October 2002

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Volume No. IV, Issue No. 10                                            October  2002

wpeF.jpg (3543 bytes)MAKING PROGRESSI am 33 years old and the mother of 2 beautiful children. I have a great job and a wonderful husband. I am also a compulsive gambler. That is difficult for me to admit. I have always been extra hard on myself. Was I pretty enough, smart enough, good enough?I used gambling for fun at first; it was a good release from the everyday stresses of life. Then it became more frequent. The casinos were close to where I lived, and they were easy to get to.

I would go with the intention of spending a small amount of time and money … then the next thing I knew, that small amount of time and money was tallying large amounts!

Luckily, I had a friend who stepped in. She pointed out that my behavior was hurtful and causing big problems between my husband and me. How was I explaining the huge holes in the checkbook to him? Where was the money going?

I needed to take a long, hard look at what I was doing. I didn’t want to lose everything I had gained over the past years. My children deserve to go to college and have all the best things … so why was I wasting my energy and money on gambling?

I didn’t know, and that made me realize … if I didn’t know the reason, then the reason was a problem. I could always invent an excuse, but deep down, I knew it wasn’t real.

I am taking it one day at a time now, being more responsible with my money and the way I budget. I stay away from the casino floors, but I have to work with the casinos for my marketing job. When I visit their offices, I always make sure I have no money, checks, credit cards or debit cards on me; this is part of my discipline.

I have a personal accountant help me keep tabs on things, and I feel better about everything now than I have in quite awhile. I know there will be tough days, and I know nobody but me can be responsible for me; so … I am doing my best, watching my steps and praying every day that God will give me the strength I need to get me through.

How am I doing? Ask me in about 10 years. I don’t even know if I will have an answer then … but one day at a time, I am gaining.

Lora G., KS

 Late-Onset Female Gamblers
 by Susan D., S.C
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(Some 3 years after entering recovery for compulsive gambling, Susan now works in the field of gambling treatment.)

In the area I live and work in, I have noticed one fact above all others about women over 50 who enter either treatment or GA—the amount of pain they are in. Most are „escape” gamblers who have recently lost a spouse through death or divorce.

Gambling is seldom the reason for the divorce but, instead, appears to be precipitated by the divorce. Both widows and divorcees experience a huge void in their lives as a result of „being alone.”

Many late-onset gamblers have a lot of free time on their hands. Often a life insurance policy or a divorce settlement provides an influx of money. Combined with handling the funds, often for the first time in their lives, and a need to escape the feelings of pain, it is easy for these women to fall prey to gambling.

Of course, the gambling starts out innocently enough and is often encouraged by loved ones. Grown children want Mom to be able to „move forward.” Most offspring assume that, since their parents have always worked hard and saved for their golden years, they will appreciate the value of their nest egg and not squander it away.

Buses to casinos provide women at loose ends with peer socialization. Mom is starting to make new friends. Mom is not wallowing in self-pity. Mom appears to be happier. She is handling the death of her spouse better than anyone anticipated, or she is doing better since the divorce. Mom is getting attention from casino hosts and hostesses; they are treating her like a queen.

One divorced woman told me that after her divorce she had a difficult time „not being the center of someone’s world.” Gambling was a good escape for her; she could have a new „lover” without fear of being rejected again. Another woman, after the death of her husband, also discovered she could have a new „lover” without feeling that she was cheating on the deceased! Other women voiced that they could just „zone out” and not feel at all. At first, no one seems to notice that Mom is developing a gambling problem, but the signs are there.

She has started to lie about the amount of money she is spending or about her whereabouts—frequently no one knows she’s not at home. She is embarrassed to admit she’s out of control. She doesn’t want to appear to be a failure. She doesn’t want to admit she’s not able to handle finances. And more importantly, she doesn’t want to be a burden to her children, another relative or a friend.

She is „hooked” and doesn’t know what to do or where to turn. Her addiction becomes „her little secret.” Can she let her children know that, not only is their inheritance gone, but that the power company may shut off the electricity?

In the mind of the typical late-onset female gambler, gambling is now the only solution to regaining any of the monies lost. The axiom that „Gambling is the problem, not the solution” is foreign to them.

To break the disastrous cycle of chasing her losses, a woman needs to recognize that she didn’t cause her gambling addiction, she can’t control it, and she can’t cure it. Bolstered by this understanding, she will be able to reach out for and accept help.

The good news is that help is available. In some cases, the GA support system will be enough; however, GA alone will not suffice for some women, and a treatment center or private therapy will also be needed.

Some may disagree and say, „Just don’t gamble,” but I’m a strong believer in doing „emotional” work to understand why we gamble and what we need to do to „develop a better way of life” (Combo Book, pg. 13). While it is a prerequisite to recovery, I believe that abstinence alone seldom works over the long haul. „Just don’t gamble,” is advice most compulsive gamblers can’t follow, no matter how hard they try.

I WILL NOT GAMBLE TODAY

I let the milestones GA marks „mess with my mind” and lead me to relapsing. Repeated relapses marked my early days in GA—lots of abstinence, punctuated by short relapses. The relapses were brief because I never let having gambled keep me away from meetings, and I always ‘fessed up to my GA sisters and brothers if I had gambled. I clung to the program, its people and honesty about whether I had gambled.

I began to accumulate meaningful abstinence when I began to „work” the Recovery Steps, and the principles the Steps embody continue to contribute to positive change in my life. Another invaluable principle I’ve incorporated is „One Day at a Time.” This time-honored slogan applies to virtually everything in a recovering woman’s life, but the first area in which I reaped tremendous benefit from living life one day at a time was in abstaining from gambling.

Most of us, by the time we determine we need to stop gambling, can’t even conceive of life without gambling. At first, it was fun, and we almost came to look at gambling as a „friend.” In time, we could barely function without gambling. Gambling stints seemed to be the only thing that could get us „through” the rest of our lives. In a way that was true; gambling had destroyed any positive coping skills we may once have applied!

In the early days, I let the thought of never gambling again overwhelm me. I couldn’t conceive of life without gambling. I had let gambling consume virtually every positive aspect of my everyday life, so it appeared nothing could take its place. With that mind-set, what would my life have been without gambling? Finally, I „bought into” what I had heard from virtually my first GA meeting. All I had to do was choose not to gamble „today.” I could conceive of a day without gambling.

It’s been a long time since my last „gambling dream,” but waking up from such a dream used to occasion an audible assurance from me—to me: „I will not gamble today.” I seldom start my day verbalizing that determination, but the phrase is planted in my subconscious. And on the rare occasions when I have a desire to gamble, I say it out loud. „I will not gamble today.”

We don’t have to quit gambling forever! We live today; we are responsible for the choices we make today; we can choose not to gamble today!…………………………………………..Betty C., AZ