Contact: Christopher Heffron
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January 15, 2005     519 Words

Gambling Addiction: A Losing Hand

CINCINNATI—It can start out as innocent fun: a buck or two in the slot machine, buying an extra playing card at bingo or a scratch-off lottery ticket at the local gas station. But for many people, such "harmless" methods of entertainment can trigger a gambling addiction that leads to a bankrupt life: financially, emotionally and spiritually. For many sufferers, however, recovery is possible through therapy, family support and God's intervention.

The dangers of a gambling addiction—and salvation from the compulsion through God's help—are featured in the February issue of St. Anthony Messenger, entitled, "The High Stakes of Gambling Addiction." Author Judi M. Bailey, L.P.C.C., a licensed counselor with extensive experience in working with gamblers and their families, interviews several experts. In addition, she speaks to recovering addicts who risked damaging their families, their funds and their faith, all because of their disease. After January 20, the article will be found at:

Pastor John Eades had a loving family and a good job before succumbing to his addiction. His gambling became so all-consuming that during a 36-hour bender he urinated on himself and forgot to eat and take his medication. Worse, for John, was the shame: He felt such disgrace that he bought a gun, intending to end his life. "I was filled with self-loathing, in the midst of a terrible depression and angry at myself, the casino and the world. I constantly felt foolish and stupid," John says.

Turning to Gamblers Anonymous started John on the road to recovering his dignity. Turning to God saved his soul. After eight years of abstinence, John is a pastor and counsels gambling addicts who are still wrestling with their demons. He even penned a book about his experiences.

Sometimes it's difficult to differentiate between a potential addict and one who enjoys the occasional casino trip. The difference, according to Dr. Valerie Lorenz, founder and clinical director of the Compulsive Gambling Center in Baltimore, Maryland, is all about control.

"Fun gamblers show control and have no trouble stopping," she says. "They go out for enjoyment, social gambling, pleasure. Compulsive gamblers have no control over their gambling. They do not bet for fun but to escape an intolerable reality."

It is estimated that more Americans go to casinos than to all sporting events combined. And with gambling advertised on television, highway billboards and the Internet, the lure to gamble is stronger than ever. Gamblers Anonymous—( that there are at least 10 million problem gamblers nationwide.

Clinical assistance and family support are integral to recovery, but leaning on God is also vital for many gambling addicts. Pastor John, who often encourages addicts to attend Bible study groups and services, uses a popular story to describe his descent into addiction and his ascent into recovery: the story of the Prodigal Son. "Gamblers have to come to themselves and say, 'I will arise and come home. It can't get any worse than this.'"


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