Saturday, May 22, 2010

Working With Gambling Addictions

Gambling addictions are among the most difficult addictions to treat. Unlike many addictions, a serious gambling addiction may show few apparent signs to the people around the addict. With the easy availability of credit and the apparent respectability of casinos, gambling is a sad affliction that can decimate the life of an addict and their family. Our proven track record in this field is backed up with quality follow up and ongoing support.

Few gamblers accurately monitor how much they have spent, and how much they have lost during the night out. Only later do they really understand the cost of their habit.
While narcotics addictions are frequently accompanied by health issues, it would be wrong to think that gambling addiction differs from other addictions in this way. Many gamblers suffer depression, struggle with many aspects of moderation (such as binge drinking or eating), and suffer a higher than average rate of heart disease. Insomnia is also quit common among gambling addicts.

There are often social triggers associated with an addiction of this kind. 'My friends just want me to tag along... I won't actually spend anything..." The sense of belonging, the atmosphere and a secret pleasure of sharing guilt all conspire to seduce an addict further. In reality, when the stakes are high enough, there is no 'straight' game. There are no winners in the long run, except the house. It doesn't matter how good, or how smart the addict is. They will loose.

Do I have a gambling problem?

Take the test below. If you answer 'Yes' to seven of the questions, then you should seriously consider getting some help - either from us, or another agency.

Did you ever lose time from work or school due to gambling?
Has gambling ever made your home life unhappy?
Did gambling affect your reputation?
Have you ever felt remorse after gambling?
Did you ever gamble to get money with which to pay debts or otherwise solve financial difficulties?
Did gambling cause a decrease in your ambition or efficiency?
After losing did you feel you must return as soon as possible and win back your losses?
After a win did you have a strong urge to return and win more?
Did you often gamble until your last dollar was gone?
Did you ever borrow to finance your gambling?
Have you ever sold anything to finance gambling?
Were you reluctant to use "gambling money" for normal expenditures?
Did gambling make you careless of the welfare of yourself or your family?
Did you ever gamble longer than you had planned?
Have you ever gambled to escape worry, trouble, boredom or loneliness?
Have you ever committed, or considered committing, an illegal act to finance gambling?
Did gambling cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?
Do arguments, disappointments or frustrations create within you an urge to gamble?
Did you ever have an urge to celebrate any good fortune by a few hours of gambling?
Have you ever considered self destruction or suicide as a result of your gambling?

If you answer the above questions honestly, and find that seven or more generate a positive response, you should do a few things immediately.

A. Build a support network to get you through this.
You need to talk to someone you trust about this, and explain you have a problem. This is probably a family member or close friend. In the preparation to overcome your addiction, you will need support from people around you. Some people find it impossible to tell their spouse, because it may lead to marital conflict. If this is the case look for another supporter close to the family, in the knowledge that sooner or later you will have to share this with others in your family. In these early stages though, let's stop the financial pain and just get the process started. If there is no one else, feel free to contact us at 604 484 0346. Don't try to do this alone. Believe me, it's bigger than you are.

B. Try to visualise how you would like the outcome to look.
You didn't always gamble. Life before gambling was not so bad. What did you like most about it? How would your like you life to look, if you did not face the problem of gambling, or the associated worry and debt? Write down clearly the details you would like to see in your life. What matters most to you? Once you have this, share it with your supporter.

C. Next time you feel the need to gamble, phone or contact your supporter immediately.
Urges to gamble are as real as withdrawal symptoms from hard narcotics. Don't expect to be able to fluff through this alone. You will need a process. Vancouver Hypnotherapy is one of a series of possible support systems you could put in place. You could also try Gamblers Anonymous, or finding another therapist or counselor.

D. Start managing the stresses in your life better.
I always recommend clients who have a behaviour linked to stress or anxiety, to read Dale Carnegie's wonderful book, 'Stop Worrying And Start Living'. In many instances better stress management plays a huge role in the elimination of an addiction. You should also ensure you are eating three meals a day, and get at least two sessions of exercise (even if it is just walking) in every week. Don't make the mistake of underestimating the importance of this.

E. Be honest. Start accounting the full cost of your gambling over the past month.
You need to understand what this has cost you. List the absolute cost over the last month. If it is more than you are earning, you will need to put in place an arrangement where your partner or supporter starts managing your finances.

By this stage you can start getting a realistic idea of the impact of gambling on your life. It is a complex and viscious addiction. We are able to help clients that are prepared to work on this issue, and have done many times in the past.

Examples of addictions successfully treated by Vancouver Hypnotherapy include one gambler who quite literally gambled away her husband’s house, without his knowledge. He had put the property in her name many years prior to her addiction, as he wanted to set up his own business. With the misplaced idea that transferring assets to his spouse would insulate her in the case of a business failure, this appeared like ‘a good idea at the time’.

As her addiction set in, the bank extended a line of credit (secured against the house). In time the line of credit need to be renewed and extended further. It was not long before the delusion of addiction was overwhelming and the otherwise quite competent woman was making very seriously flawed financial decisions, and keeping them from her husband. The remortgaging of the house was one such flawed decision. Within two years the house, which had been bought and paid for by her husband’s small business, was fully owned by the bank.

Getting her addiction under control was far from simple. We managed, through a course of therapy and counseling. Explaining to her husband that the house he thought he owned, was in fact owned by the bank was a great deal harder.

We work on gambling addiction frequently. We are able to help if you are ready. Contact us for an appointment.

Monday, May 10, 2010

When a duck is not a duck.

I have a friend who told me a story of her childhood. It was a time she spent in Turkey, with a huge extended family. As a five year old she would ride around the local village on a beautiful grey horse.

A child of great privilege, she enjoyed riding through the village and around surrounding farms. She was greatly envied by the other children as she rode past them. A happier little girl you could hardly imagine.

When she would go to the city other members of her family would ask her how she liked the country life. She told them excitedly of the adventures she had on her wonderful horse. They would smile and probably laugh to themselves thinking those adventures were largely made up, although they weren't.

To be so young, to have a horse that was the envy of all her friends, and to ride through villages and hillsides so freely was a young girls dream come true. Her friends numbered not only the local kids, but also the calves, goats and sheep, not to mention the cats in the village which she would feed on fish caught from the stream nearby.

As she grew she became a very proud young lady and a confident one. She felt the world was at her feet and why wouldn't it be? She had all she could wish for.

Then came a day when she was talking about her horse and one of her uncles said to her, "Young lady, that's not a horse."

"Of course it's a horse, don't be so silly," she replied.

"No, my girl, look in this book. You see? It's a donkey.."

She looked at the picture, and sure enough it looked very much like her horse. In fact as she looked at pictures of horses, and compared them to her own, it pretty soon became evident that she had for the last three years been riding a donkey, and a pretty ropey one at that.

Her life did change a little after that. She would study the animal encyclopedia often and she became an authority on the animals about the village. While she kept it quietly hidden within, she decided not to trust people quite so freely.

She loved her donkey - but now he was 'just' a donkey. Something was lost that would never be regained, and some of the girls cousins would tease her about her 'horse'.

And then came a day when all the children were playing in an area far from the village, in an abandoned farm. There was a well there, and through some mishap a child ended up falling into the dark hole and down into the water. Such things had happened before, and this would not be the first child that drowned in an abandoned well. The other children ran back towards the distant village to try to get help. In the cold black water far below it was clear the frightened boy would not last for very long. He was already too weak to pull himself up on the rope that held the bucket far below in the well.

Calling down to him, she told the boy to tie the rope around his chest. She was far too weak to pull him up, but she called to the aging donkey, and he trotted over to the side of the well.

She took the rope from the well and looped it around her donkey's neck, and began leading it steadily away. This weight was nothing for the old, but still stout little donkey, and very easily the child began to climb up towards the light. In a few minutes he was standing beside the well, wet and frightened, but otherwise unharmed.

From that day on, no one teased her about her donkey.

You may be wondering what all this has to do with hypnosis. Well, quite a lot, actually. You see, when we use hypnosis all we do is slightly alter perception. The reality takes care of itself. And just as the perception for my friend was that she had a wonderful grey horse, it was sadly altered by the inconvenient truth that it was in fact a donkey. However, when it really came down to it, it was what she needed to get the boy out of the well.

Horse? Donkey? Who cares. It worked.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Moderating Alcohol Use

Many clients wish to reduce their alcohol consumption, though they don't want to go completely dry. Perhaps they work in a job which requires them to socialise, or they don't want to give up that glass of wine occasionally. Some simply want to reduce their alcohol use, because they realise it works against a healthy diet, and they'd lke to loose a few pounds. When a hypnotherapist assesses the client the key is to understand their alcohol use. Below are a couple of examples of types of drinker.

A. If the client is habitually using large quantities of alcohol there is a real possibility that they are an alcoholic, in which case reduction is unlikely to be effective. If on the other hand, there consumption is gradually increasing and simply needs to be staid, there's unlikely to be much difficulty in reduction. In either case a tested and proven method exists for managing the client.

B. Another type of alcohol user who looks for reduction, is the binge drinker. One of the key things here is to look for the pattern. Few binge drinkers start drinking alone - or do so everyday. More often they experience a social situation that moves from a recreational and healthy use of alcohol, to a point where the alcohol use becomes out of control and moves into a very unhealthy process. We use a slightly different approach with clients of this type. If the binge drinking client is female, it's definitely worth asking if they have ever been bulimic, as this can hold many clues to their relationship with alcohol.

When working with a client in the group A category we apply a simple test. A hypnosis session is given purely to establish a limit. The limit should be at about 60 - 70% of their general usage (but should exclude any spirits). The objective is a beneficial reduction, but one that is achievable. If the client is able to hold that limit and not exceed it for seven days, we have a client who we can work on reduction and moderation with. If they fail, they are likely alcoholic and we have to forget about moderation. If they wish to move forward it should be to eliminate alcohol, as they will never be able to control their drinking.

When working with a type B client we face some different challenges. Establishing a limit is irrelevant as they often go weeks or months between binges. Accurately assessing which type of client one is dealing with is important. Curiously, Alcoholics Anonymous categorizes both binge and constant use drinkers in the same way, as alcoholics. From the point of view of a hypnotherapist, we can work with them very differently. While one is alcoholic, the binge drinker (who may go months between binges) is 'abusing alcohol' but not really an alcoholic.

As such, at Vancouver Hypnotherapy (www.VancouverHypnotherapy.Org) we use the technical hypnosis solution, of looking for the triggers to the binge events, and then getting our client to recognise the situation, and alter their response to it. This is simply done using regression and an approach that motivates the client away from those 'risk' moments.

Our standard method for helping reduce alcohol consumption is based on removal of all spirits (hard liquor), and spacing each glass of wine or beer with an equal quantity of water. Reduction down to the level the client finds acceptable is then not difficult. This should be done over a period, reducing in easy steps and need only take three or four sessions.

In a study done in the UK (The 1,000,000 women study) it was shown conclusively that even 1 glass of wine a week increased the likelihood of cancer. While I doubt alcohol is going to come with a health warning anytime soon, that is a sobering thought.

I am not a zealot on this subject, although I have not drunk alcohol in 16 years. In my case, I had malaria while living in Africa, which toasted my liver and kidneys. I don't drink and to be honest it's probably a very good thing. To me it is literally a poison.

Feel free to contact me to talk about treatment methods, or if you are a therapist interested in our techniques, let me know and I can provide our treatment plans.