Gambling, a serious problem that is sometimes ignored
Gamblers Anonymous, as well as other organizations, offer 12-step programs based on peer support to help addicts overcome their issues. Regular meetings are the key to recovery, and participants are helped through the process of accepting responsibility for their addiction, reaching out, making amends with those harmed during the addiction time and learning to resist temptation on an everyday basis. Many recovery programs match participants with a sponsor, a recovered compulsive gambler who can offer personalized support and help in the transition. Gamblers Anonymous is a spiritual program and mention of God is frequent. The organization, however, has no official religious association and participants are free to interpret the notion of God as they see fit.
Gambling addiction is a serious problem that is sometimes ignored until late in the process. Many people do come out of gambling addictions by themselves, so the tendency is to think that this is not something that requires outside help. In serious cases of addiction, however, seeking treatment may be the only way to overcome the problem and get a new start in life.
Compulsive gambling may be a result of learned behaviors passed on from other members of the family (usually a parent) or a coping mechanism born as a result of the inability to cope with emotions and difficult situations. Cognitive and behavioral therapy focuses on teaching patients to deal with their thoughts in a different way and to find alternative ways to deal with the compulsion once it arises. Rather than ignoring the push to gamble, the aim of therapy is to understand the thinking behind the compulsion and how can it be re-routed to more productive attitudes. Individual, group therapy and marital counseling are sometimes used as complements.
Changing your everyday lifestyle and learning to make healthier choices is key to gambling addiction recovery. One of the most basic changes involves limiting access to money, so gambling is not possible. This may mean limiting payments from the bank to the participants, giving somebody else in the family control over the finances, giving up debit and credit cards and keeping only a limited amount of cash on hand. Some gamblers schedule their days so fully that time for gambling is limited or impossible. This can be done by taking on additional work, engaging in an exercise program or choosing to enroll in classes or workshops. In some cases, it may be necessary to take more drastic measures, such as limiting contact with people who facilitate the addiction or even moving to an area where gambling is not possible.
For those with a serious addiction, residential treatment may be the only option. These full-time immersion programs focus on removing the gambler from of an out-of-control environment and helping both the addict and his family deal with stress and tensions brought out as a result of gambling. Most residential programs last less than a week (five days is the standard) and focus on dealing with the urge to gamble, adjusting to a life without gambling, understanding self-esteem issues, healing strained relationships, coping with urges and eliminating triggers. Residential programs are usually free of charge or billed according to income, since many gamblers are already under financial duress and cannot afford to pay for help.
Because many gamblers are in financial distress due to their addiction debt assistance is sometimes recommended as part of their therapy. Not only is this a good idea to help solve practical matters but it also helps relieve stress and strengthen family bonds (spouses are often included in the sessions). Financial counseling also helps the gambler understand the consequences of the addiction and how it can have a lasting impact, fix problems caused in the past and come up with solutions to repay debts.