I get teary eyed when reading about a compulsive gambler in true recovery.
One who is active in their recovery, even when their last bet was years ago, being fully aware that complacency never did any addict any good. It can drift them to dangerous waters; a place they don’t ever want to be lost in again.
They are nurturing the support system they’ve worked hard to achieve, whatever that may be either through therapy, groups, etc. having barriers firmly placed to avoid a slip. As they know how easy it can be to be dragged in by the addiction to gamble. They don’t entertain the idea, “Just one bet… and I’ll walk away and everything will be OK.” They know they are weak against this addiction, and are taking sole responsibility for their past actions and debts. However, small or large, the important point is they are.
These compulsive gamblers deserve all the praise in the world and more. I can’t help but smile thinking of their families’ joy, thankful that their compulsive gambler is now committed to a life of recovery, living a normal life one step at a time. It’s the life they always wanted for them. Nothing will ever compare to their happiness, as they know too well the madness of the past when the addiction ran rampant in their homes. I always dreamt this would be my father’s outcome.
However, for every true compulsive gambler in recovery there are millions that are in denial of their gambling problem; literally refusing any acknowledgement and responsibility. They not only continue to fool themselves, but others, often defending their addiction until they are literally blue in the face denying any wrong doing. It’s just luck they say; it is against them. Yet, they live and breathe gambling, letting their compulsive gambling takes precedence in their lives and homes. They don’t really hear the desperate cries and pleads of their spouses, children, siblings, and parents begging them to stop, wanting them to listen to reason, wanting to help them. They just turn the other cheek and continue to deny and gamble.
Their reckless actions eventually jeopardize their families wellbeing; bills are not paid, credit cards are maxed and closed, loans are in default, money is missing, creditors are calling home all hours of the night, and anxiety has become a permanent resident in their once secured homes. In turn, loved ones of the compulsive gambler find themselves boxed in by loneliness; feeling such hopelessness they can’t begin to explain properly, struggling with what they should do, as they see the addiction grow stronger in the one they love.
However, these compulsive gamblers are the ones not addressed in gambling awareness. They are not talked about; it’s like they don’t exist, and the attention is only on the ones that are in recovery. Yet, the compulsive gambler in denial is the ones that families struggle with the most.
There is no doubt that public awareness of compulsive gambling has become more mainstreamed than ever, but it still has a long way to go. Not everyone that gambles becomes an addict, but those that do cause havoc in the family unit. There needs to be more awareness of what these families go through and how they should seek support.
As a child of a problem gambler, I know all too well the hopelessness I felt with my father’s addiction. Nothing I said or did would make him stop, and as the years past, I fearfully saw the addiction get stronger within him, as he continued to demand enablement with bigger price tags and outrageous and unreasonable bailouts that I was having a hard time living my life.
Then I started seeking support and found a support group of family and friends that were very much like me. I couldn’t believe how many of us existed throughout the world; struggling with their compulsive gambler, feeling completely overwhelmed by the situation they were in. Not knowing what they were going to do, just knowing they couldn’t continue to live the life they were living and I was one of them. Through our bonding and story sharing, we supported each other, often amazed at the similarities of our experiences with our compulsive gambler. We wanted to understand the addiction and we did, and we learned how to not let it manipulate us through our loved ones anymore.
After many rocky years with my father, I finally was able to have a relationship with him. The addiction is always there, but I don’t pay it any mind. I just enjoy and love my father. I had to make difficult choices along the way that were gut-wrenching and got to the core of my heart, but I can’t help but think that in the grand scheme of things I not only saved my life, but in ways my father’s.