CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Gambling addicts seek redemption through faith

HONG KONG (UCAN): Compulsive gambling is not only ruining the lives of the gambling addicted but destroying families as more victimised spouses seek help from support agencies, according to a recent survey by the Caritas-Hong Kong Addicted Gamblers Counselling Centre.
The centre released the results of the survey at a press conference on November 8 which found that an increasing number of spouses had sought its help since the agency was launched in 2003, with many wives complaining of depression, economic woes and a real or potential breakdown in family ties and relationships. 
At the press conference, one couple, the Yins, shared their experience of dealing with the destructive effects of a partner’s gambling addiction and how their Catholic faith had helped the family stick together.
The husband, Mr. Yin, said he had started placing bets of $50,000 at a time over the last decade until it got the point where he was $600,000 in debt.
He was forced to retire early and use his pension to keep his creditors at bay. But despite using up two-thirds of the amount to settle his debts, he admitted he kept on gambling.
Mrs. Yin said this had put a considerable strain on their family.
“I felt helpless and would often quarrel with him,” she said.
“I had to start working, as his debts continued to mount. I borrowed money from our friends and relatives so we could make ends meet,” she added.
She encouraged her husband to visit the centre to receive counselling back in 2014. With the help of social workers and the support of his parish congregation, Mr. Yin managed to quit his addiction within a year. 
“With my belief in God, I feel safer and more able to tolerate my husband’s weaknesses with a stronger sense of love and patience,” Mrs. Yin said. “Now I pray for him every day and hope God continues to guide us.”
Mr Yin said he is telling his story to warn others of the perils of gambling. “My faith has made me more humble and respectful of others,” he said.
Some 86 per cent of respondents in the centre’s poll of 1,074 spouses in were female. Seven in 10 who answered held salaried jobs while homemakers made up the remainder. Each was allowed to select multiple answers.
The results showed that 93 per cent felt emotionally disturbed and insecure as a result of their partner’s obsessive gambling; 88 per cent said they lived in constant fear due to the size of the debt; and 30 per cent had entertained suicidal thoughts.
Moreover, 79.5 per cent feared their family would fall apart, 78 per cent described themselves as “losers,” and 89.5 per cent said they often quarrelled with their spouse as a result of their gambling habit.
Just over 71 per cent admitted they routinely ignored both their own needs and the needs of their families; 66 per cent said they tried to hide their spouse’s gambling habit from relatives and friends; 44 per cent felt they had to hide from their relatives and friends, either out of shame or because they owed them money; and 31 per cent vented their frustrations at their spouse’s gambling addiction on their children.
In addition, 91 per cent of the spouses felt the family’s living standards had declined since their partner’s gambling had gone out of control; 68 per cent said the problem was affecting their work; 56 per cent had borrowed money from relatives or friends to pay off their spouse’s gambling debts; 46 per cent had been forced to sell off some of their property; and 30 per cent said they were being harassed by the people they owed gambling debts to.
Alfred Chan Chi-wah, a senior social worker at the centre, encouraged the spouses of inveterate gamblers to continue seeking emotional support from agencies like Caritas.
He said they could also benefit from learning fresh ways of handling their spouse’s addiction, a skillset the centre teaches free of charge.
Funded by the Ping Wo Fund of the Hong Kong Home Affairs Bureau, the Caritas-Hong Kong Addicted Gamblers Counselling Centre has been providing gambling counselling services since 15 October 2003 (Sunday Examiner, 12 October 2003).
Over the last 15 years it has counselled to more than 10,000 gamblers and their spouses.

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