RIVERVIEW – Gambling problems, like other addictions, can destroy a family financially and emotionally.
But “there is hope,” said Damon Dye, a Riverview licensed mental health counselor, national certified gambling addiction counselor and board-approved clinical consultant for the National Council on Problem Gambling.
Dye, a 36-year-old, married father of two, opened his private practice, Triangle Resolutions, 6322 U.S. Highway 301 S., in 2006.
Through years of counseling addicted gamblers, Dye learned that the condition “often goes unrecognized because there is a lack of awareness … that it is an illness,” he said.
He noticed “clients’ spouses and loved ones were experiencing trauma and needed helpful resources themselves. Spouses of problem gamblers were lost in the fray, suffering from symptoms of anxiety and depression, and did not know what to do with their loved one,” he said.
Dye also found that “problem gamblers appeared to be more successful in treatment when their spouses were involved,” he said.
He wrote a book, ‘Know When to Hold ‘Em,’ “to provide spouses of problem gamblers the emotional tools to deal with their loved one’s addiction,” Dye noted.
The book, released in March, describes the traumatic stress spouses experience and helps them “understand the problem gambler, heal themselves and repair their relationships,” he said, adding that the book’s “education, research, and treatment recommendations can be utilized by professionals.”
Dye acknowledged that not all gamblers are addicted. He said problem gamblers, about half of whom are women, are estimated to be about 3 to 7 percent of the population and addicted gamblers one to three percent.
“Gambling addiction is not just a compulsive behavior, it is also an emotional escape,” he said. After someone has encountered loss, for instance, gambling problems can serve as a way to numb those feelings.
He encourages involvement in 12-step programs such as Gamblers Anonymous and Gam-Anon for spouses, “so that extra support can be obtained during the most challenging time of early recovery, particularly when the gambler is trying to overcome a multitude of challenges such as withdrawal, depression and financial desperation.”
He said that although not everyone with a gambling problem or addiction responds well to these 12-step programs, there still is hope, because “recovery can be obtained through other treatments and support systems.”
Dye’s message is clear: “There are caring people available to help,” he said. “Recovery is like a family. Having a team behind you who genuinely wants you to heal from the hurt and enjoy your life can be invaluable. Recovery works. There is hope.”
The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, 1-888-ADMIT IT, is a 24-hour helpline with free resources for problem gamblers and their families. The Gamblers Anonymous website lists phone numbers and meeting locations.
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