Compulsive Gambling


This is part four of a series of writings on addiction. You can find the listing of those articles near the bottom of this page: My Writings.

Compulsive gambling is different from alcoholism or drug addiction. There is no obvious substance involved. Gambling can be an entertaining normal behavior for many people. For the high-risk individual, however, it becomes problematic and addictive.

Most compulsive gamblers begin their addiction with an early win similar to a drug addict’s first high. This reinforces your fantasy of the easy life without effort and begins your progression into addictive behaviors. Like all addictions, gambling involves an allergic disease, tolerance, progression, ever increasing social consequences and denial.

Researchers have theorized that gambling involves an internal addiction to your fight or flight hormones produced by the fear, anxiety, drama, and excitement surrounding gambling. There is also the addiction cycle of dopamine pleasure and reward going on in your brain.

Your addiction leaves you feeling outrageously wonderful at first. That is the fantasy.

Your reality is quite different. You will loose more than you win. This is a truth about gambling. Your chances of winning enough to fulfill your fantasies are very slim. You may win periodically, just enough to keep you a prisoner of your dreams.

Tolerance and progression soon rear their ugly heads. You need more to reach your high: higher stakes, more games of chance or longer and longer spells of gambling. You are trapped in a compulsive spiral that goes faster and faster until you are destitute.

For gambling, progression involves ever-increasing social, personal, physical and legal consequences. Movies have been made about the gambler who dramatically borrows money from criminals who then chase him or her throughout the movie. I am sure that happens…some of the time. Near the end of your gambling progression as you get to your lowest bottom.

Before that, you betray your spouse and children by depriving them of food, shelter and a normal life. You loose your home, cars, life savings, job, and take everything your family needs to survive.

You betray yourself by indulging in behavior that is far removed from everything you value. You become a person you despise. This involves the social consequences.

Like all addictions, you are the last person to know. Periodically, you have a vague recognition that you are in a very dark place in your life. However, you quickly dampen that thought with fantasies of future wins. You dream that these illusions will make up to you and everyone else for your destructive behaviors.

If you wonder about your gambling, take this quiz published by Gamblers Anonymous.

___Did you ever lose time from work or school due to gambling?

___Has gambling ever made your home life unhappy?

___ Did gambling affect your reputation?

___Have you ever felt remorse after gambling?

___Did you ever gamble to get money with which to pay debts or otherwise solve financial difficulties?

___Did gambling cause a decrease in your ambition or efficiency?

___After losing did you feel you must return as soon as possible and win back your losses?

___After a win did you have a strong urge to return and win more?

___Did you often gamble until your last dollar was gone?

___Did you ever borrow to finance your gambling?

___Have you ever sold anything to finance gambling?

___Were you reluctant to use “gambling money” for normal expenditures?

___ Did gambling make you careless of the welfare of yourself or your family?

___Did you ever gamble longer than you had planned?

___Have you ever gambled to escape worry or trouble?

___Have you ever committed, or considered committing, an illegal act to finance gambling?

___Did gambling cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?

___Do arguments, disappointments or frustrations create within you an urge to gamble?

___Did you ever have an urge to celebrate any good fortune by a few hours of gambling?

___Have you ever considered self-destruction or suicide as a result of your gambling?

Most compulsive gamblers will answer yes to at least seven of these questions. You might want to visit some meetings of Gamblers Anonymous.

It only gets worse. People progress further and further until their life is a nightmare. Visit the Gamblers Anonymous website: and look for a meeting near you.

Twelve-Step Recovery Wellness is life coaching for compulsive gamblers in active recovery. Active recovery means you stopped gambling or visiting places where gambling takes place. You have integrated meetings of gamblers anonymous into your life, have a sponsor and do service for your fellowship. You have gone through your 12-steps of recovery at least once. You live your recovery program.

Now the rest of your life is an open possibility. You have dreams, wishes, hopes and desires for a profession, a relationship, family, a hobby, or any of the multitude ideas that call out to people to be realized. I’d love to help you achieve those dreams.

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©2016-18 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

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