These are steps you can take to overcome your gambling addiction

Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images
Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images

By Vida Li Sik

Follow our three part series on How to Overcome a Gambling Addiction

Part One: Innocent betting can soon become a gambling addiction. Here’s how it develops

AT FIRST, a gambling addiction could be as harmless as a weekly game of fafi (a form of recreational township-style betting also known as mo-china). But over

time, the consequences can be terrible as debt starts to accumulate.

It starts off innocently, as in the case of Lucas Mokumo (not his real name), a 38-year-old Sowetan who joined his colleagues at the casino tables after an office party. But the thrill of winning a small amount that night set him off on a 10-year gambling addiction that he’s still recovering from.

“I still don’t know why I started, but the alcohol also made me feel invincible and then I took more risks to regain my money,” he says.


An addiction is a specific type of out-of-control behaviour that generates a sensory reward, says Judith Gordon- Drake, a social worker who works in private practice and with The National Responsible Gambling Programme.

She says, “In the case of gambling, the addictive relationship lies with a particular behaviour. The risk involved when playing a game of chance produces a sensory response – a heightened sense of arousal or mood,” she adds.

Lucas’ life quickly fell apart. “I started lying to get more money and lied about

why I needed it,” he explains.

He borrowed money from the bank, cashed in his policies and got money

from loan sharks to feed his habit. His personal habits also suffered. He didn’t

wash or rest as he visited different casinos in search of better luck.

“Once I spent my whole salary in one day and started using credit cards,” he


It’s not possible to overcome a problem unless you admit it exists, Judith says.

“The first stage is moving past denial as it keeps the addict removed from

reality. Unfortunately, it usually takes a personal crisis (an accident or family

confrontation) to face reality.

“Sometimes, admission to a treatment facility might push the addict to facing

their denial and accept their life has become chaotic and unmanageable,”

Judith concludes.


If you want to overcome your gambling addiction, follow the steps below:

1 Admit you have a problem. It’s important to realise that you’ve lost control over your life and that willpower is not enough. Therefore, you need help from others.

2 Accept that you can never gamble again. Stay away from places where you might be tempted to gamble. You’ll have to take it one day at a time to help you get through it.

3 Get your family to help you. Hand over all your access to cash and credit to a responsible person.

4 Seek professional help. Attend and contact your provincial Gambling Board to exclude or ban yourself.

5 Take control of your addiction. Download a gambling block onto your computer (if internet gambling is a problem).

6 Find new hobbies. If you feel like gambling, distract yourself with other activities.

7 Tough it out. Remember that cravings typically only last for about 20 minutes.

8 Get rid of the debt. Work with a debt counselling service to learn how to manage your debt.

Gamblers A


Call the National Responsible Gambling Programme helpline on 0800-006-008

or send a “please call me” to 076-675- 0710. Contact Gamblers Anonymous on

078-789-0868 or 078-528-6583



Family members must first overcome their reluctance to talk to or trust the

gambler, says Judith Gordon-Drake, a social worker who works in private practice and with The National Responsible Gambling Programme.

*See gambling as a disease and treat it like one.

*Get referrals from your family doctor for groups that can support the addict.

*First seek professional help before you speak to the gambler.

*Gather all the evidence – bank statements, credit card slips and letters from employers – so that the proof is undeniable and there is no way to lie.

*Approach the gambler in a respectful, loving but firm way. Be direct and call it what the addiction what is.

*Practice tough love, while pledging your help and support.

*When the addict refuses assistance, arrange an intervention. For example, an addiction treatment programme, either voluntarily or involuntarily.

*Once the addict is in recovery, talk without judgement or blame; be open and honest about supporting change and speaking about “new behaviour” to survive the addiction.

Get help: The National Responsible Gambling Programme is a countrywide,

multilingual, 24/7 toll-free counselling line. It offers nine session of free and confidential out-patient treatment with a psychologist or social worker. Call their toll-free number 0800-006-008 or send a “please call me” to 076-675- 0710. Contact Gamblers Anonymous on 078-789-0868 or 078-528-6583

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