Dicey Situation (05/23/07)

Dear Zelda,
My husband of five years has started to "work late."  I've also noticed that he's been writing a lot of checks made out to "cash" with no explanation and when I ask him he says it's just petty cash for incidentals at work.  I found a couple of receipts from a local casino in his jacket.  We don't have a lot of money, and our bank balance has been getting smaller.  We both work and pool our salaries, but something is wrong and I'm afraid he may have a gambling problem.  We used to talk about everything, but now he has become cold, quiet and depressed.  
Chips Are Down
Dear Chips are Down,
Gambling can become a serious addiction and you don't want to leave your husband's potential problem to chance. The deck is stacked against him if he hides this or tries to face it alone. Playing games and winning money can be exciting, but some players don’t know when to fold ‘em and they can succumb to the darker side of gambling.  This can turn, what started out as a recreation, into into an uncontrollable destructive craving.  It's not uncommon for people who are caught in addictive behaviors to try to conceal their addiction, but it's time for the two of you to sit down and talk turkey.  "Cold turkey" that is, because with addictive gamblers, continued opportunities to gamble can turn what started out as a recreation into a pathological behavior that can lead to financial disaster. Your husband's gambling could royally flush the rest of your savings, and your relationship, down the toilet.
My advice is that you immediately have a heart to heart talk and ask for honest answers this time.  Explain your suspicions and suggest he gets help.  Contact Gamblers Anonymous via their national hotline (888-424-3577) or check online www.gamblersanonymous.org for local resources.  There is a great book that you might find helpful called, When Someone You Love Gambles by Mary Heineman.  Another good book for you and your husband, one that comes highly recommended by counselors and clinical supervisors in the addiction field, is The Gambling Addiction: Patient Workbook by Dr. Robert R. Perkinson. 
You can't count on Lady Luck to get you through this, and you also need to think about protecting yourself.  Until your husband can control his gambling problem, and as a means of helping him do so, separate your income from his and cancel your joint credit cards. Wherever you can, remove his access to your assets. Gamblers’ Anonymous says that gambling is a progressive and incurable illness than can only be remedied by vigilant treatment and self-management. Don’t let him have such free and unrestricted access to all the finances for a while. The best thing you can do to show you care about him, is to get him to admit he has a gambling problem and then insist he join Gamblers’ Anonymous to help him find a support network to help curb his addiction. 
You and your husband can’t afford to go for broke.  Deal with it NOW.  It’s your only chance for a win.
Dear Zelda,
Can a dog suffer from stress? We like to take our dog along with us in the car, but he starts shaking when he knows we are about ready to put him in. Once inside the car, he hovers on the floor and tries to bury his head under his paws. Is the stress of going in the car causing this reaction?
Dear Wondering,
Actually, we dogs are incapable of feeling stress because we lack the appropriate brain structures. Just kidding! But wouldn’t that be great? In fact, we dogs feel just as much stress as the next guy or girl. We suffer from all kinds of stresses and even get acne… just like humans. That’s why we’re empathetic and understand people so well. We may not spend as much time worrying about mortgage payments as you do, but we make up for it by worrying about whether we’ll be able to hold our bladders until you come home and let us out in the yard. My gal pal Zoe suffered from exactly the same problem as your dog. Zoe was riding in the car one day when our owner got into a fender-bender that shook everyone up a little bit. After that, even the mention of riding in the car caused Zoe to shake like an earthquake.
But just like people, we dogs can overcome our fear if you work with us and provide a loving, supportive environment for exploring the things we’re afraid of. Our cure for Zoe was to lead her to the car, engine off, with her favorite treats being offered as we walked. Then we sat with her in the car, petting and talking with her. Actually I snored while our owner soothed. We repeated this on several occasions. Then we tried it again, but this time we started the engine. More treats. More petting. Finally, when Zoe began looking forward to getting in the car, we took her for a short ride that did not include a trip to the veterinarian, but that ended back home and was followed by more praise and more tasty treats. It took her a while, but today Zoe is the first one out to the car. Now that I’m retelling the story, I realize that developing a fear of cars is sounding like a pretty sweet deal! And Zoe did seem to take her time getting through the treats period of the training... maybe she’s smarter than I thought!
For Zoe, it required some patience and some love, but in the end she learned to overcome her car fears by slow, gradual introduction, and now her motto is “Have treats...will travel.” Give it a try, and let us know if it helps.

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