Gambling in and of itself is not a bad thing and can even be a lot of fun. Millions of people each year flock to gambling centers like Las Vegas, Atlantic City, or other legal casinos with the glimmering hope that one roll of the dice, one pull of that lever, or one hand of cards will change their lives forever. For the majority of these millions of happy gamblers, plopping down a few hundred in Vegas is all in good fun and when the money runs out, they walk away from the table thinking ‘better luck next time.’ Whether they drive back home with a little more cash lining their pockets or nothing at all, recreational gamblers resume their daily lives until the next time they get the hankering for another game of chance.
However, due to the intense rush of placing a bet and that promise of winning big that is hanging in the balance, gambling can quickly go from being an entertaining recreational pastime to something dark and all-consuming. Those who fall into a gambling addiction can’t wait for the next jaunt down the gaudy Vegas strip or even the drive to the local casino. With the advent of online gambling, those who just can’t help but place that bet are just a click away from their addiction.
Gambling is very much akin to that proverbial snake in the grass, particularly from the point of view of loved ones who are seeing someone descend into an obsession or a frenzy. What might seem like a harmless hour of playing online poker out of nowhere can turn into another night of no sleep or another missed appointment. Unsure how it happened, lives are ruined and bank accounts are drained. Remember, this is no longer the age of discovering someone has a gambling problem when they have a running drink tab at the local casino or when they are on a first name basis with the convenience store clerk selling lottery tickets. Gambling addiction in modern times too often shows up in the late night glow of a computer monitor and the rapid click-clickety-click of the mouse.
Warning Signs and Symptoms of Addictions
Unlike other addictions such as alcoholism or drug abuse when you can clearly see someone slurring their words, experiencing paranoia, or having cold sweats, there are no obvious physical warning signs of an online gambling addiction. It is all too easy for someone to shut their bedroom or office door and have no one else be the wiser of what they’re really doing. Plus, keep this in mind: the newly minted gambling addict often doesn’t even realize the extent of their addiction until it is far too late and real consequences have resulted.
As a concerned loved one, the absolute best thing you can do is watch carefully. While an online gambling addiction isn’t as easy to spot as gin bottles piling up in the recycle bin, there are some warning signs that will clue you in to whether someone you love may be addicted to online gambling.
Watch out for:
- Unwillingness to participate in activities that used to be enjoyed in favor of spending more time on the computer.
- Significant amount of time or money being spent on online gambling. It may get to the point that you will see a significant breakdown in close relationships and the inability to meet financial responsibilities, such as not being able to pay the mortgage when it was never an issue before and nothing else has changed.
- An increase in requests to borrow money to make up losses or being unable to stop spending money on gambling even when the money has run out. This warning sign will be evident by racking up credit card debt or by using the borrowed money to pay back debts already incurred.
- The inability to keep track of time while gambling online. It is very common for online gambling addicts to spend marathon sessions at the computer, so jazzed up from the prospect of winning big that they do not sleep.
- A strong compulsion to keep the online gambling, whether in whole or in part, secret from loved ones.
- There is Hope
The troubling thing about online gambling is the ease of access and the fact that temptation to gamble can be everywhere. Something as simple as peeking at email can quickly spark the addict’s desire to check their bets or play one more round of poker, which can lead into another and another. So how can an online gambling addict recover with temptation at every turn?
Fighting an online gambling addiction is like any other addiction. It can seem so insurmountable at the beginning. The very first step is to admit that your life has become unmanageable due to this addiction to online gambling. You need to critically examine the people, places, and things in your life that prevent you from recovering and cut them out completely. For instance, stop chatting online with the buddy who always entices you to play another round and remove your email from lists that have anything to do with online gambling.
Remember that no addiction can be fought alone. It is far too easy to give into that strong pull to gamble. Research has proven that addiction isn’t about whether or not you have the will power to fight it, but that it is an actual disease. Consequently, you may need to treat it as such by seeking professional treatment in a rehab facility that specializes in online gambling addiction.
In addition to rehab, it is best to join a 12-step program. Sign up with Online Gamers Anonymous (OLGA) for support based off the successful Alcoholics Anonymous principles. In OLGA, you will meet people just like you who are fighting hard to not give in and beat their addiction one day at a time.
You need to cancel all credit cards and other online pay sites, such as deleting your PayPal account, so you are no longer tempted to rack up debt in order to fund online gambling. Set up auto bill-pay with your bank so you can still pay your bills and not think you have more money in your account than you really do. You may wish to place your finances into the hands of a trusted friend or financial advisor until you are able to get the gambling compulsion under control.
Ask a loved one to help you schedule a daily agenda packed with activities and social commitments that you enjoyed before online gambling consumed the majority of your time. The idea here is to not have any downtime; as the expression goes, the devil finds work for idle hands to do. You should readjust your thinking about seemingly harmless objects such as your laptop or couch. Treat the spots and equipment that you occupied or used while gambling online as seriously as a recovering drug addict would treat the neighborhood his dealer frequents by avoiding them completely.
Remember that you have loved ones around you who you can turn to for help at any time, even if you’re afraid you’ve alienated them all. Chances are, the true friends and committed family members will be right there to cheer you on as soon as you reach out to let them know you’re doing your best to recover. Enlist their help at every step of your journey to recovery to keep you away from online gambling sites.