Quitting Gambling Addiction Before It's Too Late

by Pat68
(California)

I am a binge gambler, which means that 90% of the time I appear well-functioning in my daily job and life. But then I go to the casino and start playing cards and could/would not stop. I have played 24-36 hours straight at a time, never staying within the limits I set. I would cash advance from my credit cards, trying to chase losses. I estimate that over the last 15 years, I have probably lost over 120k.


I try not to dwell on the math since that would only encourage me to try to chase it back. I would burn though my savings and then once I built it back up, the cycle repeats itself. My problem has progressively gotten worse, especially in the last several years since my son is now an adult and I no longer have to stay on a schedule, and can more easily hide my gambling when I am at the casino at all hours.

I don't think any of my friends or family know my addiction (they still think it's recreational when I "play"). I have tried to quit on my own several times, unsuccessfully, of course. I have searched online for advice, and sometimes that would help for the time-being. I attended a few GA meetings, but stopped when I recognized the spouse of a gambler (someone I know from my job) at the open meeting.

I know these meetings are supposed to be anonymous, but I am afraid she would judge me or look at me differently from that point on. Of course, my ability to share freely was completely taken away. I have a reputation that I want to protect. I feel that only the addict is fully capable of understanding the addiction.

People think dealing with gambling addiction is as simple as just not going to a casino or placing a bet. Unlike drug addictions with an obvious chemical component, it's difficult for others to comprehend how a "game" can be so detrimental to someone's mental and physical well-being. I have already put myself on the state self-exclusion list for the casinos near my house. I placed myself on the one-year exclusion. On the anniversary, I went to play, seeing if I have changed. Predictably, I lost.

In that one visit, I lost the most that I have ever lost (up to that point). I put myself back on the exclusion list. Since I am an addict, I managed to find other venues to gamble. In recent months, I started driving to the Indian casinos that are several hours from my house. I go less often because of the distance, but I end up losing so much more money. In the past, when I got too tired, I allow myself to go home and rest (which sometimes means I come to my senses and cut my losses). Now, I feel the need to chase everything back within that single trip.

In the last two visits, I have lost over $35K. This is a significant leap from my previous losses, which I would cap at $5K. To cover the recent losses, I have depleted my son's college account. At the time, I justified that he can always take out a student loan. By doing so, I feel I have crossed a line, and that the next line I cross may be to deplete my retirement account.

I am truly afraid that if I don't get control over my addiction, I will destroy my life and cannot ever recover. I am also afraid that I will spend the rest of my life unable to trust myself. I need to know how I can permanently cure my addiction, and not live life with a black cloud hanging over me.

Comments for Quitting Gambling Addiction Before It's Too Late

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Dec 10, 2017
GA drives NEW
by: Tb

I recently needed some help after quite some extensive gambling periods...so, off to GA I went with some encouragement from family. The whole experience for me was more of a drive than any deterrent. Listening to these folks primarily get their brain chemical release with their hyped stories of "times had" primarily gave me a hunger for the real thing. Maybe, it wasn't my time for this recovery or they were well beyond me in their desires for change.

I truly don't know where to turn. My next pay period is coming around and I am scared to death over the possibility of a repeat of the binge until I am sucked dry...

Jul 07, 2017
Some Thoughts
by: Mark

First, thank you very much for sharing your experience and thoughts. I definitely agree with you that only the gambler can truly understand what it's like. As a non-gambler, I can empathize, but never truly "know".

That said, I can say that with my spouse I have seen her go through much of what you describe. From therapy from gambling specialists, I can also share what I learned about gambling addiction that may help you in some way.

I like to break it into two elements. The first is damage control. This is trying to cut off the financial bleeding by cutting off your access to any meaningful amount of money. I agree with you that taking your son's college money was crossing a massive line. Perhaps you felt that you had contributed the money in the first place, so, in essence, it was really yours to do with what you want. I think though, that you feel that's not truly justifiable.

Anyway, I recommend that you find a trusted friend or relative, and share with them what's going on with you. Then relinquish control of you major assets and sources of income to them. If your job does direct deposit, change it to this trusted person's account. Get rid of credit cards, and only use a secured card, or a card with a low limit (no more than $500). If you need help with the details or mechanics, please let me know, but I think you get the gist of this recommendation.

Limiting access to money will help to slow you down. Although finding a trusted person (if you're not married), and looping them in will be challenging, this is actually the easier step.

The second element is getting to the root of your gambling addiction. Unlike what most non-gamblers think, it's not related to the game itself being addictive. It's not the game or casino that's "causing" you to gamble. There's something else at the heart of your being that is painful, and gambling is a manifestation of these unresolved pains.

GA can be helpful, however, if you've read my other sections of this site, you'll know that I don't believe GA can get to the root of the problem. That said, it certainly can't hurt, especially if you don't have a spouse or someone else close to you right now that you can talk with. I also completely understand that having someone you know in the group is highly uncomfortable, and effectively sabotages the experience. Is there another group within a reasonable distance that you can go to?

All that said, to get at the root of the problem, I highly recommend one-on-one therapy with a professional experienced specifically with gambling addictions. If you have health insurance, you can lookup therapists in your area, and call them up. Ask them about their experience with gambling addictions. If you're near UCLA, they have a gambling addiction specialty program that you may be able to get into. If not, they should be able to give you some great referrals in your area. If you need a contact for that program, please do let me know.

If you don't have insurance, CA does offer a number of free sessions. Call up a therapist and ask them about it. I think it's 6 sessions. While that's not a lot, it's sufficient to get started.

One of your comments relates to something that I learned during my research and therapy. That is, that gambling addiction is a progressive disease, which means that each re-lapse is worse than the previous. i.e. You lose more and more money with each bout of gambling. Unlike drugs or alcohol where the afflicted person either passes out or dies as they consume more, that doesn't happen with gambling. Gamblers will continue to lose more and more with no real upper limit.

I was also told that gamblers are generally highly intelligent, which means they ultimately figure out how to get more money; access never really seems to be a permanent problem. It does, however, get more difficult as the figures get higher, which I believe relates to the statistic that gamblers have the highest suicide/death rate over any other addiction. This is why addressing the first element above only slows the bleeding, but doesn't truly resolve the problem.

Unfortunately, there isn't any known way to "cure" a gambling addiction. However, with the right therapy, you should be able to minimize the compulsion, and could conceivably go a lifetime without having a relapse. i.e. It wouldn't be fair to say that if you take X and Y steps you'll be cured, and never have to think about the problem again. It will always be a part of you, however, it doesn't need to dominate your being, and ruin you financially and emotionally.

I should also note that you can also consider an in-patient or out-patient addiction recovery rehabilitation center. Insurance may also cover this with a nominal copay. This could help you with an initial kick into recovery, followed by ongoing therapy.

I hope this helps. Please do continue to share updates here. I wish you all the best.

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