Doomed if you have …doomed if you don’t have…. The impossible role of Money for addicted gamblers and how to think about it
One of the topics that often preoccupies early day interventions for problem gamblers is that of Money. Each month of the year presents its own challenges relating to money and I thought it would be worth taking a look at the very complex role of money in the life of a problem gambler; and how having better awareness of your relationship with money can help you remain abstinent in the longer term. It can be tempting to think that paying attention to money is counterproductive to abstinence as it could ‘feed an obsession’ at a time when you are busy trying to cut your losses and move on. Not addressing your attachment to money can however have the reverse effect that you are looking for and hence I have put together a small list of points to consider as you are now entering your recovery.
Some of the complicated contradictions with money in problem gambling….
# Having money can often lead to an urge to want to gamble
# Having NO money can often lead to an urge to go gambling (you quickly want to make some more)
# Being in debt can be depressing; and the prospect of long-term repayment plans can make a gambler feel tempted to have ‘a quick win’ instead
# Living ‘hand-to-mouth’ often leads to a very short-term focus (and those living hand to mouth will usually adapt a short term focus depending on what caused what) – one where no long term plan for money exist. This state often makes people more likely to justify a little bet; in the end of the day it does not feel like there is that much to loose .. (but of course it makes it impossible to get out of the hole that gambling has created).
# Having no access to money over long periods of time often makes people feel infantilised, less achieved and sometimes a bit bored; all of which can lead to urges to want to gamble
# having outgoings monitored by a loved one often feels intrusive and difficult; and can sometimes add further strain to already strained relationships
#having nobody monitoring accounts and outgoings represents a huge risk for the gambler as they can then convince themselves that they are just ‘using a bit’ to increase the money they have, something that will result in more chasing and more losses.
It would be fair to say that most people would like to have a bit more money. This is not isolated to gamblers at all – however unlike for people suffering with other addictions- gamblers are the only ones who think (from time to time at least) that their addiction is going to make them rich and, if all goes to plan, also possibly help put the addiction to rest. This is of course far from the truth. But it does not take away from the fact that you still might want and need some more money in your life.
So how is one supposed to relate to money when it has become a curse both in its presence and in its absence? Money constitutes the absolute biggest trigger for any problem gambler! It is the very means required to fulfil your gambling addiction and as such can be equated to 'the bottle' for an alcoholic or direct drug access to a person addicted to drugs. The difference is that we still need money to live hence why significant efforts need to go into blocking access to money, and ensuring that these restrictions are not suddenly taken out or reduced for reasons that tend to be driven by ego needs and strange justifications for why life will never be the same with these restrictions in place.
The role of money is highly complicated and it will be worth it for you to spend some time reflecting over the following points. I have written them in ‘I’ format so that you can really pretend like you are thinking it to aid you in reality checking some of the distortions that can easily occur.. .
Rules of thumb for money relating & 3 things I can do right now...
# Although I keep thinking I need money – the fact is I don’t have any due to gambling anyway (and I have gambled a long time) – so is it possible that I actually need money less than I realise?