Dear Barb – Do you have a Gambling Addiction?

Dear Barb:

I think I may have a problem. About a year ago, a casino opened in my city. Prior to that, I was not exposed to much gambling. My husband and I started going weekly for entertainment. We had a lot of fun and were able to gamble only a certain amount of money. However, I’ve had a couple of big wins and now I can’t seem to stop gambling. When my husband is at work during the day, I go to the casino. I am starting to lie to my family and friends about where I am. If I tell them I was at the casino, they tell me I have a problem. I’m starting to believe them, because I’m doing things I wouldn’t normally do, like lying and using household money to gamble. I know I need some help, but I don’t know where to go.

Brenda – Ottawa

Hi Brenda, admitting you have a problem is a huge step on the way to recovery.

The following is a description of problem gambling, as provided by the National Council on Problem Gambling,

Problem gambling includes all gambling behavior patterns that compromise, disrupt or damage personal, family or vocational pursuits. The essential features are increasing preoccupation with gambling, a need to bet more money more frequently, restlessness or irritability when attempting to stop, “chasing” losses, and loss of control manifested by continuation of the gambling behavior in spite of mounting, serious, negative consequences. In extreme cases, problem gambling can result in financial ruin, legal problems, loss of career and family, or even suicide.

You obviously have some of the behaviours included in this definition. Do not think of yourself as weak as anyone who gambles has the potential to develop a gambling problem. Many factors contribute to an individual developing a gambling problem. These may include genetics, upbringing, values and an individual’s ability to handle stress.

The following are ten questions prepared by the National Council on Problem Gambling. If you answer yes to any of these questions, they suggest you seek professional help.

1. Have there ever been periods lasting 2 weeks or longer when you spent a lot of time thinking about your gambling experiences, planning out future gambling ventures or bets, or thinking about ways of getting money to gamble with?

2. Have there ever been periods when you needed to gamble with increasing amounts of money or with larger bets than before in order to get the same feeling of excitement?

3. Have you ever felt restless or irritable when trying to stop, cut down, or control your gambling?

4. Have you tried and not succeeded in stopping, cutting down, or controlling your gambling three or more times in your life?

5. Have you ever gambled to escape from personal problems, or to relieve uncomfortable feelings such as guilt, anxiety, helplessness, or depression?

6. Has there ever been a period when, if you lost money gambling one day, you would often return another day to get even?

7. Have you lied to family members, friends, or others about how much you gamble, and/or about how much money you lost on gambling, on at least three occasions?

8. Have you ever written a bad check or taken money that didn’t belong to you from family members, friends, or anyone else in order to pay for your gambling?

9. Has your gambling ever caused serious or repeated problems in your relationships with any of your family members or friends? Or, has your gambling ever caused you problems at work or at school?

10. Have you ever needed to ask family members, friends, a lending institution, or anyone else to loan you money or otherwise bail you out of a desperate money situation that was largely caused by your gambling?

There are various sources offering help to the problem gambler. Begin by checking out Gambler’s Anonymous. Their website is located at and lists where and when meetings will be held throughout Canada.

The 12-Step Program has been very successful in treating a variety of addictions. Your local library will have books on this form of therapy, as well you can check out the website for more information about the 12-Step Program.

Good luck Brenda. I hope I have been able to direct you to the resources you need.

E-mail your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.

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