Addressing co-morbidity and cross-addiction in a gambling residential programme.
All forms of addiction – whether substance abuse, behavioural or emotional addictions – are pain killers. Some of these are specifically pain killers. The suffering is experienced in the same part of the brain for both physical and emotional pain, with people having very little ability to tell the difference. Thus, in a way, all addictions are an attempt to soothe the pain. Hence why, as Gabor Mate says, when one works with addiction, the first question is not “Why the addiction?” but “Why the pain?” and what you usually find is emotional loss or trauma. Throughout my career, every single person who was severely addicted was traumatised. Whether it was a love and sex addiction, internet or gaming addiction, shopping, or work addiction, these are all attempts to get away from distress.
Gambling is just one of the many forms in which one can attempt self-soothing. And it rarely comes on its own. Trying to look at it in isolation from other addictions or mental health defence mechanisms or trying to look at it in isolation from its roots and what it is all about, or from the consequences, it has on behavioural and emotional health would be a great mistake as recovery is much more than simple abstinence from gambling. It is about improving one’s quality of life and empowerment to understand and move beyond the pain and the need to escape it and live a meaningful and fulfilled life.
Naturally, the second question becomes, “How can people be with and move beyond their pain?” That is, without trying to hide it, to escape it, to run away from it. And this can happen only if they sense compassion from somebody. Only when a compassionate view of the whole person is present will people allow themselves to heal. This approach sits at the core of Gordon Moody’s model of care and underpins all programmes that we deliver on our own and in partnership with other organisations.
When we look at the gambling world over the last few years, especially at people who came to Gordon Moody to seek help, one of the patterns that emerged is the rising complexity of clinical and social needs. We started to see a significant number of service users who present with cross-addiction; that is, they live with a gambling addiction, but at the same time, they might struggle with a substance misuse addiction, eating disorder or another process addiction. And, quite a few of our service users will present living with an addiction issue and living with mental health conditions. These can range from anxiety, depression, OCD or trauma to personality disorders (especially emotional unstable personality disorder), neurodevelopment disorders (especially ADHD), bipolar disorder or schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.
Considering this evidence, Gamble Aware has commissioned a new project that can treat and support service users who present with such complex needs. The ever-changing profile of service users is something that, at Gordon Moody, we have had to remain aware of over the last few years to ensure that treatment remains effective.
We knew that we could not help everyone by ourselves. We also knew that to enhance our services, it would really benefit us to partner with like-minded organisations who are more experienced in addressing substance misuse addiction and acute mental health conditions. Therefore we established a partnership with Adferiad, a well-known organisation in Wales, who shares our vision of how healthcare should look like and embraces a similar mission of supporting people to rebuild their lives in recovery. Together we will deliver the first programme in the UK, which will embrace an integrated and cross-organisational approach to treat gamblers presenting with very complex clinical needs holistically. We are enthusiastic and proud about this, as it is the moment when we are finally able to say “yes” to everyone looking for our support.
One of the dreams that I had when I started to work for Gordon Moody, when I saw that sometimes we could not offer the help alone and we would have to signpost or refer the person looking for help to other services, which in turn came with a higher chance of disengagement or of being “lost in the system”. I pledged at that moment to get to a point in which we can say yes to every person looking for and needing our help. A point in which each service user would receive the right support at the right time. We have since worked hard to be able to make that happen quickly.