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Hi Jan
I think you have already started doing the right thing for your son’s CGing. You are on a site that understands all you have written and you are being heard.
You imply (forgive me if I get it wrong) that your son leaves home sometimes, possibly with a girlfriend and then when the going gets tough he returns home.
It is/would be incredibly tough for you to tell him next time he wants to return, after having left, that he is not going to find bed and shelter with you. This is possibly the right way forward but as a mother of a CG I know how difficult this is in reality. It is probably easier to say this before he makes his next departure but it is important never to make a threat to a CG that you are not 100% prepared to carry out – empty threats merely encourage a gambling brain to believe that the door will always be open and given time, he will see it as the invitation to carry on gambling regardless.
What age is your son now?
When he struggles to pay his debts does he ask you to cover his debt and if so do you feel that it is something you have to do to save him?
The way forward for an active CG to seek a gamble-free life is first to accept that he has a problem which your son appears to be denying. The next thing would be for him to accept that it is his addiction that is to blame for the mess he is in and for him to take responsibility for that mess, ie., clearing his gambling debts and paying for his board.
When those around CGs clear debts; what they are in effect doing is wiping the problem away leaving the CG without any personal worry, free to indulge their addiction running up further debt. It is a cycle of behaviour that goes on and on and as you have found, gradually gets worse. I am not suggesting that you are enabling in this way but for many parents, including me, this was the only way I thought I would win in the end.
Before I say anymore I want you to know that I know that the addiction to gamble can be controlled or I would not be writing to you – your son has the ability to live a wonderful gamble-free life.
Maybe you could go on the Gamblers Anonymous web site and download the ‘20 Questions’ and leave them where you son can find them. I don’t suggest handing them to him because I would imagine this would end up with an argument over whether or not he had a gambling problem at all. Personally I think it is good when an active CG knows that those around them are seeking help as it is common for a CG to think that they are the only one suffering, when in reality you are both suffering.
This addiction destroys self-esteem and self-confidence in both the CG and those who love them. It is important, I believe, that you never forget that you do not have an addiction and that because you do not own it you are stronger than his addiction.
The addiction to gamble does pull families apart, it is divisive to gain enablement and to this end it often seeks out the closest target. Unity against his addiction (and I stress, not against your son) is the best thing you can all do for your him – maybe have a family chat, without your son and tell them that you are gaining knowledge and that between you all, if you stand shoulder to shoulder, you will be giving him the best support and hope for a gamble free life.
I will leave this here for a first reply but please keep posting and if there is anything you don’t understand please come right back at me. The written word can so often be misconstrued and it is only with time and sharing that trust is built up.