There is often a misguided belief that a gambling addiction simply is not as destructive as other forms of addictive behavior. After all, it is the rare gambling addict that is physically harmed while taking part in their addictive behaviors of choice. The unsettling reality is that a gambling addiction can have far-reaching consequences in the lives of those who love the gambling addict; especially since loved ones are often responsible for enabling the addition for a lot longer than if the addict were to have tried to support his or her habit on their own.
- Do you find yourself making excuses for your spouse, sibling, parent, or even your child?
- Are you helping them out of financial jams on an almost constant basis?
- Have you forgiven behaviors that have resulted in missing money, a lost job, or even the foreclosure of your home?
With a bit of thought, you may just discover that if you were to have withdrawn your assistance and support, your loved one would be in a very difficult financial position, and may not even have a roof over their head. While you may think that you are simply helping them to get back on their feet, the truth is that all you are likely doing is encouraging the addictive and very destructive behaviors of their gambling addiction.
What’s the Harm?
A gambling addiction rarely brings illegal drugs or alcohol into the home, and it rarely impairs one’s judgment while driving. So what is the harm in being hooked on gambling or placing bets at the track?
The harm is a lot less physical and considerably more emotional, mental, and, of course, financial. Addictions of all sorts will swiftly take control over the addicted individual’s ability to focus on anything other than their gambling, and it will also result in them making poor decisions in terms of their employment, education, relationships, and their finances.
An addict can quickly go from having a steady and well-paying job to being fired due to not showing up, or due to browsing gambling websites in lieu of getting their work completed. They could resort to spending grocery money on their habit, put off paying the mortgage payment, and allow the car to be repossessed. As money becomes hard to get a hold of, even with your enabling their addiction, addicts may turn towards petty theft and other criminal activity in order to get their hands on the money that they need.
Recognizing the Signs of Enabling
Take a serious look at your behaviors around and toward your loved one, and ask yourself a few serious questions. Be sure to answer them truthfully, because you only have yourself to be accountable to.
- Have you found yourself overly worried about the gambling addict, in a way that is all-consuming?
- Do you stay up at night trying to find a solution to help the individual out of a sticky situation, rather than practicing tough love and letting them solve their own problems?
- Do you do things for the person that they are perfectly capable doing for themselves?
- Do you find yourself making up excuses for the destructive actions or thoughts, brushing it off as a misunderstanding, stress, or having a hard time coping? Even when their behaviors are hurting you and other members of the family?
- Have you given this person cash, paid an outstanding bill, or let him or her borrow your car?
- Do you feel manipulated at times? Yet ignore or brush off the way that you feel?
At what point will it all become too much for you to handle and carry on your shoulders? At what point will you recognize that the gambling addiction has now become the norm for your family?
Your heart might be in the right place, especially if you are dealing with someone that you truly love. But the reality is that by helping a gambling addict out of financial jams, you are doing them absolutely no good for the long-term. Enabling a gambling addict with his or her addiction can oftentimes be almost as much of an addictive behavior. It is essential that you do everything you can to break the cycle and help your loved one to regain his or her own sense of financial stability.
This might mean that you have to cut off access to joint checking accounts; don’t allow him or her to have access to valuables or anything that could be potentially sold for a few dollars. And most importantly, you should continue to encourage him or her to seek out rehab and the valuable therapy that is needed in order to make a recovery. The manifestations of having a loved one with an addiction of any kind necessitates finding a support group with like-minded people. Although Alanon mainly deals with alcohol and drugs, you will be pleasantly surprised at how helpful and supportive it will be to find a local Alanon group in your area.
Stand up, be strong, break the enabling cycle, and do whatever you can to protect your own financial security and stability. You may love someone with a gambling problem but this doesn’t mean it has to ruin your life in the process.