Gamblers Anonymous: Good, Bad, or Different?

I looked at the Gamblers Anonymous site today for the first time and read the 12 steps to recovery. Then I did some research. Here are my thoughts.

I do not like the idea of so much 'negative thinking' and the 'reliance' on God or a higher power. I feel that Gamblers Anonymous is quite happy to keep people sick, until they 'accept' God. My best guess is that it is run and organized by a Christian organization. Not a place that I would go to for help at all. While I think it is ok for people to have religious beliefs and views, the only person who can help you, is 'you'.

Gamblers Anonymous is based on honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness. There is absolutely no "rule" about accepting God as a higher power. Many Gamblers Anonymous members use the group itself as their higher power. Open-mindedness here is key. Honesty goes without saying, as it has been discussed in detail on these forums. Willingness to change the things we can. I really don't see how these three things differ so much from what has been discussed on the board these past few weeks. I also don't understand the constant 'disposal' of Gamblers Anonymous or the belief in God/higher power.

As for the concept of 'negative thinking'.... being negative about Gamblers Anonymous or God seems to me to fall right in there.

Hope everyone is having a great day.

YouTube video:

I totally agree with you Shelley. While I have not gone to many Gamblers Anonymous meetings, I did go to a few and the reference to a "Higher Power" was made very clear to be whatever kind of "Higher Power" works in our own belief system. I originally came to this site about a month ago and found it to be very helpful because of the open support that was offered here. No one pushed their own belief system on anyone else. Whatever worked for any individual and there were enough fresh ideas that you could find people who you could relate. The one thing that was prevalent though, was no system of recovery was put down in any manner.

Unfortunately, I have not been finding that at this site any longer. It seems that it has turned into a philosophical debate as well as some statements that are not conducive to the struggling compulsive gambler in making a clean recovery. Sorry Ravisher, but telling a compulsive gambler (and I am spelling it out for you) that it is possible to control their gambling in the future is presenting a false hope that someday they may be able to enjoy casinos again. Whether or not that is true for any individual, it should not be expressed here because it is so highly unlikely that it will be so. Compulsive Gambling is a "progressive" disease and while an occasional slip may not lead to disaster, it encourages more such behavior which continues to escalate and will again become out of control. Anyone who has ever stopped smoking knows, they can never smoke just one cigarette...before long the habit will return in full force.

I could say more, but I think I'll stop here before I say anything regretful. Hoping everyone is having a gamble-free day!!

Ravisher, I knew it was coming down to this.. I was way ahead of you on this one.. I already knew your thoughts about GA before you even shared them here.. Shelley and Zoe are so right on this.. there is nothing negative there to see.. you only are seeing it your way. Have you ever gone to a Gamblers Anonymous meeting? Have you ever sat there and gone through the sharing? Please.. give us a break.. lay off being so predictable and opinionated.. go outside and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine that God has so graciously given you.

You are not so different than many others who have come before you with this same opinion about gamblers anonymous.. I think it is time for me to take a break too.. (breathing deep, walking off and sharing a hot dog with my mutt)

By the way, Gamblers Anonymous does teach self help that is what it is all about, us helping ourselves.. .come on... get with the program..
Well there is a bashing so far...

lilaud, you must be some kind of psychic… "Ravisher, I knew it was coming down to this.. I was way ahead of you on this one.. I already knew your thoughts about Gamblers Anonymous before you even shared them here."

And before I even looked at their site. Before I even read anything about Gamblers Anonymous. I am impressed! And if I am not so different from others that have been here before me, with the 'same' opinion of Gamblers anonymous, and the opinion of: this man.

Maybe you are right? Maybe not? We are all entitled to our opinions, although it would seem not to some. As I have said in other posts, whatever works for 'you' is fine. If Gamblers Anonymous is you bag, then go for it. It would not be mine. I know myself well enough to know that.


I am also not thinking 'negative' about God. I do not think anything about God, I do not know what God is. I have no concept of God. And I do not think that makes me wrong. Just different to those who do believe, it just does not work for me. Is having a different opinion 'pushing something down somebody else's throat'? People can take it or leave it.

I have not told any compulsive gambler that they can go enjoy casinos again. A very 'few' will, most will never do. Ever. If people are so terribly weak, that to even talk freely in this forum is a 'threat' that will cause them to rush out and have a bet... then they need far, far more than a forum like this could ever hope to give them. We never conquer our fears by hiding from them, we defeat them by facing them.

Gamblers Anonymous not related to religion? See: 2, 3, 7 and 11 (especially)
Not negative in GA's approach? See: 1 (especially) and 5.

1. We admitted we were powerless over gambling - that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to a normal way of thinking and living.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of this Power of our own understanding.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral and financial inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have these defects of character removed.

7. Humbly asked God (of our understanding) to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having made an effort to practice these principles in all our affairs, we tried to carry this message to other compulsive gamblers.

This is a 'debate' forum right? I am not sure what your last post is about... Vote on what? Which site, the one I posted about the Gamblers Anonymous site, or 'this' site?

And what point are you trying to make?

In Gamblers Anonymous, "Power of our own understanding" is simply that...doesn't have to be God. When I first came to Gamblers Anonymous, I WAS powerless over gambling, and my life HAD become unmanageable. Suicide? Me???? Never! Until gambling, that is. To this day, I can't believe that was me thinking about self-destruction. What changed? I went to a meeting...I felt a little hope. I chose to be open-minded, and attend the meetings as such. Things improved. What did I do to improve them? In the beginning, nothing....except attend meetings.

How could I suddenly abstain from gambling when I could not (and believe me, I tried) before Gamblers Anonymous? I did not have the power to do it by myself. Something, outside myself, was helping me to abstain. I didn't know what it was, but it was working, and I began to have have faith in something I could not see or explain. It was a power outside of me, that helped me to do what I could not do alone, therefore it was greater than me. My "Higher Power" Doesn't work for everyone, I know. It works for me....and really, that's all I care about as far as my recovery goes.

Along this line of a child, I was 'indoctrinated' into a certain religion, which I will not name. When the time came for me to choose MY religious beliefs....I was only too quick to run the other direction, I had had enough of having religion crammed down my throat. If the GA program was so 'religious' in nature, I don't think I would be there. I DO believe in I understand Him. Does this make me religious? Or just a believer? Does this mean everyone has to believe what I do? No, not at all. Our belief system is such a private, personal thing. It should need no explaining or justifying. It should not make others uncomfortable. No person should ever say to must believe this. I harm no person by what I believe in. That is the measure of a good belief system for me...if what I believe harms no-one, then I am entitled to believe it.

Hi Shelley,

You say "No person should ever say to must believe this. I harm no person by what I believe in. That is the measure of a good belief system for me...if what I believe harms no-one, then I am entitled to believe it."

I absolutely agree with you.

I'm not really sure why this debate about GA verses Self Help has gotten so out of hand. For ME Gamblers Anonymous will never work. The higher power stuff is just more than I am willing to listen too. I don't believe in a higher power. I don't want to have to listen to that at all... Just the words " Today I pray" I find a bit offensive. This is my right.

So... were does that leave me?
With self help as my only option. For ME debating issues around self-help and different opinions is very very helpful. This is how I get support to change my behavior.

There are other points about Gamblers Anonymous that don't sit right with me either... as in RAV.. however I think that RAV might be a little rough around the edges in his presentation of his ideas. He is on to something that he thinks will help others... he believes that he has found a different way to get to the end of the path.
His concerns and mine are around Gamblers Anonymous are the very high relapse rates etc. Getting stuck in a mind set of illness instead of wellness.
Feeling of powerlessness and victimization instead of powerfulness and ableness. Doctrine instead of Choices.

On the other hand, for many Gamblers Anonymous will provide the support one needs to get free from your gambling addiction so that you can make better choices in the future.

We are here to support each other in getting free of this insanity... what ever path it takes. If you belief in the path of Gamblers Anonymous is strong enough then all the debate in the world won't change your progress related to GA. As for Newbies... they have the right to know that there are other options besides GA. They can wade through the information and see what will help them and what won't. I have perfect faith in every human to do what they need to do...what is right for them. Even if it is to fail or to make mistakes. It is their right.
Zoe... what is this site about? I didn't see anywhere that it is a GA site... Gambling Helper is the name... and I don't see why any of this debate would be contradictory to this.

Take care
I think Gamblers Anonymous is a good starting point but it cannot guarantee permanent recovery because it teaches too much dependence rather than "independence." That's the main reason for the 5% success rate. They stress that the person must always attend meetings, to admit they are "powerless," and to continually reinforce the idea that they are compulsive gamblers at each and every meeting. Then there's answering the 20 questions for the room at every meeting. After awhile some people wear this like a badge of honor; look how bad I had it...

At what point does the program ask its members to move on and make goals for themselves and integrate that into the meetings? For me, Gamblers Anonymous was a good starting point. The rest I had to do by myself.

I hadn't realized this discussion had gotten out of hand... I was merely explaining some points of Gamblers Anonymous AS I KNOW IT, in the same manner that other self-help suggestions had been presented here. I have not questioned anyone else's beliefs or paths, in fact, I am always open to new ideas. I really didn't think that presenting Gamblers Anonymous as an self help step was so different. Newbies have a right to know that GA is an option as well

I really don't see it as self-help VERSUS GA. It's too bad that some people don't like to hear about a higher power...but when I read something I disagree with, I usually keep it to myself, because it might work for someone else.I expect the same courtesy in return. And just for the record, I don't feel victimized or indoctrinated. I do expect to move along with my life and pursue goals.....without gambling. Oh right!! Already have


PS. Gamblers Anonymous is self supporting..
Just for the record, the 5% success rate I've quoted is for first timers who attend Gamblers Anonymous. 95% will have a relapse after they first attend Gamblers Anonymous. The success rate is much higher for those who come back after their initial relapse.

Who here attended Gamblers Anonymous for the first time and never had a relapse? Very few if any, and that's where the 5% is from. I will try to get the source somewhere.

GA was a good starting point for me. But I soon realized I needed much more to grow emotionally.
Just an afterthought, not in any way meant as pro this or anti that, wonder what the relapse rate is for ANY first attempt at stopping? I know I tried on my own a few times and relapsed. No real way to get stats on that..and keeping in mind that stats are just numbers... I don't plan on being anywhere in that 95% range of least not today!

Just my opinion here:

Top experts in the fields of psychology argue over the real reason for compulsive gambling... still.

The way I see it is: When people become addicted to gambling, what 'substance' are they introducing into their body/mind? None! They are not putting Marijuana, cocaine or nicotine into their systems. So what they actually become addicted to is already inside the body/mind. I believe what people become addicted to is a mixture of natural chemicals produced by the brain, among them adrenaline and dopamine. The question is WHY do some people become addicted to these natural drugs, and some not? Again, my opinion: I believe it is because of psychological disorders which cause 'depressions'. If we can cure the disorders and depressions, we do not need the adrenaline rushes or the dopamine highs.

We cannot begin a journey to recovery and cure, by admitting that we are 'powerless' to do so. We cannot make that journey without an absolute and clear target, and the belief in ourselves that we can get there. Self-Help, when studied properly, will give the confidences needed to make those targets. Not just for gambling, but for all walks of Life.
I have to disagree with you Ravisher,at least in my case (necessary disclaimer here)I DID begin my journey by admitting I was powerless over gambling. I had no control...therefore I was powerless. And, isn't the goal of abstaining from gambling an absolute and clear target? Abstinence is the beginning of the journey toward self-help and discovery, necessary to have a clear mind. I learn new things every day, about myself and my gambling addiction, that I can apply to all walks of my life. Maybe I don't read all the self-help books, maybe I don't study them properly...but in my own little corner of the world I am on my own journey of self-help, and I am becoming a better, stronger person. It's a life-long journey that we are ALL on, or should be anyway

I think self-help takes many forms, not just books and courses, manuals and study. Even my great-grandmother had her own form of self-help when she weekly went to the quilting bees. Anything we do to improve ourselves is self-help. Self-help study has obviously helped you. We are all on the same quest, just using different maps.

Have a good one.

Hi Shelley,

"Self-help study has obviously helped you. We are all on the same quest, just using different maps." Yes, and maybe using different words/perceptions towards the same end. By going to GA in the first place, people show that they are not helpless. They are helping themselves already, by seeking help, much the same as others do, buying books on self-help or placing themselves into counseling.

Gamblers Anonymous was not for me I just couldn't relate and anyway I figured it was a problem I could lick with self study and just "gut" it out. It's been just over a week so I'm a newbie but I find that the "other voice" recognition works great. I don't believe I'm EVER powerless to change... and this gambling addiction can be licked!!!

a real mess
I remember several months ago when anybody said anything that questioned the effectiveness of 12 steps I was offended. I did not want to listen or except anything but a 100% devotion to the principles of GA. As far as I was concerned this was the only way to true abstinence and happiness.

I now do not believe this. I do personally follow the principles of 12 steps but I have found these same principles in may other things from Buddhism to psychotherapy-based rehab. For many the steps give great direction and guidance even when we don't understand there meaning or relevance. For me however I see them as not rules or instructions but words that describe our connection with god and ourselves. The language of recovery for me is not only written in books and is never static, some days it is in nature, some days in music, some days in listening and some days in talking, the language of recovery is everywhere as long as I am willing to open my mind, heart and soul and accept it.

So this brings me to the question do I need to go to a F2F (face-to-face) meeting on a regular basis to be in recovery, do I need a sponsor to be in recovery? The answer for me is no, I have adapted my recovery around my daily needs and it works. Yes I attend meetings when I can and they are wonderful but if I can't attend I look for that same connection elsewhere often that is to come in here . My sponsor can be anyone, if I have a question or need support all I need to do is reach out and have faith and the answer always comes. This is how I see my recovery at the moment however as I said it is never static, that's how I like it. Just my thoughts and feelings.

Beautifully said Murray.

Again, what works, works and we all need to find the "shoe" that fits us comfortably. Nothing worse than walking around in shoes that are uncomfortable or don't fit...we end up not enjoying the journey at all and it slows us down terribly.


I'm sorry that you feel the way you do about Gamblers Anonymous. I too felt as if the "God" thing was pushed in Gamblers anonymous when I first read about it. Then I went to a meeting with an open mind and listened to what they had to say. When they say higher power they are just saying that there is something out there bigger than you. For me in Gambler's anonymous it was the meetings, for I felt strength after my first meeting that I was not alone anymore.

I would suggest GA for anyone that has a gambling problem. I gambled for twenty years before I finally gave GA a chance and it has been the only thing that has helped me stop gambling. I haven't gambled since March 9, 2003. Reading books and going to counseling is a big help for many people, but if you want to stop gambling there is nothing better than having support from others who have the same problem and have over come that problem.

You spoke not liking the idea of so much "negative thinking", I don't know where you are getting your information about GA. Gamblers anonymous has been nothing but a positive influence on my life.

I work in a casino, I have for twenty-five years. My mother who is a compulsive gambler lives with me and I live in Reno. It's been a difficult road to recovery, but I will tell you; there is no way I could have stopped gambling without Gamblers anonymous. This program saved my life.

I would say to you, just give it a try with an open mind. It does work
My two sense; I think we are all talking about the same end results it is the means that differ. The key for me is self realization and Gamblers Anonymous has helped me with this concept. I am not saying Gamblers Anonymous is the end all be all it has help me in my recovery by making me aware of myself.

Some people use gambling addiction as a crutch I choose to take responsibility for my actions. I do not blame any one or anything for my actions they were my actions alone caused by very irrational thinking. I fooled myself for years thinking I could have my cake and it too. I couldn't and it caused some very bad decisions and these decisions I will have to live with the rest of my life and the rest of my children's lives.

Now I realize who I am and it is NOT a degenerate gambler it is a kind caring compassionate person. I am not hiding behind my gambling addiction or using it as an excuse. Gamblers Anonymous has helped me immensely with the person who I truly am and this is not to say the right self help book would have done the trick but I prefer the friendship of the group model in Gamblers Anonymous. I tried for years to kick my gambling addiction myself but it only got worse never better and now I am finding out I don't have to be ALONE (but if you want to be alone then by all means try another method) to make myself aware of the true person I am and will continue to be.

The key for me is knowing who I am and making the right choices and GA has helped me with this. If a self help book can accomplish this then that is wonderful. The main ingredient is personal responsibility and I have received this in Gamblers Anonymous.

Why is this Disease different?