Carol's gambling, financed by 13 credit cards, left her $100,000 in debt. Her husband left her and she filed for bankruptcy. "At that point I still thought I could gamble normally. Then the following March I missed my house payment. I called my brother and asked him for help. He said yes, but on one condition: that he take over my finances and I start going to Twelve Step meetings." Carol joined Gamblers Anonymous (GA), a mutual-help fellowship of people with a history of compulsive gambling. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop gambling. Helping people achieve this desire is the group's only purpose. GA sustains itself through voluntary donations. There are no dues or fees. GA grew from a chance encounter between two gamblers in Los Angeles. The group's first meeting took place on Friday, Jan. 13, 1957. Today, GA meetings occur in all 50 states and 36 other countries. According to GA, compulsive gamblers typically: Persist in the belief that they can control their gambling—despite a total lack of evidence for this idea. Feel discomfort when they are not "in action"—at the poker table, slot machines, the racetrack, or another place where they can gamble. Remain emotionally immature, fueled by the belief that they can achieve a life of material abundance without work or effort. The latter characteristic sends compulsive gamblers into a dream world—one where mansions, luxury cars, servants, yachts and social prestige flow inevitably from a highly individualized system for placing and winning bets. More often, the consequences for compulsive gamblers include mounting debt, a repossessed home, time lost from work or school to gamble, a pattern of lying to family and friends, illegal activity to finance gambling, and even thoughts of suicide. For all these reasons, GA members see gambling as more than a financial issue. It is an emotional disorder paired with a pattern of self-defeating behavior. GA bases its program of recovery on the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Step One calls for telling the truth. Like alcoholics, GA members admit that a compulsive behavior has taken over their thinking and behavior, leading to severe consequences. After placing the first bet, they simply cannot count on themselves to stop. Abstinence is the only real answer. In turn, a lifetime of abstinence depends on living by Twelve Step principles. For example, GA members: Make a "searching and fearless moral inventory"—a personal investigation of the beliefs and behaviors that sustain their compulsive gambling. Become willing to release those beliefs and behaviors. List people they've harmed by gambling and make amends to them whenever possible. Share the GA program with other compulsive gamblers. GA members act on these principles by turning to an outside source of help called a "Higher Power." Individual members define this term in any way that they choose. For some GA members, it is God as defined by a religious tradition; for others, it is simply a fellow GA member or GA group. As a spiritual rather than a religious program, GA welcomes atheists and agnostics. Carol, who has stopped gambling, describes her spirituality primarily as a change in attitude. "There's a little phrase: Change your attitude and the world changes. Spirituality is your open-mindedness, kindness, generosity and humility. You put all those things together, and what more could you ask for?" To learn more about GA, write to the group's International Service Office at: Gamblers Anonymous, P.O. Box 17173, Los Angeles, CA 90017. You can also call 1-626-960-3500, go online to gamblersanonymous.org, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.