Aug 7, 2013

Have a lucky day...

Dear AAP-
I'm another pissed off young punk forced to still live in a home with a junkie. My problem is my mother who only cares about feeding her habit. The weird part is that the habit is the lottery. Right now some big lottery is getting bigger and my mom is going apeshit, buying more tickets the higher it gets. She's telling me that I should give her the money I've saved up so that she can buy more tickets for the family.  This is extreme, but every day there is some big jackpot or new scratch card or something and more money vanishes.  Maybe it would be worse in some ways if she was a drunk or something but this shit is crazy and makes my parents fight and gets things like cars repossessed because they couldn't pay the monthly bill. This is no joke letter. What can be done? - Punk bet

Dear Pb -
I believe your letter is no joke. Gambling addiction is as real and as deadly (in it's way) as coke or heroin. In fact, in many cases the downward spiral of gambling addiction is faster and more ruinous than most chemical addictions, which have a way of maintaining themselves for long periods of time.

Obviously your mom needs help, maybe even a full-on intervention. At the very least you have to make sure that she and your dad know that you know what is going on. It is stunning sometimes what parents think their kids aren't picking up on. Maybe approach your dad first, quietly, and level with him, and see if he has any ideas on how you could help him with the situation. Know in advance that directly confronting your mom about it will probably get ugly pretty fast (another good reason to talk to dad first.) So know that going in. 

I think you already know that you'll have to invest in a locking safe for your own money, otherwise your mom is going to weasel it out of you, or just steal it. Looking at the bigger picture, you'll have to start thinking for yourself financially sooner rather than later. I can't imagine there is going to be much 'college money' stashed away for you with a gambling junky in the house. It sucks, but you're probably going to have to fend for yourself more than some of your friends will. Try to prepare for that as well. 

A friend of mine used to say that the Lottery was "...a tax on people too stupid to do the math." Which is clearly true in it's way, but the thing that sticks in my ear is that here is a potentially damaging/addicting activity... That WAS illegal for those very reasons... Until 'The State' decided that it needed the revenue... so suddenly lotteries were wholesome family fun, as seen on TV and they were no longer a product of the shady, mobby world of bookies and "numbers runners."

That said, I'll confess that I probably spend $20 a year on the lottery. IF the jackpot is in the 100s of millions and if I happen to be getting a coffee, I'll get one ticket. One. Because here's the math thing my friend was referring to: Your one ticket has more-or-less the same (low) chance of winning as any other 10,000 numbers. So the people who spend hundreds, or even thousands of dollars trying to "increase their odds" aren't even making a dent in those odds, and are instead sacrificing money to the the gambling gods.  But one dollar? Not a bad roll of the dice. 

But understand that an "addict mind" simply can't stop at "one," can't just have a little taste of what lights up those cranial pleasure centers, so have some compassion for your mom. She doesn't want to mortgage your future (literally and figuratively) but she can't help herself. So help her has much as you can. But do protect yourself.

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