Recovery gambling addiction
7- Recovery Gambling Addiction
Unlike addiction to substances like drugs or alcohol, the majority of people do not acknowledge gambling as a type of addiction, despite it being scientifically proven as one. The Fellowship of Gamblers anonymous offers one of the most effective approaches towards recovery from gambling addiction and based on its 12 Steps, this page provides some suggestions on how to start your road to recovery from this type of behavior addiction.
- Recovery suggestion gambling addiction
- 12 Steps of Gamblers Anonymous
Recovery suggestions gambling addiction
1- Confront your denial
- The great fantasy of the gambling addict is that his winnings will make his dreams come true. He imagines that success at gambling will bring him a happy life and despite loosing most of the time, his fantasy remains unshaken. Despite all the evidence that gambling is a losing game, despite the consequences he has suffered, a chronic gambler will bet money he can ill afford to lose in chasing the jackpot that he equates with fulfilment, with happiness, with the solution to all that plagues him. When he loses, as he inevitably does, he bets even more in a mad and desperate effort at winning back his losses, while striving for that ever-elusive jackpot. The chronic gambler dreams of the fancy car, the expensive house, the jewellery, nice cloths and the charming friends he will have once he has made the big win. And he will pursue this fantasy to the dire end. No matter how many times he has lost and all that he has had to compromise — such as loss of family, work or finances — the chronic gambler seems blind to the reality of his predicament. To prove others wrong, to prove to himself that he is right, and for a variety of other reasons that fly in the face of reason, he will continue headlong into his gambling habit.
- The great tragedy with gambling addiction, as with any other type of addiction, is that the addict is in denial of his problem. It is an absolute fact that the bigger and stronger the addiction, the more solid is the addict’s denial of it. With good reason, addiction has been called a “disease of denial.” Despite the obvious problems the addiction is causing, the addict in the grip of his disease is by a trick of the mind able to ignore them. Or the addict sees his problems but insists to himself and others that they are unrelated to his gambling or his use of drugs or alcohol. Rather than a source of problems, the addict sees his drug use or his gambling as his solution. The drug addict believes heroin will give him the confidence and courage to make a happy life for himself. The alcoholic believes the drink will relieve his anxiety and make him better able to deal with life. The gambling addict believes he is luckier and smarter than the rest of us and that his winnings will make his dreams come true. This delusion, this refusal or inability to face reality ends with many addicts in prisons, asylums, or the victims of suicide. With all the evidence pointing toward the addiction as the source of the problem, the addict is usually the last to see it – if he ever does see it.
- A chronic gambler doesn’t quit when he is ahead because his winnings are never enough. He will continue gambling in the belief that an even bigger win is one bet away. Like the drug addict chasing his first high, the chronic addict is obsessed with achieving that euphoric sensation he experienced when he first made a bet and won. At the core of this obsession is the delusion that winning will make him happy, will magically solve all his problems. Addicts rarely live in the adult world. That is, they are usually immature and expect reality to be something they can manipulate and shape into some form of their own liking. They fail to accept that problems are inevitable and that having money will not free them from the realities and difficulties of life. Common to all addicts is a sense of low self-worth, a deep-seated feeling that they are not as good as others. Regardless of his station in life, his accomplishments, the love accorded him by those in his life, the addict turns to a drug or to an activity like gambling to fill emptiness inside. The flip side of the coin of low self-esteem is grandiosity. At the same time that the gambler suffers feelings of inferiority, he exhibits signs of grandiosity, imaging that his gambling makes him special, sets him apart, and proves his abilities. Gamblers believe money will bring them the power and prestige they so lack in their own person. They believe their self-esteem and worth will enjoy a huge boost once they have made the big win.
- Gambling addiction is not a financial problem. Though, of course, it creates financial chaos and ruin, in essence it is an emotional and psychological one. As with any other type of addiction, what the person is addicted to, be it a type of substance or behavior, in a way is irrelevant as the cause of all addictions is rooted in a person’s mental and emotional health. That someone resorts to drugs or an addictive activity to cope with life is what sets him apart from a person who is normal and self endowed with coping mechanisms. An addict is always in search of something outside himself to fix what he lacks inside. He believes external things will empower him to cope with and have a happier life. For example, the drug addict may think heroin will give him the confidence to handle life’s problems. The gambling addict may believe his winnings will make him a successful and happy person. The food addict may be under the illusion that when skinnier she will become attractive and so loved and the sex addict may believe sex equates to care and love. In 12 Step programs, including in Gamblers Anonymous, they speak of recovery as “an inside job.” This means at its core the addict needs to realize nothing outside himself can fix him but that he needs to build his own power and resources, which is achievable though working the 12 Steps. The point is that endless experiences of addicts over time have demonstrated beyond any doubt that circumstances count for only so much. At a certain point, every addict in recovery has to realize that it’s their distorted thinking – their thinking about others and, above all, themselves – that needs changing. The addict in recovery realizes that it’s not the world or his circumstances in life that need changing but rather that he needs to change. Recovery is an inside job.
- The gambling addict lives in denial of his real problem, which is that he lacks the inner resources and tools to deal with life. Reality is not a happy place for addicts, which is why they are always fleeing it. The chronic gambler, for instance, much prefers to live in his dream world of gambling. It is there that he feels safe. It’s ironic that it’s at the gaming tables, where everything is chance and the odds are stacked against the players, that the gambling addict feels most in control of his life. Ask a gambling addict where he feels most secure and he will reply at a casino table. It’s where he feels he most belongs. A casino is where the chronic gambler can, at least temporarily, live in his fantasy world, free of the nagging concerns and responsibilities of real life. He is like the child in a playground. He does not want to leave it, and he certainly does not want to grow up and face the real world. In his playground, the chronic gambler can imagine himself as the big shot. He can act as if he is somebody important, somebody powerful and in charge of his destiny. He sees himself as endowed with wits and luck beyond what most possess. It is this delusion the gambling environment abets — this powerful imaginary world — that so attracts the gambling addict. This happy delusion draws the gambler back to a place that, in reality, has been the source of much harm and unhappiness. Like the drug addict, the chronic gambler is oblivious to the dire consequences of his addiction. He may have lost his home, his wife or his job, but at a casino table he can pretend he is the most powerful and happiest man alive.
2- Accept your gambling addiction
- In order to recover from addiction to gambling, the addict has to admit he’s addicted. He needs to come out of denial and acknowledge he has lost the power to choose or control when and if he gambles. The gambler must accept he is in the grip of a progressive illness, a form of behaviour addiction. Finally, he has to want to get well, which is key. As is said in 12 Step programs, recovery is for those who want it, not necessarily for those who need it. Many addicts who have been successfully in recovery for years can look back on their times as active addicts and recognize that they needed help and could have come into Gamblers Anonymous much earlier. But they had to go through the heartache and misery and financial ruin they went through to reach the point where they were ready to accept they had a problem and become willing to reach out for help.
- It’s also important that the addict chooses to recover for the right reason, namely, that he is doing it for himself. It’s no good trying to stop for anyone but yourself. An addict who goes into a 12 Step program to please his wife or because of pressure from his family is going to have small chance of long-term recovery. That addict may do well for a while, but if he himself is not convinced he needs to be in recovery, the chances are he will slip back into his old way of thinking and then into his old way of coping, which, for the gambling addict, means gambling. But most who get to the point of seeking recovery in Gamblers Anonymous have experienced plenty of wreckage in their lives, enough to convince them that they need to do something about their gambling. He has legal problems, his wife has divorced him, his children don’t want him around, the house is gone, the job is lost or hanging by a thread, and on and on. The nature of this addiction, as with all addictions, is insidious and powerful. Most of us need to get face to face with the dark consequences before we can see the truth for what it is, to see what this malady of addiction has cost us.
- Also important to successful recovery is the acknowledgement you can never gamble again, even a little. Anyone in recovery who believes that they may someday be able to gamble in a controlled and sanely recreational way – in other words, like a normal person – is harbouring a dangerous delusion. Such a person is seriously undermining his chances for recovery. A gambler trying to recover is in the same position as the alcoholic in recovery: both must stay away from what brought them to their knees. For the alcoholic, it’s any taste, even the smallest, of alcohol. For the gambler, it’s any wager, even for the most seemingly paltry amount. For a recovering gambler, there is no such thing as a safe and harmless bet. We have lost the ability to control over gambling and will go back to our old destructive patterns if start once again. We have passed that invisible line into addiction; once crossed, we can never go back. The proof of this is that many have tried to gamble safely after having time in recovery, and the results are always the same: a return to the financial chaos and misery that first drove them into Gamblers Anonymous.
- For many active gambling addicts, though, the thought of forever more doing without their greatest source of pleasure and most effective coping mechanism – in other words, their gambling – is frightening. It’s just too much to ask, they think. To give up the thing that for years they have relied on, that is such a huge part of their lives can be too much to contemplate. What makes this eminently doable, though, is that members of 12 Step programs take things one day at a time. A.A. members don’t ever talk about staying away from alcohol for the rest of their lives. Not at all. Rather, the A.A. member concentrates solely on refraining from taking a drink today – only today. So it is with the gambling addict in recovery. He focuses on today, on staying away from gambling today. He doesn’t worry about tomorrow or next week or next year. He puts his energy into abstaining from gambling a day at a time. In this way, as has been the experience of many tens of thousands of addicts, the days turn into months and then to years. The choice is ours. We need to decide whether we want to continue this way of life or to reach for a better way to live. It can be done, as has been proven many, many times before. It is not that difficult, either, though our head may make all sorts excuses to avoid starting the journey into recovery. All we need to concentrate on is today, and what we need to do right now to stop our gambling addiction.
- Even without a program of recovery, many gamblers have on their own been able to cease gambling for stretches of time, sometimes for quite a long time. During these times away from their ruinous gambling activity, their lives naturally improve. Life is easier, work goes better, and relationships are given a chance to heal. The problem gambler will start to feel good about himself. But with this good feeling may come a false sense of confidence. Though the chronic gambler was forced by the consequences of his gambling to give it up, after a period of stability, the gambler may start to reassess his problem with gambling. He starts to tell himself that maybe his gambling wasn’t so bad after all. Maybe the problems he was experiencing were connected with something other than the gambling. Perhaps he begins to believe that he had made too big a deal out of it, or that others exaggerated the problem.
- In order to stop, some problem gamblers may turn to therapy as a way to understand the psychological reasons for their obsession. Some may try medication. Others will attempt to inform themselves about addiction by reading self-help books. These can all be useful tools in recovery, but experience has shown that they are not enough to free a person from gambling addiction. Arming themselves with knowledge, some gambling addicts may convince themselves they have power over this addiction and need to merely exercise their will to overcome it. Yet it has been shown that willpower and knowledge will inevitably fail us, will fall short. Willpower and knowledge will not get us through those times when pressure mounts in our lives and the disease starts talking to us, telling us we can safely go back to gambling, that this time it will be different, that we won’t overdo it, that we won’t make the same mistakes and get into the same trouble. The disease of addiction is talking to us, but it’s lying.
- In 12 Step programs one talks of a spiritual solution and of a Higher Power. What these concepts boil down to is an acknowledgement that alone with our disease of addiction we are powerless to stop. While willpower and determination may work to achieve our goals in other spheres of our life, when it comes to overcoming addiction, they won’t get us far. The gambler who has stopped on his own is vulnerable in a way the recovering gambling addict in Gamblers Anonymous is not. The gambler doing recovery by himself is liable to be caught off guard by changing circumstances, or bad thinking, or emotional upsets – and turn to gambling again without thought of the consequences. The defences they relied upon, through willpower alone, gave way before some trivial problem – and they placed that bet, which starts the gambler down the road back to full-blown gambling addiction. We have found that willpower and self-knowledge are not enough to weather the rough patches we inevitably encounter in life, but adherence to spiritual principles seems to solve our problems. Most of us feel that a belief in a Power greater than ourselves is necessary in order for us to sustain a desire to refrain from gambling.
3- Ask for outside help
- Many gambling addicts can abstain from gambling for periods of time. They may convince themselves that since they have been able to control their behavior, they do not, in fact, have a real gambling problem. They may tell themselves that they resorted to gambling as a means of escaping their problems temporarily, but that they are now back on track and in command of their life. They may admit that though gambling had indeed become an obsession, all that was needed was their strength of character and the employment of their willpower to bring the ruinous behaviour to a halt. For some gamblers who had not developed the disease of addiction, this may have been the case. After seeing mounting problems related to their gambling, many social or professional gamblers have been able to give up the practice using their willpower alone.
- But if you have become addicted to gambling and are what is known as a chronic gambler, then asserting your willpower alone to stop or control the behaviour will likely be futile. Evidence has shown time and again that once an addict has passed the line into becoming a chronic gambler, he has lost power over his behaviour and can never safely gamble again. The same truth applies to every other kind of addiction. The heroin addict or the alcoholic can never safely drink or use drugs again. Willpower does not produce the desired result when it comes to managing addiction. Just as the diabetic cannot consume sugar, the only solution to recover from any addiction is to totally abstain from it. (One exception would be a food addiction, which then requires exercise of stringent guidelines.) The point to remember for the person suffering from gambling addiction is that he has developed a disease, and that neither self-discipline nor willpower alone will save him.
- The disease of addiction is both mental and physical. The body suffers from the compulsive urge to engage in the addictive activity despite predictable serious consequences. Meanwhile, the addict’s thinking becomes distorted, as he obsesses endlessly on the addictive activity. Denial plays its part by preventing the addict, who may be highly intelligent, well informed, and even in ways very self-aware, from seeing the hold the addiction has on him. Even when the denial is overcome, the addict will find it next to impossible to stop for any length of time using only his own resources. It comes down to the question of how a person whose thinking has become distorted and whose body has developed an abnormal reaction can cure himself. If you have passed the threshold and have become a chronic gambler; if you have tried all means to control or stop your gambling habit and have time and again failed; if you have reached the place where as a consequence of your gambling you have lost it all, your work, your family and all your finances — then it may be time to stop trying on your own and acknowledge that your efforts have yielded no results.
- A bedrock lesson regarding recovery is that you cannot do it on your own. When it comes to overcoming addiction, you need to look for a solution outside yourself. A question that might be asked of any gambling addict wondering what to do about his affliction: how many times have you tried to quit gambling, or even slow it down — and failed? Another question along these lines: what has been your experience of trying to conquer your problem using all your own resources and best thinking? There are various illnesses that a person might try to battle on his own due to the persistence of pride or the refusal to acknowledge the reality of his condition. In this group, addiction would rank number one. If you honestly have reached the place where you want to stop your gambling addiction, then you need to look for help outside yourself. Admit with humility to yourself that your own efforts have failed and that you’re ready to accept help. This simple admission and willingness to try a new way will open the door for you to recovery.
4- Take necessary actions to recover
- There is a saying in 12 Step Fellowships that states “we did not become addicts overnight and should not expect to recover in a day”. As an addict, you have probably spent years enmeshed in your addiction. It has worked its way into the fiber of your existence. The addictive behaviour has become your most natural and instinctual activity through life’s ups and downs, on good days and bad. Giving up such an ingrained behaviour, a habit of a lifetime, an activity that may have been daily for years is not going to be easy. How will you address the default behaviours that abetted your gambling addiction? Changing how you respond to life and its challenges, how you have coped with stress, and how you have managed your life in general is not going to be an overnight task. It will require tremendous resolve, courage and action not only to want to recover but to put into practice the actions necessary to maintain your recovery.
- People who are fortunate enough to be free of the disease of addiction generally do not understand addicts and why they do the things they do. To these non-addicts, the solution to addiction seems obvious. Basically, as they see it, the gambling addict surely sees the harm he is doing to himself and others, and therefore should simply stop. Or they may say that what is required is strength of character and some good old-fashion backbone — plus willpower, of course. Behind such remarks is a world of ignorance. Those who have a far better understanding of the problem know that recovery from gambling addiction, as with every other kind of addiction, requires the right understanding of the condition and a specific approach and treatment to recover from it.
- Treatment centers that cater specifically to gambling addicts are becoming more common in the West nowadays. These centers provide the addict with a safe and protected surrounding where he can better cope with the withdrawal symptoms associated with gambling addiction. But as many addicts in recovery have discovered, stopping is the easy part. Staying stopped is the challenge. Employing the tools of the program of Gamblers Anonymous in order to avoid falling back into old ways of thinking and old ways of behaving is the key to sustained recovery. The 12 Steps spell out a program of recovery based on practicing its principles on a daily basis. The aim is a daily reprieve from the obsession to gamble. By working their 12 Steps, the addict learns how to rectify the damages of their past, while stay abstinent a day at a time.
- As has been stated previously, recovery is an inside job, one that requires willingness and one that takes time. It is not a decision to make on a moment’s reflection and then put aside. Recovery is about taking actions and making a daily commitment to adhere to the 12 Step program and stay away from gambling. Addicts in recovery in 12 Step programs undergo a great change in the way they think and act. They have to in order to stay sober, or, in the case of gambling, abstinent from that activity. Recovering addicts who have time in the program report a sense of freedom and happiness they never knew. They are no longer fighting life. In Gamblers Anonymous, they learn to align their will with reality. No more fantasizing, no more wrestling with life as it is. As such, recovery requires a complete personality change.
- The addict comes to understand that the real issue is not the object of the addiction – the drug or the gambling, for instance — but why he turned to it for escape or comfort or oblivion in the first place. The addict needs to look hard at his belief system, at his whole way of thinking. This is because recovery requires a fundamental change in attitude towards life. The rewards of such a self-appraisal will be great. As you change your internal belief system and self-defeating attitudes, you restore your self-esteem. The point is that the addict gains an appreciation of his own self-worth so that he no longer needs to resort to something outside himself to feel good. You will feel good about yourself because you will value and care for yourself. You will feel good about yourself because you are employing the tools and practicing the principles of the program to stay in recovery. You are finally managing your life in a sane and adult manner, and no longer relying on gambling to escape or cope with reality.
- Recovery from addiction means change and change does not happen overnight. Neither does it happen on its own. It’s called a program of action. You need to take the actions outlined in the 12 Steps. There you will find the template for maintaining your recovery.
12 Steps of Gamblers Anonymous
Below are the 12 Steps of Gamblers Anonymous – GA as reprinted from their Gamblers Anonymous website. Please note Gamblers Anonymous has neither reviewed nor approved the contents or views expressed in this article.
- We admitted we were powerless over gambling – that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to a normal way of thinking and living.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of this Power of our own understanding.
- Made a searching and fearless moral and financial inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have these defects of character removed.
- Humbly asked God (of our understanding) to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having made an effort to practice these principles in all our affairs, we tried to carry this message to other compulsive gamblers.
- For further information on the goals and objectives of the 12 Steps, please refer to Recovery 12 Steps.
- For listings of Gamblers Anonymous meetings worldwide, please refer to Gamblers Anonymous Farsi Meetings