Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"when the fun stops"

This American Life did an episode last week called "Blackjack," focused literally on the casino game. Although the first part of the broadcast was on the romanticized skill of card-counting, the second half delved rather surprisingly into the world of gambling addiction, and whether casinos have a moral obligation to help addicts (or at the very least, not overtly tempt them).

It's this second part that hits close to home, pretty precisely. Las Vegas absolutely benefits from enticing gamblers to its casinos, and it's hard to hear about the actions of casino hosts, considering that so many people I know are involved in these marketing techniques. But the line between "I am having fun" and "I am having a problem" can be crossed almost imperceptibly.

I used to tell those from outside the city that you can't live in Vegas with a gambling addiction. Unfortunately, that's only partially true. You can live in Vegas with a gambling addiction. However, it isn't much of a life, and we do a poor job of supporting those with a problem handling our livelihood on a personal level (as opposed to the pervasive professional cynacism). There is pressure to keep this tucked away, secret, lest we have to face the guilt that just by living there, someone's free will is being compromised. Because let me be absolutely clear about this: there is no free will as an addict. You have free will as an artist formerly known as Addict. And getting from one place to the other is a ruinous, lonely journey.

It has taken me years to understand what it means for someone to be an addict. Initially, I spent a lot of time being frustrated with what I perceived to be a character weakness. If only this person would stay away from casinos. If only this person had another, more productive hobby to fill the time. If only this person would just wake up and realize that they are being dumb. If only this person would Just Pull It Together. If only...if only.

Dealing with an addict is a painful, crushing experience. And no matter how rational and objective you try to be on the outside, your insides ache with guilt and shame. You want to give the person everything they are asking for, because they are pleading with you, they are promising you that this will never happen again, they want to quit, that they hate themselves like this. You want to believe them and fix things and have the person that you love back in your life again.

This piece from xoJane, "On Dealing With Active Addicts" focuses primarily on drug and alcohol addiction, but the characteristics of an addict seem universal. It is giving me a surprising amount of comfort.
Having [an addict] in your life eventually begins to feel like dealing with a monster, something inhuman that terrorizes you. It’s impossible to reason with or negotiate with the addict, because the person you are talking to, that black hole of resentment and rage and ego and pain, is not your friend, or sibling, or co-worker. It’s the addict, and the addict’s only concern is placating you so they can keep filling their need.

You can pour everything into an addict, and they will keep taking it until you shrivel up and die. There will always be some new excuse, some new problem to explain away their actions, and instead of trying to fix it for the millionth time, you must remember that the real problem is always addiction. You cannot save an addict. You can rarely even help them.
(ht: Jezebel for the latter piece).

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