Good question. With addictions people “using” alcohol, drugs, porn, shopping, food, smartphones, etc, all exhibit identical behaviours, but with a different “drug” of choice.
Although the gambling addiction is hidden in plain sight, let’s just cover what it has in common with other major addictions.
Consider these 3 different people and their various addictions. Most importantly read WHY they feel they say they need to do it and what purpose the addiction serves for them.
Addictions Case Study#1: Peter, 45, a functioning alcoholic:
“As a teacher I used make my own coffee in the staff room and add something to it. I found vodka worked best as it had no smell. Following the death of my wife 5 years ago, my tolerance for drink had gone up substantially and it would take about a quarter of a bottle before I’d taken the edge off and could get through the day. I would make the coffee strong so I didn’t nod off. In the evenings I would switch to a bottle or two of wine, but I get through whatever I had in the house.”
He chose to self-medicate himself rather than work through and move on from his grief, which kept him intimately connected with his wife. Observe how he deliberately used a certain type of drink to avoid detection.
Addictions Case Study#2: Mark, 24, addicted to food and online porn:
“I was lonely following my break up with my girlfriend and spent time online to fill the void and occupy myself. I would see ads for sex sites and spend an hour on them, then another hour, then another. Time no longer had any meaning – one minute it was 11pm and the next it was 5am and the sun was coming up. I would eat to get over the tiredness and started to gain weight. This cycle of bad sleep and binge eating went on for 12 months and my work suffered a lot. Also my confidence hit a low. I couldn’t go dating but at least I had the instant attention of the girls on the screen. Even an orgasm gave a temporary escape for a few seconds and made me feel like normal again.”
Note how he spent his time on his own, rather than getting out to see other people or doing sports. As his isolation started to become normal for him, he developed alternate ways of feeling connected and warm inside.
Mark also used the external substances of Food to internal change his state and push down his emotions. Far better to let them come to the surface and stand a chance of becoming resolved.
He used Porn to satisfy his need for Love & Connection, which was an experience he had full control over and there was zero chance of being abandoned or rejected.
Addictions Case Study#3: Sarah, 30, a gambling addict:
“I did most of my gambling online at night after I had put the kids to bed. I would login to my online accounts to play roulette and other games. When I ran out of money I would transfer money from our joint account. I changed the statement address so they came to work instead of home. I just couldn’t let my husband know or he would leave me – I felt worthless enough without that as well. Over a 12 month period my weight dropped to nearly 6 stone but I hid it behind baggy jumpers. My doctor said it was only a matter of weeks before my major organs started to fail. But I didn’t care as I felt I deserved it.”
The above story demonstrates how things can become increasingly distorted from the viewpoint of the addict, as they feel more disconnected from normal life and more & more isolated.
Note how her serious weight loss went unnoticed. This was NOT the actual problem but a symptom of the real problem.
Sarah is now back to a gambling-free 9 stone, and her life has been back on track for 3 years. She had no idea just how supportive her family would be once she left her gambling dreamworld for reality.