Sunday, February 17, 2008

Is it always progressive?

An article was posted on the gettingpastgambling forum that really got me thinking about my own gambling experience.

Here’s what grabbed my attention “Harvard researchers found that gambling addicts do not necessarily get steadily worse over time, and they can fall in and out of problem gambling. Some may even recover from the addiction on their own.

And it also said “Often, their condition ameliorates, moving them out of more serious to less severe levels....and they are able to keep from returning to serious levels.”

I have a friend in recovery that argues that compulsive gambling is not necessarily progressive.

I also know that…I have landed in the cycle twice…and the experiences were very very different…some might say that my SECOND bout…was less severe than the first….here’s why…

The first time….I started gambling ‘for fun’…it was entertainment…and slowly I deteriorated….eventually I found myself in a TREMENDOUS amount of debt…gambling daily….gambling HUGE sums of money at any given time…it was all I wanted to do….except….I wanted to die….there was no way out…I knew I couldn’t stop.

When I was gambling I was compulsed to continue, and when I WASN’T gambling…I was obsessed with thoughts of it.

I managed to break free from the cycle…and abstained from gambling for nearly two years…and then… one morning…while going through some extremely traumatic events….I justified it….who could blame me? Besides…I didn’t have that much money on me….how much trouble could I get into?

That morning…I didn’t gamble too long..and I didn’t blow too much money…I was fine…there was a little bit of shame/guilt…but…it felt pretty good, too…and I didn’t hurt anyone.

The success of that morning allowed me to justify gambling again, a week or so later…where again, I didn’t cause too much damage.

I began gambling pretty regularly….over a two year period.

I did NOT gamble daily.
I did NOT gamble hundreds of thousands of dollars away (as I had the first time).
I was not ALWAYS obsessed with thoughts of gambling…my world did not revolve around it.

But I got back to the point where I DID gamble longer than I had planned…almost every time I gambled.

I gambled every dime that I had available to me to gamble with….even when it meant giving up things that I wanted (or needed) for myself….and I sometimes gambled with money that did not belong to me…at one time I had five pay-day loans.

I often called my brother, or friends of mine to ask them for money.

While my thoughts were not always around gambling…my thinking was impaired BECAUSE of gambling….I imagine that only a compulsive gambler who has been there…and is now in recovery can understand that statement…but…when I was in the cycle, my thought process was so far from normal…in so many ways.

The fact is….whether or not the addiction actually ‘progressed’ is unclear to me…I am thinking it did NOT…BUT

What *IS* clear is that….when I gamble, my life isn't good....when I gamble, I don't like how I think or how I feel.....abstinence is the only answer for me….

I have already progressed to the point that gambling causes problems in my life….i suppose it’s possible that I can gamble and my condition may not worsen..but…I don’t believe that it will ever get ‘better’…or that I will be able to ‘control’ my gambling for any length of time.

I believe that I will never be able to gamble like a ‘normal’ person…but….

Even if I could…

Why would I want to?

I am so busy…living my life.

* * * * * *

For reference purposes….The gamblers anonymous program says:

We know that no real compulsive gambler ever regains control. All of us felt at times we were regaining control, but such intervals - usually brief -were inevitably followed by still less control, which led in time to pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization. We are convinced that gamblers of our type are in the grip of a progressive illness. Over any considerable period of time we get worse, never better.”


“The explanation that seems most acceptable to Gamblers Anonymous members is that compulsive gambling is an illness, progressive in its nature, which can never be cured, but can be arrested.”


“The compulsive gambler needs to be willing to accept the fact that he or she is in the grip of a progressive illness and has a desire to get well.”


“The first bet to a problem gambler is like the first small drink to an alcoholic. Sooner or later he or she falls back into the same old destructive pattern.

Once a person has crossed the invisible line into irresponsible uncontrolled gambling he or she never seems to regain control. After abstaining a few months some of our members have tried some small bet experimentation, always with disastrous results. The old obsession inevitably returned.”

* * * * *
The article….as it appears at

GAMBLING ADDICTION NOT NECESSARILY A PERMANENT AFFLICTION Harvard Med School study shows there is hope for problem gamblers Presumably quoting from the Harvard Medical School report commissioned by the Vienna listed online gambling company Bwin, the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry has published the results of an HMS study that found many gambling addicts recover from their addiction naturally, without treatment, and that problem gambling is a more dynamic phenomenon than was previously believed. The published review paper, "Stability and Progression of Disordered Gambling: Lessons From Longitudinal Studies," covers five important studies conducted by Harvard researchers, whose findings challenge conventional wisdom about problem gambling. Problem gambling bodies have long held the belief that addiction to gambling is a degenerative condition, with victims betting more as the condition progresses, and continued betting fuelling the addiction. However, the Harvard researchers found that gambling addicts do not necessarily get steadily worse over time, and they can fall in and out of problem gambling. Some may even recover from the addiction on their own. "Although it might be tempting to assume that stability or progressive worsening characterizes disordered gambling, longitudinal study of classification patterns does not support this conclusion," say the researches in their review paper. In their findings, the researchers point out that short-term and long-term follow-up periods indicate that individuals with some gambling problems can experience considerable movement in the levels of gambling disorder. Often, their condition ameliorates, moving them out of more serious to less severe levels....and they are able to keep from returning to serious levels. "These findings challenge many common beliefs about the course of gambling-related problems and disorders," say the researchers. "Correcting such misconceptions is particularly important to youthful fields of inquiry, such as the study of disordered gambling." Lead author Debi LaPlante, a psychiatry instructor at the Harvard Medical School, told the The Ottawa Citizen, that the conclusion is surprisingly similar to what researchers have found about other addictions, such as alcoholism and heroin addiction. Many Canadian researchers are reaching the conclusion that addictive behaviours can come and go, and that they are conditions that afflicted people can learn to control with the right assistance. In the U.S., the prevalent thought is similar to that of the 12-step disease model which states that the addiction is always progressive. editors note: The above news article is based on the findings by a Harvard Medical School report - a report that is apparently sponsored by an online betting company: --

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