Kindbridge Behavioral Health is not just America’s preeminent online resource for problem gambling, we are also the country’s first support platform for military veterans who struggle with the disorder. If you want to learn more about why problem gambling support for veterans and active service members is mission critical, click here. In addition, we encourage you to reference Kindbridge Research Institute’s Colorado Military Veterans Project which will serve as a model to be scaled across all 50 states and territories.
The intent of today’s release however, is not to reiterate the wealth of problem gambling resources that Kindbridge has made available to our cherished members of the U.S. military. Instead, we are shining a spotlight on a veteran whose experiences are unfortunately archetypal for many servicemen who put their lives on the line for their country. But more importantly, this veteran serves as a prime example of how one can escape the dangerous grip of a scourge that is spreading across the United States at a rapid pace.
We are honored to have the opportunity to introduce you to David Yeager. David is an 11-year veteran of the United States Army who is in recovery for a gambling addiction.
David developed problematic gambling behavior on active duty, while stationed in the Republic of Korea, shortly after the events of 9-11 in 2001. Many are surprised to learn that military personnel can develop a gambling addiction while stationed on any military base, which is innately associated with subordination and discipline. However, when you consider that the U.S. Department of Defence (DoD) operates thousands of slot machines on U.S. bases around the world and allows the placement of casinos in near proximity, it becomes clear that an environment has been fostered that may actually increase the likelihood for problem gambling. The United States Army installations in South Korea are no different. For example, South Korea’s U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys (or Camp Humphreys) is the largest U.S. overseas military base. It has hosted casino nights during the likes of New Year’s Eve and Mardi Gras and has been known to hold Sunday Poker for personnel. Meanwhile, Paradise Casino Walkerhill in Seoul is a short train ride away from the base, and caters specifically to foreigners with military personnel being among the operator’s bread and butter.
Simply put, the protagonist in this real life story, David Yeager, had the chips stacked against him from the moment he was placed on active duty and stationed at a U.S. Army base. Yeager’s relationship with gambling progressed into an addiction while in the service to the point that it impacted his ability to perform his duties. Eventually he was released from the Army, while his compulsive gambling behavior persisted.
In addition to marring his career, gambling addiction resulted in the loss of his first marriage and put a severe strain on the relationship with his children. Depression ensued as David was convinced that no one could ever understand what he was going through, including the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which is charged with providing lifelong healthcare services (physical and mental) to eligible military veterans. Consequently, David attempted suicide four times.
It seemed that all was lost until someone at the VA suggested the VA’s Gambling Treatment Program in Cleveland, Ohio. Yeager enrolled in the program in 2007 and found initial success in treatment for over a decade. Like many veterans struggling with gambling disorder and other ongoing behavioral and mental health challenges, Yeager experienced a relapse in 2020. He returned to the Gambling Treatment Program where he not only found the support he needed, he reconnected with the woman who is now his second wife and life partner. He also reconnected with his children and has a wonderful relationship with them, along with his grandchildren.
To date, Yeager is enjoying a successful recovery and has been able to leverage his experiences with problem gambling to help others. He has authored two books, the latest of which offers readers a deep accounting of his life and experiences with problem gambling. Fall In: A Veteran with a Gambling Addiction was released in July 2023 and serves not just as a cautionary tale, but offers veterans in the author’s boots a gateway to hope in that they too may recover from the malicious throes of gambling. You can purchase Fall In: A Veteran with a Gambling Addiction at Amazon. In addition, you (and/or loved ones) can follow David Yeager along on his journey of recovery on the FALL-IN Problem Gambling Podcast for Military Service Members and Veterans, right here. Lastly, we at Kindbridge are honored to work with David Yeager as a part of his recommended resources for veteran problem gambling support. In fact, he currently holds the roll of Kindbridge intake coordinator, is a recovery coach, and is running the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) training program in Colorado that delivers much needed education on the subject to young military minds.
To conclude this piece on David Yeager, we asked him directly about what he would recommend to a person who is able to admit to themselves that they have a gambling problem. David responded with the following three pillars of recovery:
The removal of roadblocks, taking accountability, and making connections.
Roadblocks: Includes self-exclusion and/or blocking of online access, turning over money to a loved one, if possible or fiduciary/payee and anything else that takes away means should an urge arise.
Accountability: Coming clean, completely clean with loved ones and making yourself accountable for your whereabouts, actions, etc. It also means being accountable to yourself and stepping into urges and uncomfortable feelings that might come up.
Connection: Finding somewhere to share the recovery process. Trying to do it alone is nearly impossible. Find a self-help group, counseling group, church group, something. There is way more power to heal in a group with a common goal than any individual in that group has. I found this even more impactful when I, as a veteran, was part of a veteran cohort in recovery.
We hope that in shining a spotlight on this veteran’s story, that we reach other servicepersons who struggle with problem gambling. If you are a veteran or active member of the military in any capacity, and are concerned about your relationship with casino gaming and/or sports betting, please reach out to Kindbridge Behavioral Health right away.
Concerned Veterans, Military Personnel, and/or Related Organizations:
CALL +1 (877) 426-4258