Gam-Anon - A Tool For Recovery
What is Gam-Anon? If you've heard of Gamblers
(GA), you might know that as a 12-step recovery program for people
struggling with a gambling addiction. Well, Gam-Anon is its
counterpart for spouses, family, and close friends of compulsive
gamblers. In other words, it's a self-help organization that
offers support in dealing with the struggles that inevitably arise from
being close to a problem gambler.
The program provides a
tremendous amount of written materials (sold for the cost of
production), which is said to be written by its members. In
words, it doesn't provide materials written by professionals, but
people who have lived in your shoes and truly understand what you're
going through. That said, as its members come from all walks
life, some of the materials are written by people who work in the
professional field. It's hard to tell, however, as this fact
isn't stated on any of the materials, and the reality is that most of
the material truly isn't written by professionals.
spirit of the meetings as well as the literature is quite refreshing,
for you do immediately feel that the people in the room, as well as
those who have written the material really to "get you."
months, years, or even decades of living with (or being close to)
someone with a gambling addiction problem, you probably
feel isolated, scared, fearful of the future, drowning in
or self-doubt, and generally feeling alone and miserable (and that
doesn't even include the financial issues that you're probably dealing
with!). You either haven't told your friends and family about
problem, or you have, and it's clear that they truly don't understand
what's going on. Well, Gam-Anon is a place where you
won't feel alone!
core of the meetings (as with GA) is that what you say in a meetings
doesn't leave the room. Nor are you to speak of the stories
hear to others outside of the room. It's designed
ensure that anonymity is a sacred principle, allowing you to come to
meetings, say whatever is on your mind, and no one will ridicule you,
nor repeat what you've said. In that sense, it really is a
safe-haven for people struggling with how to deal with the gambling
problem in your life.
your first meeting, you'll be asked to introduce yourself (first name
only). You'll be provided with a free handbook to get you
started, and any paid materials you can borrow during the meeting
should you not want to, or not be able to afford to buy.
Materials typically range from $2 to $8.
first part of the meeting will be readings from the main Handbook.
The person leading the meeting (members take turns leading
meetings; there's no one specific leader of the group) will ask various
people to read different sections of the materials. Usually
goes around the table from person to person, so you'll know when it's
your turn. People are often so upset and emotional during the
first meeting that they are often unable to read; that's ok.
If you don't feel like reading, you can ask to be skipped.
- After the reading,
the meeting is usually turned over for open sharing. Each
is provided with approximately 3-5 minutes to share (depending on the
number of people present). While sometimes the leader
topic to focus discussion, you're welcome to share what's on your mind,
things you're struggling with, etc. For the first meeting (or
second meeting if you're not up to sharing for the first meeting), the
expectation is that you'll share "your story." What
you to the meeting? When did you learn that your spouse or
one was a problem gambler? How has it affected your life?
Etc. You can share as much or as little as you're
- At some point during the meeting a
basket will be passed around asking for donations. It's not
mandatory, and for your first meetings you're not expected to
contribute, but rather, if you have a few dollars, you can use it to
buy additional materials. People typically contribute $1 - $3
meeting, but, again, it's completely up to you when and what you
contribute, and is certainly not mandatory.
- After open sharing, there's usually some more readings, the
Treasurer provides a report
of what's remaining in the donations account (which is used to help pay
for rent, equipment, etc.), followed by the Serenity Prayer.
customary for everyone to stand up and join hands while reciting the
prayer. Don't worry, it's printed on the back of every
so you can simply read along, or choose to be quiet; it's completely up
- Once a month there's usually a Step Class, which is when
rather then going through the normal readings, you'll go through one
particular step in detail. It's often the first meeting of
month, and the Step number usually corresponds with the month you're in
(ex. Jan would be Step 1, Feb would be Step 2, and so on).
After all, there are 12 steps.
- As noted above, anonymity is extremely valued.
the meeting, and during sharing in particular, no "cross-talk" is
allowed. Many people are confused by what this really means.
Essentially it means that you're not allowed to ask
make jokes, agree with something someone says, or otherwise talk.
In other words, it's really a one-way communication type of
atmosphere. If you want to ask questions or otherwise have a
conversation, do so either before or after the meetings.
isn't a rule, but more of a recommendation, which is that it's
recommended that you come to at least 6 meetings before
determiningwhether or not Gam-Anon is for you. It really does
take a handful of meetings to catch on to what Gam-Anon is all about.
Gam-Anon is Not
is a fairly typical 12-step self-help program that doesn't involve
professionals. It doesn't purport to be a replacement for
therapy, or other ways to deal with the issue of gambling addiction.
In fact, you'll often find that discussion relating to other
forms of therapy that you're doing or contemplating are discouraged.
Gam-Anon tries to avoid controversy by sticking to its own
literature and techniques for handing various situations.
Depending on your point of view, this can be considered
comforting or disturbing.
In my opinion, Gam-Anon is one
piece of the recovery pie, and should not be seen as a full,
well-rounded approach to dealing with the gambling problem in your
life. Many people disagree with me on this point, and I only
encourage you to keep an open mind as you explore what recovery
approach(es) are best for you and your personal situation.
know what feels right; trust your instincts.
- Find a Gam-Anon Meeting
and really commit yourself to going so you can form your own opinion as
to its value for you. Many people have said that it has saved
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