I first heard about the anonymous gambler community ten years ago. I knew there were groups for Alcoholics Anonymous, but nothing more. As my gambling became unmanageable, I sought for help for the first time in my life. This was towards the end of my University time in Ljubljana. I found the contact number, meeting location and appointment all online. I remember very well how I struggled to force myself to make a call. It took me a few days to gather my courage. And even then, I was scared and slightly in doubt if I should do it at all. But I promised my parents I would change something, so I had to take that step. Since the gentleman on the other end of the line was very kind and simple, I was convinced.
I had an appointment in the evening on a rainy Friday. Autumn was coming to an end and it was getting cold. This further undermined my will and desire for change. In such an atmosphere, I found the idea of talking to complete strangers about my big problems unattractive. To sit there in a room amongst adults who have worse problems than me felt repealing. Me, person over twenty, physically already an adult, but mentally more in hibernation. What should I tell them anyway? How should I talk to them? I felt like no one will understand me anyway.
Luckily, I was desperate enough to take the risk. I decided that I’ll go, and it will be as it will be. I thought to myself that I hadn’t had anything to lose.
I admit it, I wasn’t sorry that I went. Not then, not today at all. I was very well accepted. No one pressured me, I said what I wanted and as much as I wanted. They were all once in my skin and they knew how to fight. I actually listened more than I spoke. The more I heard, the more I couldn’t believe it. In each story, I found a part of myself. How is this possible?
Like personal recovery, this too demands honesty, open-mindedness and, above all, vigilance. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, ‘We must hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.’ So, there can be no sacrifice too great if it will strengthen our essential unity. In maintaining unity, we have begun to traditionally practice the following principles:
- Our common welfare should come first, personal recovery depends upon G.A. unity.
- Our leaders are but trusted servants, they do not govern.
- The only requirements for G.A. membership is a desire to stop gambling.
- Each group shall be self-governing except in matters affecting other groups or G.A. as a whole.
- G.A. has but one primary purpose – to carry the message to the compulsive gambler who still suffers.
- G.A. should never endorse, finance or lend the G.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
- Every G.A. group ought to be self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
- G.A. should remain forever non-professional, but our service centres may employ special workers.
- G.A. as such ought never to be organised, but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
- G.A. has no opinion on outside issues, hence the G.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
- Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion, we must always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, films and television.
- Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of the G.A. programme, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.
It is also a very important fact that the only condition for membership in Anonymous Gamblers is the desire to stop gambling.
Are you living with a compulsive gambler?
- Do you find yourself constantly bothered by debt collectors?
- Is the person in question often away from home for long unexplained periods of time?
- Do they ever lose time from work due to gambling?
- Do you feel that they cannot be trusted with money?
- Do they promise faithfully that they will stop gambling, beg and plead for another chance, yet gamble again and again?
- Do they ever gamble longer than they intended to, until their last pound is gone?
- Do they immediately return to gambling to try to recover losses or to win more?
- Do they ever gamble to get money to solve financial difficulties, or have unrealistic expectations that gambling will bring the family material comfort and wealth?
- Do they borrow money to gamble with or to pay gambling debts?
- Has their reputation ever suffered due to gambling, sometimes even to the extent of committing illegal acts to finance gambling?
- Have you come to the point of hiding money needed for living expenses, fearing that you and the rest of the family may go without food and clothing if you do not?
- Do you search their clothing, go through their wallet/purse when the opportunity presents itself, or otherwise check on his or her activities?
- Do you hide their money?
- Have you noticed a personality change in them as their gambling progresses?
- Do they consistently lie to cover up or deny their gambling activities?
- Do they use guilt induction as a method of shifting responsibilities for their gambling onto you?
- Do you attempt to anticipate their moods or try to control their life?
- Do they ever suffer remorse or depression due to gambling, sometimes to the point of self-destruction?
- Has the gambling ever brought you to the point of threatening to break up the family unit?
- Do you feel that life together is a nightmare?
If you answer YES to at least six of these questions you may well be living with a Compulsive Gambler.