Not All Compulsive Gamblers Are the Same

I get teary eyed when reading about a compulsive gambler in true recovery.

One who is active in their recovery, even when their last bet was years ago, being fully aware that complacency never did any addict any good. It can drift them to dangerous waters; a place they don’t ever want to be lost in again.

They are nurturing the support system they’ve worked hard to achieve, whatever that may be either through therapy, groups, etc. having barriers firmly placed to avoid a slip. As they know how easy it can be to be dragged in by the addiction to gamble. They don’t entertain the idea, “Just one bet… and I’ll walk away and everything will be OK.” They know they are weak against this addiction, and are taking sole responsibility for their past actions and debts. However, small or large, the important point is they are.

These compulsive gamblers deserve all the praise in the world and more. I can’t help but smile thinking of their families’ joy, thankful that their compulsive gambler is now committed to a life of recovery, living a normal life one step at a time. It’s the life they always wanted for them. Nothing will ever compare to their happiness, as they know too well the madness of the past when the addiction ran rampant in their homes. I always dreamt this would be my father’s outcome.

However, for every true compulsive gambler in recovery there are millions that are in denial of their gambling problem; literally refusing any acknowledgement and responsibility. They not only continue to fool themselves, but others, often defending their addiction until they are literally blue in the face denying any wrong doing. It’s just luck they say; it is against them. Yet, they live and breathe gambling, letting their compulsive gambling takes precedence in their lives and homes. They don’t really hear the desperate cries and pleads of their spouses, children, siblings, and parents begging them to stop, wanting them to listen to reason, wanting to help them. They just turn the other cheek and continue to deny and gamble.

Their reckless actions eventually jeopardize their families wellbeing; bills are not paid, credit cards are maxed and closed, loans are in default, money is missing, creditors are calling home all hours of the night, and anxiety has become a permanent resident in their once secured homes. In turn, loved ones of the compulsive gambler find themselves boxed in by loneliness; feeling such hopelessness they can’t begin to explain properly, struggling with what they should do, as they see the addiction grow stronger in the one they love.

However, these compulsive gamblers are the ones not addressed in gambling awareness. They are not talked about; it’s like they don’t exist, and the attention is only on the ones that are in recovery. Yet, the compulsive gambler in denial is the ones that families struggle with the most.

There is no doubt that public awareness of compulsive gambling has become more mainstreamed than ever, but it still has a long way to go. Not everyone that gambles becomes an addict, but those that do cause havoc in the family unit. There needs to be more awareness of what these families go through and how they should seek support.

As a child of a problem gambler, I know all too well the hopelessness I felt with my father’s addiction. Nothing I said or did would make him stop, and as the years past, I fearfully saw the addiction get stronger within him, as he continued to demand enablement with bigger price tags and outrageous and unreasonable bailouts that I was having a hard time living my life.

Then I started seeking support and found a support group of family and friends that were very much like me. I couldn’t believe how many of us existed throughout the world; struggling with their compulsive gambler, feeling completely overwhelmed by the situation they were in. Not knowing what they were going to do, just knowing they couldn’t continue to live the life they were living and I was one of them. Through our bonding and story sharing, we supported each other, often amazed at the similarities of our experiences with our compulsive gambler. We wanted to understand the addiction and we did, and we learned how to not let it manipulate us through our loved ones anymore.

After many rocky years with my father, I finally was able to have a relationship with him. The addiction is always there, but I don’t pay it any mind. I just enjoy and love my father. I had to make difficult choices along the way that were gut-wrenching and got to the core of my heart, but I can’t help but think that in the grand scheme of things I not only saved my life, but in ways my father’s.

Addictions – Compulsive Gambling

Gambling addiction is driven by a chemical and genetic disorder in the brain, causing a person to have compulsive behavior towards gambling. When a gambling addict gambles, they do so not to win money, but to satisfy the crippling urge inside their brain to take that chance or challenge. It satisfies their urge for excitement.

Gambling is a big money-making industry in the US. The gaming industry annually nets billions of dollars, due to people spending more money each year on legal gambling. The state governments in the US promote the state lotteries in order to collect taxes on this money. While gambling was illegal in the US sixty to seventy years ago, more and more states began legalizing gambling until now all but three states are the only ones that prohibit gambling.

Gambling between individuals has become popular with football money pots each week, where a person can bet on winners in the NFL games and college games. The baseball World Series each year has numerous pots with people trying to pick the winner. In fact, there are money pots for all the sporting events. Anyone wanting to take a chance to win some money can participate. Most of these pots are just for fun and a small change is required to enter into a money pot, so most people see it as a game – just for fun. However, there are those who take the game too far and become engulfed in gambling and these people are considered to be addicted.

There are horror stories that come out of Las Vegas that tell of people who go there and lose their house. These situations happen because of that urge that keeps people gambling and not knowing when to stop. They are always expecting this time it will happen – this time they will be a winner!

Unfortunately, the largest percentage of gamblers are those in the lower income brackets. In other words, those who can least afford to lose any money tend to be the ones who will gamble. Perhaps they are in need of more money and feel they can possibly acquire the money through gambling.

In states where the lotteries were set up, several ministers claim to have counseled individuals who have gone so far with their gambling that they have lost their homes, their savings, their children’s college education money, etc. These ministers say this is the dark side of the state lotteries that is not publicized.

A gambling addiction is characterized by an individual who is preoccupied with gambling. They spend their time figuring out how to get money to gamble with and what their next gambling adventure will be. They continue to gamble until they reach the point where they are betting some serious amounts of money, then feel depressed over the losses they have incurred. Their attempts to stop have failed and they develop feelings of guilt and helplessness. At this point, they start to borrow from others to pay off their gambling debts and some even commit fraud or theft to promote their addiction. Gambling addiction has broken up relationships and some have even resulted in job or career losses. A gambler will lie to others in an attempt to hide how serious their gambling problem really is.

A person with a gambling addiction first has to admit they have a problem before they can be helped. This is the first step on their road to recovery. They have to admit they are a compulsive gambler and have to recognize they cannot view gambling as just a game to have fun with.

Identifying Your Gambling Problem: Are You a Compulsive Gambler?

Do you think you have a gambling problem? Perhaps you know someone who might be suffering from this debilitating addiction? Compulsive gambling is a problem that can affect anyone, regardless of their income, age, sex, race or social status. Some people believe that people who gamble too much are always of a certain income level, or race, and that is just not true!

Nobody sets out to become a compulsive gambler. No one thinks that it can ever happen to them. After that first trip to the casino, race track, or video lottery terminal, nobody thinks that they will become addicted to it and risk everything they have in order to feed their addiction.

The following story, illustrates just how easy, and how innocently compulsive gambling can begin:

Susan had it all; a caring husband, two school aged children, a nice house in a good neighborhood, a great job and loving friends. Despite everything that Susan had, she put it all on the line after her first social visit to a local casino. It started innocently, with a girl’s night out that ended up at the casino, Susan’s first time. She put ten dollars on her lucky number 21 on the roulette table, and as she watched the wheel spin, her excitement built, until… the wheel stopped on her lucky number 21!

After an evening of fun, and gambling with her girlfriends, Susan left the casino with $500 in her pocket and a feeling of exhilaration! A week later as her wedding anniversary approached, she hit the casino again to have a repeat performance of the week before in order to buy her husband a nice present. This time, luck was not with her, and Susan walked out disheartened, scared and with $2000 less than when she walked in.

It started very simply, as it often does, but Susan soon found her self in a cycle of compulsive gambling that would ultimately jeopardize the life that she had worked so hard to build.

It’s an all too common story; perhaps you recognize parts of your own story in Susan’s tale? The simple, almost innocent introduction to gambling? The strong desire to repeat the winning performance, and feel the high again? There is a unique story for everyone who becomes addicted to gambling, but throughout all the stories, there are a few common threads that ring true.

Compulsive gambling is a serious addiction that can affect anyone, from any walk of life. But it does not have to be a life sentence. You can escape the grips of gambling and walk away, resuming your life, free from the addiction. You do not have to live your life in this iron grip, there is another way.

Before you can escape the grips of compulsive gambling, you need to understand it. So many people think that a gambling problem is about the money, that the addict is money hungry or greedy. It’s so much more than that, and in my self-help guide I’ll open your eyes to what your gambling problem is really all about and how you can escape it.