Why isn’t Gamblers Anonymous always successful in curbing problem gambling?
GA has helped may individuals control their gambling urges. It utilizes a 12 Step program, and is similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. It relies on its version of the 12 Step program, and depending on the individual, enjoys success in curbing problem gambling. But why does this problem persist, and why does it not help all compulsive gamblers?
AA was begun by recovering alcoholics, and is the source of what is now known as a 12 Step program. They deal with a tangible problem. Alcohol is real, it has substance. With the assistance of AA, an individual can choose to put down a bottle, to resist the urge to buy that bottle, to resist the urge to go into a bar and order a drink. The consequences of drinking may be the loss of employment, loss of a relationship, loss of family, incarceration, even the death of that individual or an innocent bystander.
The gambler faces a more intangible dilemma. The urge to gamble is a “thought”, a want, a desire. It has no physical form or substance. Its basis is in the mind and the heart, and cannot be physically left behind or abandoned. You may stay out of a casino, or other gambling establishments or just play poker online to stay connected to the game albeit in a low key manner, but the urge to gamble is still with you. It is a very pernicious addiction, because it does not have any physical form to attack or resist. The consequences are still loss of a relationship, loss of family, incarceration for embezzlement or theft, the resulting loss of employment, depression, financial ruin, bankruptcy, even death or suicide.
The compulsion to overeat is also real. The results are often seen on a national stage, through the popular television series “The Biggest Loser”. This too is a tangible addiction, to food. Statistics consistently indicate that we are an overweight society. Readily available food, fast food, time pressures, etc, have led to this reality.
In its current season, there has been a change on the show. The individuals are once again, morbidly obese. As a group, they are the heaviest ever. The most recent change is that they were initially asked to announce in public that they were chosen for the show. They had to weigh-in, nearly naked, showing their obesity, often in stadiums or auditoriums, in front of their families and friends. This was humiliating for each of them individually.
But, we wonder if that humiliation is a catalyst that will cause them to succeed? We can be sure that they do not want to ever experience those feelings again. Embarrassment and shame at being revealed and seen. Many individuals promised those people present that they would return much lighter, through the tears of their embarrasment.
GA asks for anonymity, as do other 12 Step programs like AA. What if that anonymity is the reason some compulsive gamblers fail?
Instead of promising anonymity, what would happen if potential members were warned first that their identities as compulsive gamblers could be reported to all credit agencies? The individual has already gone to a GA meeting, and is admitting to the group at hand, that they have no power over problem gambling. Would the possible public knowledge of their problem be the catalyst that causes them to beat the problem? In addition, with that “stigma” on a credit history, potential lenders would take a more conservative stance, faced with the real possibility of potential loss. The benefit for the individual would be the inability to bury themselves in debt from gambling.
If this notification took place, employers should not be allowed to make hiring decisions based on that information. They may use credit scores as part of the hiring process, as most do. If you are motivated to beat gambling, and to be hired, don’t be a problem gambler. Businesses deserve to know this about you, particularly if you want to be hired by a financial entity like a bank or a brokerage firm. They should not be forced to hire a potential embezzler.
Casinos thrive in most states because of readily available funds. State governments welcome them because they contribute to that states tax base. ATM’s are on every corner, in every casino, payday loans stores abound, credit card offers are in every mailbox. Casinos always promise fun and riches beyond the limits of avarice. It looks inviting and easy to succeed, until all the bills arrive, which the individual problem gambler cannot pay. Public knowledge and the credit agencies would prevent many compulsive gamblers from being buried in debt.
Let’s add the public humiliation factor to GA. If you want something to happen, like being approved for a mortgage, don’t become a compulsive gambler. If you can borrow and use credit cards responsibly, don’t become a problem gambler. Recreational gambling can be fun. But, you must be able to afford the losses, without adding more debt to fund those losses. Most of us aren’t multi-millionaires. We can’t afford the losses. Casinos aren’t into giving away money. They are there to earn a profit, at our expense, through every means possible. If you don’t want collection agents calling you every minute of every day, don’t become a compulsive gambler.