Art Schlichter - Beating the Odds

This month, we let former Buckeye Art Schlichter give the final word. Schlichter was a four-year starting quarterback with celebrity-like appeal during the late 70s and early 80s at OSU. His eventual NFL career was cut short because of a debilitating gambling addiction. After a decade in prison, he’s turned his life around and tells his story in a new book, Busted.

Tell me about Gambling Prevention Awareness.
It’s a not-for-profit organization that we started about three years ago. We wanted to supply an avenue for people that have a gambling addiction, or family members that might have a gambling addiction, to deal with, reach out and find help. I have a number that people can call and get all the information that they need.

Why was it important for you to write a book about your experience with gambling?

Well, I don’t know if it was important for me to write it—I think it was the time for me to write it. I just felt like after so many years of living in a disease and fighting it, with the public kind of sitting on the outside looking in and wondering what happened, I thought it was time to maybe tell the story so people could maybe understand it a little better. In some senses, it was therapeutic for me to be able to talk about it.

Was it difficult to be completely honest in Busted? Were you afraid of hurting anyone?

Well, certainly you don’t want to hurt anyone. And no, it wasn’t hard to be honest in the book. It was somewhat painful at times to talk about some of the things that happened—dealing with my father’s suicide and the loss of a child, and just all the things that go on in life—the ten years in prison, the solitary confinement—you know when you go through things like that, when you have to relive them, it becomes very painful.

If you could go back in time and do just one thing differently, what would it be?
I would have never made the first bet.

What don’t you take for granted since your release from prison?

I don’t take my freedom for granted. I think most people in society do. But most people in society haven’t done the things I did to put myself into prison. I don’t take for granted the minutes, the hours, the days I can spend with my children.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Life in general kind of gets me out of bed. I’m involved in coaching now. I love coaching, being a part of that, working with kids. I enjoy the work we do with the organization. I’m in broadcasting, and I enjoy my family and my loved ones.

As the fourth pick in the 1982 NFL draft, how big do you think you could have become if all went right?
I think I would have had a good career in the NFL. I was distracted by the gambling—eventually lost a career to the gambling. I think ability-wise, God blessed me with great ability, and I’m very happy to have played for as long as I had. I wish things would have been different, but they weren’t.

What was the initial draw to gambling for you?
There wasn’t really any initial draw. One of my buddies asked me to go out to the track one day, and the first day I went with him I was hooked. You know, whether we had a big win, or just a win, the excitement of it, the racetrack was an kind of an escape for me, and I was able to become just a normal guy. And it ended up becoming a numbing tool, you know. Every time I gambled I didn’t think about any of the other problems, or any of the other stresses, or any of the pressures that I had.

Is it possible to compare a gambling addiction to alcoholism or drug abuse?
I think most certainly they are very comparable. An addiction is an addiction whether its food, gambling, eating—there’s different kinds of addiction—the ones you can smell, taste and touch. There are all kinds of addictions, but in the end, being able to work a 12-step of recovery in an anonymous group, you can substitute the gambling for alcohol, the alcohol for drugs and still find the same type of people.

How do you fight the temptation to gamble now?
I do what I’m doing. I stay very busy. I work hard, concentrate on the things that are in front of me through the day and not try to think too far ahead.