THERE IS NO LUCK IN SUICIDE
WHEN IT IS DUE TO
1% of our world population are now
problem gamblers. Also, 16+million problem
gamblers are in just the US alone.
Parents? Half this number are
NOW your High School and
college age children.
.Gambling affects not only the gambler, the family and friends around the one who becomes addicted.
REAL STORIES And FACTS ABOUT GAMBLING ADDICTION . . . .
“Mary” was a poster child for the warning signs of compulsive gambling. It would have been obvious to anyone that she had a serious problem. But not to Mary. At least not until one day in 2009, as she sat in her car outside a Minnesota casino. A decade before, Mary had discovered gambling could be a “wonderful way to totally escape.” In the years since she had also found it be a path to mental and financial ruin. But on this day, as she stared through her car window at the casino, she could think of only one thing: “I’m sick and tired and of being sick and tired.”
“Emotionally, gambling had become a chore,” Mary says. “I was so scared that I was going to end up doing this for another 20 or 30 years. I was scared that I was going to get fired from my job. I was scared that I was going to end up in jail.” She wanted to stop. But what scared Mary most was that she couldn’t — or that she didn’t know how. “I was on auto-pilot,” she says. “I had no ability to stop. I couldn’t limit the time or the money I was spending on gambling.” It hadn’t always been that way. At first, Mary had a lot of fun playing the slots. “But I quickly discovered I had no control,” she says.
Once she started gambling in the late 1990s, it wasn’t long before Mary was visiting the casino three or four times a week, burning through several hundred dollars each trip. She took cash advances from her credit cards, then couldn’t make the payments. “I went for eight or nine months without gambling, but that was because I didn’t have access to any money,” she says. “Finally, things were better, and I wondered what would happen if I went back to the casino. I found out. Within four days, I had overdrawn my bank account and they closed it out. I was out of control again.”
Mary began “borrowing” funds from the company where she was president and chief executive, and because of her position there, she was able to take the money and pay it back without anyone knowing. That worked until she realized she had taken more than she could repay. Even at that point, with the walls closing in on her, Mary says “I didn’t want to admit I was a compulsive gambler. I didn’t want to say it out loud. It’s hard to admit you’re a liar and a cheat and a thief.”
But she did. Instead of getting out of her car and going into the casino, she went to work. And she told her business partner everything that was going on. With the support of her company, she went to a meeting of Gamblers Anonymous and found a sponsor. But she also realized she needed more help than GA would provide. She checked into the Keystone Treatment Center in Canton, S.D., and spent a month there.
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“The people at GA took me under their wing, and they didn’t treat me like a ‘bad person,’ she says. “And the people at Keystone saved my life.” “I kept thinking I was something special, that my situation was unique,” Mary says. “But I wasn’t, and it wasn’t.” After leaving Keystone, Mary returned to Minnesota to embark on her aftercare program. One of the first things she did was meet with her company’s board of directors. “I was terrified,” she says. “But they gave me a second chance. These were people I had lied to and had manipulated. They wanted me to prove I was committed — but they gave me a second chance.”
After 18 months in recovery, Mary remains committed. “I’m paying back what I owe, and I go to GA meetings a couple of times a week,” she says. “It’s so important; it’s essential to me to have recovering people in my life.” She’s where she is today, Mary says, because of two reasons. “It’s my higher power, and because of some very kind people who saw good things in me, but knew I needed help.”
“When I first went to GA,” she explains, “I couldn’t believe these people had been compulsive gamblers. I couldn’t understand it because they were happy. Now I know.”
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” A gambling addiction won’t ruin your liver or collapse your veins, but it’s got the highest suicide rate of any addiction. It’s National Suicide Prevention Week, so we ask: How is that possible? ”
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” The gambler’s isolation is compounded by the lack of resources for treating it. “A problem gambler can find it much harder to get help,” one expert says. “Some don’t even know it’s treatable.”
Milestone birthdays are often a rite of passage. For “Eddie,” about to turn the legal betting age of 18, this would be no exception.
It was late in the evening on July 16, 2002, and outside the Mystic Lake Casino Eddie and several friends waited anxiously for the clock to strike midnight. Eddie had already watched many of his friends celebrate their eighteenth birthdays at the casino, and he was excited that his day had finally come.
When midnight arrived, Eddie entered the casino, driver’s license in hand. Once inside, he went straight to the blackjack tables. As he placed his first bet on the table – two $1 chips – he immediately felt the excitement. The thrill was instantaneous – and lasting. Eddie played blackjack through the night, not leaving the casino until after sunrise.
“I fell in love when I got there and fell deeper in love with every bet,” says Eddie. “I won $97 that first night and thought I could come back and win $100 every night.” Eddie was a frequent visitor to the casino for the remainder of the summer, only stopping when it was time to leave for college in Chicago. He returned the following summer and became a mainstay at the casino, playing blackjack five days a week. “That second summer I won more money than I’d ever made in my life. I was enjoying myself, and I was making money.” Eddie was enthralled with the casino environment. “I liked the people, the sounds and the holding of chips and cards in my hands. It was an escape and a place where I felt liked.”
When Eddie returned to college in the fall of 2003, fresh off a full summer of gambling, he found it difficult to focus. “I started wishing I was gambling and didn’t do well in school.” He dropped out so that he could return to Minnesota and resume gambling. “I thought the way for me to make money was to gamble.” Instead, he began to lose money consistently. “I was financially destroyed,” recalls Eddie, now 27. “I began to write bad checks, lie and steal … I’d do anything I could do to get gambling money.”
Still, he was able to conceal the extent of his gambling. “While everyone knew that I gambled,” says Eddie, “they had no idea how much I bet, how long I spent at the casino, and how often I went.” Eddie would gamble for two days nonstop, go home to sleep, and then return to the casino for another day or two. “I binge gambled very frequently,” says Eddie. Eddie’s behavior eventually became a great concern to family and friends. One day in September 2004, his parents and friends staged an intervention. That same night, he began packing to go to Granite Falls for inpatient treatment at Project Turnabout.
Initially, Eddie was very confused. “The concept of an illness called compulsive gambling – let alone that it was something I had – was something I’d never heard of,” says Eddie as he reflects back on the gradual realization that he had a gambling addiction. “I knew I gambled too much but never thought of it as an illness.”
“I kept trying to convince myself that I was not a compulsive gambler even though I had all the symptoms. Eventually, though, I began to gradually accept that gambling was causing so many of the problems in my life.” If Eddie’s time in therapy at Granite Falls helped convince him that he had an illness, it was the time afterward that really helped him heal. “The inpatient treatment broke ground, but the 12-step meeting really helped build my recovery,” says Eddie.
Eddie has not gambled since beginning treatment and considers the three crazed years of gambling as “back then” – almost a lifetime ago. He is immensely grateful that he learned about his illness – and began to deal with it – at such an early age. “A lot of people I see in the 12-step programs are in their 40s and 50s. If I were dealing with this for 20 years, I’m pretty sure it would have killed me.”
(Article Courtesy of The Fix)
Suicide rates among gambling addicts are staggeringly high. The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) has estimated that one in five problem gamblers attempt to kill themselves, about twice the rate of other addictions. The reasons for this fact are both blindingly simple and impossibly complicated. And the central befuddling fact is this: Gambling kills you because it doesn’t kill you.
For the majority of addictions, how much you spend is regulated by how much the body can endure. There is only so much heroin, cocaine or vodka you can consume before you end up in a hospital or a morgue. Gambling is subject to no such constraints. “The amount of financial devastation you can wreak plays a big role in this,” says Keith Whyte, the NCPG Executive Director. “You can bet $50,000 in a single hand, every minute.”
Scholars of addiction point out that problem gamblers are subject to a slew of messy contributing factors and associative disorders. “We’ve known for a long time that problem gambling is not a standalone issue,” says Dr. Rachel Volberg, President of Gemini Research, which conducts gambling-related studies. “Problem gamblers are likely to have other substance abuse issues, usually alcohol and tobacco. Depression and anxiety are also prevalent among problem gamblers.”
In terms of the gambler’s tendency toward suicide, however, these factors serve only to cloud the issue. The most reliable killer of people with gambling problems can be summed up in a single word: debt. Because once negative equity enters the picture, gambling addiction moves into a category of its own.
A study undertaken in Hong Kong in 2010 found that of the 233 gambling suicides in the city over the course of a year, 110 of the victims had significant debts related to their problem. The majority of these were male, middle-aged, married and employed. Few showed evidence of prior psychiatric problems. They appeared normal in every way except that they had gambled their way into a bottomless pit.
It’s tough to put a number on how much debt Americans incur due to gambling: people lie about the problem; the landscape shifts too quickly to keep track. We do know that callers to a Wisconsin helpline a couple of years back claimed an average of $43,800 in gambling-related debts—up from $36,000 the previous year. One study estimated that US problem gamblers owe, on average, between $55,000 and $90,000. Another reported that 90 percent of problem gamblers use their credit cards to play.
None of these figures, though, get to the heart of the issue like the following passage, which was posted on the NCPG website: “I’m sitting here trying to figure out how to tell my husband that once again we have a major credit card bill on the way. I swore to him that it would never happen again. I believed my vow, especially when I saw how hard he had to work to pay off the last debt I ran up. How can I tell him I’ve done it again?”
This is where, in terms of suicidal tendencies, gambling addiction leaves the pack. “If you stop drinking, you can still go get a job,” says Whyte. “But once you’ve got a gambling debt twice your annual income, it’s hard to come back from that. In our society, living without money is a lot harder than living without alcohol.”
Gamblers who have landed themselves in debt, then, are no longer simply chasing a high, they are trying to evade catastrophe—as Whyte puts it, “You’re always one bet away from winning everything back.” And, again, there is no limit to the amount of money that can be devoted to this pursuit. Unless the gambler just stops, which is unlikely without outside intervention, the problem becomes compounded with every attempt at a solution. It is the cruelest catch-22.
There was a story in the paper a few weeks ago about a Vietnamese gambling addict who, having been hounded by creditors, dug a hole beneath his kitchen and hid there for two months. There’s a certain symbolic resonance to this story. For people with this addiction, there is an overwhelming urge to vanish, to remove yourself from the world.
“There’s a sense of stigma and shame,” Whyte says. “A lot of people still don’t understand that you can be addicted to a behavior. People tend to view gambling as a moral failure.” So adept are gambling addicts at hiding this failure, the people around them are often blind to it until the bailiffs come knocking on the door.
As the problem progresses, pathological gamblers become insufferable, riddled with anxiety, anger and paranoia. They tend to be deceitful, manipulative and preoccupied, and always seem to have forgotten to bring their ATM card when they go out. People get fed up with it; it wears them down. And so the gambler eventually finds himself alone—which becomes especially true after the explosive revelation of his debts.
The gambler’s sense of isolation, says Whyte, is compounded by the “vast disparity of resources” devoted to treating the various forms of addiction. “A problem gambler can find it much harder to get help,” he says. “Some people don’t even know it’s treatable.” According to Volberg, fewer than 5% of problem gamblers enter into treatment. Left unchecked, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness proliferate. Very often, gamblers will come to the conclusion that there is only one way out. About 80% at least think about hurting or committing suicide.
We have no real way of knowing how many people follow through. Gamblers are, by nature, impulsive and secretive—the ones who leap from a multi-story parking deck after a bad night generally don’t leave suicide notes, while those who do tend to gloss over the reasons for their self-annihilation. Certainly, it’s unlikely that there has ever been an autopsy report that cited “gambling” as a cause of death. Which is not to say, of course, that it wasn’t … Article Courtesy of The Fix Magazine
** Author & Columnist @ In Recovery Magazine, Catherine Lyon **