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Gambling Away the Golden Years™

Excerpts from NATI's Education Program, Gambling Away the Golden Years.

What Did You Dream About Doing When You Retired?

Gambling Away the Golden YearsRetirement brings with it all kinds of opportunities... and challenges. Work is done. The family's grown. It's your turn to "play." You've got all the time in the world (and money enough, hopefully) to relax and enjoy yourself - to read, take walks, fish, golf, play cards, travel, explore new hobbies, go to movies, attend concerts, even volunteer more at church and other organizations around town.

All too often, one's senior years end up being anthing but golden. Pain and illness limit mobility. Children and grandchildren move away. Spouses, friends, and loved ones die. Family homes are sold.

Seniors may turn to gambling as a way to socialize. Following the departure of the last adult child or the death of a loved one, gambling provides an escape - a way to avoid dealing with unresolved grief. Playing cards, caravaning to casinos or heading to the racetrack seems to fill some of the emptiness.

With couples, where intimacy may have slipped away during long years of married life, gambling offers a way to "reconnect." It becomes a common denominator for communicating.

But, as with most forms of entertainment, it is possible to get too much of a good thing. When a gambler's fun becomes an obsession, there's no turning back. He or she has crossed the line... from entertainment to addiction.

When Gambling Goes Beyond a Game

Compulsive gambling is an addiction, a progressive disorder that is every bit as insidious as alcohol or drug abuse. Once addicted gamblers often neglect friends, family, home, and finances.

The gambler gets caught up in the excitement, lured by the power of the win. In fact, researchers recognize this as the first of three phases in developing a gambling problem.

1. The Winning Phase

The majority of compulsive gamblers have one big win or a series of wins early on that could be hundreds or thousands of dollars ("big" is relative to one's finances). Nonetheless, the gambler thinks the win is proof of his/her intelligence or luck and continues to gamble, searching for that kind of action again.

2. The Losing Phase

Repeated losses drive him/her further into debt. The gambler keeps borrowing money to get even, then hides those losses and borrows more. The gambler's self-image as a "winner" starts to come apart. He or she gambles now to win back the losses.

3. The Desperation Phase

Gambling has now become an obsession, THE most important thing in the gambler's life. Panic sets in. The gambler does almost anything to get money to keep gambling - he/she will lie, cheat, even steal. The gambler becomes hopeless and deeply depressed. Suicidal thoughts are common.

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