Tuesday, May 31, 2005

PA Forms Plan To Treat Problem Gamblers

With slot-machine gaming coming to Pennsylvania, the state is developing programs to help those with gambling addictions according to an article in today's Patriot-News newspaper.

Local officials are eager for help from the state before the opening of the first slots parlors, which is expected next year.

The state Gaming Control Board is establishing a program to deal with compulsive gambling. The state Department of Health's Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Programs is developing a statewide system of certified counselors to treat those with gambling problems.

Gene R. Boyle, director of the bureau, concedes that there is much to do. He is working with a budget of $1.5 million for gambling-addiction programs statewide.

"We are certainly planning and taking a hard look at how we are going to certify counselors and what facilities are going to be providing those services," Boyle said.

Plans call for a 24-hour hot line for problem gamblers, public education and training about pathological gambling.

County human service agencies that likely will have to treat those with gambling addictions are eager for state training for their counselors.

"I think the Health Department needs to begin to roll out some training related to gambling addictions, so that people in the substance-abuse field can get certified, or at least get enough training to recognize these folks when they come through the treatment door," said Smittie Brown, executive director of the Dauphin County Executive Commission on Drugs and Alcohol.

The commission is likely to end up as a referral agency for the state, Brown said. He said that none of the service providers he knows of have qualified counselors to deal with gaming addictions.

Approved by Gov. Ed Rendell and the Legislature last year, the slots gaming law authorizes 14 casinos to operate in Pennsylvania.

more

And a side article here discussing the addictive nature of slot play.

John's Comments: As Pennsylvania has absolutely no certified counselors in the state, much less any treatment centers, there is a lot of work to be done here. But I am glad to see at least a start.

Recovery Saying of the Day...

"Abstinence, then serenity."

For me, before I could even consider any level of serenity I had to first be able to get a clearer head. While gambling things that now seem completely insane managed to make sense at the time. I spent every day while gambling chasing myself, trying to cover up for my actions, finding money first to pay what I had "borrowed" the night before and then enough more to start the cycle once more. In between I was trying to work, care for a family, and carry on a "normal" life. All I did was create mountains of problems.

Once I was able to remain abstinent for a period of time, at least I wasn't running around in the same circle every day. Only then was I able to think about the things I ACTUALLY cared about.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

"Its not gambling - Its Poker!"

Here is a good article to add to the list of those out recently discussing the poker craze, how it has infiltrated those all the way to the ages of 12 and 13, how parents often ENCOURAGE the activity as an alternative to what they feel is a safe alternative to drugs and booze, and how it can turn into a problem.

One parent in the article at least sees the pitfalls:

"It's setting them up to do this when they're adults," Galli said. "It's a bad habit to get into. ... A vice is a vice. I'm not going to say, 'My kid's not taking drugs so I'm happy he's playing poker.' What happens when he starts losing $500 a weekend?"


I hope more parents start to see it this way.

John

Nebraska Joins States With Increasing Compulsive Gambler Problem

The number of Nebraskans seeking treatment for problem gambling is soaring. State-funded programs counseled 820 people in 2004, a 210 percent increase in two years. But the amount of money available to help pay for gambling addiction treatment is stuck at less than $750,000.

An article in today's edition of the Lincoln, Nebraska Joural-Star entitled "Curbing compulsive gambling takes money" outlines some of the problems that Nebraska, like other locations around the USA and the world for that matter are grappling with.

The article points out that the amount of money advertising the state's lottery far outweighs the amount dedicated to treating compulsive gambling.

Recovery Saying of The Day...

"Easy does it."

This is one of the oldest and most used saying in 12-Step programs. The idea is that we must not try to solve all of the problems we have taken a lifetime to create, in a single day. Yet, once we make the comittment to stop gambling, and truly believe it, we WANT to repair all of the damage we have caused as our remorse sets in. We must be careful not to bite off more than we can chew, otherwise we become discouraged, and may go back to gambling.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Day 923 - Memorial Day Weekend

Good morning all,

Just a quick post today. I have a busy weekend planned and am already running late. But I have been thinking a lot lately about a set of parents of a compulsive gambler that were at that Gamblers Anonymous meeting I attended Thursday night.

These parents were so emotional about the situation they found their youngest son in, even though with the help of the fellowship he has not placed a bet in over 100 days. Two things struck me about this situation though.

The father spoke and talked about how as a parent his first inclination was always to just "fix" everything for his children. He did not like to see them suffering, and if he could do something to relieve that pain, he did it! I understood completely. However, he went on to say that it didn't work. Soon after the immediate problems were fixed, his son went back to gambling and created even worse problems.

I have shared here often that as hard as it may be to watch, many times the absolute WORST thing a loved one of someone with a gambling addiction can do is pay the bills, give them money, or similar items. We, as problem gamblers MUST NOT HAVE ACCESS TO MONEY at first. See, somehow we convince ourselves that the only way to solve the problems we create, is to engage in the activity that caused them, GAMBLING!

The other part of what this father said was very uplifting and gave me hope for the compulsive gambler. He said that his son told him and his wife that he was attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings, and that he thought the parents should attend Gam-Anon meetings, just to see what they were like, since the parents, like many could not understand the thinking of compulsive gamblers. The father continued, saying "he told us to attend, even though he knew that might 'hurt' himself". What he meant by that is that Gam-Anon meetings help loved ones understand that bailing out the gambler only makes things worst most times. They did realize this, and the son is struggling in many ways today financially and still has thoughts of gambling.

But, the father, holding back tears as he spoke, said in the long run this is better for the entire family.

I agree.

Have a great holiday weekend everyone. I will still try and post news as I can.

John

MN Council On Compulsive Gambling Investigated

Well, this is not good for the cause. I have received a couple of articles today about an investigation into the finances of the Minnesota Council On Compulsive Gambling. There are many legitimate questions as to how much of there many was spent. There are indications that even the programs and literature they did create was not dispersed and not well thought out.

The best editorial I have read is posted in the Duluth, MN newstribune.com .

I hope they get this situation righted immediately, and that any other councils facing similar problems fix them before they damage all the good that most of the state level councils are doing.

John

Recovery Saying of The Day...

"Change is a process, not an event."

I have often shared here that many days go by that I do not "notice" anything different, or "better" about my life. But, as long as I do not take that as an opportunity to make it worse by placing a bet, over time I do begin to notice the ways that I have changed, and my life has improved.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Even Lottery Scratch Offs Can Cause Problems For Some

Some have wondered here whether a simple form of gambling such as the lottery can get out of control. Well, here is an article in the "Daily Item" of Lynn, MA that shows it in fact can.

The reporter sits in on a Gamblers Anonymous meeting in the town and reports on what is said. Apparently Lynn has the highest amount of revenue generated by the state lottery, and sure enough there were several people at this GA meeting discussing the fact that they cannot stay away from the scratch offs. The stories are often the same, regardless of the type of gambling.

I must also comment on another thing I noticed in this article though. During a person's therapy at a meeting, the time is pretty much theirs to speak what they like. There are few rules. But as a whole, GA members (during the meetings) try and refrain from discussing "outside issues". We live by this guideline in an effort to refrain from arguing during a meeting over a controversial topic, or offending another in any way. The purpose of the meetings are to share with each other how we can stop gambling. In the article however, several of the members, including the chairperson commented on the gaming industry and their perceptions that they had no interest in helping compulsive gamblers.

I have heard those in my meetings occasionally speak the same thoughts, especially people newer in the program who want to, HAVE to, blame something for the predicament they are in. Usually time tempers this view as we learn that it is US who must accept responsibility for our actions. I never discuss my views of legalized gambling in a meeting. That is one of the reasons I started this blog, to allow me to comment on those "outside issues".

I guess I just found it interesting that some people with apparently some level of abstinence were still talking like this at a meeting.

Oh well. Each meeting is self governing except as it affects GA as a whole.

John

Recovery Saying of the Day...

"Willingness is the key."

I read on an internet posting board earlier today from a man who was rightfully celebrating his 5 months without placing a bet. He shared his experience of going to many Gamblers Anonymous meetings in that time, and of the strength those meetings provided.

He also shared though that it was "willpower" that helped him through. I prefer, and our GA literature talks about this as more of a "willingness" to be open to the help and tools that are available, if only one is ready to use them.

It is not always easy to be "willing" instead of "willful", but it has been a key for me in my recovery from compulsive gambling so far.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Day 921 - Gam-Anon - Hearing From Those We Affect

Some Gamblers Anonymous meetings are more memorable than others.

Tonight I attended a combined meeting of GA and Gam-Anon . For those of you not yet aware, gam-anon is a program that offers those that have been affected by a compulsive gambler a place to go and be with others that have also been hurt. The program is tailored after Al-Anon, much as GA is tailored after AA.

The meetings of the two groups are often held at the same time and place, but in separate rooms. This allows for easier scheduling and traveling since most often it is husbands and wives that attend one or the other meeting. Tonight however, the two groups held a big meeting in the same room. We do this occasionally, especially on celebration days, as a way to keep the programs linked to each other. Today was the 12 year celebration for a dedicated Gam-Anon member, so the meetings took advantage. Over 30 people there tonight, about 1/2 from each program. On top of that we had a "returnee" woman gambler, with her husband tonight. As usual, time away from GA has not made the woman's life better.

Anyway, the reason this meeting stood out for me is because I don't often get to hear from those we hurt. My ex and the kids are gone. We talk, but mostly about business type things. Not much personal anymore. Tonight I heard once again from the parents, son, husband, and wives of compulsive gamblers. Some were there with the gambler tonight, others were there as there loved one was gambling tonight. The honesty, confusion, compassion, and understanding of these people is amazing. I am not sure at all if a loved one did to me, what I did to mine, that I would be around to care what happened to them.

A few tidbits:

From the mother- (tears flowing) - of a gambler with just over 100 days bet free but struggling "As long as you don't give up, we never will"

From the son of a gambler who had lost all of the family fortune - "At first I was just plain angry. Until I realized the true extent of the problem. Then I took a picture of my "fantasy dad", and buried it. Now I am closer to my "real dad" than I have ever been.

From the husband whose wife was gambling as we held the meeting - "She thinks she can stop on her own. Maybe she can. I finally had to learn that I cannot "fix" her.

It just seems that when we have these meetings together the true emotions can really get flowing.

I can't wait until the next time.

Good night all.

John

International Problem Gambling Conference Begins Today In New Zealand

Stemming the tide of problem gambling in New Zealand and throughout the world will be the focus of the second International Gambling Conference: Policy, Practice and Research - One Year On.

As this conference gets started, there will be many news articles written. Any that are of particular note I will expand upon. Otherwise I will link to each of them as they get released.

Todays articles include:

International Gambling Conference Kicks Off Today

Problem gambling onus on the hosts

The government appears intent on wiping casino gambling out of existence by imposing restrictions that are costing it hugely at the bottom line.

Happy reading!

John

Pathological Social Costs Cited By Opponents Of Expanded Gambling In Minnesota

An online article posted on the Heartland.org website discusses the political realities behind some politicians desires to expand legalized gambling in Minnesota. I have commented in the past on this proposal as the suggestion is that the state do more than merely "tax" a privately owned Indian casino, rather the governor is proposing a FULL PARTNERSHIP in all aspects of the proposed twin-cities casino. He says the initial 200 million dollar "licensing fee" will help plug a huge state budget deficit.

Opponents from all sides are voicing concerns with the reasons for opening the casino at all, citing among other things, the social costs of problem gamblers. One opponent quoted in the article cites a statistic that more than 12% of criminal activity in counties with casinos would not occur if the casino was not present. Interesting.

Lots of other facts and figures to peruse in this one also. As before, my biggest problems with this state's proposals are NO mention of how much of the revenue will go towards treating compulsive gambling, and even more importantly I absolutely do not think any state should be DIRECTLY involved in casino gambling. There are enough problems with the so called "compacts" signed with other states.

John

Legalized Gambling In Texas - A Christian Perspective

Interesting little blog today on the a Christian activism blog "Christians for Change" on legalized gambling in the State of Texas (There is very little today and expansion is unlikely). The blog and comments following discuss the pros and cons of legalized gambling from a moral, as well as fiscal government stance. The writer and his readers discuss the social costs of legalized gambling including gambling addiction, but also discuss the different ways both Democrats and Republicans seem to arrive at the same point on the issue.

Worth a minute of your time. Click on the link above.

John

Kit Aimed At Combatting Problem Gambling In Seniors

Interesting short article on a new kit aimed at helping Canadian senior citizens learn about gambling addiction. Read it here.

Gaming Spokesman Denies Theory That Access Increases Gambling Addiction

The president of Atlantic Lottery Corp. says it's a myth to say government-licensed gambling increases addiction. This according to an article posted on the CBC St. John's (Canada) website.

"Regulated gaming does not drive prevalence. at all," says Michelle Carinci, who spoke to a St. John's business gathering Wednesday.

Carinci continues in the article, "There is absolutely no evidence and no statistics to support the fact that regulated gaming drives problem gambling. "

Ms. Carinci's position is that there is a prevalance of a certain segment of society to be compulsive gamblers. I agree. But, the fault in her argument is that increasing access to avenues of gambling do not increase the "activeness" of that population segment.

I am a case in point here. Yes, I am a compulsive gambler. Probably always have been. But, somehow I managed to make it almost 40 years of my life without ENGAGING in my addiction. Once the availability of legalized gambling arrived in my state, off I went! Additionally, I have met many people that I am sure might never have even placed a bet had the casinos not been opened. I mean I know an 85 year old lady who had never gambled in her life. Within two years she had lost everything she worked for. I find it unlikely that had the casino not been within a 30 minute drive for her, she would have done the same thing.

Remember, I am NOT anti-gambling. I agree with Ms. Carinci that what needs to happen is to make treatment available for those of us with the problem. But, for that to happen, some in the gaming industry need to at least ACKNOWLEDGE the fact that availability increases activity.

John

P.S. - As a side note, this point was only one in the article. The main focus was whether the Canadian government was going to allow electronic KENO machines in retail locations and bars.

New Problem Gambling Treatment Program Started In Canada

More help is on the way for older adults in Thunder Bay (Ontario, Canada) who are struggling to beat addiction.

St. Joseph's Care Group has been chosen as a test site for an in-house substance abuse and gambling treatment program. Spokesperson Nancy Black says the Sister Margaret Smith Centre is one of four across the province that have been chosen to host the pilot project. The program is available to all Ontario residents. Black says a list of clients has already been compiled and the first program is expected to begin next month.

There are two levels of treatment. One is a 21-day substance abuse/ problem gambling program, while the other is an intensive 10-day gambling treatment program.

Reprinted from the Thunder Bay Source Online - 5/26/05.

Recovery Saying of the Day...

"My recovery is like a pair of train tracks. As I move forward on my recovery track, my addiction is moving right along with me on the parallel track."

I have heard at meetings time and time again from those that have gone back out to do more "research" that they may start back to gambling with small bets, but before very long at all they are deeper into the addiction than they ever were before.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Day 920 - My Other Hobby Intersects With My Compulsive Gambling Interest

Good evening,

Went to a meeting tonight. Heard two more people coming into the fellowship, one newcomer, and one "returnee". Both were the latest victims of the "its not gambling" poker craze. As with myself, and many in the gamblers anonymous meetings, they had won some money, but in the end lost much more back, as well as things far beyond money.

This sort of leads me into my other interesting site of my day. I have what some would consider a "weird" hobby. I enjoy monitoring public safety radio. You know what I am talking about...Police, Fire, Medics etc... I never GO to anything I hear, but I do like knowing what is going on around me as well as it brings me back to some of my past life, before gambling forced me to give up that life forever unfortunately. I miss being in that line of work a lot.

Anyway, twice today I heard things that reminded me of my problem gambling. First, earlier in the afternoon I heard a "medical aid" call get dispatched to the local casino. As the police got there first, I heard the officers on the "chit-chat" channel saying it was no big deal, just someone had lost too much money and passed out. When I heard this I remembered all those times I felt dizzy and almost passed out myself not having a clue what I was going to do to solve the problems I created "this time".

Then, just a little while ago as I am watching the Padres in a wild one, a local supermarket gets robbed by 2 guys with guns. Nothing too unusual about that unfortunately. But again as the officers are looking for the car they think the crooks left in, they said "notify the sheriff for the Indian reservations as they are probably on the way to the casinos with the money". Based on where the robbery took place, and the race of the suspects, they had some idea what "crew" was involved, hence the possibility they went gambling with the proceeds.

Today is not the first time I have heard this type of thing, but to hear two completely different spectrums of the scenario in the same day was interesting.

I m just glad I did not place a bet today and went to a meeting to help me remember why I didn't.

John

High School Principal And Compulsive Gambler Sentenced To 90 Days After Stealing From School

A Catholic High School Principal in East Moline, Illinois was senteced to 90 Days in jail as well as community service and restitution for his admitting stealing to cover gambling debts. This is according to an article in the Quad City Times Online Edition today.

“I was unable to stop,” Todd Morris, 29, said. “I take full responsibility for what I did.”

Morris was sentenced to 90 days in Rock Island County Jail, four years of probation, 400 hours of community service and to pay a $500 fine and court costs. He also was ordered to pay $11,480.76 in restitution. Morris actually will serve about 45 days in jail, officials said.

The judge suggested that Morris use his background in education and required community service hours to educate people about gambling addiction.

Prison, Insanity, or Death. Just another example of where this addiction can take some of us.

John

Sports Ilustrated Article Explores Poker Craze and Problem Gambling On Campus

"ON A TYPICAL NIGHT ONLINE I'LL START OUT WITH $100. I'LL PLAY UNTIL I LOSE. I'LL LOOK AT THE SCREEN, TEARS IN MY EYES, AND THINK OF ALL THE THINGS THAT I NEED MONEY FOR. SO I PLAY AGAIN, PUT IN ANOTHER $100."-- TOM, JUNIOR, INDIANA


One of the many interesting quotes from an article from the Sports Illustrated Online article entitled "All In". The article is included in the "SI on Campus" section and joins many other articles of late regarding the poker craze on campuses across the country.


The article itself does a pretty decent job of disucssing the current state of this craze, fad, obsession, or whatever that is sweeping across the country's colleges. They do spent some time discussing the negative aspects of the issue including a tendency towards compulsive gambling, but of course also mention how some lucky few are claiming to win their tuition playing poker.


I do have one pretty significant complaint however. At the end of the article they list a bunch of links to sites of interest. NOT ONE OF THEM is a link to Gamblers Anonymous , or any other problem gambling site. Given the amount of ink they devoted to the problem gamblers in the story, those links should have been included.


John

Recovery Saying of the Day...

"Remember that compulsive gambling is incurable, progressive, and fatal."

I must never think that I can stop doing what I do each day to keep from placing that first bet. There is no real "cure" for my addiction. I can arrest the symptoms by remembering my powerlessness over gambling and taking the actions each day to keep from becoming active. If I do not remember this it will not be long before I am back to the same life I had before. Since I know the addiction is progressive, my life will likely even get worse, if that is poassible, eventually leading to my death.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Day 919 - Gamblers Anonymous Convention

Hello All,

Padres win again! Back in first place after beating the AZ Diamondbacks tonight. Nice!

Not a lot going on with me of late, hence one of the reasons for a little dearth of journaling. Other reasons are I have been busier at work lately so it makes it hard for me to do anything in the daytime, and then I wasn't feeling well. Better now though.

So, I am finally going to make my payment for the National Gamblers Anonymous convention this October 7-9, 2005. It is being held here in San Diego by chance so I had some decisions to make before I registered. See, plans range in price from just a small $45.00 registration fee which allows access to all the workshops and the hospitality room, but no meals or hotel stay, all the way to $379.00 which does include 2 nights hotel and all meals and banquet/dance access.

Thankfully since I have quit gambling and am no longer throwing that money away, things are not as tight financially. But I still do owe considerable money to others and $379.00 could easily go somewhere else when there really was no REQUIREMENT that I stay overnight in the hotel since I live about 30 minutes away. At other conventions out of town I have attended of course this is not an issue. If I go, I must stay at the hotel. But I wasn't sure I would this time.

Anyway, after some soul-searching I decided I will in fact spend the entire weekend at the hotel. I decided that as a recovering compulsive gambler I must continue to make that recovery my highest priority. Otherwise I could find myself back where I was 920 days ago. As I have discovered at other conventions, much of the best stuff happens OUTSIDE of the normal convention activities, and sometimes in the middle of the night at the 24 hour meeting, or in the lobby. Keeping these things in mind I decided the money is a good investment for myself, and those I owe . If I go back to gambling there is no chance that they will see their money again, right?

Also, staying in the hotel will allow me to help the convention committee as needed to keep things running smoothly. We are expecting upwards of 500 people to attend from around the world so they will need help with the unexpected. I will be happy to do it.

So, one more decision made. I don't have to think about it anymore. As Forest Gump says "thats good...one less thing!"

Hey, if you are interested in a really good time with golf, San Diego weather, great recovery and fellowship, click on the link in this post or on the home page of this blog. I would love to meet readers I have not yet met!

Good night all...

John

Recovery Saying of the Day...

"Every recovery from compulsive gambling began with one hour not placing a bet."

Everything has a starting place. If you think you have a gambling problem, let this be yours.

Casino Operators Worry Curbs To Assist Problem Gamblers Will Make Company Less Valuable

New Zealand Casino Company Sky City Entertainment says that curbs being required to assist in the reduction of problem gambling issues in the country will erode the value of the company at some point. This according to an article posted today at Bloomberg.com .

Calls to impose further restrictions on gambling may grow louder this week as Auckland hosts an international gambling conference on May 27.

Drug Company Planning Next Phase Of Trials In Hopes Of Controlling Gambling Urges

As part of a larger press release, San Diego based drug company Somaxon Pharmaceuticals Inc. released the following statement today:

A Phase II clinical trial with oral nalmefene for the treatment of pathological gambling was completed by Somaxon's strategic partner, BioTie Therapies Corp. in 2003. Somaxon intends to initiate a double-blind, randomized, multicenter Phase II/III clinical trial in 2005 for the use of oral nalmefene for the treatment of pathological gambling, a growing health concern that has been recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association since 1980. It is estimated that in North America there are approximately 3 million pathological gamblers according to the National Gambling Impact Study Report. Pathological gambling is designated as an Impulse Control Disorder (ICD) which also includes pyromania, kleptomania, and intermittent explosive disorder. Pathological gambling and other ICDs represent significant unmet medical needs, with no approved drug therapy to treat these disorders.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Day 918 - Sick today

Sorry no updates so far today. Really busy at work and not feeling well. Will try to update any news later tonight. Sorry.

John

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Australia Gov't Cancel Problem Gambling Research

According to an article published today in the online edition of the Australian newspaper "The Age", a study to try and determine if there is a link between crime and depression and problem gambling. The article does not say however WHY the research has been cancelled.

The paper also says the government has other research studies that have been completed, but not released to the public. They hint that the reason behind the cancellation of this recent study and failing to release completed ones is that the government will not like that the results will show gambling should not be permitted in certain areas.

In my view, this is unacceptable! I do not know what the results of the studies will show, but as I have stated often here, I am an open-government believer. These studies should be released, and the study about crime should absolutely be completed!

John

Day 917 - The World Is A Small Place

Good morning,

Another beautiful one here, maybe not quite as hot as yesterday.

Went to the wedding I spoke about yesterday, actually I guess it was more just the reception. Only family was present for the actual ceremony earlier in the day. It was a nice gathering. I would estimate about 150 people or so all together. Food was awesome, dancing was nice, and just seeing people in a happy mooe was very nice. I have to admit, it did not seem that there were as many compulsive gamblers there as I expected, but it wasn't like I was alone or anything.

As a matter of fact, I was reminded that the world really can be a small place at times. As I am wandering through the house visiting and meeting new folks, I saw some people I recognized but did not know from where. I did not think it was from GA, and sure enough they weren't. I introduced myself, and after about 20 seconds of talk we realized that we knew each other from over 7 years ago in my prior life as a software executive. They were relatives of the bride in the ceremony, and from out of town. Turns out they both work for a large law enforcement agency that I was courting as a client before my gambling days. We had actually spent some time together back those years ago, so it was nice catching up. But, if I cared about such things anymore, what are the chances I would run into these people at a wedding of a compulsive gambler friend of mine, hundreds of miles, and many years away. Strange.

Of course then came the inevitable discussion of where I had been, what I was doing. There are times I discuss my gambling history and times I don't. I am not ashamed of it at all, but I need to be careful not to break anonymity of another. These people only knew I was a friend of the groom's, and there were many other "friends" there. I have no idea whether these people knew about the groom's gambling past, and it sure wasn't my business to tell them. Since the chance existed that me talking about my gambling past may lead to them making a connection, I decided better against mentioning it. Besides, in the end it would not have added much to the conversation. Who knows if I will ever see these guys again.

I did have a good time though. It was nice to get out and let loose a little bit. After two+ years I still am dealing with some of my past wreckage so I don't get to do that as much as I would like.

Anyway, back to the yardwork today, and baseball! Not a lot of news the last few days, but I will post what I come across.

John

Recovery Saying of The Day...

"Take what you can use and leave the rest."

Not everything I hear in a meeting applies to my life, or my current situation, but SOMETHING always does. Rather than get upset about the things I may find boring, or "wrong", I focus on what I can use from the sharing of others. The same thing applies for my own sharing, both in meetings and here on this site. All I can offer is my own experience, strength, and hope. Hopefully some of it will help another. If not, I cannot control that.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Golf Tourney To Help Compulsive Gamblers - 6/6

If you are gonna be in Middletown, New Jersey on June 6th you can help raise money to aide compulsive gamblers by playing a round of golf!

The New Hope Foundation will hold its ninth annual Charity Golf Tournament and Dinner at 11:30 a.m. June 6 at Bamm Hollow Country Club, 215 Sunnyside Road, Middletown. The New Hope Foundation aides in the recovery for those who are dealing with substance abuse and compulsive gambling.

Registration begins at 11:30 a.m. The cost of $275 includes a barbecue lunch, courtesy beverages, golf balls, use of locker facilities and a golf cart, a reception with hors d' oeuvres, a cash bar and a filet mignon buffet dinner. Tee-time will be at 1 p.m. with a shotgun start. Throughout the day, many contests will be held. A reception will be held at 5:30 p.m. followed by a a buffet and raffle at 6:30 p.m. Golf attire is appropriate for the event.

Anyone interested in more information or to register should call Linda Corbo at (732) 946-3030, Ext. 248.

Reno TV News To Highlight Problem Gambling - 5/23

If you are in Reno, NV tune into KRNV channel 4 on Monday 5/23/05 on both the 4 PM and 11 PM editions for their story on problem gambling entitled "Deal Me In".

Let us know whether it is informative or not.

The Worst End For A Problem Gambler

Reprinted from the Herald News Online in Joliet, Illinois.

Patron commits suicide outside of Empress casino

JOLIET — A 23-year-old Morrison man, apparently despondent over the loss of a large amount of cash, committed suicide on the steps of the Argosy Empress Casino Sunday morning.

Andre G. Potvin, 23, was pronounced dead around 6 a.m. Sunday. Officials from the Will County coroner's office said Potvin died of a self-inflicted gun shot through the mouth.

Police said Potvin left the casino briefly to go to his vehicle to retrieve his gun before returning to the entrance at 2300 Empress Drive. The entire incident was taped by security cameras.

Another Empress patron, Anthony Alyinovich of Chicago, told The Herald News that he had played blackjack with Potvin earlier in the morning. He remembered the man because he had a gash on his head.

"He dressed as if he was either in law enforcement or the military," Alyinovich said. "He was wearing Army boots and had a crew cut. He said he was desperate and had lost $1,000."

Alyinovich happened to be leaving the casino with a friend when they passed by Potvin sitting on the stairs to the entryway.

Seconds later he heard a loud pop and the sound of a shell casing falling to the ground.

"We went back to him but there was no way anyone could save him," Alyinovich said. "I remembered his last words to us. He said 'It was nice knowing you.'"

Jim Wise, spokesman for Argosy Empress Casino, said the suicide was clearly a tragic situation.

"We would like to extend our best wishes and prayers to Potvin's family," Wise said. "This is now a police matter and it is unfair for us to draw any assumptions."

A funeral parlor in Morrison will be handling the arrangements.


We may never know the entire situation that led to this man's tragic death. He is not the first, nor likely the last, to commit suicide on the grounds of a casino. Here in San Diego a couple of years ago we had a man shoot a police officer, a security guard, and a patron of the casino before killing himself because he was on the run for robbery to support his well-documented compulsive gambling history.

The really sad thing when it gets to this point, and believe me I was close many times, is that it is a "permanent solution to what can be a temporary problem". I wish he would have reached for help first.

As our GA literature says -- It is a progressive addiction, which if not arrested will eventually lead to prison, insanity, or death.

Sorry to post such a downer after my upbeat post, but this is a reality that needs to be told.

John

Day 916 - A Wedding Celebration Filled With Compulsive Gamblers

Good morning,

Sorry I did not post here last night. I got home from my Gamblers Anonymous meeting, watched the end of the game and my Padres win again, and was going to write a little when I got an e mail from a reader here that was hurting pretty badly. I won't mention a name, or even a region, but he asked me to talk with him for a while, so I did. He was at a pretty low bottom in every way after losing many thousands of dollars on internet Blackjack! I personally never trusted internet gambling of any sort. I had to SEE the cards. Of course, that never worked either since whenever I won anything I just gave it all back. I also liked the casino better because as I have talked about here many times I needed to be a "big shot" and be at the table laughing it up during a winning streak, and then blaming everyone around me when the cards turned.

Anyway, the good news is this man is a recovering alcoholic (we have a lot of AA members in GA also), and knows what he needs to do. Now it is just a matter of him doing it.

Today is a beautiful day on the beach in San Diego. As I type this at 0920 hours it is clear blue skies and already 75 degrees outside! A little later this afternoon I will be headed off to the wedding of a GA member who just celebrated his 24 years without a bet on Thursday. He has recovered from his gambling problems very nicely in all areas, including financial. As such, he always puts on quite a party when he hosts! There will be likely 200 people there today and more than half will be fellow recovering compulsive gamblers.

This is more than just a beautiful day for the Bride and Groom. It is nice for all of us attending. You see, many people when they first get into GA think they will not want to work the program for the rest of their life. They think that if they do, they will never experience things in life that other people do. Nothing could be further from the truth. My experience is that the longer you stay, the more things I DO get to participate in that in truth I never participated in before. I golf now, we have beach picnics, holiday parties, weddings, we travel together, watch sports together, etc.... All the normal things people do.

And honestly...I think we appreciate them more than many because we missed so much while gambling.

Have a great day. I think I will.

John

Recovery Saying of The Day...

"To be forgiven we must forgive."

Friday, May 20, 2005

Recovery Saying of the Day...

"We're responsible for the effort not the outcome."

There is a famous chapter in the AA Big Book that talks about how when a newcomer enters a 12-step fellowship we ask them to start changing all of the sudden. This can be a tall order. But the reading goes on to say that no one has ever been able to complete perfectly the 12-Steps of Recovery. It is in the effort to accept and incporporate them that the change comes. Progress, not perfection.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

BBC TV Show "Compulsion" Profiles Compulsive Gambler

Jan said she would refuse against her lawyer's advice to plead guilty to stealing. 'I did do it in reality', she admitted, 'but in my heart I was going to pay it back'. An interesting distinction.

This quote is from a TV show that apparently aired on the BBC TV network on May 19th according to the spiked-culture website.

I would have liked to have seen the show, perhaps someday it will play here in the USA BBC network. The quote above is absolutely eerily similar to what I have said on many occasions on this site. When trying to acquire cash to get my "fix" of gambling, I honestly believed at the time I just needed the money to get started; that I was going to give it back in a few hours with more added on top. It never happened.

In the show "Jan" is facing prosecution for theft. The article does not divulge the final outcome, but the reviewer discusses the reality that this compulsion is complicated. There likely is no way to know the "final" outcome.

I would love to hear from anyone who did see the show.

John

Day 914 - To Bailout or Not to Bail Out? That Is The Question

Evening,

On another forum earlier I was involved in an interesting discussion. Someone was upset because they got an e-mail from another suggesting that having her husband refinance the house to cover gambling debts might not be a good thing for the compulsive gambler herself. The recipient of the e mail, is struggling right now and has only had a few days since her last bet. Somehow she initially interpreted the e-mail as saying that since this re-finance had occurred, the sender was telling her she was not "worthy" to post on this internet support board.

Of course this touched off a wave of support from all the other people on the board, with post saying things like "it doesn't matter how much money you lost", "tell that person to get lost", and it isn't about money". All true. But somehow when I read it, I saw underneath the initial anger and hurt and realized the e-mail sender was probably just trying to warn about the pitfalls of "bailouts" or enabling the problem gambler. Part of my response there is posted below.

Given all of the years of the fellowship of Gamblers Anonymous, and the thousands of people that have gone before me, both successful and unsuccessful, they have learned FROM EXPERIENCE, that "lending of money (bailouts) is detrimental to our recovery and should not take place."

In my experience certainly, and many others I have spent time with since placing my last bet, very shortly after people "helped me" by loaning me money, or paying some bills, or letting me stay with them or whatever (each time the thing they helped with seemed more degrading to me), I was able to put the pain behind me and was off to gamble again. Only when I had no other options did I get help.

I am convinced that if someone would have bailed me out the last time I hit a bottom I would still be gambling today. One of the reasons my confidence goes up each day that I will not place a bet is because I am still dealing with the ramifications of my gambling every day. Since I am reminded every day, I am less likely to want to repeat it.

It turns out I was correct. The recipient posted later that the e-mail was not rude in nature, she had misinterpreted it, and was just angry in general at the moment and blew up. Those are the "hazards" of the internet support groups I have spoken about here in the past, but I will table that discussion for tonight. This topic of bailouts is very important in and of itself.

Each situation is different and I have never claimed to have all the answers for myself, much less someone else. I also realize that sometimes when a compulsive gambler causes financial damage, they directly or indirectly affect others in the family's stability. For example, if the compulsive gambler allows the bills to become too much to cover per month on the salaries generated, the husband's credit may also be damaged which may in turn impact children etc. Sometimes the best thing may be to assist with the debt to protect others.

But, if the people around the gambler do something like this, based on my experience, it might also want to be accompanied with some restrictions to ensure that once the pain of the current episode wears off (usually much faster than you might expect!), there is not an opportunity presented to make it worse. I have heard story after story of people re-financing houses three times, cleaning out retirement accounts, savings accounts and more because they believe the problem gambler when he/she says "this is the last time".

I am not at all sure how I would react if someone came to me, even now after 914 days and said "you are doing well now John, here is xx.xx dollars to make things better. You don't even have to pay me back" I am not sure it would be a good thing for me in the long run.

I don't want to forget. In a way I like writing those checks every month. But I hope I don't have to do it forever. I shouldn't have to as long as I don't place another bet.

John

Recovery Saying of the Day...

"There is pain in recovery. Misery is optional."

One of the most difficult things for me to accept, even today is that I did what I did and there is nothing I can do about it. As my life continues to move forward now without gambling as a part, there are those days that I must face up to those actions of the past, deal with them, and put them behind me. There is often pain associated with those days. What I have learned though, and try to remember on those days is that once dealt with, that pain does NOT have to lead to misery. Just like everything else I deal with in life today, my attitude governs much.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Day 913 - Telephone Other Members As Often As Possible

The headline of this post is taken from #2 on page 17 of the Gamblers Anonymous Combo Book . This page is really the lifeline for staying away from the bet. Anyway, #2 says call other members as often as possible, use the telephone list!

This is a weak area of my program. I am on the phone all day at work, am on the GA hotline and get calls from potential members to the fellowship, and then have several personal calls I make. But, for whatever reason I find it hard to pick up the phone and call another member of the fellowship.

I am however getting better at ANSWERING the phone when other members call me. Tonight I am glad I did. The call was from one of our local GA trustees who I have not seen for a few weeks. When I first entered the program this man and I spent almost every day together going to meetings all over southern California. With his 34 years gamble free, he is a key piece in my so far successful bid to remain abstinent.

He filled me in on the National Convention and Board of Trustees meeting held this past week in Connecticut. Nothing too exciting except we have a new Chairman of the Board of Trustees. I think it was a man from New Jersey who was elected. I am personally acquainted with the outgoing COB and I know he will be hard act to follow.

I look forward to seeing my friend Friday at the next meeting we will both attend. Then a 24 year member is getting married this weekend and I will see many people at that celebration. I am looking forward to it.

I am heading to sleep now confident in the fact I had a pretty close to 100% desire not to gamble today. I worked hard at my job, went to a meeting tonight (good one by the way!), took a call from another member, and blogged here. My actions seemed in touch with that desire.

In the end all I can do is keep performing those actions each day and life will hopefully continue to get better.

Good night.

John

Aussie Slots To Include "Pop-Up" Messages In Attempt To Combat Problem Gambling

ALL poker machines in New South Wales will soon display "pop-up" messages informing players how long they have been gambling according to an article published today on the news.com.au site. The machines will also have clocks displaying the current time.

These are just two of over 100 reccomendations the government is trying in continuing attempts to combat a growing problem gambling issue.

About 2.5 per cent of Australia's population - or 500,000 people - are problem gamblers.

Nevada Also Approves Funding For Problem Gambling

Nevada's suicide rate has been 65 to 85 percent higher than the national average for the last several years, according to the state Department of Human Resources. Nevada's rate in 2003 was 18.5 persons per 100,000 population compared to the national rate of 11 per 100,000 in 2002. A study in 2003 reported that 6.2 percent of the population has problems with excessive gambling.

This taken from an article in today's Las Vegas Sun. The article informs us that the state senate has approved a total of $270,000 to help fund various programs to combat the problems.

Nothing in the article implies a connection between the higher than average excessive gambling problem, and the higher than average suicide problem but looking at those figures sure makes me wonder?

Hopefully some of the $100,000 approved will get to my friend Carol O'hare's organization, the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling. I have a personal affection for that group of wonderful people as they were the ones that were there for me on that horrible morning that I placed my last bet.

Louisiana "Racinos" To Join Other Gaming Venues In Contributing To Problem Gambler Fund

Legislation that would put up to $500,000 in new funds into state efforts to help gambling addicts cleared a Lousiana State House panel Tuesday.

The House Appropriations Committee endorsed House Bill 268 to add "racinos" -- race track casinos -- to the gambling venues required to contribute to compulsive gambling treatment programs.

The state lottery, the New Orleans land-based casino, riverboat casinos and video poker locations are already among those required to contribute.

Rep. Roy Burrell, D-Shreveport, the bill's author, said there are some 126,000 problem gamblers. "Current resources are reaching 2 percent of the identified problem we have," he said.

The legislation would set a cap of $500,000 on the assessment racinos would have to pay.

The bill goes to the House floor for debate.

Reprinted from 2theadvocate.com 5/19/05.

Recovery Saying of the Day...

"If you wonder if you're an compulsive gambler, you probably are."

Take a moment and ask yourself the twenty questions. Answer them honestly. They are only a guide, but if you answer yes to too many of them it might be time to check out a meeting. I mean, what can it hurt?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Day 912 - Still Learning From Another Compulsive Gambler

I have on occasion shared here my views on the pitfalls of the using the internet as the only way to try and remain abstinent from gambling. But, that does not mean I don't use is as a tool in my recovery. Obviously I blog here. But, I also am a member of several other "posting boards" and e-mail lists on the topic of problem gambling and the recovery from the addiction. When used in conjunction WITH my face to face Gamblers Anonymous meetings it can be a great way to learn at midnight, or at lunch from work. Tonight I share with you a great example of this. I wish to credit Jim A. from Michigan for this bit of knowledge, and he credits those who imparted it to him. Jim A. placed his last bet in 1996. I have never met him, but I hope someday I will. From what I have read of Jim in the past he is very active in his local GA program. This is the good part of the internet. I am able to learn from another member 2000 miles away!

For me, there is never a bad time to revisit and remind myself of the first step towards recovery as a compulsive gambler because from that reminder of powerlessness flows any chance of additional recovery.

Step #1 - I admitted I am powerless over gambling - that my life has become unmanageable.

I 'll let Jim A. take it from here:

There is a part of Step ONE that, in the thousands of therapies, in the hundreds of GA weekly meetings, almost never gets mentioned. And yet, today, more than ever I am convinced that it is key to understanding and -'working' - 'taking' -'practicing' - Step ONE.

What I am referring to, of course, is THE D-A-S-H that is right there in the middle of the Step!


Here are my thoughts about the D-A-S-H from a previous post:

Kindly recall that listening to Warren B.'s story along with writing my answers to the 20 Questions, helped me admit my powerlessness over gambling. That when I AM gambling, my life's screwed up. I have no power to control my gambling, because that "ain't the way I gamble". Attempts at control are only an illusion for me, and lack of power is my problem.

Now let me share, along the way on my journey, how I cleared up some confusion about the rest of Step 1, for me. Are you with me? I hope so. Let's cross the "bridge" together. The DASH. It's right there in Step 1, right in the middle.


A DASH in the English language means "end of one thought, beginning of a new thought". (courtesy to Clancy I. from AA)

The 1st thought (admitting my powerlessness) deals with, When I AM Gambling, the lack of boundaries and unpredictability of where it leads. And then we have the DASH. It looks like this -- have you noticed it before? And it leads into the 2nd thought!

The 2nd thought, which is more challenging in many ways, deals with the other part of my problem, When I Am NOT Gambling. When I stop gambling, in time, the yellow GA Combo Book describes the feeling as "pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization". Some members painfully describe it as losing their "best" friend. Other literature describes the way I am feeling When I Am NOT Gambling as being restless, irritable, discontented.

Further into the Combo book, on page 14, it describes When I Am NOT Gambling (between binges), as periods of nervousness, irritability, frustration, indecision and a continued breakdown in personal relationships ... and not periods of constructive thinking.


And so, of myself, When I Am NOT Gambling, my life's screwed up. Or as the 1st Step reads, our lives had become unmanageable.

Once again, my problem is lack of power. If I could "fix it", bring myself out of this funk on my own, I would have already done so. If just stopping gambling "fixed it", of course, then that would be the final solution. But it isn't, because of myself, the longer I stay stopped, When I Am NOT Gambling, the more "screwed up" (unmanageable) my life becomes. It feels as if there is a giant spring inside me being compressed more and more until one day it's gonna explode. Remaining in "abstinence mode" without getting "into recovery" only makes my life so darn painful that I can't stand it.

Without gambling's illusions to deal with real life situations, and the associated feelings, the real life crap gets so real, so difficult, way too real. Gambling-as-a-solution, my previous way of coping, my escape from reality, with that taken away, now what? So here again, lack of power is my problem. Step 1 means a power is what's missing, whether I AM gambling, or whether I am NOT gambling. The DASH "bridges" my (our) desire to stop gambling (~~~ admitting powerlessness) with the diligent efforts necessary to bring about a character change within myself (themselves) (~~~ admitting life's unmanageability).

Thanks for listening!

enjoy the journey,

Jim A.


I appreciate his vision of this important step. I am not sure I am exactly where he is in the interpretation on all accounts, but I see what he is saying. See another tenet of the program that I have learned (AFTER admitting my powerlessness over gambling!) is to remain Open-Minded. It is clear that Jim A. (and those that helped him get to the point in his recovery he has achieved) that he has examined himself, and his abstinence as it relates to step one. Since he has not placed a bet in many years, I MUST be willing to at least be open to what he has said. Many times I am not completely clear on the meaning of something I hear in a meeting, or read on the internet, but then as if I am being tested, a situation appears before me that applies! That's when I go, AHA!

Beautiful thing this sharing of experience, strength, and hope!

Good night all. OH, my Padres won again! First place all alone now!! So nice that I can enjoy it these days.

John

Montel Williams Explores Compulsive Gambling 5/19

Check local listings. Montel Williams explores Compulsive Gambling 5/19/05. Click on link for promo.

I will have to tape it since this plays during the day. From the promo it appears they are going to focus on the teenage poker craze, but will discuss some other aspects of the issue as well.

Missouri Problem Gambling In The News

A couple of short stories published in the Kansas City Star today.

The first discusses the competition between cities (St. Louis and Kansas City) to host the 2007 National Conference on Problem Gambling. Missouri has already been selected as the host state, but which city has yet to be determined. The annual conference is sponsored by the National Council on Problem Gambling.

The other is an update to a story I have brought here before. The gaming industry wants to remove the current $500.00 per day loss limit per casino. A "rider" was attached to another bill unrelated to gambling. The measure was fillibustered and never voted upon. Now the discussion will have to wait until the next legislative session.

Near Cincinnati? - Problem Gamblers Wanted!

From Craiglist.com:

Reply to: kaehlela@uc.eduDate: 2005-04-27, 1:11PM EDT

The University of Cincinnati is conducting a clinical trial testing a FDA-approved medication for the treatment of pathological gambling. This trial is an investigative use of the medication, thus it is not approved for the treatment of gambling. The study is a double-blind placebo-controlled study, which means that you would have a 50% chance of receiving the real medication and a 50% chance of receiving an inactive pill. You wouldn't know what you are receiving and neither would the investigative staff. The study is 14-weeks long with weekly visits for the first half of the study and bi-monthly visits for the remaining part of the study.

Recovery Saying of the Day...

"Before you say I can't, say I'll try."

I was told many times when I first came into Gamblers Anonymous that the first thing to do was to be willing to do the things asked of me. As long as my ATTITUDE was changing, I would eventually succeed at the task of changing my character. At first it was difficult for me to even have the courage to attempt certain things. But slowly, as each day passed and somehow things were even just a little better than the last, I gained the confidence needed to try to do the next right thing.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Ask A Question About Gamblers Anonymous or Compulsive Gambling - (Last Updated 5/18/05)

First, for truth in advertising purposes, I must say that I am stealing this idea from another 12-Step program blog. But, it was a good one and thought it may be interesting here.

My breakdown of people visiting this blog is about 50% "return visitors" meaning they have been here at least once before, most have multiple return visits. Then about 10% are people searching on various search words, or have been referred by someone else, or a blog I have commented on or something. But by far the most often referred search term to this site is "Gamblers Anonymous". This term accounts for about 40% of my visitors. Some are looking for meeting locations and other information, but most seem to be coming here to FIND OUT what GA is all about.

As such, I am starting a "continually updated post" . Here you can ask me a question simply by sending an email here .

5/18/05 - Does treatment at a Recovery Center Work?

Hi John,
I stumbled into your blog recently in search of answers and solution for my on- going gambling problem. I have search for Gamblers Anonymous close to my house and the closes one where I live has relocated. I have been looking at some other websites and it seem like it leads me tomedical treatment, Pathological Gambling. Do you know of anybody that went through this process of treatment. Did it work? I would like to know.
Thank You,
Bernard


Bernard,
Well, I personally never was able to enter a treatment center when I hit my bottom. Not that I did not try! But, as I was completely broke (See Remembering Day One Post) I was unable to get that help. That is actually one of the reasons I do this blog. To promote awareness that that most gamblers cannot afford to get the treatment that might help them at the time they need it.

With that said, my experience is that treatment CAN work for many. Especially if that treatment is given in combination with attendance at Gamblers Anonymous meetings. When you are able to be removed from the problems around you (real or imagined) for even a short period of time, it can help clear you rhead enough to start down the right path. In my area we have many people who attend our meetings that are part of the in-house treatment program at Camp Pendleton called S.A.R.P. (Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program). They have a good success rate. I even have a sponsee who graduated from their program and he is approaching 18 months without a bet. This program is available to active or retired military AND their dependents free of charge.

I have also heard many other good things from other treatment centers including Algumus, CORE (Louisiana), and The Gambling Treatment Center run by Dr. Hunter in Las Vegas. Links to all of these are on this blog.

But, the most important thing in my view that has to happen for anyone to stop gambling, is BE READY. Easy to say, difficult to do. Also, you say the meeting near you has re-located. But may I suggest that that if you need to, go to any length to get to a meeting. The meeetings are the starting point from which all else flows.

Good Luck.
John

Compulsive Gambling Takes A Day Off?

Good evening all,

I have been here today, but it has been an extremely slow news day as it relates to the topic of this blog. I am going to do another post here in a bit with something I want to try. I ll be back.

John

Recovery Saying of the Day...

"Everything can be replaced except you."

When I first entered Gamblers Anonymous I thought that all of the problems I had were financial in nature. That if I could just get some money to "catch up" I wouldn't need to gamble anymore. But I could never come up with a good reason to explain the times I would be up thousands of dollars during a gambling session but wout eventually walk out the door with nothing. Finally, after a little bit of time since my last bet I have realized to appreciate what I have rather than wish for what I don't. Yes, money is a tool, and I am glad I have been slowly able to pay back those I owe, and acumulate a little for emergencies, but its does not hold the same place in my life that it once did.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Day 910 - Recovery Integrates Into Popular Culture

Recently I have noticed a trend that many of the 12-Step program recovery "sayings" have been showing up in some rather unexpected situations - television and radio commercials! Two recent examples include:

Radio - "Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired?" I wasn't sure what to expect as an answer here, but probably it was going to be for a treatment center or a new medication right? NOPE! It was for a new bed!

In our program this saying carries a lot of weight because as addicted gamblers we push ourselves both mentally and physically to the brink of insanity (and beyond) and exhaustion. For most of us, until we reach the point this saying is describing we will not likely achieve success in abstinence.

TV - On a commercial for a stop smoking patch the pretty girl wearing it says "taking it One Day At A Time". She goes on to say how the patch helps her do that.

Of course this saying is really one of the basic tenets that recovering compulsive gamblers and other addict use. It is often far too difficult in the beginning especially, to comprehend that I may never be able to gamble again, or that the problems will ever be solved that we have created. We push and push this concept that there is nothing we can do about yesterday, and we have no idea what will happen tomorrow. So, just concentrate on today! Eventually those "todays" can add up to a lot!

Anyway, I have always said the 12-Steps of recovery are really just a good "design for living" and almost anyone, addict or not, can benefit from many of them. They basically promote a life of honesty, self inspection, and kindness to others. Not a bad way to live?

Maybe the "outside" world is catching on?

Or maybe there are just so many people in 12-step programs now it is the only way we know how to communicate!!

I am off to trim my Orange tree. No news yet today. I am sure I will have some to post later.

John

Recovery Saying of The Day...

"I am not the General Manager of the Universe... sometimes I tend to forget that..."

When I used to gamble I always had to be in control of everything. In control of the other players at the table, in control of others at work, and at home. So, when situations did not meet my "expectations" I became angry, depressed, or confused. All of which provided an excuse to gamble. Now, as the serenity prayer on the front cover of our Combo Book in GA says, I ask for the wisdom to know which things I can (and should!) change, and those that I must accept.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

U.S. News & World Report Profiles Problem Gambling

John Nikolakis came from a privileged family. Few would have predicted that last September, at the age of 36, he would be alone in a dark, cold Louisiana apartment--all the utilities were cut off because he couldn't pay for them--dead broke and writing suicide notes. He was on probation for having embezzled nearly $80,000 from his former employer. His entire adult life had been consumed by the intoxication and compulsion of gambling away hundreds of thousands of dollars on everything from online poker to sports. He lost two good jobs, one girlfriend, and 17 years of his life. "This gambling crap has cost me everything," he says. "It cost me my pride, my honesty, and the biggest thing it cost was the relationships of people who cared for me."

This description of the downhill spiral caused by gambling is an excerpt from an article the May 23rd edition of U.S. News & World Report magazine. The article is a well written piece explaining both the psychological and medical history of compulsive gambling, as well as the current thinking about the addiction from both communities. Sprinkled throughout are nice quotes from several experts and talks about the success of various treatment options including Gamblers Anonymous and the Louisiana Association on Compulsive Gambling sponsored Center of Recovery, or CORE, where John was able to begin his successful abstinence. In the article they claim CORE has a 75% success rate, meaning that of the more than 600 patients the center has treated since 1998 more than three-quarters of them have completed the program and have never gambled again. I am not so sure this is correct, as I have spoken to at least some of the other 25% then, but there is no question they run a successful program down there.

When you check out the USNWR article, make sure and check out the "Web.Extra" articles including their entry into the story of the teenage poker craze so often chronicled on this site, and a very loooonnggg, but interesting article on the casino industry today. That e-article goes deep into discussion about how, no matter what we may think, the odds are ALWAYS in favor of the house. I particularly liked the Myth vs. Reality at the end of each article which listed this tidbit of information:

MYTH Poker is the one game where gamblers can really win big.

REALITY At the least, average players should, over the long run, lose whatever the host takes out of the pot, from an Internet site's 2 percent to some casinos'20 percent. But as the poker boom draws in more pros, amateurs will most likely lose even more.

Given my blog last night about people trying to convince me lately that poker is not gambling, I was glad to see this one!

This group of articles is worth the time to read.

John

Recovery Comes To Talk Radio

So you are not only a compulsive gambler, but maybe you are addicted to talk radio also? Well, here is a way to combine both! Recovery Radio is a call in show in its 6th week. It currently plays on stations in Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Las Vegas, but is also broadcast on ABC radio via satellite as well as streamed on the internet from KKLA in Los Angeles. The show airs from 6PM-8PM Pacific time on Saturdays.

Hosted by two men in recovery John T and Bob M, they take calls from both people already in recovery as well as those still active in their addiction. I was initially drawn to the station via a press release that highlighted an apparently emotional call from an active compulsive gambler that they managed to get to a meeting virtually "on the air" so to speak.

As I tuned in tonight via the internet, that same woman "Sue", called back and said she had been to 6 meetings during the week in Las Vegas and felt better already.

I listened further and apparently one of the weekly features is a conversation with Dr. Stephen J. Groth, M.D, also a recovering addict of opiates. He brings some credibility to the show.

Joe Walsh from the Eagles actually called into the show! He also, is recovering from drug and alcohol abuse.

So, overall I think this show has a chance. Others have tried this format in the past, and this one is still new and they are suffering from a lack of callers still in addiction. I also have concerns about the importance of anonymity and the program, but then I have those about this blog as well.

Give it a chance! They could use the support, and may even be able to help you, or a loved one with something you hear!

I would put a link to their website, but they don't have one yet! When they do, I will.

John

Day 909 - Appreciating A Beautiful Morning...

Good morning,

Today is one of those days I live in San Diego for. Already 70 degrees and clear at 8 AM. I decided I am going to hit a 9 AM meeting I haven't been to in a couple of months so I do not have a lot of time. I will post news a little later.

I woke up this morning almost the same way as I closed last night. With a CNN news program! This morning's was "Dolan's Unscripted". If you are unfamiliar it is loosely a financial advisor program. Today the entire show was dedicated to the increased level of gambling in the United States and worldwide. Interesting watching. Nothing too new for me personally, but whenever an entire episode is dedicated to the issue I am pleased. They were relatively balanced on the benefits vs. problems and even had an entire 7-8 minute interview with Keith Whyte, Executive Director of the National Council on Problem Gambling.

Quote of the morning from Mr. Whyte? "We estimate 7-8 million problem gamblers in the USA, and over 200,000 teenage problem gamblers this year."

I will talk to you more later. Everyone have a great day.

John

Recovery Saying of The Day...

"Try Gamblers Anonymous for 90 days, and if you don't like it, we'll gladly refund your misery."

No one has all the answers. Each of us in the fellowship has our own backgrounds and issues to deal with, but what we find that by going to a lot of meetings in the beginning, abstaining from gambling one day at a time, and having an OPEN MIND, we are able to take SOMETHING from each meeting. As the days pass our head seems to clear a little and we realize that there is hope after what we have done. Keep coming back.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Day 908 - Yes, Poker Really Is Gambling!

Hello All,

I just finished watching MY Padres win another game tonight, and was trying to figure out what to come and write about here tonight. I was surfing through some channels and hear this on the headline news channel:

Next on Headline News - "Texas Hold 'em is like the holy grail on campus now, everyone is playing it! But is this dangerous to our kids?" Stay tuned...

Naturally they had my attention at this point. I even stayed through the commercial to watch the story. Headline News earned their money on me this time.

The story of course was like many I have talked about here on this site over the last few months. About how this poker craze is just getting bigger every day. This was a 90 second TV story so there wasn't a lot of statistical substance. The researcher from the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center, an entity I have spoken about here in the past says that they are finding that 1 in 10 students in both high school and college are gambling at least once a week. The story didn't offer any further detail than that on the prevalence of those teenagers that will develop into a problem gambler, but just go back through my archives here and you can decide for yourself if the chances of problems developing are greater, the earlier the introduction to gambling.

It isn't as bad as drinking or drugs is it? Some parents in the story don't think so. Some poker blogs I have read lately are even trying to say the game is not gambling at all. They claim it is all skill and very little luck.

Parents are even allowing their teenage children to host poker parties on weekends. They feel "better" since they know where their kids are at night. I understand this. They do not feel that there is any real chance that playing poker will develop into a gambling problem. I DON'T understand that. I sure know many people in Gamblers Anonymous with me that talk of being addicted to the online poker sites.

As for the parties, I went to plenty of "supervised" parties in high school where the parents knew we were drinking. They used the same rationale, that is being used here for poker parties. They think it is better they are supervised, that at least they are not on the streets. But believe me the parents at the parties I went to didn't know half of what was really going on. My guess is these "5 or 10 dollar" poker games the parents think are being played are much more than that. Kids are just like all other people, the rush gets diminished over time unless the stakes increase. There IS a danger. Will every kid playing poker on the weekend turn into a compulsive gambler? Of course not. I never became an alcoholic, and I drink less now than ever but the possibility is there and parents just need to be made aware of the danger signs.

My point is that we just don't know enough yet about what the ramifications of the legalized gambling expansion, the poker craze, the removal of the stigma of gambling in society, and the introduction to gambling at younger and younger ages will be in the future. As with my personal story, it is an addiction of "not yets". I had no idea when I placed my first bet that someday I would cross into a horrible addiction. So it could be with society and gambling in general, we may not know what might happen until it already has. Remember, I am not anti-gambling. I just think we need to be aware of where this may take us, and react accordingly.

I don't post every article I come across in a day here on the blog, but I read one earlier about a small town in Iowa's reaction to a new casino recently approved. There were all the normal good and bad arguments over jobs and crime, traffic and quality of life. There was one line that struck me from a woman who was on the fence about whether it was good or bad that the casino was coming. Referring to the projected increase in problem gamblers the casino may bring she said "sure it is only 3%, but what if that 3% is part of your family?"

Good point.

Oh, and unless you have X-Ray vision and can read the cards in another players hand, poker IS gambling.

John

P.S. - Well, at least I had something to write about.

Not Just Another Teen Compulsive Gambling Article

An article in the Orange High School (Cleveland, OH) student newspaper states, "Texas Hold'em (a form of poker) has swept across the school and turned OHS into a mini Las Vegas casino ... Hands range from $5 up to $50 and up ... it is not unusual for students to lose a couple of hundred dollars during one class period. This game is against school rules, but the rule is rarely enforced ..."

This is a quote from yet another article written recently about the growing problem of teenage gambling and where it can lead. This one was published in of all places the Cleveland JewishNews.Com website. Even the lead paragraph in the article is intriguing:

"As if sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll were not enough to keep today's parents reaching for the Maalox and the roots of their hair, add another element to the potent mix in teenage gambling."

Of all the quotes, these are my favorite:

"We are dealing with the first generation of teens presented with an unprecedented level of gambling opportunities," says Dr. Lori Rugel, president of the Ohio Council on Problem Gambling and coordinator of the Veteran's Administration gambling treatment program.

"The teenage gambling addiction crisis we are uncovering is just the tip of a potentially catastrophic iceberg," she adds. "The powerful, tantalizing allure of Internet gambling and the Texas Hold'em poker craze that has swiftly moved from frat houses and dorm rooms to the bedrooms of middle school students means addictive life-altering gambling opportunities abound among adolescents."

I hope she is proven wrong, but I am worried she is not.

John

Casino Loses Money - Is It Because Of New Laws to Help Problem Gamblers?

Entertainment Group Ltd., New Zealand's biggest casino operator, had their biggest drop in almost five years as the company cut its profit forecast because of a smoking ban and government rules to control gambling, according to this Bloomberg.com article.

Apparently New Zealand has joined other parts of the world in restricting smoking in bars and restaurants. (In California where I am at it was quite a while ago we implemented this law.) The new wrinkle here is that they have also banned smoking IN CASINOS.

Maybe that is what we need to do to help compulsive gamblers? Keep us smoking! I do not personally partake, and was glad when the local casinos here started offering non-smoking sections, but I definitely know a lot of fellow gamblers that gotta have that cigarette while playing!

The article also points out that new restrictions on the size of bills allowed in machines, an effort to control problem gambling, also has had some effect on revenues. I somehow doubt this type of restriction has stopped many of the true compulsive gamblers from feeding their addiction. Ever hear in a casino "Changing $100.00"? Thought so. Also, the restriction appears to be only temporary as they are installing new readers to accept larger denomination "tickets" to replace the large bills.

Oh well. They tried.

John

Films On Compulsive Gambling Win Awards!

Two short films commissioned to highlight problem gambling and how New Zealand families deal with them have won awards at a United States film festival.

The Gambler and Gambling-The Flipside won a Silver Remi Award at the Houston Worldfest Independent Film Festival according to New Zealand based webzine Stuff. This film examines the lives of compulsive gamblers AND those affected by us according to the article.

The other film, "It's Not a Game" was awarded a Certificate of Merit in the Documentary: Social/Political category of the Hugo Awards for Excellence in Television in Chicago.

As a side note the International Gambling conference will be hosted in Auckland later this month and the films will be highlighted at the conference.

I will do a little more research and see of these films will be available for viewing in other parts of the world.

John

Recovery Saying of the Day...

"I went to the first meeting and didn't know what they were talking about, the only bit I could understand was when they said keep coming back. So I did that. "

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Compulsive Gambling - A Family Addiction


It isn't your typical counseling session. Lori isn't a compulsive gambler. She says her husband is. Gambling counselor Jewel Cooper is helping Lori deal with the addiction that hurt every member of her family and almost ruined her marriage. She says, "when a compulsive gambler walks in at the end of the day and he's been at the casino, they don't smell any different, they don't look any different, they don't pass out. There are no physical signs there is a problem."


This is just a short snip from an article about the recently approved casino in Waterloo, Iowa and the expected increase of problem gamblers it will bring. One of my best therapies I ever hear in a meeting are those from the family members we affect, both on the first day they arrive with their compulsive gambler, or if they are lucky, later at a celebration meeting.

Gamblers Anonymous - Old and New

A member of the fellowship with over 34 years of abstinence from gambling knows I have this site and thought he would give me something interesting to write about someday. He was right! What did he give me? A Gamblers Anonymous combo book from many years ago. The book doesn't have a date published, but my guess is that it was sometime in the early 1960's. I have had it sitting around for a while waiting for a good time to talk about it, and I chose today.

There is a reason behind today being the day. Today is the first day of the twice yearly GA Board of Trustees meeting being held at the national convention in Connecticut. Although every GA meeting is self-governing, we do elect trusted servants to represent us at the national level regarding anything that impacts GA as an organization. What really does impact the organization is not always clear. Typically the main purpose of this body is to approve any new literature that will carry the GA logo, and to make changes to existing literature. Any member may suggest a change, but the Board votes as a body to approve any change. I have spoken about our local Intergroup meeting in the past. Well, magnify this times 10 and that's what it can be like!

So, back to the book. Amazingly it isn't really all that different from today's version. Today's version reflects changes bowing to the political correctness of today's society. For example the answer to the question "What is the first thing a compulsive Gambler ought to do in order to stop gambling?" Answer: "HE" needs to be willing to accept.... . Today's version says "the compulsive gambler" in place of HE. The word "personality" in the old version in several places now reads "character". Things like these are changed throughout.

There have been some more significant changes over the years though. On Page 10 the book describes what we now call "common characteristics of compulsive gamblers". The old book puts it more clearly; "what are factors that may cause a person to become a compulsive gambler?". In the answer on that same page it refers only to the comfort level felt when "at the poker table" whereas today's version uses the phrase "when we were gambling". A really interesting change I will have to research and learn about is the fact that the original "twenty questions" (See my answers under "My Gambling Story" to the right) asks the questions in PRESENT TENSE , i.e. "Do" you lose time from work or school due to gambling. Today's version asks all the questions but one in the past tense, i.e. "Did" you....

Finally, on page 17, the page many have relied upon so much to abstain from gambling, there are only 6 suggestions as opposed to the current 7, and there have been several changes. Here is the reading on page 17 from the old book with notations of the changes in today's:

Old Header - "To All GA members, particularly the new G.A. members, here are some additional suggestions:

New Header - TO ALL GAMBLERS ANONYMOUS MEMBERS, PARTICULARLY THE NEW GAMBLERS ANONYMOUS MEMBERS:

Old #1 - Attend as many meetings as possible. (You, yourself, can be the only judge of how sincerely you attend.)

Today's #1 - Attend as many meetings as possible, but at least one full meeting per week. Meetings Make It!

Old #2 - Telephone other members as often as possible between meetings. Use the telephone list!

New #2 - No change.

Old #3 - Don't test or tempt yourself. Don't associate with acquaintances who gamble. Don't go in or near gambling establishments. Don't gamble for anything -- this means buying a raffle ticket, flipping a coin, or entering the office sports pool. If you don't make the first "tiny" bet, you can't make any big ones.

New #3 - Don’t test or tempt yourself. Don’t associate with acquaintances who gamble. Don’t go in or near gambling establishments. DON’T GAMBLE FOR ANYTHING. This includes the stock market, commodities, options, buying or playing lottery tickets, raffle tickets, flipping a coin or entering the office sports pool.

New #4 ( There is not an old equivalent) - Live the Gamblers Anonymous Program ONE DAY AT A TIME. Don’t try to solve all your problems at once.

Old #4 (Now moved to #5) - Read the Recovery Program often. Try to follow it! These 12 steps are the basis for the entire GA program.

New # 5 (which has been changed to #5) - Read the RECOVERY and UNITY steps often and continuously review the Twenty Questions. Follow the steps in your daily affairs. These steps are the basis for the entire Gamblers Anonymous Program and practicing them is the key to your growth. If you have any questions, ask them of your Trusted Servants and Sponsors.

Old #5 (Now #6) - When you are ready ask the Trusted Servants for a Pressure Group meeting, for you and your wife.

New #6 - A pressure Relief Group meeting may help alleviate legal, employment ,financial or personal pressures. Adherence to it will aid in your recovery. (Even this version is a recent change from what was there..)

Old #6 (Now #7) - Be patient! The days and weeks will pass soon enough and as you continue to abstain from gambling, your recovery will really accelerate.

New #7 - Be patient! The days and weeks will pass soon enough, and as you continue to attend meetings and abstain from gambling, your recovery will really accelerate.

As you can see, some of the changes minor, some pretty drastic. Overall I don't have a big heartache with change. We need to reflect our current membership if we are to continue to grow and carry the message to those still suffering.

But, sometimes I wonder what was wrong with what worked? I wish the trustees well in their endeavors this week.

John

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