What is compulsive gambling?
The explanation that seems most acceptable to Gamblers Anonymous members
is that compulsive gambling is an illness, progressive in its nature,
which can never be cured, but can be arrested. Before coming to Gamblers
Anonymous, many compulsive gamblers thought of themselves as morally
weak, or at times just plain 'no good'. The Gamblers Anonymous concept
is that compulsive gamblers are really very sick people who can recover
if they will follow to the best of their ability a simple program that
has proved successful for thousands of other men and women with a gambling
or compulsive gambling problem.
What is the first thing a compulsive gambler ought to do in order
to stop gambling?
The compulsive gambler needs to be willing to accept the fact that
he or she is in the grip of a progressive illness and has a desire to
get well. Our experience has shown that the Gamblers Anonymous program
will always work for any person who has a desire to stop gambling. However,
it will never work for the person who will not face squarely the facts
about this illness.
How can you tell whether you are a compulsive gambler?
Only you can make that decision. Most people turn to Gamblers Anonymous
when they become willing to admit that gambling has them licked. Also
in Gamblers Anonymous, a compulsive gambler is described as a person
whose gambling has caused growing and continuing problems in any department
of his or her life. Many Gamblers Anonymous members went through terrifying
experiences before they were ready to accept help. Others were faced
with a slow, subtle deterioration which finally brought them to the
point of admitting defeat.
Can a compulsive gambler ever gamble normally again?
No. The first bet to a problem gambler is like the first small drink
to an alcoholic. Sooner or later he or she falls back into the same
old destructive pattern. Once a person has crossed the invisible line
into irresponsible uncontrolled gambling he or she never seems to regain
control. After abstaining a few months some of our members have tried
some small bet experimentation, always with disastrous results. The
old obsession inevitably returned. Our Gamblers Anonymous experience
seems to point to these alternatives: to gamble, risking progressive
deterioration or not to gamble, and develop a better way of life.
Why can't a compulsive gambler simply use will power to stop gambling?
We believe that most people, if they are honest, will recognize their
lack of power to solve certain problems. When it comes to gambling,
we have known many problem gamblers who could abstain for long stretches,
but caught off guard and under the right set of circumstances, they
started gambling without thought of the consequences. The defenses they
relied upon, through will power alone, gave way before some trivial
reason for placing a bet. We have found that will power and self-knowledge
will not help in those mental blank spots, but adherence to spiritual
principles seem to solve our problems. Most of us feel that a belief
in a Power greater than ourselves is necessary in order for us to sustain
a desire to refrain from gambling.
Do Gamblers Anonymous members go into gambling places to help former
members who are still gambling?
No. Families and friends of these people have asked us to intercede
but we have never been able to be of any real help. Actually, sometimes
we felt we retarded a member's eventual recovery by giving them this
unsolicited attention. It all goes back to the basic principle that
a gambler ought to want help before he or she is approached by us.
I only go on gambling binges periodically. Do I need Gamblers Anonymous?
Yes. Compulsive gamblers who have joined Gamblers Anonymous tell us
that, though their gambling binges were periodic, the intervals between
were not periods of constructive thinking. Symptomatic of these periods
were nervousness, irritability, frustration, indecision and a continued
breakdown in personal relationships. These same people have often found
the Gamblers Anonymous program the answer to the elimination of character
defects and a guide to moral progress in their lives. GAMBLING , for
the compulsive gambler is defined as follows : Any betting or wagering,
for self or others, whether for money or not, no matter how slight or
insignificant, where the outcome is uncertain or depends upon chance
or 'skill' constitutes gambling.
If I join Gamblers Anonymous won't everyone know I am a compulsive
Most people made quite a name for themselves as full-fledged gamblers
by the time they turned to Gamblers Anonymous. Their gambling was not
usually a well kept secret. It would then be unusual if the good news
of their abstinence from gambling did not cause comment. However, no
disclosure of any affiliation with Gamblers Anonymous can rightfully
be made by anyone but the member themselves. Even then, it should be
done in such a way that will work no hardship on the Gamblers Anonymous
If I stop gambling won't it make it difficult for me to keep some
desirable business and social contacts?
We think not. Most of the world's work of any consequence is done without
the benefit of monetary wagering. Many of our leaders in business, industry
and professional life have attained great success without knowing one
card from another or which way the horses run around the track. In the
area of social relationships, the newcomer will soon find a keen appreciation
of the many pleasant and stimulating activities available - far removed
from anything that is remotely associated from gambling.
How does someone stop gambling through the Gamblers Anonymous program?
One does this through bringing about a progressive character change
within oneself. This can be accomplished by having faith in -- and following
-- the basic concepts of the Gamblers Anonymous Recovery Program. There
are no short cuts in gaining this faith and understanding. To recover
from one of the most baffling, insidious, compulsive addictions will
require diligent effort. HONESTY, OPEN-MINDEDNESS, AND WILLINGNESS are
the key words in our recovery.
Can a person recover by himself/herself by reading Gamblers Anonymous
literature or medical books on the problem of compulsive gambling?
Sometimes, but not usually. The Gamblers Anonymous program works best
for the individual when it is recognized and accepted as a program involving
other people. Working with other compulsive gamblers in a Gamblers Anonymous
group the individual seems to find the necessary understanding and support.
They are able to talk of their past experiences and present problems
in an area where they are comfortable and accepted. Instead of feeling
alone and misunderstood, they feel needed and accepted.
Is knowing why we gambled important?
Perhaps, however insofar as stopping gambling, many Gamblers Anonymous
members have abstained from gambling without the knowledge of why they
What are some characteristics of a person who is a compulsive gambler?
INABILITY AND UNWILLINGNESS TO ACCEPT REALITY. Hence the escape into
the dream world of gambling. EMOTIONAL INSECURITY. A compulsive gambler
finds he or she is emotionally comfortable only when "in action". It
is not uncommon to hear a Gamblers Anonymous member say: "The only place
I really felt like I belonged was sitting at the poker table. There
I felt secure and comfortable. No great demands were made upon me. I
knew I was destroying myself, yet at the same time, I had a certain
sense of security." IMMATURITY. A desire to have all the good things
in life without any great effort on their part seems to be the common
character pattern of problem gamblers. Many Gamblers Anonymous members
accept the fact that they were unwilling to grow up. Subconsciously
they felt they could avoid mature responsibility by wagering on the
spin of a wheel or the turn of a card, and so the struggle to escape
responsibility finally became a subconscious obsession. Also, a compulsive
gambler seems to have a strong inner urge to be a 'big shot' and needs
to have a feeling of being all powerful. The compulsive gambler is willing
to do anything (often of an antisocial nature) to maintain the image
he or she wants others to see. Then too, there is a theory that compulsive
gamblers subconsciously want to lose to punish themselves. There is
much evidence to support this theory.
What is the dream world of the compulsive gambler?
This is another common characteristic of compulsive gamblers. A lot
of time is spent creating images of the great and wonderful things they
are going to do as soon as they make the big win. They often see themselves
as quite philanthropic and charming people. They may dream of providing
families and friends with new cars, mink coats, and other luxuries.
Compulsive gamblers picture themselves leading a pleasant gracious life,
made possible by the huge sums of money they will accrue from their
'system'. Servants, penthouses, nice clothes, charming friends, yachts,
and world tours are a few of the wonderful things that are just around
the corner after a big win is finally made. Pathetically, however, there
never seems to be a big enough winning to make even the smallest dream
come true. When compulsive gamblers succeed, they gamble to dream still
greater dreams. When failing, they gamble in reckless desperation and
the depths of their misery are fathomless as their dream world comes
crashing down. Sadly, they will struggle back, dream more dreams, and
of course suffer more misery. No one can convince them that their great
schemes will not someday come true. They believe they will, for without
this dream world, life for them would not be tolerable.
Isn't compulsive gambling basically a financial problem?
No, compulsive gambling is an emotional problem. A person in the grip
of this illness creates mountains of apparently insolvable problems.
Of course, financial problems are created, but they also find themselves
facing marital, employment, or legal problems. Compulsive gamblers find
friends have been lost and relatives have rejected them. Of the many
serious difficulties created, the financial problems seem the easiest
to solve. When a compulsive gambler enters Gamblers Anonymous and quits
gambling, income is usually increased and there is no longer the financial
drain that was caused by gambling, and very shortly, the financial pressures
begin to be relieved. Gamblers Anonymous members have found that the
best road to financial recovery is through hard work and repayment of
our debts. Borrowing and/or lending of money (bail outs) in Gamblers
Anonymous is detrimental to our recovery and should not take place.
The most difficult and time consuming problem with which they will be
faced is that of bringing about a character change within themselves.
Most Gamblers Anonymous members look upon this as their greatest challenge,
which should be worked on immediately and continued throughout their
Who can join Gamblers Anonymous?
Anyone who has a desire to stop gambling. There are no other rules
or regulations concerning Gamblers Anonymous membership.
How much does it cost to join Gamblers Anonymous?
There are no assessments in connection with Gamblers Anonymous membership.
The newcomer signs nothing and pledges nothing. However, we do have
expenses relative to our group meeting and our Gamblers Anonymous service
facilities. Since Gamblers Anonymous has traditionally been fully self
supporting and declines outside contribution, these expenses are met
through voluntary financial support by the members. Experience has shown
that acceptance of these financial responsibilities is a vital part
of our individual and group growth process.
Why are Gamblers Anonymous members anonymous?
Anonymity has great practical value in maintaining unity within our
fellowship. Through its practice at the level of press, radio, films
and television we have eliminated the possibility of fame and recognition
being given to the individual member; hence, we have not been faced
with any great internal struggles for power and prestige which would
prove highly detrimental to our essential unity. Anonymity also has
great value in attracting new members who initially might feel there
is a stigma attached to the problem. Therefore, we guarantee the newcomer
as much anonymity as they choose. More importantly, we are beginning
to realize that anonymity has tremendous spiritual significance. It
represents a powerful reminder that we need always place principles
above personalities. Our survival as individuals demands that we renounce
personal gratification . . . so our Gamblers Anonymous movement not
only advocates but tries to practice true humility and it is through
greater humility that we will be able to live in peace and security
for all the years to come.
Is Gamblers Anonymous a religious society?
No. Gamblers Anonymous is composed of people from many religious faiths
along with agnostics and atheists. Since membership in Gamblers Anonymous
requires no particular religious belief as a condition of membership,
it cannot be described as a religious society. The Gamblers Anonymous
recovery program is based on acceptance of certain spiritual values
but the member is free to interpret these principles as he chooses.