My Gam-Anon Experience

by Jane

My Gam-Anon story may not be the typical story that you'll hear. First, let me start by saying that I have gone to a ton of meetings, and I have heard countless wonderful stories about people who say that Gam-Anon saved their lives. I truly am thrilled for people who find comfort, peace, and solutions in meetings, and only wish them all of the best.

My experience, however, is different. I do have to say that I do find the people at the meetings to be warm, accepting, and tremendously friendly. I also do feel somewhat at peace and relaxed after meetings. However, when I really dig deeply into the problems my husband and I have, I can honestly admit that Gam-Anon isn't helping me.

Yes, the meetings talk about working on ourselves, and focusing on our own flaws (of which there are many!), however, it also essentially evangelizes the concept of detachment. Meaning that we're supposed to let our gambler live their life and deal with their gambling issues, while we focus on ourselves and not get involved in the madness of gambling.

The problem with this approach is that it doesn't foster anything that I expect a marriage to be. We're supposed to be intimately involved in one another's lives, love and support one another, and be able to count and depend on one another in times of need.

No, we're not supposed to enable our gambler, or cover for them, but not confronting them, and leaving them to their own affairs just doesn't help. I've met with various individual therapists who also agree (and really have taught me), that while co-dependence is not healthy, detachment can be just as unhealthy for a marriage.

Sure, if you want to find a way to live with an active gambling while maintaining your sanity (and finances), there's a lot to learn about dealing an coping with various situations and fire drills in Gam-Anon meetings. However, if you want to build/re-build a strong, healthy, and supportive marriage where trust and communication are at the core of the relationship, I personally don't feel that Gam-Anon provides the tools to help.

I do completely agree that both the gambler and spouse need to make changes within ourselves, but there are also steps that a gambler must take to help actively rebuild trust
in the relationship. In this vein, I wholeheartedly believe that individual and couples therapy are far more effective tools. In fact, Gam-Anon poo poos any talk about therapy or other treatments.

Experts say that it's like having an affair with gambling. If your husband cheated on you with another woman, would you commit to working on yourself, your own flaws, and leave them to work on themselves and think that you're somehow going to rebuild your marriage by doing that? It just doesn't make any sense, at least not to me.

Sometimes I find it almost bewildering how sharing our stories can provide so much comfort, even though we're not allowed to have an exchange of ideas or feedback while sharing. That somehow talking out loud to a group of people is somehow therapeutic, while talking to ourselves at home is not. That really is odd, but somehow holds true.

But complaining about our issues, and telling our stories, or focusing on being better people will not result in a solid marriage. At least that's what I believe. There has to be some kind of balance between working with our spouse to improve the relationship, while also working on ourselves.

I don't know if I'll continue going to meetings or not. A therapist once told me that there's no empirical evidence that Gam-Anon meetings help people in their relationship or making wise life decisions about how to work better with our spouses, or be better people. Maybe it's like taking Advil for pain; it works to relieve the pain for a few hours, or maybe even a day, but that underlying wound is still there, and will never go away. I can keep taking pain killers every day, but that will never truly address my problem. I can also complain to others about my pain and feel good when I hear their sympathetic thoughts, but again, that pain will not magically disappear.

I think that websites like this that allow a truly open forum for sharing our thoughts and feelings without the rules of Gam-Anon meetings getting in the way, which require us to sensor what we say for fear of breaking a rule, are amazing.

Hopefully my husband and I will be able to build a worthwhile marriage some day in the not too distant future. Wish me luck!

Comments for My Gam-Anon Experience

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Jul 26, 2021
It's Tough NEW
by: Anonymous

It's definitely tough to know what to do. Gamblers are so good at gaslighting and manipulating people. I found the book "Behind the 8 Ball" to be such a good read. It describes how you can never really be intimate with a gambler due to their low emotional IQ, and general ability to truly connect with them.

I think the hardest part is when they're in a period of abstinence, which can literally last years. They can get upset that you withhold trust related to financials, and that you always hold in your mind that they could be lying to you and restart gambling at any time.

What are you to do when your loved one is in this situation? If you let go and start to trust them, it seems inevitable that in the long run they'll eventually relapse and your finance and lives will get screwed again. And it's a progressive disease, so each relapse will be worse than the last one.

On the other hand, it's really hard to believe that they can't be helped and improved. Generally, when people are in relapse I think loved ones tend to just ignore the problem and not talk about it. After all, what would be the point? They'll get upset, defensive, and angry that you still don't trust them after all these years.

Especially if they're not in GamAnon or individual therapy, the whole topic just never gets discussed.

It's really tough.

Jul 24, 2021
The accountability NEW
by: Anonymous

The gambler will never face accountability because he or she is able to fool everyone. They are narcissists. They do not care about anything or anyone.

The responsible parent can do everything possible that is honest and reliable and believe me it will never matter at all.

Sep 15, 2019
Therapy "poo pood"? Not! NEW
by: Anonymous

I have been in Gamanon since 1979..My husband and I were in individual counseling and couples counseling for many years, and our GA and Gamanon groups NEVER, EVER "poo pood" that. In fact we were encouraged to get extra help in addition to our attending these programs. You cannot live an intimate emotional life with your gambler while he or she is gambling..because they are in the throes of an addiction i.e. they are insane. You must detach much like a lifeguard will have to be cxareful not to be drawn under the water by a drowning person they are trying to save. You cannot save your gambler..this is detachment, a healthy detachment. Perhaps if you stayed int he program a little longer you will learn what a healthy detachment really means.

Nov 03, 2017
Get out NEW
by: Anonymous

I have been married to an addict for 25 years and dated for 6. First year when I was pregnant with my daughter he went to in-house rehab for cocaine, and he also chewed tobacco for many years, and he has gambled on/off for years and just recently it has even gotten worse. I'm finally done. I have recently filed for divorce and I know it will be financially difficult, but it has now start to effect my health because of the stress. I deserve better even if it is by myself.

Aug 11, 2017
agree NEW
by: Anonymous

i started going to G-A meetings 10 years ago out of desperation and a desire to understand the chronic gambler and to perhaps find some answers and advice. I found neither. i drove many miles to attend different groups and always found myself the only male listening to wives, girlfriends and ex-wives go thru 12 steps.
i tried to take all the rituals and scripted parts of the meetings to heart but it didn't take. what i did learn was just how insidious the addiction is and how calculated the heatless gambling industry has become but i did not glean this from GA meetings, it came from experience.the last meeting i went to was 3 years ago.
my wife has been gambling as much as she feels she can get away with (about 60% or her income) while keeping us afloat but never able to save and on occasion we came parlously close to homelessness. Not good.
she did not want to go to meetings. for years i've tried to find a GA member that spoke her language (thai) to explain what was happening to her and that she could find support to stop. someone els besides me to show her. I continue that quest but no luck.
What i did learn that ultimatums don't really work, that gambling is more important then loved ones and that it probably will never stop. i feel my only choices are to stick with her in spite of the last 10 years of grief, worry and turmoil OR leave and divorce her. i'm planning for a latter and it breaks my heart.

Jul 28, 2017
by: Anonymous

I totally agree. I have experienced the same kindness and sharing at gam-anon meetings, but they offered nothing in the way of constructive solutions, advise or alternatives to the nightmare that is sharing a compulsive gambler's life other than the 12 steps.

Personally I'm thinking that if I can't get my partner into therapy/counseling divorce is inevitable.

Jan 06, 2017
So what do you suggest?
by: Mark

Thanks for the follow up Tom. So given your feedback, in your opinion, what would be a recommended approach for problem gamblers to abstain? Find a non-biased, non-12 step facility? One-on-one outpatient therapy? Thank you sharing!

Jan 06, 2017
Addiction Treatment Industry
by: Tom Gleason

The NYCPG website says that the not-for-profit organization originated with Gamblers Anonymous The National CPG lists treatment centers like NYS OASAS who now offer inpatient treatment on most likely the exact same model as the 12-step drug rehabs they do.

This has been made possible because OASAS has pretended not to promote 12-step treatment while doing exactly that. You do a vague evaluation, you call for help, and you are introduced to AA/GA/NA, or related 12-step rehab which is based on what is called Twelve Step Facilitation therapy: the goal is to get the patient to accept powerlessness and surrender to a higher power (always the treatment program itself or 12-step groups. Other "higher powers" are allowable, but are removed from the table when abstinence is not achieved. The 12-step group always remains on the table, so you always end up with 12-step - it either saves your life or you didn't work the program).

I do not doubt that OASAS treatment centers or counselors will be getting kickbacks for referring from there (where the state is limited) to private even more expensive treatment centers. Just like how drug treatment works. You start in AA, go to a cheap rehab, a more expensive one...that one wasn't quite good enough, more more more...

Lance Dodes says that the terrible success rate (probably about 5%) of these programs makes going to one "like gambling".

Hardcore 12-step members often become professionals so that they can steer people into 12-step meetings through whatever means necessary.

Overall, I find it hard to believe that locking someone up for 30 days will work any better than it does for drug treatment. You also have to understand that it is lobbies like NCPG that got gambling addiction into the DSM-V so that it can be diagnosed and 'treated' broadly according to their vision. All well intentioned, but you will hear many stories like this one about Gamanon that just won't fly in that environment where any denial (such as questioning 'loving detachment') is a symptom needing more treatment.

Jan 06, 2017
Good Feedback
by: Mark

Thank you for the note Tom. I can definitely see how people will take advantage of government funds, and people's desperate state to make money; it's sad, but surely true.

GA itself doesn't cost anything, so you are you saying that GA recommends these in-patient treatment centers and gets kickbacks? Unless that's happening under the table, it's certainly not part of their dogma to have such affiliations. In fact, I don't believe most hardcore GA members believe in any treatment other than GA. As you noted, it can be a cult-like experience depending on the GA group.

Would be great if you could clarify what you mean by the association of GA with in-patient treatment centers.

Also, although some of in-patient centers may be taking advantage of people, there are most certainly some excellent ones that really do help. It's really like any business really; there are legitimate ones, and crooked ones. People need to do their homework to find suitable, and authentic support programs.

Jan 06, 2017
"Loving Detachment" is "Shunning"
by: Tom Gleason

I'm enjoying Leah Remini's show on Scientology and disconnection. I lost all my AA friends, some family, and a therapist when I quit going to 'the meetings' for a legitimate reason like you've shared: it isn't helpful!

The whole codependency 'disease' is nonsense and just another way to draw you into the cult. For money. Yes, money. 6 of OASAS's addiction treatment centers now do inpatient Gamblers Anonymous rehab, and OASAS will surely be accrediting more luxurious privately owned rehabs to sell your gambler more hope. The state hands money over to these non-profits and they provide shit treatment leaving people suicidal, powerless, defective, selfish, dishonest, etc... all that shaming is the core of why you are not able or allowed to complain about their program ever-- if it didn't work, you're a liar.

See and know that this is a business move. People who've gone to GA for help will now seek professional 'treatment' and get more GA. It's a scam.

I've been researching this 12-step industry for a few years now at

Nov 01, 2016
To Galway Girl
by: Mark

I apologize for the delayed response; I'm very sorry. I hope you're doing well. It sounds like you're at the end of your marriage, and are experiencing your own emotional challenges.

Perhaps you can attend a Gamanon meeting so you can discuss your situation in person in detail, and a personal therapist can likely help you organize your thoughts, and determine next steps.

I think the key at this point is for you to focus on getting yourself in a better place, so you can recover. Once you take care of yourself, you can figure out the other details.

Please let me know if you have any additional questions or thoughts to share. Thank you!

Oct 28, 2016
Re: Amen!!
by: Anonymous

Sorry I did not do autocorrect! But you can get the gist of what I'm saying! Thanks! Love to you, and please keep writing- you are worth it and it helps others! <3


Oct 28, 2016
by: Anonymous

Amen!! Thank you for highlighting the importance of other therapies, and also your own experience and intuition as a woman. Best of luck to you in finding your own true happiness!!

I am a Gamanon member, and my husband is like a dry drunk. He doesn't gamble, but also doesn't work on his own "defects" and blames me either directly or passive aggressively for issues, even though he has said he won't work on himself except to please others. Our marriage is crumbly.

After many meetings, 1 yr of individual therapy for us both! And we did couples therapy and are entering back into maybe we need to separate, but I know I'll be okay, especially with people like u highlighting these issues. Thanks!

Aug 06, 2016
Galway Girl
by: Anonymous

My husband seems to be addicted to horses and poker machines. He could be back in salhill till 2:30am. He goes throw stages. At 21 he started the poker machines. He would always disappear, be late for the kids, and forgot to pick them up for school. My poor son had driving lessons, and had him stand out on the road for an hour.

There was always rows. The stress it caused when the kids were small, and I was piggy in the middle. He used me for excuses. He would get money from us. Then he would put it in the book for shops and use the cash.

He says he is off it. but he does it at work. I found a docket. If we go anywhere as a couple it would be bookie to bookie. He would get up and leave to place bets. He spends two hours taking down a list of horses. I does not effect the kids now as they are adults, expect for my oldest son. It appears he is always gone except when he is broke. He walked back to salhill from the hospital. He took money that his brother gave him for a home loan, and used in the slots. It's so embarrassing to his brother who went into my joint account instead of coming to me.

Five years ago I asked his mother and brother for help. They attacked him. We had meeting, and his mom turned around and blamed me, and the kids told me it was my fault.

I took a overdose and ended up in the hospital. He thought it was over a pack of fags. I was abused by two men. My father and my mother's boyfriend. Nothing was done. He suffers from recurrent kidney stones.

My marriage is over. I hung on for the past 4 years for my kids. I didn't want them to suffer like I did when parents divorce. He has always lived his separate life anyways. Friends are sitting beside him in salhill. Now I have to put my mental health first. My kids love him cause it does not affect them. If there is anything to be done at home it's a nightmare. If he does not seem to spend big money. It's the time in his head. For me it's the worry he could go through weeks of spending. He has no clothes. My form is affecting my kids. I did years of counselling, and even went to a gambling counselor for my self. I tried to get him to go. When I'm around him he makes me suicidal. I could write a book on it. Please help.

Jun 02, 2016
by: Anonymous

Jan 16, 2016
Moving Beyond
by: Anonymous

"Years later and the gambler is still in the same place. You're not even sure if they notice time as it passes them by.

You just know you're done letting time pass you by.

You've been living again and life has been good.

You find your self so appreciative of the good and positive things in your life.

You now stop and smell the roses."

Nov 14, 2015
My experience
by: Anonymous

I have been attending Gamanon for around a year and a half. The 12 step programs are not made to be a catch all and as a codependent it is the fact that we often look at things in a distorted fashion also.

Being in a marriage with a person with multiple addictions it isn't until I realized that I have no control, am obsessive myself and that my own addiction is people I have been able to detach. The space between me and the addicts primarily my husband is not a result of my detachment. As he continues the space felt is due to one person growing and the other continuing on a path of self destruction and I am the person he blames.

The addict is in a thought process of illness and so it is easy to "blame" the issue on a marriage which we do too. Focusing on oneself allows us to see the part we play in the game. We all play the games that create the chaos. Detaching allows the viewing of one in their own skin; the good and the bad. It is difficult, and not easy.

I don't know if he will ever get to the point of being whole and at peace. I do know that Gamanon has allowed me to love him as he is in his illness and not take on things that are not mine to take. It has given me some freedom to be OK in the midst of crisis and to feel peace and serenity. I also attend another 12 step meeting due to the co-occurring addiction which helps. Therapy is also suggested but find one that has experience with Pathological Gambling or other addictions.

Nov 04, 2015
That's Great!
by: Mark

Thank you for sharing your experience. That's fantastic to hear that it's working for you and your husband!

Some follow up questions if you don't mind. Has he gambled during the 30 years of your marriage? Have you guys done any other therapy, or just GamAnon?

Nov 04, 2015
Disconnect Is Not Gamanon
by: Anonymous

The term "disconnect" is so often misunderstood by new members.You try NOT to stop your spouse's gambling..and you learn you alone cannot control your spouse's gambling. This is NOT a disconnect on an emotional level..but the initial giving up of control or your pseudo control is difficult at first before you re-establish real and true emotional intimacy. Our spouses are INCAPABLE of true honesty and emotional intimacy in the this disconnect is for the non gambler's sanity.. .My husband and I are very connected but on a new healthy level..Gamanon/GA gave us tools to navigate our new healthy relationship..We just celebrated our 30 years of marriage..and I have been a Gamanon member for 36 years.

Apr 22, 2015
Hiding From Problems
by: Mark

Thank you for your note! When I went to Gam-anon I truly felt as though the group was supportive of the madness in their relationships by the camaraderie of the group. Feeling connected to others that are sharing the same experiences is comforting. However, that does nothing for repairing your individual relationship/marriage.

Being in the same boat as others doesn't stop the boat from sinking. It's really a temporary emotional relief to connect with others.

A therapist told me once when asked why people stay with gamblers, that they are co-dependent, and like the drama and abuse. The reality is that staying with an active gambler who isn't taking steps to stop really is crazy.

I truly believe that individual therapy for both parties, coupled with couples therapy is the best approach. GA and Gam-anon are these really odd artifacts in our culture. A sponsor who understands what a gambler is going thru can be really valuable, but meeting to chat about an addiction with unqualified people isn't productive in the long term for most people.

Showing up for a meeting and chatting is very passive work. The hard work is digging in deep in therapy and with your loved one. It's emotional, and extremely stressful and difficult, however, that's where real work is done.

At work, does complaining about the office/business in the hallways with your colleagues change anything? It can be fun, and it can feel good in the moment, however, does it affect any change? Nope.

I'd be interesting in hearing from people who have had great long term results from these meetings, including mending their relationship with their loved one.

Apr 21, 2015
Thank You
by: Anonymous

I am so grateful for what you have written here. I went to my first gam-anon meeting last night (my husband was "celebrating" 90 days bet-free).
I was taken aback by the disconnect between these people and their loved ones -- specifically in the experience of the spouse, or the parent. As a spouse, I am my husband's best friend -- we share everything - we made a vow to do so. If I let him work through this burden on his own, I feel like I am abandoning the vows that have helped shape my life for the past 12 years.

I'm at a loss -- really don't know if I will return for another meeting or not. How frustrating!

Mar 23, 2013
It Takes Two
by: JBExWife

It takes two to work on common goals. Detaching while your finances are falling apart and your children suffer, I chose to divorce and cut my losses. My children now experience a "healthier Mom" who is working on her recovery and an "emotionally unavailable Dad" as we have joint custody. For me, I wanted to preserve my children's college fund, guarantee a life insurance policy and provide a roof over their head. It felt like a race against time before we lost it all and would wind up on "welfare". I was married for 17 years and divorcing was the best and most painful decision I have ever made.

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