Monday, April 20, 2009

I think it's called taking ownership of your problem

I’ve never been much of a gambler. I’m the planet’s worst poker player, blackjack and I are not good friends, I don’t understand roulette, and a Vegas vacation would divert me for about an hour and then I’d want to move on and look at Hoover Dam.

I buy the odd lottery ticket when I remember it, even though I know that the odds my winning are less than my chances of being teletransported through the time-space continuum or having a carnal date with Scarlett Johansson after she’s called me up and just begged for it.

As Fran Leibowitz once opined (and who could ever refute the wisdom of Fran?), your chances of winning the lottery are about the same whether you do or do not buy a ticket.

So, it’s not entirely fair for me to judge somebody with a gambling addiction problem.

That’s why the woes of Peter Dennis, and his consequent actions, piss me off. Dennis, of North Bay, Ont. Has mounted a $3.5 billion class-action lawsuit against the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. on behalf of more than 10 thousand ‘problem’ gamblers.

Seems Dennis is addicted to games of chance and has lost all his life’s savings, alienated his family, is in debt up the yin-yang and sold his teenage daughters into white slavery. Oh, not the latter. Then that speaks well of his sense of responsibility.

I have a problem with this whole scenario. My problem is that Dennis is trying to hand over the solution to his boneheadedness to somebody else, rather than taking personal responsibility. He is not unlike an alcoholic who wants to sue the Seagram’s folks or the local saloonkeeper for his alcoholism. Where in the picture does personal responsibility enter? Why can’t Mr. Dennis say: “I fucked up bigtime and I guess I have to bear with the results of my stupidity.”

He says he can’t. He can’t because he’s addicted. Fair enough. In my counseling training I took a two-day, intensive course of study on compulsive and addictive gambling. So, I know that for some, gambling is an addiction and one that is every bit as disruptive as alcoholism and drug addiction. In fact, the suicide rate is higher than it is for substance addiction.

So, I am not trivializing here.

What I am doing is exhorting Dennis and others like him, to take some ownership rather than blaming others. This is no defence of casino-culture, because I find the whole concept distasteful and greedy and certainly casinos prey on the compulsives because they’re the ones who really lay on the bucks. That’s similar to the understanding that distilleries and breweries would go out of business if it weren’t for the lushes that consume 80 percent of the good stuff. Regular tipplers are not good for the profit margin, so feel free to indulge a smirk when distillery ads exhort people to drink responsibly. If people drank responsibly their stock shares would plummet.

But, eventually it comes down to the ability of Mr. Dennis and others to simply say ‘no’, just like Nancy suggested. By saying ‘no’, that means get some therapy, get into a 12-step group like Gambler’s Anonymous, and work your program every single damn day just like thousands and thousands of successful former drunkards and drug addicts have done – a day at a time.

There are temptations in the world. Lots of enticing lures can suck us in. It is up to us how we respond. If we respond in a thoughtless way, whose fault is it? I’m sorry that Mr. Dennis is broke, but I don’t really have that much sympathy. He made his choices and he gets to pay the piper.



Blogger Dumdad said...

I agree with you. The western culture is "I'm a victim, it's not my fault I overdrink/overeat/oversex (?!)/overgamble etc."

But, I suppose, if the state is willing to give you a chunk of money for these sort of things then you can't blame people trying it on. It's a sort of gamble really.

11:16 AM  
Blogger Janice Thomson said...

You are so right Ian - and not just in the area of addiction. People need to step up to the podium and claim their share of responsibility in whatever crisis has hit them. Very few things happen without the participation of oneself and if the wrong choice is made take your blame, learn from it and move on.

2:13 PM  
Blogger meggie said...

I have always considered myself lucky to have missed completely, the gambling marker. I am not remotely interested in cards, horse racing, lotteries, or even poker machines, except in the slightest way. As you say, a 10 minute diversion perhaps, & on to other things. Sometimes I have won raffles- usually entered for charity reasons. I once won a quite large amount on a horse race, but it never made me want to win more.
I do feel this propensity to rush to sue is ludicrous. What happened to personal responsibility.

3:27 PM  
Blogger Warty Mammal said...

Thank you for that lovely Fran Leibowitz quote. It's a keeper.

I agree with you all in all. One reason I always steered clear of drugs was the fear that I wouldn't know what I was taking on and would get in over my head.

4:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like the guy is taking another gamble.

(I compleetly don't get gambling. Casinos make me feel deoressed and physically ill.)

6:52 PM  
Blogger Deb S. said...

"Just say no." That says it all.

10:39 AM  
Blogger Leesa said...

My favorite Fran Leibowitz line: "I must take issue with the term 'a mere child,' for it has been my invariable experience that the company of a mere child is infinitely preferable to that of a mere adult."

I have an addictive personality - so I don't do drugs, gamble, smoke. Because if I ever tried it, I don't know if I would stop.

12:06 PM  
Blogger Jazz said...

I agree. Actually, the same thing happened in Quebec a few months ago.

What the hell is this culture of "It's not my fault!" When did we stop taking responsibility for ourselves?

4:02 PM  
Blogger Jazz said...

When I told Mr. Jazz about this, his reaction was the same as Citizen's - Well, he's a gambler isn't he?

5:37 PM  

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