Dear Older Self,
Gambling is a mood altering behavior that can become an addiction with devastating consequences.
Remember that older woman who had inherited her parents’ home? The mortgage was completely paid off when she inherited the property. This made it much easier for her to live off her social security income. Unfortunately, she became addicted to gambling and drew money out of her equity to pay for her losses. She ended up losing her home. She lost her financial independence and became financially dependent on her daughter. Her health was also compromised by this. In fact, it was her increasingly severe anxiety attacks that forced her to reveal the extent of her gambling problems to her doctor and to her daughter.
The addictive power of gambling lies in its intermittent reinforcement. A person who gambles tends to lose and lose and lose and then win. The experiences of losing creates anxiety and a desperation to win back what has been lost. The anxiety that is set off by this experience dumps adrenaline into the person’s body creating an agitated kind of “high.” The win then creates a great sense of relief and the adrenaline inducing belief that more and greater wins are just around the corner. This lose-lose-lose-win dynamic can create an obsession with chasing the big win and a compulsive drive to act on this obsession.
Everybody knows that gambling corporations, like casinos, make a lot of money and that people who gamble lose a lot of money. In spite of this, a fantasy can set in that you will be the exception to this rule.
Casinos lure the elderly with inexpensive and accessible bus rides, special prices on meals and free alcoholic drinks. These specials are made available most often at the end of the month or the beginning of the month —times when social security checks are deposited in bank accounts.
These outings have a special appeal for seniors who are bored or lonely. It is a social event that is affordable and available. For seniors who are on fixed income the added appeal is the fantasy of increased income.
Online gambling is also now readily available. It may not provide the social experience that casino gambling offers, but it is easy to participate even if a person is not very mobile. Gambling websites are littered with popup ads for reverse mortgages, enticing people to draw hundreds and thousands of dollars of cash out of their homes that can be used for gambling.
Addiction to gambling can clearly be just as disruptive and destructive to a person’s life as an addiction to alcohol or narcotics. Fortunately, just as there is help for addictions to alcohol and narcotics there is help available for people with an addiction to gambling. The wisdom of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous offers a tried- and-true path to restoring sobriety and serenity to people who are addicted to gambling. Gamblers Anonymous is the group that focuses on this particular addiction.
If you are caught up in gambling and cannot stop on your own, or stay stopped, do yourself the biggest favor ever. Get help. Find a Gamblers Anonymous Meeting near you, or find one online or find a phone meeting. Whatever venue you choose, get yourself to meetings a few times a week. There you will find people who fully understand what you are up against. There you will find people who have strength and hope to share. There you will find people who will walk beside you as you start down the road toward sobriety, sanity and serenity.
Dear older self, you are never too old to become addicted to mood altering behaviors like gambling. And you are never too old to get help. Please find a way to be transparent about your finances with someone who knows you, who cares about you and who is able to hold you accountable. Rather than getting caught in the secrecy and lies that come with addictive gambling, ask someone to track your financial life with you.
If you find yourself caught up in gambling, get the help you need so you can embrace financial sobriety. There are so many benefits to doing this. The benefits include being able to stay financially independent as long as possible, being able to have assets to pass on to others, not having secrets and lies clouding your relationships and the freedom of living with peace of mind.
This meditation is taken from Notes to Our Older Selves: Suggestions for Aging With Grace by Juanita Ryan and Mary Rae. You can get a copy at Amazon.com