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Denial about problem gambling – successful approaches?

By Dacquiri - 24 September 2014 10

There would be many Canberrans with experience of living with a problem gambler — specifically the type who is in complete denial and engages in all the classic deceptions, such as hiding the fact that he is even patronising licensed clubs, and spinning concocted stories about why he needs to withdraw substantial sums of money from ATMs all coincidentally located near clubs and why he has no money to pay his car rego during the month that he put $1600 into poker machines (that was one of the cheapest months — it’s usually about $5000). All of the recommended approaches (talking to a counsellor, self-exclude, etc.) seem to require the person to acknowledge that there is an issue. But how do you get the person to that point when they refuse to even talk about it and become hostile and irate when the subject is even raised? They believe that their financial matters are none of anyone else’s business (yes, even in a marriage).  Do people have to ‘hit rock bottom’ in terms of a crisis before they see sense?  This is a person who would rather walk over hot coals than talk to Relationships Australia (gambling support service).  Unfortunately, there is no individual whom he respects who could talk to him.  I would like to know what people’s experience has been, as the situation has been going on for some years (which I have recently learned), is only likely to get worse, and is affecting his moods, outlook, and marriage. Thank you.

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10 Responses to
Denial about problem gambling – successful approaches?
Dacquiri 4:18 pm 25 Sep 14

Thank you for those suggestions. He has always lived really cheaply — the only possible motivator might be his desire for a Colorado ute! Insists on keeping separate account after bad experience with his ex (apparently she cleaned out the accounts). The bank said they can’t unilaterally lower the daily withdrawal limit unless the signatory requests this. Turning in his ATM card would be ideal, but that’s clearly a longer-term project.
The clubs have been excellent & cooperative, but since there are 5-6 involved, none were aware of the situation & apparently their info depends on the patron swiping/using their membership card while they’re there. So these clubs are a really enticing way to escape, with zero accountability for where you are or what you are doing.
Oh — and there is no ‘when he’s at work’. He’s not in work. Only employed for about half of the last 2 yrs. Even less for me. It’s tough when you’re 60.

tooltime 2:31 pm 25 Sep 14

Hi,

Just for a bit of perspective – does it take “him” a day, a week, a fortnight, month or longer to net $5000?

I don’t envy you one little piece either way. I would be ring fencing my finances immediately. I’d also consider the dramatic step of chucking a sickie when he’s at work one day, hiring a removal van and storage space and putting evrything you both value in it. Farm the kids out for a few nights, and let him come home to nothing … If the penny doesn’t drop for him then, you really have to consider whether you and your children’s futures involve this bloke.

There’s also free financial counsellors available on 1800 007 007 ( till Socal Services minister Kevin Andrews pulled their funding…) they do.great work.

Good luck

jett18 1:42 pm 25 Sep 14

This is such a tricky one– I went through this with a family member years ago and it was just gut wrenching.

The best approach that I’ve heard of working for someone in denial about their situation and addiction is to lower the daily limit for withdrawrals down to something very, very low. This acts in two ways.

1. There is a control on the amount of money being spent.
2. It can open a conversation up about why this was done in the first place– after all, the person with the addiction now cannot access funds after a certain amount!

Good Luck with your situation and I hope that it can be turned around!

farnarkler 10:59 pm 24 Sep 14

A bit left field but how about suggesting a fairly costly holiday that will cost x dollars and take x number of months to save for.

Try and find a bank account that require two signatures or don’t allow withdrawals for a fixed term and deposit money in there each payday.

Masquara 8:14 pm 24 Sep 14

Is it also your marriage? If you are involved with this person, separate ALL your finances from him. Forthwith. Consult a lawyer and check that he hasn’t put you into debt without your knowledge (can and does happen). Once you are safe, see whether you can bring in mental health services. It’s likely he’ll have to hit rock bottom. But if it’s recognised as a mental illness, there’s a government role, I think it’s the Public Advocate or something like that, who might be able to step in. But don’t expect much help from Katie Gallagher’s government reps, I guess. Problem gamblers fund Labor’s election campaigns via the pokies, after all.

Dacquiri 8:12 pm 24 Sep 14

Thanks for the comments, suggestions and support. I spoke to a gambling counsellor at RA today, who was helpful and had some constructive ideas (such as writing him a letter if he refuses to engage in a conversation, and putting the focus on me and us rather than accusing/blaming him). I may speak to them again, as well as CARE financial service. Yes, it is definitely a poker machine problem — which I think for him, and many others, provides an ‘escape’ from other pressures and hassles — however, it is too easy for this to get out of control when ATMs are everywhere. (Ideal solution: ask the bank to cancel his ATM card!) I am not so worried about me (except if I have a financial liability for his debts) but about how to move him from complete denial to acknowledgement of a problem.

Antagonist 7:35 pm 24 Sep 14

“Do people have to ‘hit rock bottom’ in terms of a crisis before they see sense?”

Most times, yes. That is often exactly what it takes. That is from a person who has had a whole bunch of different addictions, and thoroughly enjoyed them too. It amazing how motivated a person can get when life jams a metaphorical fire-cracker up your butt.

VYBerlinaV8_is_back 3:26 pm 24 Sep 14

Are you sure it is gambling, and not some other habit? Sorry, just thought you might need to explore the possibility.

justin heywood 3:01 pm 24 Sep 14

Monomyth said :

Approach RA yourself first then. Surely you will not be the first person to have a loved one in denial. If your spouse (?) refuses to acknowledge the problem (and all addicts do) you can at least arm yourself with coping mechanisms, someone to talk to and how to protect yourself from financial issues that might arise.

They will also equip you with resources and books on how best to deal with these situations. While not an addict of anything, my ex-husband was living in denial for our entire marriage and it was a big part of why we broke up, so you have my sympathies.

RA do online consults as well if you prefer. Best of luck.

Yes. I agree with this. You aren’t alone, so get some professional advice yourself. A lot of people have been through the same thing.

Of course there’s no easy road, but it’s not something that goes away by itself. Good on you for trying to address the problem.

Monomyth 12:34 pm 24 Sep 14

Approach RA yourself first then. Surely you will not be the first person to have a loved one in denial. If your spouse (?) refuses to acknowledge the problem (and all addicts do) you can at least arm yourself with coping mechanisms, someone to talk to and how to protect yourself from financial issues that might arise.

They will also equip you with resources and books on how best to deal with these situations. While not an addict of anything, my ex-husband was living in denial for our entire marriage and it was a big part of why we broke up, so you have my sympathies.

RA do online consults as well if you prefer. Best of luck.

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