Gambling - The Top Secret Addiction
Unfortunately my husband struggled with multiple addictions. Drink, drugs and gambling. While all of them were damaging and had potential to ruin his life, if not kill him, it was the gambling addiction that was silently causing the most chaos.
Both for him, and for us as a family.
The number of gambling addicts is on a constant rise. With easy access to lotteries, pokie machines, TABs, casinos and now a glut of online gambling sites, it's harder to NOT be confronted with some sort of gambling related activity.
Many people struggle to understand how much of a problem gambling can be. They think a wee flutter on the horses, a fun night at the casino or a weekly be-in-to-win lottery ticket is harmless fun.
But for those who are loving and living with a gambling addict, it's probably the furthest thing from fun you can imagine.
The reason gambling can seem so innocuous is that it is an extremely cunning addiction. While alcoholics and drug addicts will show physical, often ugly and socially unacceptable signs of having received their fix, a gambling addict can hide their activities quite easily. And they can do so for a lot longer than you would think which means the mess they've got themselves, and the people they love, in by the time they are discovered can be a lot bigger.
While all addictions create the constant chase, problem gamblers find themselves in a continuing cycle of accessing money and finding time to gamble.
The cycle will look something like this:
Even with a win, the compulsion won't allow the cycle to stop and says 'We can have more' and thus the cycle repeats.
A person caught in this cycle will lose all consideration for how much money is being lost or won. It's about the chase, not the numbers.
With this cycle comes distorted rationalisation so that money can be accessed. A compulsive gambler will take money and valuables without permission, convinced they will be able to recover it later or even double it as a sign of goodwill. Family funds are swindled as they convince themselves they are going to provide even more for their family when they win.
A gambling addict will engage in any manner of manipulation, lies, theft and detachment to remain in this cycle and soon, they have lost more than they can ever make up with a bet, but likewise, have become so hooked by the cycle it can seem impossible to escape.
But it's not, if there is help.
So how do you know if gambling is hiding in the shadows of your loved one's life?
These are some of the common signs more specific to gambling addiction, compared to other addictions:
- Constant lack of money, particularly when it doesn't add up compared to income
- Not paying bills, despite offering to or insisting they have
- Hiding or redirecting mail to avoid bills or debt notices being seen
- Not able to afford holidays, meals, outings or presents
- Regularly asking to borrow money, which usually isn't repaid
- Sudden influx of money – suddenly able to repay you, pay bills or make excessive purchases
- Avoiding certain people, who have probably lent them money
- Defensiveness about whereabouts and unexplained periods of unavailability
- Lying or explanations that don't make sense
- High end dreaming about large financial investments, which even the smallest of will never come to fruition
- Immaturity and a disconnection from reality, not willing to accept the daily realities of life
- Financial discrepancies, money missing from accounts, multiple unexplained cash withdrawals
- Many high interest loans and credit cards
If you see any of these signs in someone you love, they may have a gambling problem and it is important that you first and foremost begin to awaken to the addiction that may be creeping in the shadows. Get information, become aware and learn how you can protect and help yourself while loving and/or living with an addict.
Photo credit:) 2007Joelk75