Understanding the root causes of addiction is crucial to recovering. The better we understand ourselves, the more prepared we are to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again. Today we’ll look at a few of the ways people become addicted to gambling and how to be open with your mental health counselor about your own personal story.
Gambling as Void Fulfillment
No one wants to lead a dull life. Dullness is boring and boredom is never fun. For many, addiction begins when we grow too attached to a particular source of entertainment. We subconsciously latch onto it to provide a daily sense of achievement. Gambling is a prime example of this, because the instant we win, we experience an endorphin rush. It isn’t hard to see why we can go overboard and develop an addiction when that rush feels so fleetingly satisfying. “They gamble to reach the high. They gamble to escape emotional pain for hours, for days, until the money runs out. They quickly relish the winnings, investing nearly all of it back over the next days and weeks. They slowly destroy their lives. They get caught in the cycle.” As explained by Damon Dye, EdD, LMHC, NCGC II, BACC.
The thing we need to realize is that there are hundreds of more genuinely fulfilling things we can be doing. Taking up gardening probably won’t ever lead to finding $10,000 in our yard, but can produce fresh fruits and vegetables without the probability of us losing $10,000 to get there. Alternatively, you can opt for something more minute-to-minute exciting, like getting in-shape to run races and learn the martial arts. You can even get a local sports team up and running and train to “win big” with a last-second touchdown.
The Ties That Bind
“Compulsive Gambling is when an individual is unable to control their desire to gamble. A compulsive gambler will continue to make wagers regardless of how often or how much they win or lose,” explains Aaron Sternlicht, LMHC, CASAC. Compulsive gambling doesn’t typically develop in a vacuum. There are usually direct ties to preexisting problems, and identifying those problems will help you and your health care provider to break the addiction. Depression can lead to addiction because when we’re feeling glum we often lose sight of what’s important and feel a willingness to toss aside reason in favor of reckless abandon. “After all, what does it matter if I lose? It’s not like my life is worth much to begin with.” This is a dark thought that can have serious emotional ramifications. If you’ve experienced such thinking while struggling with gambling, you have a clear and present root cause and you should inform your counselor immediately.
Anxiety follows along a similar track. Anxiousness over looming challenges can lead us to seek outlets for our apprehension, and those outlets aren’t always productive. Temptation to “live a little” before a major life change can take us to the casino, but we need to remember how to take ourselves back home afterward.
“Many people mistakenly believe that if they just had more money, all their stress would disappear and they’d be blissfully happy.” Bahareh Talei, Psy.D. said. However, it is not. That is why financial challenges are a common source of compulsive gambling. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s ever seen an old gangster movie, but plenty of the people glued to the poker table are in debt. If you’ve fallen on hard times and don’t know if you can recover, gambling is never the answer. You’ll only fall further into debt. But no matter how far you’ve slid, it’s never too late to walk away. Be frank with your counselor about your financial burdens. Go into clear and concise detail about what brought you into the hope that gambling would help, and listen to their advice.
You may also wish to consult an economic advisor. Opening up about the reality of debt is a harsh subject, but avoiding the issue will only bring further hardship. If you’re privileged to know someone personally with an exhaustive economic background, make asking them for help a significant priority. Set up a meeting, offer to pay for coffee, and be forthcoming about the problems that you face. Ensure that they understand you’re on the road to recovery and thank them for taking the time to make a difference.
Follow All Directions
We’ll close with an obvious but nevertheless urgent piece of advice. Your counselor wants what’s best for you, so take this seriously and consider everything that they say to you. Don’t leave your counseling sessions behind at the door; take them with you everywhere you go. Think critically about what you’re told and meditate over it in the morning or before bed. Make it a part of your daily routine, replacing the time you’d previously spent agonizing over gambling. Adopt a new philosophy of positive change and you’ll break the losing streak with a true victory.