Addiction Abstinence

by Jane

As someone who has a partner that has a history of gambling addiction, I struggle with how to deal with abstinence. Once a gambling addict becomes self aware of the problem, and even gets treatment, and subsequently stops, we both know that there's no cure. This causes pain for both parties, as well as stress in the relationship. My experience is that my husband often plays the card of "I haven't gambled in years, so stop restricting my access to money. What else do you want me to do to prove myself?" When he was in the throws of gambling, we setup our finances such that he has only limited access to credit cards and cash. As a grown adult who makes a good living, while he understood this necessity when he was gambling constantly, now that he's not, he finds this belittling and even insulting.

We regularly struggle with how to handle this. I can completely understand his point of view. As an adult, not having access to the family money can be infuriating. He still has access to basically buy whatever he wants, however, he can run into issues when he runs low on his credit card limit, or on his low balance bank account. This can be embarrassing when a transaction is declined at a store. Though I usually argue with him that this really should never happen as he can so easily check his card or bank balance on his phone, and even setup daily or weekly alerts. So not knowing how much he has available is really a problem with him not checking, and really his own fault. He usually uses my credit cards, however, some stores that check
ID require that he use his own card. While this only happens occasionally, it really upsets him, and he usually ends up letting me know in a very upset and hostile manner.

My struggle is that there's no cure. So even if 5, 10, or even 20 or more years pass without him ever even gambling once, he can relapse at any point of time. Does this thought process create a self-fulfilling prophecy? I don't think so, as I don't believe lack of access to money is really a trigger for his gambling. In fact, that's unlikely the trigger for anyone, for it usually relates to something else as discussed on this website. Though, when you take a step back and think about it, can we maintain this financial setup forever? Does this create unneeded additional strain on him and us? I just know I would find it hard to sleep at night, or even get through each day, knowing that he could deplete our accounts at any moment should he relapse.

He doesn't understand that perspective, and will compare it to him having to live each day feeling as though he's being treated like a child (in terms of access to finances). It's my understanding that with each relapse the addiction is progressive, meaning that it gets worse each time. Thus, if/when he relapses at some point in the future, it could very realistically be devastating to our finances. The last round was bad enough, and took us many years to recover from. I really don't ever want to live through that again. All-in-all, this is an ongoing problem, and, unfortunately, I don't have any solution that would really meet both of our needs.

Comments for Addiction Abstinence

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Feb 14, 2018
Hmm... NEW
by: Mark

Thank you for sharing your experience and concerns. It's hard to say whether he has a gambling problem. You can review the Gamblers Anonymous 20 questions, and attempt to answer that question (

On the surface it doesn't sound like it, however, I don't know enough about his daily behavior to understand his state of mind. There are plenty of people without gambling problems that get sucked into risky investments and ponzi schemes. That said, it could be a stepping stone to a gambling addiction.

I do agree, however, that what you describe is definitely bad news, and either a flat out scam, or a bunch of people thinking they can make it work, but aren't straight out trying to defraud anyone per se, so I wouldn't want to label them.

Those types of pyramids ALWAYS collapse; they are NOT sustainable. Whether you call them a ponzi scheme or MLM (Multi Level Marketing), they'll ultimately result in you losing your money unless you're at the top of the pyramid, and get out before it all goes bad, or it does turn out to be illegal and they get arrested.

The situation with his "lady friend" sounds unacceptable and completely inappropriate, however, that's just my opinion. My best advice is to trust yourself, and communicate your feelings to him. Seeing a counselor is a fantastic idea!

Him blaming you, and telling you it's your fault, and all in your own head is classic gaslighting. You can read more about that by linking from the menu item.

So, in my opinion, nothing you described sounds healthy or OK; take that as a reality check for what it's worth. Talk to your counselor, and try to build confidence in your own thoughts and perceptions. Your concerns and fears are definitely NOT unfounded, and you're NOT crazy!

Please let me know what your counselor says, or update on how you're doing.

Feb 14, 2018
What about investing in financial schemes?
by: Anonymous

Hi. Thank you for sharing your stories. I am really grateful to be able to read them. I want to learn how to cope with some difficult situations.

Would you please tell me if you think this behaviour of my husband qualifies as gambling or some other type of addiction?

My husband (a reformed alcoholic) borrowed money on our credit cards and invested it into a company that promises 'big' money (31 times the invested amount as profit). My husband purposely did not talk to me about it and he didn't ask me if I agreed to borrow the money to invest it. (He knows I would say no).

I think the company is a Ponzi scheme. I think we are going to lose a lot of borrowed money, but he thinks we're going to make a fortune. He has betrayed my trust by borrowing and investing the money without my permission or knowledge. He also has spent obsessive amounts of time phoning a lady friend of his who is just as enthusiastic about investing in this company as my husband is. She introduced him to the investment idea. He signed up under her in the network and also in another ridiculous scheme that cost us several thousand dollars.

In the past 15 weeks, my husband has called his lady friend 185 times for a period of 47 hours. That is not counting the times that she calls him which is about the same time. When I left on 2 weeks holiday, he said to me (after I got back) that just before I went away for holidays, he decided to reduce the contact with his lady friend. Sadly he lied as our phone records show that he rang her even more intensively starting the day after I left and they spoke for 8 hours just on the times he called her in two weeks. It was a phone feast. When I found the phone records, I confronted him and he blamed me for checking the records. He tells me it is my problem that I am suspicious of him. It's my problem that I don't trust him. I'm seeing a counselor tomorrow as this is spinning my head in.

Nov 02, 2016
I Caved!
by: Jill

My husband didn't gamble for several years, and he kept pressuring me to stop "treating him like a child" when it comes to finances, and give him access to our credit cards and bank accounts. I found it really hard to resist. He doesn't care that there's no cure, and says that him not gambling for so long is evidence enough that he's fine and can be trusted.

I was nervous, but finally caved to avoid the continual arguments. Unfortunately, after about 14 months he began gambling again, and by the time I figured it out, he had lost much of our savings. This was a painful lesson for us.

Anyone thinking of caving in to these requests, I beg you not to. To some degree they're always going to be uncomfortable with the how the household financials are setup, but it's just not worth the pain when/if a relapse happens. No amount of years of abstinence really proves that it won't ever happen again.

Hopefully there's enough trust in the relationship that they can live being restricted, and that you can also live with not being able to fully trust them. It's a sad reality that is not easy for either person to have to live with.

Oct 18, 2016
Dealing With Long Term Abstinence Is Hard!
by: Mark

Thank you for sharing! I can definitely understand your situation, and essentially experience a similar dilemma. If you give in and give him full access to all of the accounts, you're really putting your family (if you have kids?) and your relationship at risk. However, if you don't, you also put the relationship at risk due to the strain. If you tell him that it's the best thing to protect your relationship and family, he could say that you're just trying to protect yourself, and don't understand his perspective. To a certain extent he would be right, as this setup helps to protect your sanity of not having to worry day to day that your accounts could be depleted should he relapse. Realistically, you may not see any signs of relapse before it's too late.

One of the challenges is also that gamblers tend to not appreciate that we don't like to do this. I know for me I always envisioned getting married and having everything combined, and being able to 100% trust my partner with our finances. So having to do this is not something I enjoy or want to do. In fact, shortly after we got engaged we combined our finances. That said, it doesn't remove the pain it causes both parties. My therapist in the past once told me to consider if I need to keep things setup this way forever, could I live with that, and can I still love my partner despite this situation. I definitely don't like having to manage finances this way, however, it's not painful enough to change the way I feel about my wife from a relationship/marriage perspective. Conversely, the gambler needs to ask themselves the same question. If the family finances forever remain this way, can they live with it? Can they still love us, and be in the relationship if it never changes?

I can envision my spouse putting more and more money into her own account, so she truly has access to cash. This would be when we're in a financial situation that doesn't require 100% of both our incomes to keep the household going. That way if there's a relapse, and she depleted that entire account, it wouldn't result in us losing our home, or impacting the kids. Unfortunately, this doesn't really solve the problem of having separate accounts, which is simply part of the pain that the gambler feels (the simple fact of having separate accounts).

Also, unfortunately, I don't have a perfect, or even decent solution to offer you. I feel that having access to more money in their account is a good compromise, however, I don't know that they would feel the same way. What if it were a large amount of money, like $25k or even $50K? That would be more disposable money/savings that we have in our family accounts. Would that help them overcome this pain point? We're not at the point yet to set aside that kind of disposable income, however, hopefully that will be the case eventually, after which point I can report back!

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