Gam-Anon / Gam-A-Teen – 12 Step Programs

What is Gam-Anon and Gam-A-Teen?

The fellowship of Gam-Anon/Gam-A-Teen is modeled after the Al-Anon/Alateen. It is a 12 step program for spouses, partners, loved ones, family and friends of individuals who suffer from a gambling addiction. For Gam-A-Teen, younger individuals, such as children, can have a place to meet with other members in their age group to discuss how gambling addiction has affected their lives. The 12-step program is a place for all of these individuals dealing with a compulsive gambler to discuss their struggles and hardships.

Understanding compulsive gambling addiction as an illness helps members know that this issue cannot be resolved by willpower or therapy alone; it requires complete abstinence and recovery from the addiction. Compulsive gambling is about more than just financial problems – it causes complete unmanageability in the lives of the gamblers and everyone they are associated with. For individuals who are unsure if their loved one or parent is a gambler, there is a questionnaire on the official Gam-Anon website titled “Growing Up With a Compulsive Gambler” that can help them identify if they may believe there is a problem. Along with meetings that are open to anyone with these issues, there is literature available including “The Gam-Anon Way of Life,” “Living With a Compulsive Gambler,” “Insights Into Recovery,” and more.

How does the program work?

For members who have struggled with a loved one who is a compulsive gambler, it can feel like there are limited options available to better their situation. Gam-Anon and Gam-A-Teen provides a safe place for individuals to meet with others in similar situations, and share their experience, strength and hope that there is potential to live a better life. Compulsive gambling not only affects the gambler; it can take a financial toll and cause severe emotional effects on their loved ones and children. In the rooms of Gam-Anon and Gam-A-Teen, members are never alone and never have to be. Obtaining phone numbers from existing members can allow newcomers to build a support system so that they may reach out whenever they feel like they need help.

Addressing feelings of fear, abandonment, isolation and guilt that can be associated with gambling addiction is necessary for members, even if they are not the compulsive gambler. Instead of trying to find a “cure,” members are given tools of recovery to find ways to cope with their loved ones addiction, healthier ways to help assist a gambler active in their addiction or in recovery, and methods of dealing with all of their emotions. Members are also suggested to begin writing, another tool of recovery, which can allow them to express buried feelings with complete honesty and no judgement; a successful way to get emotions out that they may not be able to share any other way.

In the program of Gam-Anon, Pressure Relief meetings are also available for existing members. In these meetings, members are provided with helpful ways to try and get their own finances in order, a struggle that can be overwhelming and feel impossible when living or dealing with a compulsive gambler. The meetings are available to all Gam-Anon members, even if their loved one is not attending Gamblers Anonymous or is unwilling to participate in addressing financial issues, these meetings allow existing members to share their guidance and help.

How is the program effective?

Because gambling addiction affects more than just the gambler, it is important for members to attend. Anyone who is impacted by a compulsive gambler is welcome and it gives individuals a place to begin positive changes in their lives. Members are given an opportunity to start making more rational decisions with information shared in the program. The program of Gam-Anon and Gam-A-Teen improves relationships all around for members, even if their loved one is still engaging in gambling.

The recovery process is taken one day at a time, allowing members to focus on their own issues individually, rather than trying to cure the gambler of their addiction. The program emphasizes the idea that members are to begin protecting their own finances and not to pay off the debt of any gamblers or lend them any money. In the program, members are recommended to obtain a sponsor; a longtime member that has successfully worked the steps of the program and understands what they are going through. A sponsor can provide regular contact, link newcomers to the answers they are looking for, and listen, allowing them to start building trust and a sense of belonging.

Can the program help children?

While Gam-A-Teen does help children who are affected by a compulsive gambler, parents who think they may have a child who is a compulsive gambler are encouraged to attend Gam-Anon. For some children, seeing a parent or adult figure engage in their active gambling addiction may make them think that it is okay to cause them to develop gambling problems of their own. Children who see their parents visiting casinos or racetracks or constantly buying scratch-off tickets may see gambling as a fun experience, without seeing the negative consequences it can cause. Even something as simple as seeing media messages can share to children that gambling is okay and problems can begin at an early age.

Keeping a close eye on children who may be showing a gambling problem is important for parents, as well as conveying the information about the negative consequences gambling can have. Whether or not a parent knows for sure if their child is becoming a compulsive gambler, attending Gam-Anon can be beneficial. Because gambling is easily accessible through children via mobile phones, computers and tablets, watching the signs may help identify a potential problem. Some of the signs include:

  • Having discomfort while children are hanging out with their friends
  • Slipping grades or missing classes
  • Borrowing large amounts of money
  • Excessively playing games on computers, tablets or mobile devices that disrupts usual family time
  • Lying about money
  • Changes in personality

A longer list of factors that may describe a gambling problem can be found on the official Gam-Anon website.

12 Steps of Gam-Anon / Gam-A-Teen

1. We admitted we were powerless over the gambling problem and that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to a normal way of thinking and living.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of this Power of our own understanding.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have these defects of character removed.

7. Humbly asked God, of our understanding, to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us, and the power to carry that out.

12. Having made an effort to practice these principles in all our affairs, we tried to carry this message to others.

-gam-anon.org

Gam-Anon (12 steps of unity)

1. Our common welfare should come first; personal serenity depends upon Gam-Anon Unity.

2. Our leaders are but Trusted Servants; they do not govern.

3. The only requirement for Gam-Anon membership is that your life has been affected by someone who has a gambling problem.

4. Each group should be self-governing except in matters affecting other groups or Gam-Anon as whole.

5. Gam-Anon has but one primary purpose; to carry its message to the family of the compulsive gambler.

6. Gam-Anon should never endorse, finance, or lend the Gam-Anon name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.

7. Every Gam-Anon group should be self-supporting, declining outside contributions.

8. Gam-Anon should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.

9. Gam-Anon as such should never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.

10. Gam-Anon has no opinion on outside issues; hence, the Gam-Anon name should never be drawn into controversy.

11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction, rather than promotion; but we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, films, television, internet, etc.

12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of the Gam-Anon program, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

-gam-anon.org

FAQs about Gam-Anon / Gam-A-Teen

Does the program cost money?

Gam-Anon and Gam-A-Teen have no dues, fees or costs for membership to the 12-step program. The only requirement for membership is that your life has been affected by someone who has a gambling problem. Members are given an opportunity to give what they can during meetings, but it is never a requirement.

Is the program religious?

Neither Gam-Anon or Gam-A-Teen is a religious program in any way. Although believing in a higher power is one of the 12 steps of the program, how members depict a higher power is entirely up to themselves. All concepts of a higher power are accepted in the fellowship.

How do I find a meeting?

Gam-Anon is available in over 13 countries worldwide. A meeting can be found in the local meeting directory, found here, on the official website. For members who are unable to attend a meeting face-to-face, virtual Zoom meetings are available on the directory page as well.

How does compulsive gambling affect me?

Because addiction is a family disease, it can be hard to determine whether or not Gam-Anon or Gam-A-Teen can help. Individuals who may be struggling to decide whether or not they should attend a meeting should go through the situations that the website provides as a way to help make a decision. The situations that may show how gambling addiction can affect you include:

1. We set aside money to pay bills and we discover the money is missing; we find ourselves hiding money for safekeeping.

2. We feel that our loved one cannot be trusted with money.

3. We find ourselves wanting to search our loved one’s clothing, wallets, closets, electronic devices, bank statements, financial statements, etc., for evidence to confirm our suspicions; or we find scratch-off tickets, lottery tickets, loan books, etc. hidden away in the house or even the family car.

4. Our significant other may be inexplicably unavailable and unreachable, neglecting and jeopardizing employment and family responsibilities.

5. We notice a personality change in our loved one as their gambling progresses; per- haps their behavior becomes unpredictable with angry outbursts or moodiness or depression.

6. When confronted, the gambler will either deny that gambling is a problem or will promise to curtail or stop it; however, the gambling continues, often in secret.

7. Our gambler justifies that gambling will solve financial problems.

8. We resort to making threats in an effort to control the gambler; we are promised the gambling will stop; we submit to pleas for another chance, but, then the gambling continues again and again. We doubt ourselves and wonder what is wrong with us that we cannot stop our loved one from gambling.

9. Our gambler may not be able to hold on to a job due to gambling and irresponsible behavior; our family’s security and financial well-being are jeopardized due to gambling.

10. Our gambler may consider or commit illegal and fraudulent acts to finance the gambling.

11. We are lied to or manipulated by our gambler; things do not make sense; the gambler can make us feel guilty, shifting blame onto us, suggesting we are the cause for the gambling. We lose trust in ourselves as well as the gambler; we wonder if our behavior could possibly trigger the gambling.

12. We worry about how easy it is to gamble on electronic devices and become frustrated at our inability to manage this ease of access for our gambler.

13. We feel hopeless, isolated and alone, too embarrassed or ashamed to confide in close family members and friends.

-gam-anon.org