Recovery Stigma Posted On

The month of September, Recovery Month, is a wonderful time to discuss the stigma associated with recovery from problem gambling.  Recovery stigma prohibits many people from getting the help they need.

Problem gambling can be a huge elephant in the room.  Whether that elephant is someone unaware of their gambling problem, or someone secretly in recovery, there’s an elephant.  That elephant can have devastating effects on the person struggling and loved ones connected to that person.  

Elephant creative wall art

The Unaware Elephant

Do you know someone who seems to have a gambling problem?  Does this person’s gambling negatively affect their life and the lives of loved ones around them?  Does this person’s loved ones all secretly know there’s a problem?  Then problem gambling is the elephant in the room. 

Problem Gambling Warning Signs

Addressing someone’s gambling problem can feel very difficult.  Before starting a conversation about someone’s gambling, identify some of the warning signs.  Some signs include:

  • Needing to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to continue feeling excited.
  • Being restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling.
  • Made repeated unsuccessful efforts to control or stop gambling
  • Often preoccupied with gambling thoughts of past or future experiences, or ways to get money back.
  • Chooses to gamble when feeling distressed, anxious or depressed.
  • After losing money gambling, often returns another day to “get even” (also known as “chasing losses”).
  • Lies to conceal the extent of involvement in gambling activities.
  • Has jeopardized or lost significant relationship, job, or educational opportunities due to gambling.
  • Relies on others to provide money to relieve desperate financial situations, such as a bailout.

These are all signs of problem gambling.  There are many more signs to look for a gambling problem.  Identifying a gambling problem is the first step to helping someone in need.

Entering Into Recovery

The recovery journey from problem gambling looks different for everyone.  There are different options for supportive services just as there are different people entering into recovery.  In New York, anyone looking for support for problem gambling can reach out to their local Problem Gambling Resource Center.  This team of dedicated professionals aim to connect the caller with local services that best suit their needs.  They assist people struggling with problem gambling as well as loved ones negatively affected by someone else’s gambling. 

Since there is no one-size-fits-all path to recovery, there are many options available for help.  From educational resources, like ebooks and videos, to self-help groups and treatment services, there is something for everyone.  


The Aware Elephant

Do you know someone in recovery from problem gambling?  Does that person struggle to participate in family gatherings?  Are they ashamed of their recovery journey?  This person may be the elephant in the room that many people are unaware of. 

Problem Gambling and Stigma

People in recovery may find gambling disorder and recovery to be secretive due to fear of stigma. Stigma is any negative belief associated with addiction recovery.  With gambling addiction, there is plenty of stigma. 

Although recovery from problem gambling may bring peace to the immediate family, others may not understand.  Negative perceptions of people who experience gambling problems cause negative thoughts about people in recovery.  Therefore, those negative thoughts, stigma, cause some people to keep their recovery a secret. 

Share Your Story

Recovery is becoming a celebrated choice.  Celebrations are slowly pushing out the stigma held by people in the community.  The way that recovery is silencing stigma is by people sharing their stories.

Your recovery story can feel like an elephant on your shoulders.  Telling your story to loved ones can feel like that elephant is stepping down.  Welcoming people into your path of recovery can help further develop your network of caring individuals offering their support.  

People tell their story of recovery for a number of reasons:

  • To give hope. Each person that shares their story helps to show people that there is hope.  They may share about the help and support of loved ones.  These stories tell of families and communities coming together to show care and concern.  They show that anyone from any walk of life can struggle with gambling addiction, and that they can also find peace in recovery. Each story washes away at the sandy wall of stigma.
  • To receive support. These stories don’t need to be a public forum, though they can be.  They can be simple chats with friends and family.   It helps the person in recovery take their story from the shadow of their fear into the open.  This helps groups choose activities that are best for everyone; further supporting the recovery journey.
  • To save lives.  Sharing stories can save lives.  Sharing stories of recovery helps others struggling see that there’s hope.  It helps others, either negatively affected by someone’s gambling or the person who is struggling, to see light.  It helps anyone else struggling with addiction to see that problem gambling can become an addiction and that there is recovery, peace and happiness after. 


The Elephant

Problem gambling, or diagnosed by a treatment professional as gambling disorder, can feel overwhelming.  Like having an elephant to carry around and hide.  Problem gambling affects nearly 668,000 adults in New York State each year (2006 OASAS Adult Problem Gambling Household Survey).  Each one of those 668,000 adults affects at least 10 people closest to them.  Therefore, over 6 million New Yorkers are negatively affected by problem gambling each year.

Many people think that problem gambling is when someone runs out of money due to gambling.  The problem with that thought is that anyone can make, steal, beg or borrow more money.  It’s that in the process of getting more money, they may be destroying family ties and relationships. They may be losing their careers.  They may be filing for bankruptcy and ending up homeless.  Problem gambling is a brain disease that affects people in many different ways. 

The hopeful thing about this elephant we call problem gambling is that is treatable.  For others it is preventable.  For those who are already affected, recovery is possible.  Anyone looking for help and hope can turn to their local Problem Gambling Resource Center.  They know this elephant and hold no stigma towards it.  Your recovery journey from the overwhelming elephant (problem gambling) can always start there.

To all those walking the path of recovery:

Happy Recovery Month!