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Posted by on in Gambling Addiction

Hello Recovery Friends, and Welcome All,

We all know how hard it can be to live life in recovery from gambling addiction, or from any addiction quite frankly. But, many of also live with other daily challenges in recovery as well.
Sitting in the rooms of GA, it seems to be more common now that many of us also have "Dual Diagnosis" . . .  Meaning, we maybe recovering from 2 or more addictions, or like myself, I live in recovery and battle Mental/Emotional health disorders as well. And this can be pretty challenging on some days. So I thought I would share a 'freelance recovery article' I was invited to write for a rehab website about this topic. It also seems to becoming the norm that many addicts are also now becoming addicted to gambling as they try to use gambling as a "quick source of fast money" to indulge in
what ever their TRUE addiction is. Maybe they gambling to make a fast buck to score more drugs, or buy the alcohol they so desperately want to feed their addiction? 

But now these same people end up with a dual addictions because they get hooked on gambling. But most importantly, my experience is with addiction and living with mental illness. And one of my disorders is a direct effect of my past compulsive gambling. So here is more on this topic and article share. . . . .


So how does one recover from gambling addiction while living with mental illness? It can be difficult and a bumpy ride, but it can be done. I did it, and am doing it, and you can too! A personal share of what life was like. . .

“All I remember is waking up in the hospital. I heard people talking about me saying, when the police came to my home, there were knives all around me on the couch and floor of my living-room. Then I blacked out again.” “I woke up next in a mental/addiction crisis center with my wrists wrapped, feeling very sick to my stomach, and remained there for the next 14 days” . . .

This is where my recovery and behavioral health journey began. To be able to recover from gambling addiction, and while there, I was diagnosed with bipolar ll with severe depression, mild mania with anxiety, PTSD, and many negative behavioral habits I had picked up in my many years of addicted gambling.

See, I was suffering undiagnosed mental illness for years without ever knowing it. And I turned to addicted gambling and alcohol abuse to zone out & cope by wanting to not feel the hurt and pains I had not processed. That day, I was supposed to be attending my best friend’s funeral and celebration of life! Well, instead, I had a very bad gambling binge/slip that almost cost me my life. Many ask me, “How can you just waste your money like that? I tell them, “it’s not about the money, it’s about the disease of gambling addiction, and the bad choices and behaviors that comes with it”. . . “that it is not about the money wasted, gambling addiction almost cost me my life by  way of 2 failed suicides.”

So what is Gambling Addiction?

There are many definitions for problem and gambling addiction. Some claim it’s a mental health disorder, some say it’s a cognitive behavioral issue, and even some say it’s an impulse control problem. From personal experience, it was all three and more. But all gambling behavior patterns that compromise, disrupt or damage personal, family or vocational pursuits is a gambling addiction. The essential features are increasing preoccupation with gambling, a need to bet more money more frequently, restlessness or irritability when attempting to stop, “chasing” losses, and loss of control manifested by continuation of the gambling behavior in spite of mounting, serious, negative consequences. In extreme cases, problem gambling can result in financial ruin, legal problems, loss of career and family, or even suicide.
And I experienced all of the above. I was sick.


Posted by on in Drug Addiction


“The perception that mental illness and psychiatric symptomatology uniformly lead to aggression and violence is a

major source of stigma for the severely mentally ill.”

(Zhuo, Bradizza and Maisto, 2014)

PsychCentral reports that a study conducted under the auspices of the University of Buffalo found that substance abuse is a stronger predictor of violence than severe mental illness and that  treating the substance abuse disorders in  dually diagnosed patients illness can reduce their risk of future violence. The study appears in the current issue of the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment (47 (2014) 353–361).


Posted by on in Drug Addiction

The problem of dual diagnosis & diseases of addiction have a comorbidity rate of 53% and climbing each year. One newer study suggests the rate of this comorbidity of both illnesses is actually closer to 2/3rds of people with depression who also have substance abuse/addiction problems.  The connection between those who have addiction and are depressed is so strong and an unavoidable problem when it comes to treatment, that people are quick to believe and perceive that it is the addiction which is causing the depression. The newest evidence has shown that quite the opposite happens in many instances.  It's like the old what came fist the chicken or the egg theory; And with addiction & depression/mental illness, it is not that simple a question to answer, but there are some answers that help doctors every day to diagnose and decide which is the primary illness and which is the secondary or if they co-exist.  

There are 3 types of groups which are studied under the Mental Health & Drug Abuse Coalition. The 1st, is people who have depression or other mental illness, may seek help but find what they are given is not working, so they begin to experiment with other ways to alleviate their symptoms, such as alcohol and drugs, leading quickly to an addiction once the patient feels the substance has "cured" their symptoms. It is the very well-known phrase of "self-medicating" which was actually a term and theory first coined by a few doctors which included the author of many books on the subject of "self-medicating" with opiates, alcohol, cocaine & other drugs, Doctor Edward Khantzian, a psychiatrist from Haverhill Massachusetts, and a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard University, who first published this hypothesis of self-medicating with heroin for depression in a 1985 paper, which expanded until it was accepted as a true theory and still used today to explain diagnosis & treatment.  In this case it is shown that a person had an onset FIRST of mental illness, and then the drug addiction came next. 

The 2nd group is those who are people who are chronic drug abusers, ie: addicts. They use their drug of choice daily and over time, they begin to develop mental illness symptoms, causing them to then increase their use and making it very difficult to stop. This group of people are difficult to convince to access treatment or professional help, because they are usually so afraid of trying to seek treatment for the depression, for the sole purpose of being scared that their addiction will be be discovered. Certain drugs, almost all of them, including ecstasy, alcohol, opiates, methamphetamine, cocaine & more, have been shown in advanced clinical research, including brain scans of addicts, with results showing that their drug use has directly caused malfunctions in major centers of the brain where a person's impulse control, emotion regularity, reasoning, cognitive ability and many more areas are damaged by the chronic drug use.  So this group usually begins with trying different illicit or pharmaceutical drugs. finding one they like, and after chronic, daily use, their brains are actually being damaged on many levels, in many areas by the very drug they use.  So first the drug addiction starts, and then sets in the mental illness symptoms, like depression & anxiety, bipolar and many others. 

The 3rd group of people are those who have co-occurring conditions that are ongoing and increase in severity. The drugs do not alleviate the depression, anxiety, or other mental illness symptoms quite well enough to consider themselves in good mental health, but the substance abuse has already caused further damage to their brains in many areas, making it that they are the hardest group of patients to treat. They are however, the people who are most likely TO seek treatment for both illnesses, knowing very well they both exist at all times and are aware of it daily.  The usually might begin by asserting or believing that their depression, low mood, anxiety, panic attacks, loneliness, bouts of crying for no apparent reason, mania, hypomania, isolation, etc are all directly the result of being forced to stop their drug of choice or attempt to stop on their own.  They attribute these mental and mood changes to withdrawal, but they aren't; in fact it is that they DO now have a very clear diagnosable mental illness caused by the changes in their brains from the chronic drug use and since they have stopped using these drugs, the symptoms are now more present and bothersome than ever before. So this group already had mental illness but was made much worse by chronic long-term drug use. 

When patients with dual-diagnosis are treated they have a fairly good rate of recovery IF they adhere to taking medications and make serious changes in their lifestyles. When you have such chronic drug abuse and depression it is hard for doctors to decipher which symptoms are causing the other so dual diagnosis treatment first is used to detoxify the patient from the drugs and stabilize them so they are not in pain. Once this is done they can begin to introduce therapeutic programs as well as medications for bipolar, depression, anxiety or any other mental illness, as is indicated. They are monitored closely throughout every 24 hour period, their vitals checked for stability, dosages changed daily if that needs to be done, and the patient upon release is given very specific and easy to follow directions for returning home. This typically includes an intake for an intensive outpatient program (IOP), meeting schedules, individual therapy set-up, follow up appointments with doctors and if needed, an appointment with a clinic for continued use of subutex or suboxone. 

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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

Alcoholics Anonymous provides us with many great tools.  We suddenly are given an amazing support network, a spiritual program of action, and wonderful opportunity to grow.  Although Twelve-Step programs offer us so much, there are certainly things that we may find outside of Alcoholics Anonymous.  The stigma surrounding this prevents many people in the program from doing so, which is hurtful toward recovery.  There are several ways people look outside Alcoholics Anonymous for help, and none of them are wrong.

Professional Help

There are many professionals out there that offer great help to addicts of all kinds.  However, people tend to treat seeking professional help as taboo in twelve-step programs.  This attitude is extremely hurtful and close-minded.  Many of our fellows benefit from professional help of different kinds, and discouraging them or making them feel different because of it can change someone's life.


Taking the example of physicians, there are many issues which we cannot ourselves handle.  Our physical health is of the utmost importance to our recovery, as the body's health can dictate the mind's health.  There are times where we must seek a physician's help.  Our physician may prescribe medications as he or she sees fit.  In my personal experience and opinion, we may take certain narcotic medications when they are absolutely necessary.  It is also always important to speak with a sponsor or mentor before doing so.  We must be careful in taking any medication of any kind, but sometimes it is absolutely necessary.  We cannot trust our own heads to make the decision on whether or not it is necessary, and this is why we speak to a sponsor.  Also, it helps substantially to have a doctor that is sober.


Another professional that we may seek help from is a psychiatrist.  Psychiatrists may help diagnose and treat mental illness.  Obviously medication comes into play here, and that is perfectly alright.  There are many addicts that suffer from mental disorders.  According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, "Over 8.9 million persons have co-occurring disorders; that is they have both a mental and substance use disorder."*  Not seeking help can be an issue of life and death.

Although psychiatrists may prescribe medications, this is not a reason to shy away from them.  Dealing with co-occurring disorders is not easy.  Without treating the mental illness, sobriety is near impossible.  The addiction and mental illness create a vicious cycle, and without treating both simultaneously, the person has little chance of recovery.  Again, we should be careful of blindly accepting medications without speaking to those with more experience than us.


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