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Gamblers Anonymous is an international organization of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other to solve their common problem and help others to recover from a gambling problem.
The only requirement for GA membership is a desire to stop gambling.
The GA group is based on the Alcoholics Anonymous model which brings together people with similar addictive behaviors and uses as its structure the practice of the Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions.
Successful recovery from compulsive gambling in this context seems to depend on the following variables:
1. The degree of hopelessness that the member feels when he arrives. Open-mindedness to the GA program of recovery is often proportional to the desperation being experienced by the new member. If a person has already explored other methods of controlling or stopping his gambling and has been unsuccessful, he is more apt to listen to the GA method.
2. A willingness to be honest with other members about their gambling. The compulsive gambler tends to minimize the damage that their gambling has caused. This is a strategy that all gamblers use in order to live with their problem, as often the real implications of what they are doing are too horrible to contemplate. But if a member can be honest about the pain that their gambling is actually creating, their motivation will be increased to find a solution. Such honesty is possible if the member senses that GA is really offering a way out.
3. Identification with other members. In the GA context, members tell their stories about their gambling and what they have done in order to stop gambling. After awhile, it is possible to see the similarity beneath all the stories, as far as the progressiveness of the dis-ease goes and the futility of other methods used to stop gambling. What emerges from such a reading of those stories is an awareness in the new member that what he has been suffering from is actually a definable condition with a definable solution. The new member can then draw the conclusion that if those members have overcome their gambling problem, perhaps I can too. Hope for oneself is felt and this energy can be used to pursue the solution. Conversely, those members who are still at the point where they are trying to devise personal solutions to outwit their gambling or are looking for hints as to how to gamble "normally," will hear the stories in such a way so as to justify their own continued gambling, i.e., "At least I'm not as bad as that guy."
4. Accepting that the solution has a spiritual componet and a willingness to explore the solution in that context. In the broadest of terms, compulsive gambling can be thought of as a "power." The gambler often finds himself acting against his best intentions and is puzzled by his seemingly powerlessness to just not gamble. The compulsion to do so is experienced as a powerful urge and seems to have a life of its own within the gamblers mind. The gambler uses his willpower to try and control the power of his compulsive gambling but is ultimately always unsuccessful. The GA program acknowledges this power and admits that it cannot be controlled by the individual. What can be done is for the gambler to acquire a stronger, competing power in order to supercede the power of gambling. This is the ultimate goal of the Twelve Steps. GA is not offering the traditional religious solution that one might associate with such a discussion but, rather, asks that the individual formulate a personal spirituality that might or might not include traditional religious componets. With all successful GA members, on some level, they have found a source of strength beyond their own unaided wills that has enabled them to stop gambling.
5. Regular attendance at meetings.
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