Gambling friend can’t stop checking his phone

Dear Annie: I have not seen this problem discussed in your column and would really like your advice on this situation, as it’s damaged a 50-year friendship. My buddy Roger has become addicted to gambling. He bets on every sport and is consumed with following his bets on his cellphone. He is always looking down at his phone at any social gathering. Roger even had his phone in his face while his son was giving a heartwarming speech during his other son’s wedding. Everyone was standing, but Roger was seated with his phone in his hand, with the screen light shining in his face. Roger always appears to be lost in his thoughts and unaware of anything else around him. It is insulting. A mutual friend suggest an intervention years ago to try to help Roger. I worried that it could drive a wedge between us. The friend passed away, and nothing was said.

The final blow was this past weekend. A band we used to love came to town. It was Roger and his wife’s 40th anniversary, and my wife and I treated them to tickets to the show. Roger left his seat just as the show started and spent the whole show outside the auditorium. I know he went to the lobby to check his bets on his phone.

His rudeness has existed for years, and it’s hard to be around him. Our wives are friends, and I don’t want this to affect their relationship. Roger’s wife looks the other way, knowing it keeps peace in their home. I fear that Roger will eventually lose everything, and I believe that his gambling addiction is too serious for just a friend to be able to help. I’m at a loss as to what to do. He was my best friend, but now he’s a stranger. — Gambling a Friendship

Dear Gambling a Friendship: Addiction is an all-consuming beast, and I’m sorry to hear about what it’s doing to your friend. Sadly, he’s not alone. The North American Foundation for Gambling Addiction estimates that about 10 million people in the United States have gambling problems. And according to the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, compulsion tends to develop more quickly in people who are doing continual forms of gambling, such as online betting.

Before calling it quits, it’s worth sitting Roger down for a heart-to-heart and expressing your concerns. He most likely won’t react well — so prepare yourself for that. But it just might plant a seed somewhere in the back of his mind telling him that he needs help. Whether or not that seed grows is up to him, but it’s worth trying to plant it. If he refuses to get help and you feel unhealthy around him, you’re not obligated to keep spending time with him. Your wife might encourage his wife to check out support groups for the loved ones of gambling addicts, such as Gam-Anon (https://www.gam-anon.org). In fact, you might benefit from attending some meetings of such a group, as well.

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Dear Annie is written by Annie Lane, a young, married mother of two. Send questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.

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