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ABC’s of Problem Gambling: Addiction, Boredom and Comfort

Updated on December 13, 2013

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Problem gambling is an issue for many different people, but the reasons aren't always the same. Some are addicted, some bored and some search for comfort. Before we get into this, let's be clear about one thing -- I'm not a doctor and I'm not a replacement for one. If you believe you have a serious issue, visit Gamblers Anonymous or your current physician. This post isn't for the casual gambler who sets a limit, stays within that limit and leaves when they are done. It's also not for the gambler who leaves when they're no longer having fun. Would you go to a movie over and over again if you didn't like it? Didn't think so. With that said, this post combines facts with personal experiences. I've had my own problems with gambling in the past and having been in the industry for so long, I've become very good at spotting the signs. Before we can talk about what to do about the problem, we have to understand WHY we're gambling.

Are You Addicted? The brain of an addicted gambler reacts differently than the brain of a non-addicted gambler. Similar to drugs and alcohol, we can become addicted to gambling. Addiction is defined as "craving for something intensely, loss of control over its use, and continuing involvement with it despite adverse consequences." Harvard Medical School believes that a person who is addicted loses control over the way their brain works. The chemistry in your brain changes the way pleasure is received and in turn, it degrades other "normal" drives like learning and motivation. This is why an addicted gambler will continually hurt the people they love, lose their jobs and bankrupt themselves in order to gamble. We won't get into the full list of questions asked by Gamblers Anonymous to help determine if you're addicted. The basic gist of it is whether or not the gambling is increasing in volume, regardless of result, whether you're lying and continue to lie about the extent of your gambling and whether it's taking precedence over the rest of your previously-important activities. If you're missing out on time with your family to gamble, if you're getting behind on bills and if you're saving money by not buying necessities because it takes away from your gambling fund...those are major red flags. The truly addicted gambler isn't going to "just stop." They need help on a consistent basis. This is why having a sponsor and attending meetings is so valuable. If you or someone you know is having addiction problems, help is not far away. My personal experience with gambling was unique. As it turns out, I don't believe I was addicted. We'll get into that more shortly. With that said, I experienced the same highs and lows of any addict. I almost lost my family, my house and my life. It's a big reason why I started this blog, because I want to help others who feel like there isn't anyone willing to help them. Let's move on.

Are You Bored? You've heard that you're not supposed to gamble or drink when you're angry, bored or lonely, right? Similar to how we tend to overeat when we're watching television, we tend to gamble too much when we're bored. There's a reason those casinos are built and designed the way that they are. It's an attack on your senses and it strips you of a lot of your inhibitions and logic. Dealers are very much like bartenders in the sense that we get regular customers of every race, creed, class and gender. People that don't have anywhere else to go find themselves sitting at table because they enjoy the social aspect of gambling. They like the camaraderie of a group of people winning and they like to be able to talk to someone without having to be judged or without worry they'll face them in their "regular" life. Unfortunately, gambling often costs a lot of money. Just like people unknowingly eat that bag of potato chips until they realize they're all gone, people continue to pull out the $100's because they're "enjoying" the conversation or don't have anything else to do. I see this a lot with seniors. They're on a fixed budget and enjoy playing some of the games. It's always worst in the people who don't have families or friends nearby. The casino and the workers become their family and friends. Even though they can't afford to come out, they keep coming out. Very little of my gambling had to do with being bored. When I played poker I found that I enjoyed the company less and less. Instead of hanging out with people I enjoyed, I was hanging out with people I loathed. My big issue is the next one on our list.

Do You Gamble For Comfort? This is a major issue and for some, it leads into the addiction phase. When you get down to it, the world is filled with a lot of negativity. We have to deal with death, taxes, our jobs, our angry spouses, our defiant children and a litany of other problems. Is it fun to just sit around and think about those things so we can deal with them? It's smart, but it's not fun. Enter the casino and their attack on your senses again. You could go to a movie but you're going to see some of the same kinds of issues you're trying to forget about. It may sound like common sense to avoid creating more problems when you've got lots of problems (because it is), but that's the mind of a problem gambler. You've got a $1000 payment due tomorrow and $500 in your pocket. You could be as responsible as possible and pay a portion, while trying to work out some sort of a plan....or you could try to double that $500 to $1000 so you can pay your bill! So you walk into the casino and after a nice run of luck, you look down and you've got your $1000! But wait...that means you'll be "broke" after paying the $1000. So, you continue to play and the inevitable arrives in your face like a heart attack. Lose, lose, lose, lose and then lose. Suddenly you're back to $700 (still in better shape than when you got there), but you feel like you've lost $300. Of course you continue to play...until it's all gone and you are now broke AND owe the $1000. This was my biggest problem. I was using the casino to avoid dealing with some non-gambling personal issues. In doing so, I created some very real gambling personal issues. The smarter route, as always, is to deal with your problems as opposed to run. Instead, I ran from my problems, created more, ran from those and repeated that until I hit the wall.

Steps To Recovery If you truly feel like you belong in one of those categories, it's time to make some change in your life. Look in the mirror, be honest with yourself and realize that the path you're on ends badly. Surround yourself with like-minded people who have your best interests in mind. If they don't respect your new way of life, they aren't your friends. Again, I'm not a doctor nor do I claim to have all the answers. Each person is different and responds in their own way. One thing is for sure -- honesty is truly the best policy. Don't lie to your friends, your work, your family or anyone else. There's a bit of a stigma attached to having a gambling problem, but it pales in comparison to the life you can live out of the shadows and without having to keep track of lies.

How often do you gamble?

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    • GoGranny profile image

      GoGranny 3 years ago from Southeastern PA

      Yes! Omg, that part about the $1000 is so familiar! I have curbed way down over the past year! It really can be devastating if you lose control!

    • profile image

      Ben Bautista 3 years ago from USA

      I'm a hardworking person but I got hooked to gambling in the last 5-6 yrs. I experience the highs n lows...till I hit the bottom...started to steal my wife's money,jewelries....cash my 401 k's...etc! ..I attended G.A. But still it doesn't works.....till just one day, ...I realized what I'm doing is unfair to my family...especially to my kidz...one in college n one in high school. Above all,I do believe there is higher power that can resolved my problem! I'm glad, I found this hub....this is helpful to me n to all with gambling problem...god bless all!

    • profile image

      Paul 3 years ago

      I am a sick compulsive gambler in recovery. I went into a GA room in 1988 and went 24 years without making a wager. In dec of 2012 I thought I could innocently go back and play 15 $ a hand blackjack. Within months it was if I has never left....all the worst traits lying hiding cheating stealing were back and I could not understand how I got back to this....insanity! Gambling tries to constantly lie to you and tell you that you dint have a problem

      Anyway the last night at Foxwoods I lost 17K and realized that u needed to go back to ga

      If I had continued to go to meetings I would have never gone back to gambling ......bottom line is I have not gambled in 2 years almost and will not stop going to meetings ever

      Thanks

    • Mira Dalangin profile image

      Almira Presto Dalangin 22 months ago from Quezon City, Philippines

      My husband has gambling addiction. I wonder how I could go about convincing him to get help. He refuses to listen to anyone. We are practically down to nothing.

    • profile image

      byron 22 months ago

      My first visit was to a casino with a friend, ever since then I have reguarly been going

      By myself or a group. Its the thrill of winning numbers on the roulette table that entices me to go there all the time. I dont carry credit cards or lot of cash with me as I know once your lost its time to drive back home. However I have realised

      Wagering money to gamble is a very lowly

      Thing to do for a few minutes or hours of gambling .there are better things to do than this behaviour save money and spend is better than taking it to casino .Better stop early than late . Dont rely much gambling as a source of income because only hard work pays. If I get the urge to go with friends all I do now is leave all my cash at home . Ever since then. And probably wont go to casinos in near future

    • profile image

      mally 17 months ago

      How do I help my friend stop ? He wants to but how do I help

    • profile image

      Shequits2 8 months ago

      Find the nearest GA meeting, forum or physician. In the meantime, what works for me may not work for him. I have been reading all the gambling (losses) stories. They have inspired me to stop. I am hoping to continue. Also, tell him to not beat himself up. This is a number one problem with me. Have faith, recovery is waiting for him. Just writing this message is inspiring. Positive words help alot. You begin to realize, this is a major problem. Lots of prayer, support and abstinance will help him to have a better life. There is nothing wrong in reinventing yourself. Someone is waiting for him to help them. You have helped me in just sharing. Thanks

    • profile image

      Jim 4 months ago

      I too have a problem with gambling. I see it as a way to escape all my life bordoms and miseries that i've created in taking easy ways instead of hard paths to success. The other problem is that I also wrok in the industry, and cannot give it up as it pays a great income. The more I make, the more i feel like i can spend. I also always feel like I don't deserve the money I earn and therefore use it as a token to 'earn my real money' by gambling. Its a never-ending cycle of defeat as no matter how many times I get up, i always fall back down. The more I win, the more I'll lose eventually. I see it after it happens, but my brain seems to turn that off again once I earn more money. I need somethign strong to tell myself that YOU WILL LOSE if you even place that one bet. I am addicted to the most embarrassing of all gambling too, SLOTS. The stupidest thing is I know that you have hte worst odds to win, but for some reason I cannot get enough of the 'features' and 'bonus spins' and flashing lights and big jackpots to be won. It kills me how dumb this sounds but writing it down actually helps. Thanks for all the support here and I will do my best to make this DAY 1 of my recovery.

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