How to address addiction: What to say when someone you love is suffering from the disease

March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month

How to address addiction: What to say when someone you love is suffering from the disease

MADISON, Wis. - Living in Madison, we're lucky to have access to a variety of treatment options for people living with addiction. But for people living with the disease, the hardest part can be identifying there's a problem and realizing there isn't any shame in that.

How do you know when a behavior becomes an addiction? Counselors say the crossover happens when you think about the behavior constantly and the act itself is no longer enough. You'll become preoccupied all day long and that preoccupation could start to interfere with your relationships, your job, your health, and your emotions.

Those problems can be hard to identify in yourself. "If it's really moving into an addicted behavior, chances are, there's a denial around that," said Cory Divine, a licensed professional counselor at Connections Counseling. "It's important to recognize that trying to express that with empathy and patience is how people are going to best respond, if they are at all."

Counselors say you can try to have an awareness about the degree to which this is affecting you. If your priorities are on any level beginning to be affected, that's a good indication a behavior is moving from a recreational, fun activity to an addiction.

The month of March, which coincides with the NCAA bracket-betting season, is used to raise awareness for gambling addiction. Contrary to popular belief, the act of gambling isn't restricted to slot machines, cards and casinos. Buying a lottery ticket, entering a raffle, or making a bet with a friend are also forms of gambling. And as an estimated 70 million Americans get ready to fill out tournament brackets during March Madness, counselors warn that what seems like fun to some can be triggering for others.

What do you say if you think a family member may be taking gambling too far? "Confrontation is the last thing you want to do, as with a substance-abuse issue," said Divine. "I think just genuinely, calmly expressing concern or observations you've seen is key."

For people living in Madison, there are a variety of places to get help. UW-Health offers mental health services, as does Connections Counseling. Treatment is covered by insurance, but if you don't have insurance, you can still get treatment. A local nonprofit, the Recovery Foundation, gives financial assistance to people who want and need treatment, but can't afford it. They don't want money to be a hurdle in getting help.

Statewide, the Wisconsin Lottery and the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling work together to support the initiative. Wisconsin Lottery radio and print ads airing during March heighten problem gambling awareness and methods to obtain help.

“During the month of March, communities nationwide are working to raise awareness of the consequences of problem gambling and the resources available for individuals whose gambling is causing disruption in their lives,” said Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling Executive Director Rose Blozinski. “We are very thankful and appreciative of our relationship with the Wisconsin Lottery. Through their continuous support, we are able to reach many thousands of people to let them know that help is available.”

Throughout its association with the council, the Wisconsin Lottery has committed more than $3.25 million to responsible gaming education. 



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