My father has become severely addicted to gambling. After my mother died, he got severely depressed, and found comfort at online gambling tables. He not only does it online but at nearby casinos at least three times a week. He has spent all of his retirement savings at the casinos and has racked up a large debt. Since he no longer works, gambling is all he has to do each day.
It is heartbreaking to see my father destroy his life with gambling. I have tried to intervene but he will not listen to me. I know it is probably even worse than I reakuzed, and I am scared his addiction may kill him. He values gambling over food, water, and shelter. He has sold his car and most of his possessions.
In my job I have dealt with addicts who suffer from a medical and physical addiction to dangerous substances such as heroin, prescription pills, and alcohol. I know that getting clean from an addiction usually includes a painful detox and long recovery process. How is an addiction to gambling different from an opioid or alcohol addiction? What can I do to help?
Dear “Dan’s Daughter,”
A person that is addicted to gambling is suffering from a process addiction. Process addictions are repetitive behaviors. It has been proven that there are many similarities in process addictions and addictions to traditional dangerous substances.
There are many ways that you can determine if your father truly has a gambling addiction and if he needs to seek professional help from an addiction recovery treatment center. Gambling addicts have symptoms such as betting more money than they actually have, getting overemotional over wins and losses, and spending all free time gambling. The internet has made illegal online gambling much easier for addicts to access. Gambling addicts can lose their homes, vehicles, retirement savings, college savings, and prized possessions because they are unable to stop placing bets.
Excessive gambling can be very dangerous because your father may get involved with illegal, shady people and practices. He could be borrowing money from dangerous people and he could get killed over it. He could also face trouble with the law if he gambles in illegal, underground casinos.
Having a gambling addiction does not have to be a death sentence. There are many different forms of gambling that people can be addicted to such as slot machines, online card games, horse races, sports games, dice games, in person card games, lottery tickets or scratch offs, and so much more. There are people who are trained in treating all forms of gambling addiction and help individuals get their life on the track to recovery. Your father still has time to turn his life around and try to pay off his debts. He can make amends and make up for the stress and burdens he has caused. He can even strive towards fully getting clean and help others with their gambling addiction.
We often ignore or look past addictive behavior in our loved ones. We do not want to accept that someone we know and care about has lost control. The more we ignore it, the worse it gets. Pushing a problem under the rug does not get rid of it. Instead, your friend or family member continues to suffer in silence. You could also be enabling them without even knowing. You could directly be making their addiction worse by contributing to their urges and addiction.
In casinos, there are many factors at work that draw in addicts. They offer free drinks in the hopes of people becoming more liberal with their bets. They want customers to get drunk and make bad decisions. The house always wins, and when you lose, they win big. They also get rid of windows and clocks, so there is no way for you to tell how much time has gone by, or what time it is. You can waste away minutes, hours, even days in a casino without even noticing.
Big casinos also know how to set up their bathrooms, bars, and exits so that you often get lost and sent deeper into the casino. They pump you full of drinks and force you to pass several hundred other machines, games, and tables on your way to the bathroom. Casinos manipulate you into staying longer, seeing more, and spending more money.
Getting your father help for his addiction is key. He will push away at first, but make sure he knows that you care about him and want him to get better. If he has developed a drug or alcohol habit alongside his gambling addiction, he may benefit from enrolling in a partial hospitalization program that can give him constant care and monitoring. It is very hard to give up a behavioral addiction. He may experience a withdrawal similar to one from dangerous drugs. It can include shakes and tremors, irritability, and anxiety. There are many triggers for gambling addiction such as movies and T.V. shows, billboards, commercials, and even talking about it.
It would be impossible to get rid of all things that remind your father of his gambling addiction. He is going to have to learn how to deal with constant triggers throughout his daily life. It is important for you to be there for him to lean on emotionally throughout his recovery. He does not have to give up on having a happy, fulfilling life. Getting over the traumatic loss of your partner can lead to dangerous destructive behavior. Addiction is very common in older adults who lose their spouse and help is out there. Seek professional help from an addiction treatment facility as soon as you can for your father.
Best of Luck,