Peter viewed gambling as a normal entertainment for men as a result of observing father gambling on horseraces. Since graduation from university, Peter joined the finance industry. He was used to the concept of “using money to make big money”. He found the logic in gambling similar to that of his everyday work. Peter’s decent salary fulfilled the prerequisite of becoming a member of Hong Kong Jockey Club, where he met some horse owners and discussed gambling with them. Therefore, gambling helped him build and maintain relationships in this social circle.
Peter perceived gambling through a call was an easy way to make money fast. He attributed winning to his knowledge of horses and their past records, as well as his good analytical skills. He gradually gambled more frequently from twice per week on horseracing only, to 24/7 at casinos. Gambling became his “job”. Borrowing money is perceived as a valid solution for cash-flow problem in a business. He rationalized that many corporations were indebted for investment and they repaid debts by revenue. With the mindset of “borrow money for gambling today, win to repay debts tomorrow”, Peter’s bets multiplied and applied for loans when he ran out of cash for wager. Unfortunately, it accumulated unaffordable debts that Peter had to seek help from family.
Influence of gambling myths
Originally, Peter retired early to enjoy a stable and relaxing life. Gambling was occasional entertainment. However, his deep-rooted belief of “borrow money for gambling today, win to repay debts tomorrow” led to the many lies to obtain wager and impeded family’s trust to him. Peter’s wife became more anxious and easily irritated. Their marital relationship was at stake. To help him repay the debts, family unwillingly sold off their assets and stocks. The family finance became unstable.
Peter deeply believed that he could be in control of gambling and make easy money when he had a clear mind, and therefore indebted situation was temporary. For some time, his treatment goal was controlled gambling yet he kept falling into the relapse trap. He fantasized that he could use the loan as wager and win big money, which could then compensate for family’s losses and ameliorate the status quo. He denied the negative consequences was due to gambling but the strategies he gambled. In short, the distorted thinking not only reinforced Peter’s gambling behaviour, but also blinded him from treatment. His decisions paved way to relapse, led to more debts, and worsened family relationship.
Treatment and change
In the review of gambling history, counsellor guided Peter to be aware of gambling myths and their impacts on him. Peter found the guilt a torture to him. He felt helpless. Counsellor provided emotional support and unconditional positive regard to contain Peter’s emotions. Given enough room for Peter to reflect, he acknowledged the harm brought by gambling. Over time Peter learnt more about emotions and the interaction with one’s biology, and became more mindful of them. He also acquired urge management skills by deep breathing or distraction, and buying time to reconsider alternatives to problem solving.
In the process, Peter was motivated to quit gambling. Although his wife was away from him for the time being, he had not given up on himself. He chose to re-join the employment force and face challenges squarely.