When I was asked to share my story, I didn’t hesitate. I think it’s so important for people to see that everyday, regular people can have a gambling addiction.And by telling my story I hope I can help others and reduce the shame of compulsive gambling.
Looking back on it, I guess it’s not surprising that I developed a gambling problem. I had a risk-taking personality and was exposed to various forms of gambling as early as age 9. My father was a bookie and sold football tickets. I’d spend my allowance and purchase tickets from him.
I became insanely addicted to gambling in my early twenties. I was working at a charity bingo hall when the casinos opened in the ’80s, and a lot of us would go to the casinos after work.
For many years, Black Jack was my game of choice. Then one night in the mid ’90s, I had a dream that I put $20 in a slot machine and won a huge jackpot. Shortly after that dream, I went to the casino, put $20 in the slot machine and won $15,000. Not to long after, I crossed the line into addicted gambling thinking I would win bog each time I went!
From that point on, I switched almost exclusively to slot machines. It was a bigger, faster win, and I liked that I could isolate myself more. With cards, I had to communicate with others. I liked the solitutde of being alone and not have to be social with others when playing my slots.
Within six months after the big win, I realized I bit off more than I could chew. I had given back all the money, and more. I kept chasing that feeling of the huge win. See, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, the disease keeps you gambling until every penny is gone.
I soon became secretive about my gambling. I lied about losing and I lied about playing. I gambled any chance I could. I was feverishly stuck within the “cycle” of this disease of addiction.
In 2004, I started a business that quickly had financial success. I had so much money that I thought I’d never run out. But eventually I couldn’t even come up with postage to ship a package. I started selling stolen goods to cover my losses and eventually ended up in prison on a mail fraud charge.
After prison, I was released to a halfway house, where I stayed for six weeks before I had to move out. I had nothing but a car. I’d lost a beautiful home, a great marriage, and had never previously wanted for anything. But I was angry, and the first thing I did was drive straight to Mystic Lake Casino.
Less than nine months later, I was back in prison for violating probation by gambling at casinos. I was sentenced to 15 months in a higher security prison. But this time it was different.
Something clicked the day I was shackled off to jail and I had a spiritual shift. I decided that I would never gamble again, no matter what. I evaluated the choices I made and why I did what I did. Once I was released, I took responsibility for my own actions and worked hard to get back on my feet. I took a job at a restaurant and am now the manager.
My life is so much better and calmer now. I meditate every morning and am very involved in GA meetings. I listen to others and share my story whenever I can. I receive so much respect from other people and have enormous respect for others. I am very available to my family and my friends, some of whom have gone through recovery with me.
It means a lot to me to be very honest about this disease and what it’s done to me. A lot of things about gambling made me feel like the scum of the earth. It was much worse than anything I felt as an alcohol and drug addict.
I focus on my recovery at every opportunity. I hope to make a difference to others who similarly never expected they would go through the horrible things we do as gambling addicts. I urge and advocate to others now. Don’t let addicted gambling steal your life... ~Christine
The Northstar Problem Gambling Alliance (NPGA), the Minnesota affiliate to the National Council on Problem Gambling, is a non-profit, gambling-neutral organization dedicated to improving the lives of Minnesotans affected by problem gambling. NPGA is a coalition of individuals and organizations sharing the belief that problem gambling is a serious public health problem that is both treatable and preventable.
We work to raise public awareness about problem gambling and the stigma that’s often associated with it. We advocate for funding for treatment programs and provide professional training for those who work with problem gamblers. The collective impact of our efforts help individuals, their families and their communities deal with the devastating effects of problem gambling.
As a private 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, NPGA is funded by membership fees, financial and in-kind donations, and state and private grants. A considerable portion of our funding comes from the state of Minnesota and from major corporate sponsorships from the Minnesota Lottery, Canterbury Park, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.
The Northstar Problem Gambling Alliance is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of those affected by problem gambling through advocacy, education, training and research.
We achieve this by:
Bringing together those with a professional or personal interest in problem gambling.
Providing complete, accurate and unbiased information.
Advocating for public policies that assist problem gamblers and their families.
Raising public awareness of problem gambling.
Identifying those whose professions might bring them in contact with problem gamblers and their families, and educating those professionals on appropriate interventions.
Advocating for, conducting, and disseminating research that furthers our understanding of problem gambling.
Developing, delivering and supporting programs to prevent problem gambling.
We work toward our vision by upholding these core values:
Neutrality – As an affiliate of the National Council on Problem Gambling, we are neither for nor against legalized gambling.
Accuracy – We strive to ensure that all information we provide is accurate and complete.
Compassion – We recognize that problem gambling does not result from moral failings and that those with a gambling problem are not inherently bad people.
Inclusion – We believe that the interests of those affected by problem gambling are best served by inclusion of a wide range of interests. These interests include,but are not limited to, those in recovery, family members, treatment professionals, the gambling industry, those having professional contacts with problem gamblers, and those in other helping professions.
With the holiday season fast approaching and still living in uncertain times, it is more vital now then ever to have a Relapse Prevention plan ready. This is why I am very honored to have a Special Recovery Guestand dear friend of mine who has also been my close friend for several years and we have been through “thick and thin” together. He has become like a brother I never had.
He is not only a talented in-depth addiction and recovery writer, fellow author, and loud advocate, but he has been a mentor and one of my #1 supporters of my recovery from addicted gambling.
Yes, I am talking about Rev. Dr. Kevin T. Coughlin Ph.D…
I invited him as my special guest to help us with Gambling Awareness and some Expert Advice for this unusual holiday season. He has done so and all about Relapse Prevention!
Now, Kevin is in the process of revamping his website! I will invite you all to NOT hesitate by visiting his Amazon Author Bio Page and grab many of his best-selling award-winning books! Kevin has helped many from addiction and stopped the suffering for addicts and helped many families heal together. There are many to choose from when it is time to gain life and no longer a path of darkness.
All of Kevin’s books can assist and will enhance to uplift you in your recovery journey, help parents help an addict, and gives the skills and tools within each book that work. So I present this helpful and educational article that Kevin was kind enough to write and share with us today. I am sure it will give hope to those who may feel there is no HOPE… Recovery is always possible!
~Catherine Lyon, Author, and Advocate.
Relapse Prevention is Key to Long-Term Recovery from Gambling (Ludomania)
Problem gambling, or ludomania, is an urge to continuously gamble despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to stop. Problem gambling often is defined by whether harm is experienced by the gambler or others, rather than by the gambler’s behavior. Severe problem gambling may be diagnosed as clinical pathological gambling if the gambler meets certain criteria.
Pathological gambling is a common disorder that is associated with both social and family costs. “Pathological gambling” is the most severe form of problem gambling and has been recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as a disease since 1980. Gaming or gambling is supposed to be for fun, for entertainment.
Teenagers are 3 to 4 times more likely to become problem gamblers than adults. 90% of High School students have gambled at least once in the last year. In the USA ages 14-21, 2.1% struggle with Problem Gambling, another 6.5% are at risk. Every year, 2% -3%, 2M U.S. adults are estimated to meet the criteria for disordered gambling and another 4-6M individual are problem gamblers at risk for serious addiction consequences. Men make up 2/3 majority of Problem Gamblers.
Relapse ‘s definition, to fall or slip back into a former state or practice. Relapse certainly can happen to those who are in recovery from substance abuse and (Problem Gambling) process addictions; however, it should not be expected, only a possibility. Many individuals recover without ever knowing the first physical relapse in their entire lifetime of sobriety. Most have emotional and mental relapses at certain times, and some do have physical relapses as well.
There are three different types of relapse: Emotional Relapse Mental Relapse Physical Relapse
Remember that relapse is a process, Behavior Changes: Hanging around slippery people, places, and things. Arguing and acting out. No serenity, not demonstrating spirituality. Attitude Changes: Different priorities, meetings, and recovery not as important as they were. Changes in Feelings or Moods: Resentments, anger, boredom, not satisfied with anything, not grateful. Changes in Thoughts: Thinking that you may be able to use safely now. Not living a life of balance and not taking care of self can all lead to relapse.
“Don’t stay too long in the shame-filled grounds of relapse. Fertile soil awaits your return and your recovering.” – Holli Kenley
Major changes in the structure of life, such as divorce, losing a job, moving, having a child, death, a serious injury, a relationship change, things that are a major structural change or life events can lead to relapse.
When faced with tough times five tips that can help anyone avoid relapse are as follows:
1. Continue to work your program of recovery. The vehicle that promotes change. Draw close to whatever program or modality that got you sober in the first place. Call other sober friends in your support network and be honest about what is going on in your life. Don’t be afraid to pick up the 500lb. phone!
2. Utilize anger management skills. Dealing with problems right when they arise. Resentments are the number one offender; we can’t afford them. Don’t let the sun go down on a problem. Use anger management and problem-solving skills to work things out without letting emotions get the best of you. You don’t always have to be right, don’t always have to be in control, and don’t have to be perfect.
3. Beware of self-centeredness. Work on your spirituality. Don’t be selfish! Those who fail to grow spiritually will relapse. The one thing that we must do is maintain our spiritual conditions; that means we must continue to grow spiritually; we must go where we are spiritually fed.
4. Stay in the day and don’t project! ‘One day at a time is great wisdom’! All we should worry about is today, tomorrow will take care of itself, so don’t worry. There is a God, and you’re not it!
5. Stay grateful! We must maintain an attitude of gratitude, if we forget all of the gifts that we have been freely given in recovery, then we are headed for trouble! If we forget the bottom or event or circumstance that led us into a life of sobriety then we are also in trouble, we must as they say, “Keep it green!” I have never seen a grateful person relapse!
These Tips Will Help Anyone Who Walks in the Sunlight of the Spirit Stay There...
If you walk in the shadows and dark places, then surely that’s where your heart will end up. The only way to have real long-term, lasting, quality sobriety is to continue to grow in recovery, and that means maintaining our spirituality on a daily basis, continuing to be spiritually fed daily growing in experience and wisdom and helping others. You can’t live on yesterday’s manna!
Stress and anxiety have always been triggers for substance abusers and regular people to learn hope to cope with on a daily basis. Drugs and alcohol had been “the solution” for them in the past; now they must disengage from such behaviors and find genuine coping mechanisms that last. Gambling abusers also need to be offered alternative ways to find a solution through a twelve-step approach, non-twelve-step approach, harm reduction, medication management, holistic programs, faith-based programs, and other approaches. Individuals must learn healthy ways to cope with stress without the use of drugs or alcohol, utilizing these new-found tools as a solution to stress will lead to lasting sobriety. Those who don’t suffer from substance abuse will also need coping skills for life on their own terms being BET FREE.
Stress Coping Skills Key to Lasting Recovery Developing strong stress and anxiety management skills and techniques are paramount to long-term sobriety, a balanced and healthy life. These skills can help those in recovery to avoid relapse and sustain lasting recovery. Research utilizing lab animals has shown that stress can precipitate relapses with addiction to certain chemicals.
PTSD & Chronic Stress Chronic drug usage may alter brain pathways affecting the user’s response to stress; this can make them more susceptible to relapse. Those who suffer from PTSD and individuals who have been exposed to chronic stress may be more likely to relapse; this makes stress management skills all the more important.
Stress Leading to Relapse! Significant changes in jobs, relationships, moving, finances, health, and other structural changes that those in recovery are likely to deal with cause stress and anxiety. This is a normal part of life for everyone. For the substance abuser, it’s okay to try to escape from the pressure. They must be careful not to transfer addictions from drugs to gambling, sex, or some other addiction. Medical specialists from the National Institute on Drug Abuse believe that the leading reason for relapse back into substance abuse is stress.
Some Individuals Need Mental Health Help Healthy lifestyle changes are the best way to manage stress; some individuals will need to seek out help from mental health professionals as part of those changes. The Mental Health Professional will work with the Professional Coach to help the client reach their goals and solutions.
Some changes that people have found helpful:
Deep Breathing Meditation and Yoga Prayer Proper Diet Balance and Boundaries Time management Taking care of Yourself Better Identifying Stressors Talking Things Out Getting a Good Night’s Sleep Exercise Low-Stress Activities
Positive People are the Winners! In recovery and in life it is essential to connect with the right people, “stick with the winners” as they say. Those in early recovery need to be around individuals and groups that they can learn solutions from, recovery role models so to speak.
It’s also important for those in early recovery to find an attitude of gratitude; it’s easy to become angry and negative from the very beginning. Gratitude raises balance, awareness, and the spirit in a way that the person will begin to see things about life in a new way, like seeing life with a new pair of glasses!
Talking with Others Learning to tell on yourself in early recovery is one of the hardest but most beneficial skills. Talk things out with other sober people, give them a piece of your burden and suddenly your burden becomes light. Running, walking, lifting weights, writing poetry, journaling, drawing, being creative, move a muscle change and thought is a great way to get out of your head when stressed. My journal below can help!
Avoid Relapse by Journaling to Coping with Stress All people need to learn to cope with stress in recovery; it’s essential to avoid relapse and maintain sanity and balance. Utilizing just a few of the tools and techniques can work for anyone if they want them to work. Sometimes just a deep breath works!
Professional Coaches Have the Goods! Professional coaches have skill sets, tools, and core competencies that they utilize to help their clients change their lives for the better. They utilize specific action planning, powerful questioning, active listening, and many other skills and techniques to get the results needed to move forward toward the solution needed to achieve the client’s goals. Stress and anxiety aren’t good for anyone no matter their walk-in life.
Triggers that Can Jeopardize Your Sobriety When most people hear the word trigger, they think of the noun or the trigger of a gun; the verb trigger means to cause (an event or situation) to happen or exist. People who suffer from substance abuse and process addictions usually have triggers in their lives that are unique to their circumstances, past traumas, events, memories, losses, shame, guilt, anger, anxiety, etc.
A recovering person’s triggers are set in motion through one or more of the five senses: smell, sound, touch, sight, and taste. Make no mistake about it; although we are talking about the verb, triggers can be as dangerous as the trigger on a gun!
Triggers of the Emotional Variety Triggers can jeopardize your sobriety if they are not recognized and dealt with in early recovery. What triggers a relapse? Certainly, the reasons for relapse can be different for individuals; however, there are some commonalities such as fear, anxiety, stress, and depression. There are several other emotions that can also lead to relapse.
Triggers from People, Places, and Things Certain people, places, and things can trigger a relapse if they remind the person of their addiction. In some cases, all three of these may have to be removed from the individual’s life if they expose the person to a significant risk of relapse.
An example of a place, an alcoholic would not want to go to dinner in a bar that they drank at every day, where their old drinking buddies would be, and their favorite chair. In that case, all three areas of triggers would be involved.
Relapse is an Opportunity Not an Expectation There are triggers that can jeopardize your sobriety; however, with a little instruction, the whole situation can be turned into a positive. In early recovery, the person should be made aware of what triggers are and have help to identify their patterns of addiction and relapse…
Relapse is an opportunity to learn what a person’s triggers are so that they can be identified by the substance abuser and prevent the next relapse. Some say that relapse is an expected part of recovery, that’s a mistake! Relapse is always a possibility in recovery; however, it shouldn’t be expected, when we teach people that, we set them up to fail.
Balance is Key Balance is a key part of the recovery process, learning what we can do and cannot do and live in sobriety. Education, awareness, and prevention will assist the newcomers in recovery to understand the process of what genuine recovery means, avoiding all of the pitfalls that triggers may lead to on a daily basis by recognizing them and not allowing them to have power in your life of recovery.
Yes, triggers can jeopardize your sobriety, the good news is through education and awareness, you can prevent triggers from ever having power in your life. By taking the time to identify triggers and understand them, you can avoid situations that may have led you to relapse because of triggers in the past. You have empowered yourself and taken the power away from the triggers, great job!
Recovery is a lifelong process. We all make mistakes along the way, that’s alright, as long as we learn from them.
Pathological Gambling is a terrible disease that is becoming more and more of a problem in the United States. More teens are gambling than ever before in our history, more older Americans are becoming problem gamblers as well.
Don’t gamble your life away, bet on you, your family, and God!
Rev. Dr. Kevin T. Coughlin Provincial Superintendent, Ph.D., DCC, DDVA, DLC, DD, NCIP, NCAMP, IMAC, International- Best-Selling Author and Award-Winning Poet has dedicated his life to helping others. Through Education, Awareness, and Prevention Rev. Coughlin has helped thousands of individuals who were afflicted with the disease of addiction, their families, and loved ones.
He has trained hundreds of professionals in the addiction recovery industry and in the professional coaching arena. He has decades of life experience, education, work-related experience; however, perhaps the most valuable information that Rev. Dr. Coughlin possesses that sits atop of his incredible resume is wisdom.
Reverend Dr. Coughlin is the Founder of The Professional’s International Institute of Higher Learning Online and Phase Two Christian Coaching, LLC. He was a Founder and Board Member of New Beginning Ministry, Inc., a non-profit, twelve-step residential addiction recovery program for adults, he served for two decades. Rev. Coughlin has helped thousands of individuals and their families to change their lives over the past twenty-plus years.
He is an Addiction Expert, Award-Winning Poet, an International-Best-Selling author, his books, journals, and manuals are used in the United States and other Countries by professionals, individuals, and facilities. With over 44+ published works, the author resides in PA.