There are many and varying interpretations of compulsive gambling. The explanation that seems most acceptable to GA members is that compulsive gambling is an illness, progressive in its nature, which can never be cured, but can be arrested.
Before coming to GA, many compulsive gamblers thought of themselves as morally weak or just “no good”. The GA concept is that the compulsive gambler is a very sick person who can recover by following a very simple programme, to the best of his or her own ability, that has proved successful for hundreds of other men and women with a similar problem. Top of Page
Gamblers Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who have joined together to do something about their own gambling problem and to help other compulsive gamblers do the same. Top of Page
There is no need to feel nervous or apprehensive about attending a Gamblers Anonymous meeting where you will be welcomed by everyone. Most people express a huge relief after attending their first meeting and realising there are other people who have suffered similar experiences. Top of Page
At a GA meeting you can talk to people who have been or are in your position and you can expect to receive support, help, advice and confidentiality. What is said within the meeting stays within the meeting.
A friendly meeting together of men and women, young and old who have a desire to stop gambling. No questions about who they are, no professionals or do-gooders. No cross-examinations. Absolutely no religious connections. No entrance fees.
If you admit you gamble out of control and that you want to stop then you are automatically a member! No personal details and no fees requested. GA is totally self-supporting from voluntary collections – nothing from the new member on their first night.
One of the members is the chairperson for the evening; he or she invites those who wish, to speak about their life while gambling and since stopping gambling. The speaker is not interrupted.
The backbone is the “12 step programme”. A simple guide to living a normal life without gambling which can be used or interpreted in any way the member chooses.
“Gamblers Anonymous works for the man or woman who wants it to ” – try just one visit to find out for yourself. Top of Page
Meetings are in the same place every week at the same time, simply turn up. Remember, the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop gambling. Top of Page
To accept the fact that compulsive gambling is a progressive illness and to have the desire to get well. Our experience has shown that the GA programme will always work for anyone who wants to stop gambling. It will seldom work for the man or woman who cannot, or will not, squarely face the facts about this illness.
Only you can make that decision. Most people turn to GA when they become willing to admit that gambling has them licked. Also, in GA a compulsive gambler is described as a person whose gambling has caused growing and continuing problems in many departments of life.
Many GA members went through terrifying experiences before they were ready to accept help. Others were faced with a slow, subtle deterioration which finally brought them to the point of admitting defeat. Top of Page
No. The first small bet to a problem gambler is like the first small drink to an alcoholic. Sooner or later comes the fall back into the old destructive pattern.
Once a person has crossed the invisible line into irresponsible gambling, then it seems to be impossible to regain control. After abstaining a few months, some of our members have tried some small bet experiments, always with disastrous results. The old obsession inevitably returned.
Our GA experience seems to point to these alternatives; to gamble, risking progressive deterioration, or not to gamble, and develop a spiritual way of life. Top of Page
It means exactly that. A stand has to be made somewhere and GA members have found the first bet is the one to avoid, even though it may be as little as tossing for a cup of coffee. Top of Page
We believe that most people, if they are honest, will recognise their lack of power to solve certain problems. When it comes to gambling, we have known many problem gamblers who could abstain for long periods, but caught off guard – and in the right circumstances – they started gambling without thought of the consequences. The defences they relied upon through willpower alone gave way before some trivial reason for placing a bet.
We have found that willpower and self-knowledge will not help in those mental blank spots but adherence to spiritual principles seems to solve our problems. Most of us feel that a belief in a power greater than ourselves is necessary in order for us to sustain a desire to refrain from gambling. Top of Page
Often families and friends of these people have asked us to intercede but we have never been able to be of any real help. Actually, sometimes we felt we held back a member’s eventual recovery by giving this unsolicited attention. It all goes back to the basic principle that a gambler ought to want help before being approached by us. Top of Page
Only you can determine whether or not, or how much, you need GA However, most periodic gamblers who have joined GA tell us that, though their gambling binges were periodic, the intervals between were not periods of constructive thinking. Symptomatic of these periods were nervousness, irritability, frustration, indecision and a continued breakdown in personal relationships. These same people have often found the GA programme a guide to spiritual progress towards the elimination of character defects. Top of Page
If I Stop Gambling, Won’t It Make It Difficult For Me To Keep Some Desirable Business And Social Contacts?
We think not. Most of the world’s work of any consequence is done without the benefit of monetary wagering. Many of our leaders in business, industry and professional life have attained great success without knowing one card from another or which way the horses run round the course. In the area of social relationships, the newcomer will soon find a keen appreciation of the many pleasant and stimulating activities available – far removed from anything that is remotely associated with gambling. Top of Page
Most people made quite a name for themselves as full-fledged gamblers by the time they turned to GA Their gambling was not usually a well kept secret. It would, then, be unusual if the good news of their abstinence from gambling did not cause comment. However, no disclosure of any affiliation with GA can rightfully be made by anyone but the member personally. Even then, it should be done in a way that will not harm the GA fellowship. Top of Page
This is done by bringing about a progressive personality change from within. This can be accomplished by having faith in and trying to understand the basic concepts of the GA Recovery Programme.
There are no short cuts to gaining this faith and understanding. To recover from one of the most baffling, insidious, compulsive addictions will require diligent effort. Honesty, open-mindedness and willingness are the key words in our recovery. Top of Page
Can A Person Recover By Himself By Reading Literature Or Medical Books On The Problem Of Compulsive Gambling?
Sometimes, but not usually. The GA programme works best for the individual when it is recognised and accepted as a programme involving other people. Working with other compulsive gamblers in a GA group, the individual seems to find the necessary understanding and support. There is an ability to talk of past experiences and present problems in a comfortable area. Instead of feeling alone and misunderstood, there is a feeling of being needed and accepted. Top of Page
Among GA members, there seems to be a predominance of those who work on their own or have little personal supervision. Obviously this allows more freedom to gamble. The occupations of the other members, including those at school or at home, are extremely varied. It seems safe to say that compulsive gambling has nothing to do with the occupation or age of the individual.
It apparently arises from an inner imbalance, not external factors. Top of Page
No. Top of Page
Not as a rule. Of the many GA members who have had extended psychiatric treatment, none have found a knowledge of why they gambled to be of value insofar as stopping gambling. Top of Page
GA members, in considering this perplexing question, feel these are some of the possible reasons:
INABILITY AND UNWILLINGNESS TO ACCEPT REALITY. Hence, the escape into the dream world of gambling.
EMOTIONAL INSECURITY. Here a compulsive gambler finds emotional comfort only when “in action”. It is not uncommon to hear a GA member say, “The only place I really felt like I belonged was when I was in a gambling environment. There I felt secure and comfortable. No great demands were made upon me. I knew I was destroying myself yet, at the same time, I had a certain sense of security.”
IMMATURITY. A desire to have all the good things in life without any great effort seems the common character pattern of the problem gambler. Many GA members accept the fact that they were unwilling to grow up. Subconsciously they felt they could avoid mature responsibility through wagering on the spin of a wheel or the turn of a card and so the struggle to escape responsibility finally became a subconscious obsession.
Also, a compulsive gambler seems to have a strong inner urge to be a “big shot” and needs to have a feeling of being all-powerful. There is a willingness to do anything (often of an antisocial nature) to maintain a personal image for others to see.
Then, too, there is the theory that compulsive gamblers subconsciously want to lose to punish themselves. There is evidence among GA members to support this theory. Top of Page
This is a rather common characteristic of us compulsive gamblers when still gambling. We spend a lot of time creating images of the great and wonderful things we are going to do when we make the big win. We often see ourselves as charming and charitable fellows.
We may dream of providing our family and friends with new cars, expensive holidays and other luxuries. We picture ourselves leading pleasant and gracious lives made possible by the huge sums of money we will accrue from our “system”. Servants, penthouses, charming friends, nice clothes, yachts and world tours are a few of the wonderful things that are just around the corner when we finally make a big killing.
Pathetically, however, there never seems to be a big enough win to make even the smallest dream come true. When we succeed, we gamble to dream still greater dreams. When we fail, we gamble in reckless desperation and the depths of our misery are fathom less as our dream world comes crashing down.
Sadly, we struggle back, dream more dreams and, of course, suffer more misery. No-one can convince us that our great schemes will not some day come true. We believe they will for, without this dream world, life for us would not be tolerable. Top of Page
No, compulsive gambling seems to be an emotional problem. When in the grip of this illness, we create mountains of apparently insoluble problems. Of course, there are financial problems but we also have to face family problems, employment problems, or problems involving ourselves with the law. We lose our friends and relatives have us on their personal blacklist.
Of the many serious problems we create, the financial problems seem the easiest to solve.
Upon entering GA and stopping gambling, we find income often increases and, as there is no longer the financial drain caused by gambling, there is soon relief from the financial pressures.
The most difficult task to be faced is that of bringing about a personality change from within ourselves. Most of us in GA look upon this as our greatest challenge and believe this to be a lifetime job. Top of Page
No. The question of abolishing gambling is a controversial issue about which GA has no opinion. Top of Page
Anyone who has a desire to stop gambling. There are no other rules or regulations concerning GA membership. Top of Page
There are no assessments in connection with GA membership. The newcomer signs nothing and pledges nothing. However, we do have expenses relative to our group meetings and our GA service facilities. Since GA has traditionally been fully self-supporting and declines outside contributions, these expenses are met through voluntary financial support by the members. Experience has shown that acceptance of these financial responsibilities is a vital part of our individual and group growth process. Top of Page
GA is a unique spiritual movement having no central government and little formal organisation. There are no officers or executives who wield authority over the fellowship or the individual. Even though GA is an informal organisation, certain jobs have to be done.
In the local group, someone has to be responsible for the meeting place, look after the group finances, arrange for refreshments and keep in touch with other groups. This means that a group needs responsible people to perform these duties.
In accepting these responsibilities, a member may acquire a title, but titles in GA are used only to designate areas of service. Those who accept these responsibilities are directly accountable to those they serve. Top of Page
When compulsive gamblers apply the 12-step recovery programme in their lives, disintegration stops and unification begins. These steps are basically spiritual in their concept and their practice can be highly rewarding. These are the steps which are suggested as a programme of recovery.
- We admitted we were powerless over gambling – that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to a normal way of thinking and living.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of this Power of our own understanding.
- Made a searching and fearless moral and financial inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have these defects of character removed.
- Humbly asked God (of our understanding) to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God (as we understand him) praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having made an effort to practise these principles in all our affairs, we tried to carry this message to other compulsive gamblers.
No-one claims these steps are in any way original to GA They reflect practical experience and application of spiritual insights as recorded by thoughtful men in many ages. Their greatest importance lies in the fact that they work.
They enable us and thousands of others to lead happy, productive lives. They represent the foundation upon which our society has been built.
They were given to us freely, for which we are grateful. Top of Page
Unity is the most precious quality our society possesses. Our lives and the lives of all to come depend squarely upon it. Yet unity in GA cannot automatically sustain itself. Like personal recovery, it demands honesty, open-mindedness and, above all, vigilance. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “We must hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” So there can be no sacrifice too great if it will strengthen our essential unity. In maintaining unity we have begun to traditionally practice the following principles:
- Our common welfare should come first, personal recovery depends upon GA Unity.
- Our leaders are but trusted servants, they do not govern.
- The only requirements for GA membership is a desire to stop gambling.
- Each group shall be self-governing except in matters affecting other groups or GA as a whole.
- GA has but one primary purpose – to carry the message to the compulsive gambler who still suffers.
- GA should never endorse, finance, or lend the GA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
- Every GA group ought to be self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
- GA should remain forever non-professional, but our service centres may employ special workers.
- GA as such ought never to be organised, but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
- GA has no opinion on outside issues, hence the GA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
- Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion, we must always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, films and television.
- Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of the GA programme, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.
No, GA is composed of people from many religious faiths, along with agnostics and atheists. Since membership in GA requires no particular religious beliefs as a condition of membership, it cannot be described as a religious society. The GA recovery programme is based on acceptance of certain spiritual values but the individual member is free to interpret these principles as he chooses. Top of Page
Simply stated, the word can be said to describe that characteristic of the human mind which is marked by the highest and finest qualities, such as generosity, honesty, tolerance and humility. Inasmuch as the GA fellowship advocates acceptance of these principles as a way of life, it can thus be said that GA is a spiritual fellowship. Top of Page