Shock, Fear and Guilt

My best friend confided in me recently that she may have a gambling problem.

Unknown until the last two years, she was in an abusive relationship for 18 years. Her husband is an alcoholic, cheated on her several times, manipulated her into spending years and years helping him financially, and after her own full time employment as a care giver, spent endless hours helping him build a business.

She was the sole care provider of their child, and took care of all the finances, including taking out loans, borrowing large sums of money from her family, and even kiting checks in order to maintain the household as well as the business.

When the business became a success, she still had to work constantly to maintain the household and child expenses. His money was spent on lawyers for DUIs, taking his friends (and mistresses) out on his dime, and hiring friends at enormous wages.

She became ill last year, and he became abusive in all ways. She could barely defend herself. Still she held everything together (in between blood transfusions/surgeries, etc.). Her pain was constant, her self esteem crushed, and the depression severe. The pain kept her awake, sleeping two hours per night, the physical/mental effect devastating. The strongest person I have ever known was completely depleted.

She began gambling in casinos initially to escape the home when her son was at school, a play date, or sleepover. She was afraid to be alone when her husband came home drunk, was isolated from family and friends and ashamed of her appearance. The casino was open all the time, no dress code and no one bothered her there. She said it was a safe place. We thought it was innocent, and perhaps therapeutic.

A physician placed her on Seroquel as a sleeping aide. We noticed immediately more and more time was spent at the casino, until we barely saw her at all.

She has confided that she spent almost an entire equity loan, a disability settlement, and all bill money on the slots (80,000+) within months.

She finally left her husband, has been taken off the Seroquel, and her impulses were controlled quickly. She has admitted relapses. She is absolutely terrified of her family finding out, is so shocked and guilt-ridden over her situation' we fear for her.

Her husband has found out and is black mailing her. He intends to sue her for her losses. What do we say to her?

Comments for Shock, Fear and Guilt

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Jun 10, 2013
by: Mark

Thank you for sharing. It sounds like your friend has really suffered, and confiding in you is really huge. It makes sense that gambling could be a method of escape for her from her stress and problems.

Unfortunately, even if her husband doesn't sue her, and even if he were to spontaneously become the best ex-husband on the planet, she would still have a gambling problem. If the existing stressors went away, and she stopped gambling, at some point down the road something would likely trigger it again. Each relapse is often worse, as gambling problems are said (by the professionals) to be a progressive problem/disease.

In other words, your friend definitely has a gambling problem, and regardless of what triggered it this particular time (even if it's the first time), it's her problem that she needs to address for herself to keep her happy and healthy.

There are steps she can take to begin the recovery process:

1. Attend a Gamblers Anonymous meeting in her area.

2. Call her medical insurance company and request free counseling. Many states offer up to 6 free sessions (i.e. no co-pay). From there, she can determine whether continuing one-on-one therapy is helpful/feasible. In my personal (and unprofessional) opinion, I feel that therapy really gets to the root of the problem that can't be addressed in GA.

3. Suggest she read the book: Taking Back Your Life:
Women and Problem Gambling. It's one of the books on the Resources page.

If you want to support her, you can ask her if she wants you to attend a GA meeting with her, and you can even attend a Gam-Anon meeting if you want some more insight; they're often held in the same building. You may also be able to support her by helping to control her financial situation by taking over some of those responsibilities on her behalf for awhile. Obviously she would need to (and want to) be willing to have you take on that role. That could help her control her access to money while she gets her triggers/urges under control. If this isn't something you're willing/prepared to take on, I would encourage her to find someone she can trust to help her with that.

She may find that it will also help to have close friends and family know about her problem so she can get additional emotional support. Anyone who truly cares for her and loves her will be helpful (not lending money, but emotional support) as she starts the recovery process.

I hope this helps with some ideas. Please report back and let us know how things are going.

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