NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction

Monday, November 12, 2007

Reflections on 50 Years of Gamblers Anonymous

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of Gamblers Anonymous, a three-member plenary panel shared their personal experiences with the GA Twelve-Step Program and reflected on the place of GA in today’s efforts to promote recovery from gambling addiction.

One of the panelists, Ed Talbott, with Ad Care Hospital, recounted his story of how gambling slowly took control of his life. Now 30 years in recovery, he started gambling at age 17. He went to the racetrack and won. A seed was planted, he said. The gambling took off once he married and had a family. He began working at a Greyhound race track, and ended up losing everything, including, he said, his self respect, family relationships, job and thousands of dollars. When he finally went to his first GA meeting, he decided to keep attending and it helped transform his life.

Ed said he has seen some changes at GA over the years, for example, the types of gambling problems have expanded. In his day, the race track was popular. He sees people with problems now relating to the internet, lottery, casino and sports gambling. He said that GA has kept pace with these different types of gambling and also seems more open to recommending professional help for attendees if needed beyond GA.

Brenda Rose, another panelist, spoke about her multiple addictions over the years to drugs, alcohol and later gambling. After losing everything, the GA Twelve-Step Program helped her and “let her live again.” She said she still goes to the meetings and is learning to live one day at a time.

Dr. Rena Nora, who is the medical director of the Intensive Outpatient Program for Problem Gamblers at the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System, has worked in this area for 28 years. She initially started a program in Atlantic City for compulsive gamblers and now is in Nevada. Dr. Nora said she never was trained formally in treating problem gamblers – her training was through attending meetings of GA over an intense three-month period. Her relationship with GA has been positive over the years. They work cooperatively, with GA even referring people to her for counseling and other needs. GA is also a good resource to find volunteer subjects for her research work. Dr. Nora concluded her presentation by saying that although there is no vaccine for problem gambling, they can find ways to manage the illness.

Founded in 1957, GA is based on the Twelve-Step Program of Alcoholics Anonymous.


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