My name is Russ and i'm a compulsive gambler. My last bet was April 2nd 2019. Step 1 of the GA programme is "we admitted we were powerless over gambling - that our lives had become unmanageable". I have heard many times in GA that this is the most important step on the road to recovery and I agree. One thing I don't agree with is the wording because for me it's not gambling I am powerless over, it's the addiction.
As a problem gambler I am in the minority compared to the millions of people who can gamble without it becoming a problem. Being open and honest to other people is vital on my recovery journey but it's also important that I am open and honest with myself. When I look back at the 14 years I was gambling there is one person and one person only responsible for my gambling and that's me. No one ever forced me to deposit money into an online account, I did that. No one ever forced me to sit up all night betting on ITF tennis, I did that. No one ever forced me to raise my stakes past a comfortable level, I did that. No one ever forced me to try out the casino section of a sportsbook, I did that. No one ever encouraged me to lie to cover up my gambling, I did that. No one ever forced me to take out loans so I would have money to gamble, I did that. Those are just a few examples, I could probably write a page full of things no one ever forced me to do.
The brutal and honest fact is that for me to continue in recovery I have to take responsibility for my actions in the past. I made the decision to immerse myself in gambling above everything else to the point it was the main focus in my life. Gambling went from a hobby or form of entertainment and I cultivated an environment for it to become an addiction and I allowed it to thrive and grow, no one else.
There are calls for the gambling industry to be responsible for stopping people becoming addicted to gambling which I feel is not fair. As I said at the start of this blog, there are millions of people who can enjoy gambling without it developing into a problem, I am in the minority. I know for a fact that when I was gambling if an operator had tried to stop me gambling I would have been livid and just taken my business elsewhere. I was the one who had to decide that enough was enough and I needed to be the on who wanted to stop gambling and enter recovery.
Now there is something I believe that the gambling industry could do to help people currently in recovery. The relentless advertising needs to stop. That for me is the biggest thing I've noticed, it is everywhere. Daytime TV shows being sponsored by bingo companies, betting adverts before, during and after sports events, advertising on sports tops, the list goes on. It's laziness on the part of the bookmaker and damaging for those in recovery. Even when I was gambling I thought there were too many adverts to the point it was annoying.
There also needs to be more awareness of the support networks that are available out there if people are suffering with a gambling addiction. I had a preconception of what GA would be in my head, a bunch of old men sitting round dying to have a bet, but that couldn't be further from the truth. GA is an amazing place filled with people who are further down the road of recovery than I am and I get so much from them. Maybe GA needs to be marketed slightly better and that will only come from people in recovery spreading a positive message.
For those that gamble currently without it being a problem or those who are new to gambling I feel the gambling industry could educate them more on "responsible gambling". Although the burden doesn't just land at the feet of the gambling industry because parents, schools etc should be educating people on the potential dangers of a gambling addiction, the same way I was taught about the dangers of alcohol addiction and drugs addiction.
For me this is my approach in recovery - I've accepted I have a gambling addiction and I am unable to bet as it will end in disaster. For that reason I go to GA, I've signed up to GAMStop and I've put many other barriers in place. I am also aware that gambling isn't going anywhere and nor should it. Millions of people are able to gambling without it becoming a problem, I am not one of them, I am in the minority. I need to learn to co-exist with gambling, not the other way round.