Gambling Addiction Recovery - Why Abstinence is NOT Enough
addiction recovery is a topic that can spur some controversy.
When I was first faced with discovering that the love of my
was a pathological gambler, I came to believe that it was an issue of
will power, and as intelligent and strong-willed as she is, that she
could just. She "simply" needed to put her mind to it and
a priority. In other words, I equated recovery with
Abstinence (i.e. refraining from gambling of any kind) is
required for recovery, however, it is far from being the same thing.
At least that what I later came to believe.
some people will debate this, it has become a common belief by
professionals, and those with extensive experience, that abstaining
from gambling, even for decades at a time, does not mean that a problem
gambler is in recovery. Let me elaborate.
believe that gambling is not a problem gambler's actual problem.
While it certainly creates additional problems with
relationships, trust, and the financial destruction that it can cause,
gambling is actually a symptom one or more underlying problems.
If you believe this premise, then someone with a gambling
addiction who stops gambling (i.e. abstains), is not yet in recovery.
Abstinence from gambling does not mean that someone has even
entered the recovery process.
alleviates a lot of the downstream impacts, and NEW problems created by
the lies, stealing, deception, and financial issues created by the
action of gambling. However, gambling addiction recovery can
be achieved by meaningful treatment relating to why a person is driven
to gambling in the first place. There are many reasons why a
particular person (who eventually becomes a problem gambler) will
gamble. For someone with a gambling addiction, the action of
- Provide a sense of control;
- A way to escape from life and issues they're struggling
physical high (related to escapism); it's said that the brain chemistry
of someone on a drug high is identical to that of a gambler while
This is why in addition to going to Gambler's
in order for the gambling addiction recovery process to take place,
some degree of therapy is required. You can read more about
therapy in the Help
With Gambling Addiction
section. The ultimately goal is not just to stop gambling,
achieve a state of emotional well-being and internal happiness.
an analogy, although not a perfect one, consider someone, despite being
wealthy, who is continually driven to rob banks. Think of
abstinence as cutting off their arms. Without arms they can
longer rob banks, however, the drive and urge to do so remains.
Although such an individual no longer robs banks, they are
a bank robber, for whatever is underlying their drive to rob banks is
still there. Of course, a problem gambler who abstains using
various tools is certainly not the same as cutting off one's limbs to
avoid being physical capable to perform certain activities.
hopefully the concept of stopping the symptom (gambling, or robbing
banks in this analogy) while not treating the underlying problem makes
Based on my studies and personal experience, I
strongly believe that while abstinence is highly desirable, and can
relieve a tremendous amount of pressure and issues from loved ones
impacted by a problem gambler in their lives, it's only a piece of the
recovery pie. I believe that someone who has abstained from
gambling for even 20 or 30 years, but who has never had any individual
therapy for their underlying issues, can never truly be at peace and
happy with themselves and in their life. It's for this reason
that I urge people to really take the extra effort to determine the
appropriate treatment to uncover and deal with a gambling addicts
underlying traumas. If your gambler is able to abstain
not a trial accomplishment of course!), don't stop there.
recovery requires an additional level of work and commitment.
of course, always keep in mind, that them, no you, need to want
recovery for themselves. Gambling addiction recovery is not
something that you or anyone else can do for them or force them to want
to do. That's not to say that loved ones can't provide some
encouragement of course!
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