Approximately a year after my wife and I got married, she disappeared. She didn't come home after work and all night. I was extremely concerned, thinking that she had been abducted. She's very beautiful, and regularly told me stories of men trying to pick her up, coming up to her at gas stations, or following her while driving. She also had some ex-boyfriends who demonstrated erratic and disturbing behavior over the years, and so my mind go to thinking of all kinds of things that could have happened to her.
I was unable to wait the 24 hours to file a missing person report, and did so the next morning. Long story short, in calling around to try to find her last location, I picked up some tidbits of information that lead me to check our pending credit card transactions. You need to call the bank to check these as they don't display online or over the automated phone system until one or two business days later. Seeing cash advances at a casino lead me to clue into what was going on. When she finally did come home a little later that day, I was so relieved that she wasn't dead, but also confused with what was really going on.
Having had no experience with addictions of any kind, I didn't come to realize the nature and scope of the problem until much later. My wife is highly intelligent, and it didn't take much for me to buy into believing that she could "just stop." It was only until much later that I learned that problem gambling is a progressive disease that continues to get worse with each episode. It's not uncommon for problem gamblers to go months, years, and even decades without even gambling at all, however, left untreated, it happens again, and I'm told that each episode is worse than the previous one.
We spent the better part of the following three years struggling with our marriage and our finances. I was in denial for a long time, and did virtually everything wrong in terms of being an enabler and managing to the fires that arose. When I finally got my head out of the sand, I called one of the problem gambling help lines, where they pointed me to a couple of books to read and to Gamblers Anonymous and Gam-Anon. Over time I convinced her to go to Gamblers Anonymous for awhile, and pressured her to see an individual therapist, however, these didn't stick. Also, I never felt compelled to go to Gam-Anon myself as I didn't truly understand the value of the program, and figured that I shouldn't have to invest my time in going to a 12-step program. I later learned that this was another big mistake.
Anyway, with the stress building up, and the ultimate birth of our first son, I came to realize that the way we were living and behaving couldn't continue. If not for or marriage or my personal sanity, it wasn't a healthy environment for our son. Given that he was a newborn, it didn't affect him, however, if life continued the way it was going, I was concerned that it could/would affect him in the long run, whether or not we stayed married. It took me awhile to build up the courage, but I ultimately worked to plan a professional intervention. The planning process lasted about 2.5 months. The outcome of the intervention process was that she agreed to go to intensive in-patient treatment. She later told me that she wanted to go prior to the intervention but didn't quite know how to bring herself to do it. In other words, it didn't take much convincing.
Without revealing too much of her personal treatment experience, I can at least share that the treatment center was an amazing experience, and it enabled her to kick-start the recovery process. I think it's really critical to understand that abstinence (i.e. not gambling) is very different from being in recovery. To this day, she remains on her path of recovery, and I also continue to work on my own recovery.
Please don't hesitate to share YOUR story by visiting the Gambling Addiction Help page. Please also note that in the spirit of protecting the privacy of my family, when replying to questions or stories, I use the name "Mark". My real name would not provide for the anonymity that this site respects. When sharing your story, please feel free to do the same. I've found that sharing our personal stories and experiences is not only personally helpful, but also help others who are struggling with the gambling addiction problem. Hopefully you feel the same way!
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