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Hi Bonhonnie
After a terrific reply from Worriedmum and a welcome from Harry, I am pleased to welcome you too, I hope you will soon know that you have come to the right place for you and ultimately for your son.
I am hoping that your husband is ready to support you through this because it is not an easy ride and your son’s addiction is divisive. I suggest keeping your husband informed of all you learn because the more knowledge you gain the easier it is to cope. Any questions he may have will of course be answered too.
Before I write anymore with what I know is a tough message, I must tell you that I would not be writing to you if I did not ‘know’ that the addiction to gamble can be controlled and that fantastic lives can and are lived as a result.
Conditions rarely work. My CG (compulsive gambler) told me that ‘my need’ was for him to stop lying and change, ‘his need’ was to gamble. I hope the following will help you understand what is happening when you talk to your son, although not recognised professionally it has been a coping mechanism for many of us – and I know it works.
Imagine your son’s addiction is a slavering beast in the corner of the room. Every time you speak to your son, his addiction is awake, poised and ready to jump – but as long as you keep your cool and don’t threaten it, it will stay in the corner, growling quietly – never forget, it is always there and listening.
The good news is that although your son is controlled by his addiction, you are not; you can gain knowledge and be one step ahead. When you threaten his addiction with conditions, it will leap between you and control the conversation, probably turning it into an argument. As Worriedmum wrote, his addiction is the master of threats and manipulation but you are not and nor do you want, or need, to be. Once the addiction beast is between you, you will not hear your son, you will only hear his addiction – and because it knows only lies and deceit, it will seek to make you feel blame and demoralize you. In turn, when you speak to your son, his addiction is distorting your words, drastically altering reality to fit his personal perception – he will not be able to comprehend your meaning.
My CG explained this to me. The addiction to gamble is an addiction of constant failure and misery so your son really believes he is completely worthless. Because he ‘knows’ he is no good, you must be lying when you tell him you love him, or that his life would be better if he stopped gambling – why would you love someone so worthless? Believing himself to be without worth your son will fight back with distortion and deception because sadly, at the moment, he doesn’t have or know any other coping mechanism.
In my opinion, you could be wasting valuable energy trying to believe that this time your son will be different. I believe it would be good, although really difficult, to try and ‘not’ believe him at the moment because in doing so you will become receptive. Stand back a bit and listen to what he is saying – hopefully it will become easier to stay out of an argument that has no point apart from making you feel less in control. Once you begin to try and put your side, the addiction has something to get its teeth into.
I know this all sounds quite negative but the positive side is that it removes you from the centre of the addiction giving you time and energy to look after you.
I cannot begin to tell you how important it is to look after yourself first and that by doing so, you will become stronger, you will reclaim your own life and be able to cope with this addiction. One of the best ways to win is not to play the game.
It will be great to communicate with you in real time. I cannot tell you what to do – because all decisions you make have to be ‘yours’ but I will answer your questions honestly. I have a group on Tuesdays between 20.00-21.00 UK time – it would be great to ‘meet’ you.
I will end this post by repeating my earlier message that I would not be writing to you now if I did not know that your son can control his addiction and can have a fantastic life as a result. You are at the beginning of a really difficult learning curve but you can do it and so can he. The more support you can give each other the better. There is so much more to tell you but I will leave it there for now.