After moving to Las Vegas to work as a dietitian, ANDY BELLATTI, R.D., 38, received a $50 voucher in the mail to play slots. Five and a half years later, he had maxed out 12 credit cards and cashed out his 401(k), and he was more than $35,000 in debt. His boss convinced him to consider a 12-step program, and now he’s three years into recovery.
I made the first bet of my life when I was 24 years old when I first came to Vegas on vacation. I'll never forget that in that first day of just playing a slot machine, I was hooked. I mean, it was immediate.
It was all framed under this guise of "going on vacation." I would gamble for 20 hours straight. I would have a budget of X amount and go over it by five times. I wouldn't eat. I wouldn't really sleep. But I think it was very easy to tell myself, "Okay, well, I was on vacation."
And then I moved to Vegas in 2012 for a job. I didn't really know anybody and I had a job that was kind of very isolating. Rather than maybe put myself out there and be a little bit vulnerable to meet people, I decided that it was safer and more comfortable to avoid that.
Instead, it became a thing where my casino trip went from once every two weeks to once a week, and then multiple times in a week. I had one credit card [when I moved]. Fast-forward five-and-a-half years laters, I have 12 credit cards and $35,000 in credit card debt.
I liken an addiction to a computer program that eats up a bunch of memory so everything else runs slowly. My brain was consistently having to deal with addiction, whether it was because I was thinking about when I would gamble next or I was worrying about the fact that I got an alert from my bank that I had an overdraft.
Once I got into recovery, I could be more present in my career. I could think more clearly. Being more present can only make you a better dietitian, [because] somebody is telling you something and you have to be listening for certain cues. It’s very hard to do that when you’ve gotten two hours of sleep and you’re thinking, "When am I going to get paid?"
Once my behavior got healthier, I was able to think, "Wow, now I can actually use my money toward things that I want to do." It could be for buying a home; it could be for starting my own business. If it weren’t for recovery, that would never have happened. I would have gotten stuck on that treadmill of despair.
This story appears in the May 2021 issue of Men's Health.
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