I recently came across an amazing article that helps explain WHAT NOT TO DO if you live with a problem gambler. I had shared a little of it for my next month’s article for a recovery publication I write a column for. I shared what happened to me and my husband when I was within my own gambling addiction, of course, we had done all three ‘classic areas’ of “Enabling” you should never do!
If you have a spouse or partner that is either a problem gambler or they are fully addicted, I hope you read and share with others as I wanted to share some with all of you in hopes it gives some insights to those spouses and partners that need this information on how not to enable the gambler and how to protect themselves and your finances.
“The Cruelest Lies Are Always Told In SILENCE” ~Robert L. Stevenson
Gambling Addiction and The Spouse ~ WARNING:
If you are early in recovery or still an active gambler, this article could be a trigger.
I always feel a unique responsibility to be open, transparent, and honest when it comes to sharing what gambling addiction has taken from me. Almost took my husband and devastated our finances. On July 29th I will make the eleven and a half year mark maintaining recovery from this cunning and devastating disease. But there is another side to this addiction many don’t know. The effects it had on my husband of 29 years and how it almost destroyed our marriage and made financial future much harder to accomplish.
In the thick of my gambling addiction, I can not count the times my husband would come looking for me, knowing I was out somewhere gambling all our money away. When I crossed the line into addicted gambling, it may have been our mortgage payment, our household money for food, power, or gas bill. I could have pawned something of value, again, to get money to gamble. It could have been my whole paycheck, Poooof, gone in a few hours of gambling! I know how ‘Crazy and Ludacris’ this may sound to those reading this, but this is how “sick” I became within my addiction.
Even to this day, I don’t have a wedding ring as a reminder of all that I lost from my poor choices and twisted, diseased, sick thinking while deep within my addiction. We become a whole different person our spouses may not even know anymore. Countless times my husband would tell me, “you love those damn slot and video poker machines more than you love me!” All I can say is an addiction is the worst form of selfishness and betrayal to the spouse. Why? They have no idea how to help the addict.
Many times when they do try to stop us, intervene or even threaten they will leave us, it can turn out to be a form of “controlling” the situation like the loss of money, forbidding the addict to gamble or end up “enabling” the addict. That is what happened to my husband and me. No, he never left, but looking back, he sure had enough evidence!
I continued to gamble by ‘manipulation’ and letting my husband think he had the control over when I would gamble. I had talked him into going with me when I felt the urge to gamble, making him believe he could lessen the loss if he were with me, but it ended up and began a whole new, different cycle to my addiction. That, in turn, prolonged my gambling habit another few years. So how can a spouse or partner avoid enabling?
As you will read below, my addiction and my husband was the “classic enabler.” So, here is essential education both my husband and I learned when I came out of treatment the second time due to another failed suicide because my addiction got so bad. I began to work with a gambling specialist and coach for a year as my husband worked with a treatment counselor.
First, what is enabling? “It is any action that makes it easier for the addict to pursue the addiction. There are three basic components of enablement.”
(Below is courtesy of Focus on The Family Full Gambling Article.
ONE: Covering up and covering for the gambler.
Addictions of all kinds are progressive in nature, especially gambling. A person with gambling problems will eventually fray from relationships at work, with close friends, or in the extended family. Your spouses’ addiction may cause them to miss time on the job or alienate relatives by reneging on family responsibilities.
When this happens, you may be tempted to intervene by calling their boss to excuse their absence or by taking their side when a family member criticizes the behavior. Cover-ups can also take the form of bail-outs, such as assuming their family duties and responsibilities or fronting them money to pay a gambling debt. If you cover up for your spouse in these and other ways, you’ll only be putting off the natural consequences of their gambling and indirectly green-lighting further destructive behavior.
TWO: Attempting to control the gambler’s behavior.
A significant area of addiction treatment is that the addicted gambler must hit bottom and feel some consequences before they can begin the grueling journey upward. Once the player reaches the addiction stage, they are no longer in control of their actions. At that point, this means they have to decide they want to stop and says that if you try to step in and control his or hers gambling, your efforts will probably prove ineffective and possibly even counterproductive. Spouses of gamblers have been known to work every trick in the book – everything from hiding the car keys to filling up the calendar with social obligations to withholding sex.
There’s only one thing to say about such schemes and ploys: they don’t work. They may even provide the addict with an opportunity to blame you for their behavior or to become angry for meddling, in which case that is another excuse for them to go off and medicate their pain with a fresh round of gambling. Even the threat to leave, though is usually employed as a last resort and is likely to have the same effect. A gambler in the throes of gambling addiction would probably be relieved to see the spouse walk out the door.
THREE: Cooperating with the gambler.
The last way a spouse can enable gambling is by becoming a direct or indirect participant in the problem. It’s not uncommon for the spouse of a gambler to develop a taste for gambling themselves. When this happens, the spouse is usually quick to play into this enthusiasm and use it in ways that compromise the spouse and justify the gamblers own behavior.
After all, if the spouse is willing to join them at the casino, how can the spouse blame the addict for working the slot machines or playing a little blackjack? On the secondary side, it’s also possible to enable your partners’ addiction by merely taking gambling-related phone messages or otherwise facilitating their gaming activities. Spouses also have no control over the addicts gambling and most times ends in an argument or worse.
So it seems my husband was an enabler as I had turned my husband into a willing participant, so again, he worked with a counselor after I came out of treatment. We had sessions together and apart. And after reading the above, we both had the experiences of “what not to do” when your spouse (me) is addicted to gambling. Lastly. If you know that your spouse has a serious problem with gambling, as my husband did, the spouse needs to confront the issue head-on.
Those who are with a spouse with a severe gambling addiction are unwilling to listen, you can enlist the help of an objective third party – a pastor, a relative, or a close friend who agrees with your assessment of your situation and who would be willing to come alongside you in order to strengthen your case when you approach the topic with your spouse.
If all else fails, try to pull together a group of friends and supporters who can help you stage a formal intervention. You may want to include a licensed counselor or therapist who specializes in this kind of activity. It will give the addict the best way to begin a clear recovery path to freedom from Gambling Addiction.
~Author and Advocate, Catherine Townsend-Lyon