For a compulsive gambler, thinking he’s a winner is like an alcoholic thinking he can control his drinking. It is unrealistic thinking.
One win is never enough for a gambler — just as one drink, one hit or one joint is never enough for substance abusers.
Organised gambling is a clever system whereby hope is exchanged for money.
While hope springs eternal money does not. A luxurious casino where the welcome is effusive, and the meals are free, is an enticing sight. It creates an illusion of control in the gambler (or “punter”).
The gambling industry is a huge and sophisticated operation that has one objective: to make money for its owners.
That money comes from the punters who must be repeatedly led back to the slaughter by the infusion of hope. Just as a barman will give a free drink to an alcoholic from time to time so a slot machine will allow a gambler to win occasionally.
Most problem gamblers will tell you that winning doesn’t really matter. Keeping that “high” going is much more important — the high that comes from the act of betting and the escape from reality that they can achieve. This comes by focusing totally on the addictive behaviour – working a slot machine for example.
Gamblers sometimes think that they are winners, that they are somehow beating the system. But this is likely to be denial and unrealistic thinking: remembering wins, forgetting losses and ignoring the vast amount of time spent in activities like playing online poker.
To overcome a gambling addiction, it is vitally important that the addict faces reality as fully and as thoroughly as possible.
Denial is fatal for a compulsive gambler — they are eternal optimists who will grab at any suggestion that might minimise their behaviour. The world is full of temptations for them – buying a simple lottery ticket can start the whole cycle over again.
At Castle Craig Hospital, compulsive gamblers are asked to focus on reality by doing a really thorough “Step one” (from the 12 Steps), and only when they have done this in a satisfactory manner will they move on. There are no winners except those who abstain completely.
Page last reviewed and medically fact-checked | January 23, 2015