Dear Problem Gambler


Dear Problem Gambler,

I understand it was due to necessity and not a choice that you decided to seek help for your gambling behavior. Whether it was because you didn’t have the money to cover all your bills this month, your partner gave you an ultimatum, or you’re just sick and tired of being sick and tired, trust me, I know the feeling.

At times, it may feel like others in your life look at you and only see you as a gambler: the amount of time you spend gambling, the debt you racked up, the relationship problems you’re experiencing due to lying and fighting about gambling. Please know you are not alone. Nearly one percent of adults in the United States has a severe gambling disorder. (NCRG Fact Sheet Gambling Disorders)

At this stage, you might not think your gambling is as big of a problem as others are making it out to be. After all, it’s not as if you gamble every day and you know plenty of people who don’t gamble who are in debt. But, you did an online search for “problem gambling” to see if you have a gambling disorder and compared the list in your search to your gambling behavior. Although not all symptoms need to apply to indicate a problem with gambling, you felt like some of them are what you are experiencing: 

  • You need to gamble with more and more money to get that same rush you used to get.
  • The times you decided you would try to cut down or quit were difficult and you found yourself irritable, restless, and not yourself.
  • You couldn’t stick with quitting/cutting down. It was harder than you expected and you found yourself gambling again, even though you really meant to take a break.
  • You spend a lot of time thinking about gambling, whether it’s reliving past wins, thinking about when you’re going to gamble next, or fantasizing about what you’ll do with the big payout.
  • Gambling is often on your mind.
  • Gambling is a way to feel better when you’re having a hard time. Whether you’re feeling down after a fight with your partner or stressed after a hard day at work, you look to gambling to change your mood.
  • You find if you lose money gambling one day, you gamble again the next day to try to win your money back.
  • Important pieces of your life, including your relationship, job, or even education are at risk because of your gambling.
  • You’ve asked for loans from friends and family because of the debt gambling has caused.

These behaviors, along with the pressures from finances and relationships, were enough to convince you to go ahead and speak with a professional.

When it came time to finally act and reach out for help, you may have still felt angry or scared at the idea of talking to someone about your gambling and life—especially your finances as they are private topics. However, you will make that call anyway. You have come to the realization that maybe it wouldn’t be as difficult to fit a treatment program into your life as you expected. 

As time passes and you work with your counselor on the goals you set together, you will slowly see things change in your life. Not only will you experience changes to your gambling behavior, but also the way you cope with stress, the way you communicate with friends and family, and the way you solve problems. You will show the world there is so much more to you than being a gambler. You are now happy, healthy, and responsible. And best of all, you feel like you again.


Someone who knows the feeling

If you would like help with problem gambling, please call Chestnut Health Systems at 618.877.4420, or visit You will have an assessment appointment scheduled. During your in-person or telehealth assessment, the counselor will walk you through the process and gather information about you, your life, and your gambling behaviors. The counselor will share their recommended treatment—individualized to your needs, as well as present you with an in-person or remote option, day or evening appointments, individual and family sessions, and psychiatric referral, if appropriate. Take a self-assessment here.

If you or someone you know think gambling may be a problem in their life, take a short screener here.

About the Author

Author Michelle Hommert-Helm
Title Gambling Services Coordinator

Michelle is the Gambling Services Coordinator at Chestnut Health Systems. She provides both clinical services to individuals diagnosed with gambling disorders and clinical supervision to other treatment staff serving this population. She has her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Social Work from Illinois State University. Michelle has worked in the behavioral health field, providing individual, group, and family counseling services since 2005. She is a licensed social worker (LCSW) in the state of Illinois, is a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC), and has her Problem and Compulsive Gambling Certification (PCGC). Michelle currently serves on the Illinois Council on Problem Gambling to help further the mission of increasing public awareness, providing information and resources, promoting research, and developing and implementing education and prevention programs related to gambling and gambling disorders.