Recovery and Gam(bl)ing Posted On


Although the 2016 celebration of Recovery Month is behind us, we shouldn’t forget that recovery is every day!  Recovery can be an exciting time for everyone.  It can be a time of exploration into who you are, and a time to rebuild relationships with anyone who brings a positive experience into your life.  

As you begin rebuilding relationships, you may turn to social media and gaming.  These might seem to be great places to find friends and explore excitement through fantasy worlds, but keep in mind that in recovery, some new types of activities can mimic and/or trigger problem gambling.

Many games are not completely devoid of gambling.

As with many forms of entertainment, video games can offer the ability to escape reality and feel a part of an exciting fantasy world.  These fantasy worlds can be enjoyed alone, or online, with others.  Make sure you are playing a game that will not act as a trigger for problem gambling.

Many games may have gambling imagery, and/or actual gambling activities, as part of the game.  Just as a person who is recovering from alcohol may want to avoid alcohol related images that act as a trigger, a person in recovery from problem gambling should also be aware that games may have these triggers, too.  

Pay for Play games may trigger problem gambling.

Pay for play games include any game that involves the requirement to pay money to play a game, or the ability to improve the game by buying in-game items to advance in that game.  Although pay-for-play games are not, necessarily, gambling games, they may mimic the feeling of gambling.  The feeling from paying for in-app purchases, to help advance within the game, may act as a trigger for gambling.  The most basic definition for gambling is placing something of value (i.e. money) on a game of chance for a desired outcome (i.e. winning a stage in a game).  In-app purchases allow a user to spend money on the chance that the user will reach their goals quicker.  So, be cautious when selecting games that may have in-app purchase options.

Feeling the approaching trigger.

If you’re in recovery from problem gambling and you feel triggered by a game you’re playing, what should you do?

  • Stop playing immediately.  Just as a person in recovery from alcohol addiction should leave a party if they feel triggered, be sure to stop playing if you feel yourself building an urge to gamble.
  • Reach out for help.  Contact someone who could offer help with the impending urge to gamble and fall out of recovery.
  • Participate in activities that will divert your attention.  Find activities like reading, movies, or running.  Really, anything that will divert your attention for about 20 minutes because it takes that amount of time to change our focus onto something new.
  • Return to previous recovery help, such as a counselor, GA meeting, or whatever other course of action you took to enter recovery to help ensure you remain in recovery.  

If, at any point in recovery, you feel a rising urge to gamble and you don’t know where to turn, contact the New York State HOPEline at 1/877/8-HOPENY (or 1-877-846-7369).  The HOPEline is available with a warm, welcoming professional clinician ready to help you.  But, they can only help you, if you reach out to them.