Recovery is possible.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines recovery as: a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential. The journey of recovering from a problem with gambling is unique to each person but can be a powerful and meaningful experience. It’s important to know that just like with any new endeavor there can be challenges, barriers and setbacks along the way.
Recovery from problem gambling is possible, and treatment works. There are millions of Americans living their best life in recovery from problem gambling. The more you learn about problem gambling and recovery from it, the smoother the recovery journey will be.
What is Recovery?
Recovery from any kind of addiction looks different for different people, but most people agree that recovery is about finding hope in life by gaining a better understanding of one’s self. This may include looking at your strengths and weaknesses and making new mindful decisions around how to live with purpose through self-improvement.
- Helping a person form a plan of action
- Directing that person to the right resources
- Helping them navigate the recovery system
- Providing accountability and support
- Offering guidance in developing new behavior patterns
- Helping them view their progress objectively
- Assisting in harm reduction for addictive behaviors
While only a trained clinician can diagnose a gambling addiction, screening tools and assessments can be used to help someone identify if there are risks that indicate they could be struggling with their gambling.
Self-help workbooks and guides can help someone who is motivated to stop gambling or to reduce the problems associated with gambling. These tools can be effective but are not a substitute for professional help.
Gamban is a software for blocking gambling sites and applications which can be used on computers, laptops, tables and mobile devices. It is free for residents of North Carolina and can be a powerful too to aid in willpower and reduce risk of returning to gambling.
For those who find themselves compelled to gamble, Voluntary Self-Exclusion (VSE) is an option available at casinos in North Carolina and with the lottery. VSE is a tool to help individuals struggling with a gambling problem to exclude or ban themselves out of legal North Carolina gambling locations.
What Makes Gambling Addiction Difficult?
Although there are many similarities between addictions, gambling addiction is different in many ways. One which stands out the most is money. While walking away from gambling may be difficult, avoiding money and other situations that may cause feelings of disease or the desire to use may be nearly impossible. People need money almost every day for necessities like food, rent, and to pay off their debts – which can be a constant reminder of their addiction and create feelings which could lead to a reemergence of symptoms. This means they need to be constantly mindful of their thoughts and feelings when using money.
Gambling offers a powerful sense of reward and achievement which may motivate people to keep gambling. Research on gambling addiction suggests that gambling can release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is also linked to chemical addictions. This release of dopamine can make a gambler feel elated, and even “high.”
The desire to gamble can be heightened by external or internal events, or both, like stress. Many people who experience a problem with gambling use gambling to escape or manage stress. This can create a vicious cycle of gambling to manage stress, but the gambling creates more stress, leading to progressively more gambling.
Gambling often occurs alongside other addictions, especially alcoholism. The relationship between two or more addictions can make recovery more challenging.
Many people in recovery who struggled with gambling choose not to be around gambling to avoid a return of symptoms. This can be very difficult. Because gambling is a popular, legal activity that is available almost everywhere from church fundraisers to sports events, avoiding temptation can feel like a full-time job.