Saturday, July 6, 2019

Post 119



grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

  courage to change the things I can,

and wisdom to know the difference.

Over the past few months, I have heard a number of people referring to the “Serenity Prayer” as their guiding strength in recovery.  Indeed, these words of Reinhold Niebuhr hold forth a very practical formula for attaining – and maintaining – healing and wholeness from an addictive lifestyle.  This week during our national July 4th holiday, there has been much talk about freedom – from captivity, dictatorships, violence, and poverty.  The more I heard, the more I broadened such circumstances to the condition of addiction.  Certainly, within each situation of addiction (no matter the form), individuals are held in a state of control – and dictated by - his/her dependence on the drug, substance, and/or activity (process addictions) … though personal denial often masks this. 

Moreover, the violence (yes, violence) of addiction to the body, mind, and spirit can rob the person of freedom to live a life of self-control, peace, and inner strength.  Relationships suffer too: loved ones and associates experience captivity, as well, wrought by the response to addiction by their family member or friend.   

Looking over the prayer’s words, I begin to see an independence from pattern for recovery. For this edition of the GRM Blog, I offer mindsets commonly held within addiction that when transformed by recovery, freedom is gained (shown by italics)!   


Independence from … believing that the God of the universe may be there but I don’t feel this presence in my life.

God’s universal awareness does include me and my life; I can enter into communication with God; God wants to restore persons - so I can ask for divine help.    


Independence from … God will never forgive; other relationships are broken; there are too many wrongs to forgive me; debts have piled up impossibly high.

God does forgive; God cares; God will help in multiple ways by giving direction, strength, and peace to acknowledge the past … and understandings of how the role of addiction and other factors have impacted me.


Independence from … change?  This is not the right time to go through withdrawal – I have too much stress now in my life; I tried quitting before - I’m too scared!

Divine help not only includes courage but also resources, persons, and miraculous strength to accomplish my healing in recovery – and a new lifestyle of wholeness, love, and inner peace.


Independence from … what would my life be like without fill-in-the-blank: it’s the only way I can relax / enjoy myself / escape and not feel anything.

God will, also, grant divine insights and wisdom in order to discern what is healthily accomplishable and what is not so that I can be at peace with recognizing and accepting the difference.  This gained wisdom will help me in the future to make wise decisions and let go of regrets.  

May you experience a true Independence Day of Recovery!
Rev. Janet Jacobs, CCGSO
Founding Director
Gambling Recovery Ministries

    For more information on problem gambling and recovery issues, visit:                                                                                                                                                      


Thursday, June 6, 2019

Post 118



This past weekend, I was blessed to attend an international conference of recovery … recovery from compulsive gambling and recovery associated with having a loved one who suffers from gambling addiction.  During the workshops slated for each perspective, stories of true recovery were shared.  Over and over, the letting go testimonies told about strength gained and  developing new awareness of  self.  Where once the attention focused on the uncontrollable urges to gamble OR on the gambler, the person now in recovery discovers a new freedom to reject the urges OR, respectively, accept a life created for her/himself. 

Uniquely with disordered gambling, the “power” seems to be found (by the gambler) in self-assurance that there will always be a chance for the big win.  Convinced of this, problems grow as chasing losses takes precedence.  Why give up when there’s always a chance?   Then too, take the individual who gambles for the risk-taking excitement or the one who gambles to escape life’s pressures … a sense of control - for the moment – brings “relief”.  What then is there to give up??

Sadly with the addiction, the gambling continues and loved ones find their lives encircled by mounting debts, anger, and fear.  In either case, what’s to give up?  The addiction escalates and  relationships deteriorate.  It’s hard to see life, otherwise, when caught in the midst of addiction. Addiction speaks, addiction acts … life becomes dependent on addictive thinking.

My friends at the conference, however, spoke of letting go … not giving up or giving-in.  Letting go carries with it a purposeful opening of a door to new possibilities.  Letting go claims more for the present than the status-quo.  There can truly be a difference - though, at first, it may seem impossible.  Letting go makes room for a power-greater-than-ourselves to show us new ways of coping with problems (including the urges to gamble OR berate the gambler) - and forming healthy relationships (inside and outside of the family).  

Looking over the 12 Steps of Recovery, I see a roadmap of letting-go and attaining newness of life.  
Starting with Step 1,  let the journey begin!

·         Step 1:

 Letting go of feeling/living powerless over gambling/the gambling problem

 Attaining and admitting to an awareness of reality

·         Step 2:

 Letting go of depending only upon myself

 Attaining the belief that there is a power-greater-than-ourselves that can restore my life to normalcy

·         Step 3:

Letting go of being in control of my recovery

Attaining experiences of emotional strength that were not derived from me alone

·         Step 4:

Letting go of erroneous estimations of my financial status and personal and moral self-image

Attaining realistic awareness of my circumstances and who I am – both positive and negative

·         Step 5:

Letting go of fear as to what others will think of me

Attaining the feeling of freedom from inner secrets that have held me hostage

·         Step 6:

Letting go of fear and shame, in general

Attaining the courage and drive to commit to my recovery program

·         Step 7:

Letting go of pride and prideful self-images connected to my addiction

Attaining the willingness and expectation that God (of my own understanding) will remove the character defects that have bonded me to my addiction and unhealthy lifestyle

·         Step 8:

Letting go of denial about my relationships with others

Attaining fresh insight as to my responsibilities of repair in my relationships

·         Step 9:

Letting go of relational wounds

Attaining opportunities for restored friendship, love, and connection … as well as taking the responsibility not to re-inflict wounds upon others

·         Step 10:

Letting go of any unhealthy, disruptive, and counter-productive moral, spiritual, and/or financial issues that may begin to develop

Attaining growing self-insight and awareness

·         Step 11:

Letting go of relying only on myself

Attaining deeper awareness of God’s presence, strength, peace, and will in and for my daily life

·         Step 12:

Letting go of self-isolation and fear of reaching out to help others

Attaining deeper awareness of the principles of recovery … and new friends!

For specific wording on the Gamblers Anonymous/Gam-Anon Twelve Steps of Recovery Programs, respectively, go to   AND       www.gam-anon/gam-anon-can-help/the-twelve-steps-and-reflections

May you continue to experience the power-greater-than-yourself through living the 12 Steps of Recovery!


Rev. Janet Jacobs, CCGSO

Founding Director

Gambling Recovery Ministries


    For more information on problem gambling, recovery issues, and the IGCCB Clergy/Lay Minister Certification visit:                                                                                                                                                     


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Post 117


Step 3:  Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of this [Higher] Power of our own understanding 

Already, Memorial Day Weekend is upon us!  Yes, it lands on the calendar a bit earlier than usual this month - but the days have raced by, it seems, since May Day.   I have fond memories of past Mays … all having to do with memorializing persons we have known and loved.  On Mother’s Day Sundays, we would each wear a flower in honor of our moms.  My dad would wear a shoot of Lily of the Valley: white to indicate she had passed on.  Mother would wear a little sprig of lilacs (for red) since Grandma was still living.  We kids would wear lilacs too.  Later came Memorial Day and there was always a picnic to celebrate my parents’ wedding anniversary.  We loved those rides out to a county park in the countryside; and there was usually a makeshift family game of baseball to top off the celebration.  

Memories are powerful … and indeed, they can shape our lives – for the better, or not.  Definitely, there are recollections that recreate triggers thus placing us in vulnerable inner-states of being that potentially can bring us harm.  Truly, recovery is continuously being aware of situations that could spawn such triggers.  However, for this month’s entry, I want to focus on the benefits of the recollections that strengthen our spirits and enhance our recoveries. 

Often when persons share with me beautifully bolstering happenings in their lives, I always suggest, “Put this in your mental file box to take out on those days when discouragement or anger prevail. We need the upholding care of these memories!”  

Here are a few from my past:  my grandmother’s cheerful attention, a squeeze of the hand after my mother died, two parishioner’s impromptu visit on 9/11 morning, knowing our daughter was in NYC,  my younger brother’s mentoring just before I first presented at a national conference, a student’s quote: I asked for you because I knew I’d learn …

Then there are memories about those wondrous happenings that we know that we know are evidences of our Higher Power’s personal care.  A friend in long-time recovery spoke about divine caring in reference to Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of this [Higher] Power of our own understanding.  He emphasized that this Higher Power’s CARE  is not only one of affection as in I care for you; but also, this divine care deeply takes care of the individual’s life. As the person turns his/her will and life over to the care of the Higher Power of his/her own understanding, the details of life become cared for!  And yes, the individual’s will comes under the care of the Higher Power, as well.  This is immense!  Everything within and about the person can be cared for by one’s Higher Power.

As a testimony to this individual care, I offer a special happening of divine providence out of my own life.  I have preached with this as a promising illustration … but have not shared it before on the internet.  It is one that undergirds and assures me during troubled and sad times.

Years ago, my mother took ill.  Normally a healthy person, she came down with a particularly, life-threatening strain of upper respiratory flu.  It weakened her and attacked her heart.  She died unexpectedly.  I still remember Dad’s words when he called to tell me.  To say that it was a very sad time would be an understatement.  Mom was a best-friend to me … understanding, loving, cheerful, and caring.  I missed those phone calls, letters, and just being with her.  Grief hit hard – and stayed.  Without warning, doubting thoughts began to pervade my faith:  Where is she?  Will I ever see her again?  Why am I having these questions?  My strong, personal faith gives me the answers … but why the doubts?

Months passed and the grief-waves would come and go and return again.  I couldn’t shake it.  Then on vacation, something happened.  We were camping in a gorgeous mountain lake area.  Still, the sunny afternoon and beauty of the sandy beach did not bring cheer.  I sat apart from husband and children … pondering and hurting.  I prayed, yet again, God, where is Mom … is she ok?  Suddenly, daughter yelled, “Mom, I found something!”  Her hand was digging deep, deep down into the sand.  I called back, “Be careful; it might be a stick with thorns.”   She pulled out her sand-crusted arm and ran to me holding something small.  Thrusting her hand out to me, I saw a silver cross … tarnished and worn with a broken loop where a chain would have been.  It was at that moment, I knew the answer to my question … and the pervading, personal care of my Higher Power. 

The Call to ministry came four years later; and memories of this experience bolstered me to reassure parishioners with questions and doubts.  Moreover, there is an interesting postscript! 

Several years afterward,  a very close friend and her husband were transferred, unexpectedly, to Thailand.  Even more unexpectedly, my friend became involved in prison ministry, specifically, to drug dealers from overseas.  Upon release after serving their terms of captivity, these men would then be deported back to their home country.  My friend visited and ministered to them steadily and they became strong in faith and prayer.  She shared with them my cross-in-the-sand story and it warmed their hearts.  Often she heard their question: Did she really find a cross in the sand?  
My friend has been back in the States for decades now; and I wonder how many times – and where - has this affirmation of God’s divine care been told?  

May you experience the strength and peace of Step 3!


Rev. Janet Jacobs, CCGSO

Founding Director

Gambling Recovery Ministries


    For more information on problem gambling, recovery issues, and the IGCCB Clergy/Lay Minister Certification visit:                                                                                                                                                     

SPECIAL NOTE:  May is Mental Health Awareness Month:  for more information go to:                                       

Monday, April 15, 2019

Post 116

as awareness continues!  

Several years ago, I received an invitation to author three book reviews for Baylor University’s periodical Christian Reflection: A Series of Faith and Ethics.  It was an honor to be asked and I poured much attention into the project.  This particular edition carried, throughout, the theme   Gambling Culture, with various articles covering historical, ethical, research, and ministry application aspects of gambling.  When the finished copy arrived, I opened the magazine with excitement … and much to my surprise, colleague and friend, Deborah Haskins, Ph.D., had authored a chapter, as well: Congregational Ministry to Problem Gamblers.  With even more surprise, I read her reference to Gambling Recovery Ministries as a model program of gambling recovery for faith communities (Ibid., p.71).

Since that time, Dr. Haskins has become President of the Maryland Council on Problem Gambling and, also, a leading collaborator in the International Gambling Counselor Certification Board Clergy/Lay Minister Certification program.  Very recently, she has brought awareness attention to the impacts of gambling addiction within our society.  Hear now her words as she speaks to reporter Erik Alsgaard of the Baltimore-Washington Conference (The United Methodist Church) NEWS AND VIEWS : March 18, 2019 (permission granted to include this article).

March is Problem Gambling Month: How You Can Help

Posted by Erik Alsgaard on Mar 18, 2019

By Erik Alsgaard

Within the bounds of the Baltimore-Washington Conference, there are five casinos: four in Maryland and one in West Virginia (Charles Town). Casinos are not legal in Bermuda, but there’s an effort to change that soon.

Those casinos are in addition to the well-known horse tracks, numerous bingo halls, and thousands of locations where lottery tickets are bought and sold. And now that the NCAA basketball tournament is at hand, who knows how much money is illegally wagered on the games and filling out the “perfect bracket.”

As if that weren’t enough, a recent Supreme Court decision legalizing sports betting beyond Las Vegas means that Washington, D.C., will soon be home to massive opportunities to place legal sports bets, some from the comfort of your own seat at a Wizards or Capitals game. The casino in Charles Town opened its sports betting parlor last September, and Maryland is exploring this expansion, too. 

“We’re venturing into new territory with sports gaming,” said D.C. Council member Jack Evans last December. He wrote the bill, according to WAMU, and said, “I’m very excited that the District will be out of the box with this. Let’s just hope a lot of people gamble and we get a lot of money.”

Dr. Deborah G. Haskins, president of the Maryland Council on Problem Gambling (MCPG), doesn’t like what she sees. A licensed addictions counselor, tenured professor, and a certified international gambling counselor, she sees the downside of legalized gambling every day. Haskins is also certified in Problem Gambling and Spiritual Outreach, and is the widow of the Rev. Bruce Haskins, a United Methodist Elder who died Jan. 21, 2016.

Current estimates are that between 1 and 3 percent of the general population engage in what Haskins called “high risk gambling behavior” and meet the criteria for having a gambling disorder. Overall, about 80 percent of the population answer “yes” when asked if they have ever gambled.

March is designated as Problem Gambling Awareness Month, Haskins said, in an effort to raise awareness about this issue. One part of raising awareness is a problem gambling toolkit, an online resource individuals can take anonymously at home.

In a 2011 article, Haskins was quoted about how problem gambling affects Christians.

“Less attention is given to personal relationships and regular activities, including church activities,” she said. “Chasing gambling losses and seeking a ‘big win’ becomes one’s new ‘spiritual’ pursuit.”

In addition, a relationship with God is transferred to a relationship with the game. “Many gamblers report that the slot machine becomes their partner or ‘lover,’” Haskins said. “Suffering a loss — a loved one’s death, separation or divorce, job loss, ill-health — they turn to gambling as a welcome distraction from grief.”

Haskins said that a 2011 baseline study, conducted by the state of Maryland (before the casinos arrived) found that 22.9 percent of adults gambled at least monthly. Fifteen percent gambled weekly, with lottery and casino gambling being the top choices.

What Haskins and the MCPG know, however, is that fewer than 10 percent of individuals with gambling disorders ever seek help. To address this, a program was developed to educate people often unaware that they are on the frontline of the effects of problem gambling: clergy and lay ministers.

“Leaders in the spiritual community need to know how to respond effectively and with compassion” when people come in with gambling problems, Haskins said, so that they can offer support, links to treatment, and recovery options.

“Clergy and others are often brought in whenever problems exist,” Haskins said, be it from gambling or other issues. “When there’s trouble in the house or trouble in the community, we know that faith leaders and lay leaders are typically the ones who are contacted for help. That’s why we wanted to increase awareness among clergy and faith leaders.” 

Part of the education program, Haskins said, is to help faith leaders respond with compassion. That’s because, more often than not, faith leaders call gambling a sin even though they, too, are part of that 80 percent who have ever gambled. The United Methodist Church’s calls gambling “a menace to society, deadly to the best interests of moral, social, economic, and spiritual life, destructive of good government and good stewardship. As an act of faith and concern, Christians should abstain from gambling and should strive to minister to those victimized by the practice.” (2016 Book of Discipline, ¶163.G)

The IGCCB Clergy/Lay Ministers Certification is designed to provide basic knowledge about gambling addiction, treatment and recovery resources, according to their website, “to enhance the clergy person’s skills at recognizing compulsive gambling, and to provide information for the gambler’s family on dealing with their loved one’s addiction.”

The MCPG, an affiliate of the National Council on Problem Gambling, takes a neutral stance on the issue of gambling, Haskins said. Their advocacy and action is educating the public and lawmakers, providing support and ensuring that treatment dollars are available for those who need it. West Virginia has an affiliate group, but Washington, D.C., does not, Haskins said.

RESOURCES:— For resources and support materials from the Maryland Council on Problem Gambling  —  Baltimore City public awareness — Prince Georges county public awareness

The is the National Council on Problem Gambling; DC residents can get assistance there as DC does not have a Problem Gambling Council yet. — West Virginia Council on Problem Gambling

1-800-GAMBLER:  Confidential Helpline

Gamblers Anonymous:

GAM-ANON: — treatment and counseling help

Thank you Baltimore-Washington Conference, Erik  Alsgaard, and Deborah Haskins for sharing such pertinent and essential information about the impacts of problem gambling.  There is much to know and more to do … and there is real hope and help!


Rev. Janet Jacobs, CCGSO

Founding Director

Gambling Recovery Ministries


 For more information on problem gambling, recovery issues, and the IGCCB Clergy/Lay Minister Certification visit: