Dealing with Substitute Addictions: Gambling


The combination of chemical dependency and gambling is extremely difficult to overcome. If one doesn’t get us to relapse, then the other one will. For this reason we have to be very careful about any form of gambling, whether it be at casinos, race tracks, poker with friends, sports betting with bookies, slots in stores, or even lottery tickets. Playing the stock market is another way to seek a rush of success, although it is not easy to do so.

Gambling Can Destroy Us...

...Especially when we attempt to recoup our losses. It shows us just how much we equate winning with happiness. In fact, it does induce a good feeling, but it makes us dependent upon luck. In other words, we succumb to the delusion that we can control events and make them turn out the way we desire. While we may succeed once in a while, the truth is that events happen by themselves. And yet we may still cling to our hopes that we have magical powers to determine the outcome. We may also believe we deserve to win, that the universe owes it to us for all the suffering we have had to endure.

Eventually our losses mount and overwhelm us. We may come to our senses and realize we have been misled by our impulsive inner Addict. We need to relinquish our fondest hope that we will win big and thereby be happy forever. In such dire straights, we may seek counseling or go to a gambling recovery group. And we can never afford to let up on our guard, for if we do, if one addiction doesn’t get us the other one will.

Richard G. Hartnett, MA, MS, LCADC is a former Jesuit priest who now lives with his wife, Kathy, by a lake in northwestern New Jersey. He has served as the chaplain at Hazelden New York, pastoral counselor at the Chemical Dependency Department of the International Center for the Disabled in NYC, and continuing care counselor at the outpatient Chemical Dependency Program of High Focus Centers in New Jersey. Currently he maintains a private practice in New Jersey. He is the author of The Presence at the Center, Renewing Your Fourth Step, The Three Inner Voices: Uncovering the Spiritual Roots of Addiction and Recovery, and Sobriety and Inspiration: Entrusting Ourselves to the Source of Our Healing and Creativity.


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