Recovering Together Against All Odds
As the spouse of two compulsive gamblers, yes I did say two; I guess I was a slow learner, the short version of the story is that my first gambler never entered recovery and died while he was gambling. My current husband has more than 20 years of recovery.
I can share with a strong emphasis that my recovery is just as important as that of my recovering gambling spouse. The reason I know this today is because I actually Like and Love Myself!
Here is one bullet point I have learned in my recovery:
I was not the problem and I am also not the solution.
I was not to blame for his addictive gambling behavior. He tried to lay that one on me and for a while I actually believed it, in part. All addicts have tactics; some conscious and many unconscious that are called defense mechanisms. They are used to support the addiction. Because while active in addiction, addicts must protect the addiction at all costs. The addiction is the primary relationship. The main defense mechanism used is denial. Denial can come in many shapes and sizes. Typically rationalizations or justifications (making excuses for the gambling) or minimizing (limiting the amount of the wins or losses of time and/or money shared with others) are the main common defense mechanisms used.
When he used rationalizations such as the children needing too many things or my being too needy to justify his gambling, I was the one who actually believed him.
I tried to change the way I dressed, acted and spoke to him with some belief that it might alter his gambling. All the changes I made did not have one positive impact on his gambling problem. His gambling progressed, again not because of me but because pathological gambling is a progressive illness. What did happen to me as a result of the changes I made in my dress, actions and speech was that my self-esteem took a further nose-dive. As his gambling got worse, I continued to blame myself and look for new ways I could make changes that would help him to get back on track.
What I know today is that I AM the solution to my own problems. There are things I cannot change in life and one of the major things I cannot change is the behavior of my spouse.
However I can change my own behavior. I can change my responses to both statements and behavior. I can remove myself from continued participation and deterioration in conversation and behavior. I can attend self-help meetings for myself. These meetings specifically for the loved ones of problem gamblers are called Gam-Anon and you can find information about Gam-Anon in your area by going to www.gamanon.org. I AM responsible for my own happiness or lack of it. A question I ask myself daily is, “What am I doing today to bring joy and happiness into my life?”
This question redirects the focus of my attention to myself. It is an empowering way to begin my day and has assisted me in repairing my broken self-esteem. After all, happiness is an inside job!