By Adam Jablin
Transformational Life Coach and Recovery Mentor
Gambling addiction is real. Allow me to say that again– gambling addiction is a real thing. It’s not a lack of willpower. It’s an illness.
The medical community has four classifications to consider an illness a disease: it must be progressive, chronic, primary, and fatal. Gambling addiction fulfills all of the requirements.
You see, it’s an uncontrollable urge—a phenomenon of cravings that one gets from a “high”. It’s as normal and necessary as needing air for you and I.
Like a drug addict goes for a fix, or an alcoholic would thirst for that drink… the gambler chases the rush. That “rush” of dopamine is the same as a narcotic. Its an obsession of the mind that destroys families.
Those addicted are constantly increasing the amounts for the thrill. They lie and scam to get more money, jeopardizing their most important and sacred relationships. They’re always trying to win the money back, stop all together, or resort to low measures like stealing and other fraudulent behaviors to continue their addiction. When the feel restless, irritable and discontent, they use gambling as an escape from reality.
They may take it so far that it effects their physical health. Here is an excerpt from my book Lotsaholic: From A Sick To Sober Superman:
He lifted up his shirt and revealed a huge scar, from his upper belly across his chest and up into his armpit. “Three heart attacks. That’s how bad. I’m gonna die, kid, if I keep this up. That’s why I’ve been in here so long. I feel safe here.
I don’t trust myself out there, and I’m not ready to die.” As Tony reeled in his line, I noticed that he wasn’t wearing his fancy Rolex. Today he was wearing a simple Timex that carried the Caesars Palace logo.
“What’s with the new watch?”
He fiddled with his lure. “Tonight they take me outside for a Gamblers Anonymous meeting. Every time I go, I wear this watch. This is the most expensive watch I own. It cost me 1.5 million dollars. I gave Caesars my cash; they gave me a suite, champagne, and this beautiful watch. It’s my personal souvenir to remind me of how bad I get. It and the scar.” He bobbed his fishing rod up and down. “Say, you want to come with me tonight? I always go alone, but I sure would love the company.”
“Sure!” Where else will I get to experience a Gamblers Anonymous meeting with a former gangster?
The room was compact and dim. There was a small podium with a GA banner and about seventy old, wooden folding chairs. And the room was full. I enjoyed hearing Tony and the others share their stories. I realized how strong the high from winning is. On the wall opposite me was a giant banner listing the twelve steps of Gamblers Anonymous, which were almost identical to those of Alcoholics Anonymous, with just the slightest differences in wording.
Step 1: Admitted we were powerless over gambling—that our lives had become unmanageable. Next to the banner was a bulletin board that displayed meeting times for a list of various twelve-step programs, including Sexaholics Anonymous (SA), Cocaine Anonymous (CA), Overeaters Anonymous (OA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Co-Dependents Anonymous (coda), Heroin Anonymous (HA), and Al-Anon/Alateen, a group for friends and families of alcoholics. The list went on. It occurred to me that anybody in the world can use the basic approach of a twelve-step program to achieve freedom from addiction and greater connection to a higher power. I’d discovered a new world.
But there is help out there. Now, many treatment centers, like The Hanley Center and Future’s focus on gambling and treat it like any other addiction or mental illness. Gamblers Anonymous—the famous twelve-step community has had amazing results. The solution for these illnesses is truly spiritual. These obsessions lay in the mind. Once the spiritual malady is solved, the mind and body follow quickly. So, never lose hope.
There is a way out!