In order to help our Panamanian Chinese friends, we looked into how someone becomes a compulsive gambler and the recovery process. The offending cycle starts with occasional gambling and the person experiencing a winning stage, which tempts him to gamble more frequently for the excitement, and stimulates his greed to increase his bets. This is typical of other forms of addiction, in which the victim gets hooked in more and more because the “poison” is sugar-coated, and is standard in the schemes of the devil (Eph 6:11).
Next comes a losing stage in which the gambler is preoccupied with gambling, affecting his work, ignoring his family, chasing losses in the hope of regaining his money, but sinking more and more into debt and lying to cover it up. Then comes a desperation stage in which the person tries to borrow from family and friends, destroying his reputation and alienating himself from them. He resorts to illegal means to obtain money to service his debts and continue gambling, and sinks into a state of hopelessness.
This is a crucial phase, in which the gambler either wallows in despair and may have suicidal tendencies, or receives help, wakes up from his nightmare, and enters a critical stage towards recovery. With counseling he could start climbing out of the abyss he fell in, return to work and take responsibility for his problems.
A rebuild stage follows, in which the reforming gambler develops goals and restitution plans, improves relationship with his spouse, family and friends, and regains self-respect. Over time this evolves into a growth stage, whereby he gains an understanding of himself and others, turns from caring only for himself to caring for others, and enters a new way of life.
Helping a gambler recover is a long, arduous process requiring a lot of patience and perseverance. He will stumble many times and needs a supportive family, friends and a church that understands the struggles he and his family are facing. We pray your church can be one that helps a prodigal to return.