Sometimes the not-so-subtle expression, “wake up and smell the coffee,” resonates, even though it can sound a little tough. The truth is, however, that we spend a lot of our precious time on earth refusing to acknowledge certain realities. Or to quote another popular expression, “DE-Nile (denial) isn’t just another river in Egypt.
As I have the honor of conducting various presentations on gambling addiction with guru-cum-addiction specialist Bruce Jones of Maryhaven, I am continually reminded of the caffeine command. For a variety of reasons, our society appears to view gambling addiction as less—less dangerous, less crippling, less chronic. It pales in comparison to “hard core” addictions to substances like heroin or alcohol.
Please inhale a big snoot-full right over the arabica beans. This chronic, debilitating brain disorder, if untreated, ruins lives and families leading to higher divorce rates, greater incidences of child trauma and even family violence. It carries high costs for our country in terms of lost productivity and even crime, especially embezzlement, theft and forgery. Most importantly, it can be highly fatal. More pathological gamblers die by suicide than any other group of people struggling with addiction.
Every time we repeat that fact to a group, even a group of trained counselors and probation officers, at least some folks in the room express great surprise. Their reaction reinforces one of the greatest challenges we face in preventing this type of addiction—a cultural tendency to see gambling as a highly entertaining and relatively harmless pastime.
For about 90% of Ohioans, gambling qualifies as just that, not much more than a minor vice. But for the 10%, or more than 900,000 adults across the state, who now are addicted or who are at risk of addiction, the consequences amount to much more than a weekly $5 scratch-off card.
We can’t afford to keep ignoring or denying reality. Take a few moments to listen to the desperation of two former Maryhaven clients, Mark and Brad. They survived to tell stories that deserve our full attention.