The first I knew of my daughter’s addiction was the day that the police came round and it was revealed that she had been using stolen credit cards to fund an on-line gambling habit that ran into hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Our initial reaction was one of heartbreak and shock. She had never been in trouble before and had wanted for nothing. She had moved back home after the break-up of her marriage and received a healthy monthly allowance from both her husband and us. Thankfully, we were able to pay back her debts and, in agreement with the courts, help her into a treatment programme in Spain where she was able to address her addiction.
During treatment, the reasons for her addiction slowly began to emerge. For her, initially, it was all about escaping. At first from her failed marriage and then to escape from the increasingly serious problems her addiction was causing. On-line casinos felt, to her, like playing the computer games she did as a kid. High scores, lives left. Everything seemed just like digits, not real money. Which is one of the reasons people can end up losing so much.
Looking back, perhaps we should have seen the warning signs. She was isolating herself, trapped in a cycle of playing to win, losing, then playing to win back whatever she’d lost, and then losing more. She’d make social appointments then fail to keep them. She let her appearance go. She lost interest in things she’d previously enjoyed, like horse-riding.
This kind of addiction can seem trivial, but the consequences are very real and it takes a high toll, physically and mentally. During her treatment, she was not allowed any internet or smartphone access and, initially, this was one of the hardest things for her as it felt as if her key coping mechanism had been removed. However, gradually she learned to deal with life in much more effective ways and she emerged from treatment a different person. She is now in a new, loving relationship and has recently moved in with her partner and is starting a new job.