George (from behind)

“I was in university abroad, I just got out of a relationship that ended badly and I fell into depression. For almost one year and a half I only stayed inside my flat, I would only go to some University lectures that were mandatory. Otherwise, I would stay inside, eat a lot of junk food and I started gambling online at first and at the casinos afterwards.”

After ten years of being addicted to gambling, George found the strength to overcome his problems with the help of a local Greek organization called Oasis. There, they share their thoughts and problems with each other and find ways to support each other through the hard days. 

“I grew up in a very loving family, with principles, with good quality of life. As far as I can remember, I was kind of a spoiled kid. I was very sociable [in school] and I’ve always managed to make friends easily, I grew up in a very loving environment.”

George’s parents wanted him to study Economics and he decided to fulfill their wish, even though he felt pressured and liked sports journalism better. “I always felt pressured and that [gambling] felt like a way out, as an escape from all the pressure I was feeling at home.”

“Gambling made me feel like God”

“It was perfect, unbelievable – the rush, the adrenaline, the feeling of winning – I felt invincible. I thought this was the solution to all my problems. The first years were fun, they were good, I would enjoy [gambling] a lot, I would win good amounts of money so I thought this was the solution, so I enjoyed it a lot for the first two or three years.”

He eventually found the courage to tell his father about his gambling addiction. “Because he comes from a very small community, he thought very badly of gambling – as he should – and he told me I had to deal with it myself. I said I couldn’t; I needed an expert’s help.”

“Then, in summer, my father had very bad health issues and I thought he was going to die.  So, I thought if he dies now he will die sad, knowing that one of his children is miserable and into an addiction. I don’t deserve to live like that. That was the point that made me change my mindset.” George takes a deep breath again. Though, this time the silence seems a tiny bit lighter.

“I’ve been clean for the past 7 and a half months and my life is different. My relationship with my parents has now been restored. We have a good relationship and they gradually started trusting me again. I’m very grateful for the program here and for all the things that I have. I look forward to write a future for myself.”

George still faces some challenges regarding his addiction, but he has learned to accept that some days might be harder than others. 

“Not all days are easy, especially the first period was harder, accepting things about myself. But I can see from older members that it can be done and the counselor as well. So I find my strength here – through faith, through the 12 steps program, with the help of my counselor and my team. We support each other, we speak every day, they tell me their problems, I tell them my problems, my thoughts.”

“I try to discuss with the other team members their problems, I try to be more helpful, I try to offer, I try to be there for them. It’s an everyday fight, an everyday struggle. But it’s working so far.”

“I feel optimistic about the future”

“Free from my addiction, brighter and I will, if I can, I will try to help any other people that I know that have the same or any other addiction. What I was living for the past 10 years was hell so now I look forward to living a free life.”

*the name of the interviewee has been changed to protect his identity