Craig Carton opened up his return to the WFAN airwaves with a whimsical look at the irony of his return coming from the Mike Francesa studio, and thanked a lot of people for “the culmination of a dream that I’ve had every second of every day” since his Sept. 2017 arrest.
And then, Craig got down to business to give you, the listener, a look deep inside the demon that kept him off the airwaves for 1,150 days.
“I made it very hard for a lot of people to be supportive of me. I went a long time denying that I have a problem – and I have a problem. If you came up to me three years ago and accused me of playing blackjack too much, I would’ve said you were out of your mind,” Carton said. “My sickness got so bad that there was a point where I was so overwhelmed with my desire to play blackjack wherever I could…it’s so crazy now, but I said to her, ‘I’m thinking about retiring and resigning from WFAN so I can be a professional gambler.’ I thought, I’m so good at it, I can’t lose, and that’s where the money is. That’s sick; that’s not proper sober thinking.”
And it took a trip he didn’t think he needed to take to make that realization.
“Shortly after I got arrested, I checked myself into a rehab center, a place called Algamus in Prescott, Arizona, and I did it to shut people around me up and prove I didn’t have a problem. I thought that I was the only one that ever processed gambling the way I did, emotionally and mentally, and no one could ever possibly understand,” he said. “So I show up, and my very first group meeting, I go last in this circle, and I’m gonna tell a story I think is germane just to me.”
The people around Craig in Arizona had various gambling problems, but as he prepared to “go through the motions,” he had a revelation.
“Every single one talked about how they processed gambling…and took every single word verbatim out of my mouth, as if I had written the script. And that, for me, was an ‘a-ha’ moment,” Craig said. “I denied it prior to that, because I thought no one else understood, but it was at that moment I said to myself that I had a problem. And I said, ‘hello, my name is Craig, and I’m a compulsive gambler.”
Craig is proud of the fact that he has not wagered in over two years, but knows it’s going to be a daily fight to stay sober from his addiction – one he now recognizes was a shield for the emotions over the sexual abuse he suffered in his past.
“I had this crazy moment in Arizona with equine therapy, where you go out to a farm and talk to horses. I hid my feelings and kept them deep down inside – and the fact I can say it now is a major breakthrough for me,” Craig said. “But they have these horses, and horses are apparently very smart. I’m trying to come to terms with why I’m using gambling as a crutch, and I’m going to tell that to a horse? But I bleep you not, I’m having a one-on-one with this horse, and they wanted me to talk to the horse like he’s the person who did this to me; I had this crazy breakthrough, tears streaming down my face as I’m yelling at this horse. It was an amazing moment in my life where I realized I needed help.”
Craig admitted he is still in therapy today and feels good about it, and recognizes that he needs to make the most of his second chance, because there won’t be a third.
“I recognize that the world is not thrilled that Craig Carton is not coming back, and I’ve been asked why I deserve a second chance – it’s because WFAN decided I did,” Craig said. “It’s for me to make sure I don’t eff this up, because I guarantee you, there’s no third chance in life.”
And if you’re wondering about how the rise of sports betting promotion and advertisement on sports radio will affect Craig…don’t.
“People have wondered about my ability to be an admitted compulsive gambler and be on a station where gambling advertising is pertinent – I see no reason why those need to be mutually exclusive. It doesn’t, because WFAN has afforded me the opportunity to use this platform to speak to the potential dangers of gambling, and preach about responsible gambling,” he said. “I will be sensitive to it, but I will not be making picks, or talking about the spreads, or telling you who I like. That’s my decision, and the company is aware of that, and the company will afford me the opportunity to do some programming about responsible gambling. Hopefully, for some, I can be a voice who can help you before it gets too late, because I’ve seen what happens when it gets too late.”
Listen to Craig’s entire opening monologue below.
Follow Craig Carton on Twitter: @craigcartonlive