Recovering From Gambling Addiction- Quitting The Game To Win The War
Why People Roll The Dice
“…the pure excitement/dread of not knowing how you’re going to feed your family if you lose the next hand. The thrill of winning such huge stakes is what drives you to go back over and over and over again. Even knowing full well that you WILL lose most of the time.
That the odds are stacked in the house’s favor. Yet, the draw is still there. Because every gambling addict that quits, always quit right before the big one…” – Anonymous Gambling Addict
The flip side of this is where the real truth lies:
It’s going to be even harder to feed your family WHEN you lose the next hand, or the one after that. The thrill of winning is going to be nothing compared to losing your job, your family, your home…
And, the only “big one” you’re really quitting before, is the biggest loss of your life – the loss control. The loss of your wellbeing.
Gambling Addiction Facts
– Gambling addiction affects 2-3% of Americans (that’s millions of people!)
– Gambling addiction generally develops earlier in men, but women now make up 25% of gambling addicts, and their symptoms usually escalate much quicker.
– Direct causes of gambling addictions are unusual. However, the manic episodes associated with bipolar disorder and some medications that treat Parkinson’s disease and restless leg disorder have been associated with the development of gambling addictions.
– Risk factors for developing a gambling addiction include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and substance addictions, especially alcoholism.
Gambling comes in many forms. Tables at casinos, slot machines, high-stakes poker games, betting with your friends over your favorite football teams.
It is even more readily available through online gambling, which can make it easy to become addicted to and difficult to quit without help.
Gambling triggers the reward center in your brain, creating much the same response as many people receive from getting high or having sex.
How To Know When It’s Time To “Fold”
As with any other addiction, there are some red flags that can be observed when gambling has crossed over from a hobby to an addiction:
-The feeling that you need to lie about, or hide your gambling activities from people you care about or respect.
-Your finances are crumbling around you, and you are skipping paying important bills or borrowing money to continue to gamble.
-Using gambling to help you “escape” problems in your life or to ease depression or anxiety.
-Putting important relationships, responsibilities, and your employment at risk to continue to feed your gambling addiction.
-Returning to gambling after losing money in an effort to recoup losses.
Attempting to quit and feeling anxious or depressed about it, or failing to quit multiple times in a row.
This is a sure-fire sign of ANY type of addiction.
“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.”
–Johann Hari, author of Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs
If you even suspect that you may have an addiction to gambling, finding support and help on your journey to recovery is very important.
There are support groups and 12 Step Programs, which are proven to be effective for treating every type of addiction out there.
Being vulnerable and honest with trusted friends and family can bring more understanding and connection, and release some of the shame attached to addiction. Isolation is often a difficult side-effect of any kind of addiction, which is part of why the 12-Step Programs work so well.
Having sponsors and supportive people who understand your addiction can greatly increase your chances of recovery.
Diagnosis & Treatment Of Gambling Addiction
“The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Lao Tzu
To receive an accurate diagnosis, it is important to talk to your doctor honestly about what is going on with you. It is rarely easy to open up to anyone about a possible addiction or self-destructive behavior, but to receive help, you must first ask for it.
Some medical conditions can cause an individual to develop erratic, impulsive behaviors.
This include problem gambling, so it is important to get a full physical and psychological checkup to determine the root of the issue.
Your doctor may prescribe therapy, antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication to help with root issues that may be causing your gambling addiction.
Many rehabilitation centers have effective treatment available for gambling addiction.
Financial counseling will likely be an important step during recovery from gambling addiction. It is not uncommon to end up in serious debt or bankruptcy, to default on loans, and to lose major investments like your home or car.
It is important to note that 70% of people diagnosed with gambling addiction are also diagnosed with another psychiatric disorder.
Therefore, it is important to get proper diagnosis, and find treatment that will address all mental health conditions that may come into play.
Alcoholism, cocaine use, and other substance abuse is common with Gambling Addiction.
These things can create unfortunate health side effects that you may need to address during recovery.
In addition, many people who did not previously show signs of depression or anxiety may develop feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, mood disorders, or even suicidal tendencies.
This is a result of the difficult circumstances that can be brought about through gambling addiction.
If things have gotten so bad that you are feeling hopeless, suicidal, or considering self-harm, it is important to seek IMMEDIATE help.
In cases such as this, an in-patient program may be an important step in recovery.
Remember That Recovery Is Possible!
Admitting that you have a problem, as we all know, is the first step. But what comes next? It can be overwhelming to take stock of the wreckage that addiction can create in one’s life, finances, and relationships.
However, that is a necessary step.
Here are some other helpful steps you can take as you get started on this journey:
– Make a list of all of your debts.
Again, we know this can be overwhelming and upsetting. However, it is important to have it all on paper so you know where to begin. Overdue payments, cash advances, money borrowed from loved ones, and money you owe casinos may go on this list.
Foreclosures or repossessions may also be at the top of the list.
After you make this list, set it aside and get to the next step:
– Make a list of ways that gambling has negatively affected your life and health
Physical health issues from alcoholism, smoking, or skipping meals and exercise may all go on this list.
As mentioned earlier, emotional issues such as depression or anxiety are likely to arise from the situations and problems created in your life by gambling.
Lost jobs, lost trust, lost friends… unfortunately, these may all be side effects of a gambling addiction as well.
Legal issues may have arisen out of your gambling addiction from arrests, divorce, unpaid bills, etc.
Your family life is also likely to have suffered. Your spouse and/or kids may have lost respect or trust in you, or you may be in the middle of separation or divorce.
It is time to take stock of the relationships you may be able to mend, apologies that need to be made, and to really understand how to begin to “change the things you cannot accept, and accept the things you cannot change.”
– List the reasons you compulsively gambled
Understanding the reasons you have engaged in unhealthy behavior is key to building a foundation of healthy behavior.
– Limit your access to gambling and to your own money
Doing this may include avoiding casinos, having a trusted loved one place blocks on your computer or internet so you cannot access online gambling, having your paychecks direct deposited into a spouse’s account instead of your own, etc.
You may also need to cancel credit cards, give your ATM card to trusted person, put yourself on a daily cash allowance, and advise those close to you not to lend you any money.
– Identify your triggers and ways you can redirect or overcome them
Triggers may be internal (thoughts or feelings) or external (situations) and lead to the urge or desire to gamble.
Internal triggers may include feelings of shame, helplessness, anger, anxiety, or even boredom.
External triggers may include things like billboards for casinos, TV commercials for gambling, or poker tournaments on TV.
Replace compulsive reactions to triggers with healthy behaviors such as exercise, spending time with family, productive hobbies and activities.
Recovery Is The One “Game” You Should Bet On….
Recovering from gambling addiction is possible and there are many forms of support to help you achieve this.
Start out by practicing forgiveness and gentleness toward yourself.
Take the steps that your doctor, therapist, and/or support group advise. As you begin to heal from the psychological and emotional issues that be created by gambling addiction, you will see the toxic cycle begin to slow to a halt. Healing always begins from within.
Therapy, medications, meditation, and connection can all be very useful. The prognosis for recovery from gambling addiction is hopeful!
With treatment, 2/3rds of people with gambling addiction were still able to abstain from gambling a year after receiving 6 weeks of treatment. Consistency with your treatment, and continuing on a path of self-improvement and healing will make all the difference.
One step at a time, one good choice at a time, you CAN quit the game, and win the war against gambling addiction.