What can I do to Help my 22-year old Son with his Gambling Addiction?

Q: What can I do to help my 22-year-old son with his gambling addiction?

Our Parenting Expert, Stephanie Bennett, responds to a concerned mother’s question about her son’s gambling addiction.

A. First of all, a 22 year old is definitely considered an adult. It is unfortunate that this young adult is addicted to gambling, but he will, unfortunately have to either ‘hit bottom’ on his own, or be struck by a ‘lightening bolt’ before it is too late. Late, meaning that he has already lost a job, or car, or the respect of his family and friends–not to mention respect for himself. A gambling addiction is not all that different from any other addiction. Having an addiction to anything does not mean a person is bad. It can happen to anyone, at any time. Addiction reaches all classes of people and all walks of life.

The general definition of an addiction is as follows: The continued use/misuse of a mood altering or mind-altering substance, or object (being money), despite the harmful consequences. Alcoholism, sexual addiction, credit card overuse, gambling or any number of other addictions can be put in the same category.

The gambler has an obsessive desire to feel in control, a need for the excitement to fuel his addiction. It is a kind of emotional ‘roller-coaster.’ The downside of gambling, or any addictive behavior, is that it soon gets out of hand, and the gambler begins to lose not only money, but also dignity and self-control. It is a vicious cycle to regain control, every time he loses his money to the pool table, or crap table. He will deny he is out of control and make a hundred excuses, but deep inside he knows he is hurting and losing. Do not excuse the gambler’s behavior, or attempt to rescue. Trying to save him from his pain and suffering only makes it worse. Do not do what he can do for himself. He needs to get his feet firmly planted in reality, the parent who rescues cuts off his legs!

There is a word for parents who may continue to put a ‘Band-Aid’ on the problem, it’s called co-dependency. When a parent is willing to be a ‘tough love’ parent, it will not only help the gambler, but will help the parent.

Being the parent of any kind of ‘addict,’ is a hard road, but it is necessary to stick to your guns, visit co-dependency anonymous or HOPE, and encourage your adult son to go to Gamblers Anonymous. That is the best you can hope for. Your son is now 22 years old and ready to make his own choices in life–just like you did.

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