Finding accountability and recovery for problem gambling

A group of people gather weekly to hold one another accountable and to talk about their struggles with addiction.

Gambling affects the lives of millions of Americans every day.

“For me, gambling started as a spontaneous thing to do to escape stress and boredom. At first it was only $30 or $40 once or twice a week. And only a couple months and it became $100 to $300 per day and usually four days a week,” a male client explains, talking about how his addiction started.

For most people addicted to gambling, the way that they begin starts off innocently enough, playing cards with their friends or getting an occasional scratch ticket, and it evolves from there.

“I’ve lost sleep during exam weeks, grades because I skipped quizzes and even mass amounts of money. Family has turned away from me before because I owed them money, and that was something I never expected,” a college student describes how gambling has affected him, a frown playing on his face.

Considered by many the hidden addiction, gambling does not have many outward signs that others can see. Many gamblers report higher levels of stress, anxiety, depression and guilt. Suicide rates among those who suffer with problem gambling are high.

“I have lost my kids, my self-confidence, my home and I almost lost my desire to continue living. I had to file bankruptcy,” another client states with a sigh, shifting in his chair.

Many problem gamblers will lie about the amount of money they’ve lost, or even if they’ve gambled at all to their families and this can cause additional feelings of guilt and tension in their lives.

“It took me years to finally get help, and I only did after my wife found out how much I’d been gambling and I realized how big of a problem it had become in my life,” the first client states.

This is common for many problem gamblers, who don’t realize how big of a problem it is until they are discovered by their loved ones, or until they don’t have any means to gamble with. But getting help can mean the difference between life and death.

“In desperation, I made the difficult, but important call to 1-800-BETS-OFF, and they directed me to my local treatment center. I have received one-on-one treatment as well as group counseling,” a woman in her early 50s reiterates how she first started getting treatment.

Clients who suffer from problem gambling come to Community and Family Resources in many ways. Some call the state hotline, while others receive referrals from other agencies, and some refer themselves after finding information in the community.

Someone who is suffering from problem gambling is allowed to receive treatment for as long as they feel it is necessary. Setbacks for those trying to abstain from gambling are frequent and some struggle with it their whole life.

“It’s been so nice being able to have others to relate to,” a client states, talking about their involvement in the problem gambling group that is put on weekly by Community and Family Resources.

Many gambling addicts have tried other support groups, including substance abuse groups, but may have trouble relating to others who struggle with disorders other than their own. Having a support group that is focused specifically on beating problem gambling allows clients to hold each other accountable.

“One of the things that we use with our support group and our problem gambling clients is a tracker they fill out that shows them just how much money they’ve spent on gambling and how much they’ve won,” says Brittany, who specializes in problem gambling and runs the gambling support group. “This helps them not only recognize just how much they are spending, but how often, and gives them some kind of accountability because they have to track it.”

“Having others going through the same thing keeps me sane, because I know that they’re struggling too and I have someone I can relate to. When I was gambling all the time, I felt so alone because no one knew what I was doing or how I was feeling. Now I have a group of people who have been there and been through exactly what I’ve been through,” a client remarks when discussing how treatment has helped them. “Gambling has taken so many things from me, but working with others who have had similar experiences makes me realize that I still have so much and I can work towards making positive choices for me and my family.”

“I participate in self-bans from the casinos and online gambling, I attend support groups, and I get one-on-one therapy, too. I think I’m doing better, and I even went over six months without a slip up,” a client smiles. “Life is getting better, slowly but surely.”

If you or a loved one are struggling with problem gambling or just need to know more about it, please reach out to Community and Family Resources where we have counselors with years of experience and training in working with problem gambling.

Lacy Waldera is a prevention specialist at Community and Family Resources.


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