A compulsive gambler who participated in Gamblers Anonymous program shared his recovery in hopes to help others affected by this addiction.
Sean was an above average student in high school. He played sports, volunteered at the local soup kitchen on holidays and had a high school sweetheart that he married soon after graduating. He went onto college and received his degree. Five years after graduating college he already had two kids and a beautiful home. He was living the American dream. Everything was going perfect in life. Then one day the local news broad cast the grand opening of a gambling establishment. The news reporter hailed it as a big boost for the local economy. Little did Sean know that this new place was going to cost him his life savings and more.
The local excitement generated by the opening stimulated the public’s curiosity. Most people have never really been exposed to gambling and the affects it can have on you. The local news stated that there were going to be just as many stars at the opening as there were at the Academy Awards. Everyone wanted to go and check it out. Besides gambling they have various types of entertainment, unique shopping, first class accommodations and top quality food. Sean called his friends to go and everyone said yes.
Sean had the time of his life. He was one of the lucky ones he won $500.00 and everyone else either broke even or lost their money. They all agreed they had a fantastic night and could not wait to do it again. They all decided that they should go every Friday night. It was time for them to get out of the house and take a break from the kids. Everyone found a babysitter and off they went.
For the next six months Sean, his wife and friends spent Friday nights dancing, eating and gambling. Everyone thought this was the life. They all had good jobs and no financial problems. Sean was on a hot streak. His first game of choice was poker. His wife really did not like to gamble but she like the shops and entertainment. While Sean gambled his wife went to the shows and shopped till she dropped. She thought everything was fine. Sean would hand her $200.00 he said he just won and told her to treat herself to something special at the stores. Little did everyone know that Sean’s $500.00 gambling limit was up to $1,500.00 a week. His friends also did not realize that he was losing. He would run to the cash machine at the end of the night and made people to believe he either won or broke even. He was always an honest guy, there was no reason anyone would suspect that he was lying.
A year had passed and Sean had lost over $15,000.00. The wife had no idea, but Sean was beginning to have doubts about the gambling establishment, but could not stop. He remembers one day he called in sick from work and decided to spend the day gambling. He was sure he could win back all the money he lost. He took $5000.00 out of the bank and lost it all that same day. He was upset with no where to turn.
Another year past and he lost even more money. All of sudden his world was crumbling with no where to turn. He thought about committing suicide by making it look like an accident so his life insurance would take care of his family. He was in so much pain and no one knew. He wanted this madness to stop. He knew his wife knew nothing about his addiction, but knew she was going to find out shortly since he maxed out the credit cards and gambled his mortgage payment.
Sean’s job began to suffer because he was always preoccupied with placing his next bet. He began to isolate himself. He stopped going to lunch with his co-workers. No one questioned why or I should say no one took the time to find out why.
His wife was called by their mortgage company telling her that they did not get their March payment. She called Sean at work and he old her the check must have gotten lost in the mail. He began to panic, became very resourceful and found a way to cover the mortgage. Another two months went by and he finally had to tell his wife. She was stunned in disbelief. She basically told him to get help or get out.
Sean had already known about Gamblers Anonymous but was afraid to go and was scared people would find out. He finally decided to call Gamblers Anonymous and check it out.
Sean found out that Gamblers Anonymous has helped thousands of individuals beat their compulsive gambling addiction. He was smart individual. He realized the expectations that are placed on Gamblers Anonymous are excessive due to the volume of gamblers seeking help with a very unique program. He attended his first meeting and realized he was not alone and help was available if he wanted it.
Gamblers Anonymous has a twelve step program geared towards helping individuals with their gambling addiction.
The twelve steps are as follows:
1. We admitted we were powerless over gambling – that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to a normal way of thinking and living.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of this Power of our own understanding.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral and financial inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have these defects of character removed.
7. Humbly asked God (of our understanding) to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having made an effort to practice these principles in all our affairs, we tried to carry this message to other compulsive gamblers.
Understanding the Gamblers Anonymous program allowed Sean to decide if this was the right program for him. He was able to relate to all the people at the meeting but felt his situation was different. He saw the pros and cons of this program.
For three months he attended Gamblers Anonymous, his life began to get better until he slipped up and placed a few bets. He was so ashamed that he gambled he didn’t know what to do. He missed the next meeting but decided to go again the following week. He told the group what had happened and they unfortunately change his date that he placed his last bet. This totally discouraged him and reduced his self esteem to the lowest in his life. He still continued to go but his heart was no longer into Gamblers Anonymous. He felt degraded. His sponsor there tried to help him work through it. The next meeting he attended a person walked into the room that he recognized. He began to panic and asked to talk to the chair person. The chair person tried to calm him down, by telling him that everything that happens in this room stays in this room. The person you know is here to get help too.
What Sean didn’t know was this person he recognized had already been in the program for two years and successfully stopped gambling. This person was open about her addiction.
The next week Sean’s wife received a call from one of her friends asking her if Sean had a gambling addiction. She told her friend yes he does and he is getting help. Her friend told her there was a rumor going around about Sean.
Sean’s wife was very upset and called her husband at work. It was unfortunate that the person Sean recognized told only one person her husband. The husband meant no harm but he told a buddy of his.
Gamblers Anonymous is a wonderful program but it is not anonymous and to expect people to keep silent is highly unlikely. Sean stayed with Gamblers Anonymous another two months and then decided it was time to get help elsewhere.
Sean found a unique website that had a private chat room which was available seven days a weeks. He found another source to help him move forward. He was grateful to Gamblers Anonymous for getting his life back in order but knew he needed another way. He found a site called I Stopped Gambling. He checked it out and found this was right for him. The owner of the site believes that Gamblers Anonymous is a wonderful program, but is not for everyone. This was the reason he created the website I stopped Gambling So Can You. He believes the private chat room is perfect for people who would like to keep their gambling addiction private. He also believes that compulsive gamblers should have alternative distinct programs available. The owner of the site also attended Gamblers Anonymous meetings and noticed that a large percentage did not stay. There were no tracking statistics on what happens to compulsive gamblers after they leave. In a three week period he noted a total of four people came and went. When you multiply this by the number of Gamblers Anonymous meetings through out the world you realize that alternative programs are needed.
Sean remembers waking up in the middle of the night, convincing himself that he should gamble just one more time. He told himself no. He then signed in to the I Stop Gambling Chat Room. Only one person was there, but that’s all he needed. They chatted for about an hour and Sean went back to sleep feeling content.
Sean checks in an out of the chat room on a weekly basis. As time passed by, he also went back to a few Gamblers Anonymous meetings to share his thoughts. He believed he found the best of both worlds.
It seems that compulsive gamblers can deal with people knowing only after a year or so has passed since their last bet. This is due to the fact that when compulsive gamblers realize they are at bottom, their self esteem is also at the lowest.