions, it’s easier to hide.
“Literally no one, no human being knew I had a gambling problem,” Brinkley said.
Until they do.
His former employer, the Better Business Bureau of Tulsa, discovered that Brinkley, his chief operating officer, had taken money. And the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation was called.
He resigned his seat in the Senate.
“When the story broke and I was breaking the news on my friends’ phones, I had to get to my family ASAP,” Brinkley said.
Brinkley pleaded guilty to wire fraud and tax evasion in connection with the misappropriation of more than $1.8 million. Much of it was used to cover gambling losses.
“I lost everything because of the laws I broke trying to maintain my addiction,” he said.
And in a twist of irony, the sense of escape he craved from the game ended up costing him his freedom.
“I ended up spending three years in prison and I have a felony on my record,” Brinkley said.
After prison, he went to a treatment center in Shreveport, a community he says holds a special place in his heart because it was where he found his life.
“I was an incredibly broken human being and ended up going to the Center for Recovery in Shreveport,” he said.
He hasn’t played since.
“I’m going to keep the people who love me,” he said. “I will conserve my financial resources. I will keep everything I have. »
And now he helps others by telling his story. Brinkley says a big step toward recovery is “owning your trash.”
“If you are always afraid that someone will find out something about you, it ends up controlling you. Drug addiction is a horrible place to live. said Brinkley. “Now I have nothing to hide. And when you live in that space, it’s the happiest you’ve ever been in your life.
Brinkley encourages anyone with a gambling problem to get help. He says addicts are able to compartmentalize and even view gambling as a hobby. He says they can convince themselves that they are taking advantage of it as they completely destroy their lives.
But everything will eventually fall apart.
Brinkley says if you have a loved one who might be having a gambling problem, there are a few signs to look out for. Someone may have a gambling problem if they go away for long periods of time without telling you where they have been, if money often goes missing, and if they seem secretive. He also says they can often smell smoke or use cologne to cover up the smell of the casino.
If you or someone you love has a gambling problem, call or text 1-877-770-STOP.